RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Gary Gilchrist, standing on the edge of the practice green at Mission Hills, said talent and ability are worthless without confidence.
“It’s like a Ferrari without gas,” he noted.
Safe to say Yani Tseng is running on a full tank heading into this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. Tseng, fresh off her third victory in five events at the Kia LPGA Classic, is seeking her sixth major championship crown. She finished a heart-breaking second last year to Stacy Lewis, pointing to a lack of emotional control.
“I was very stress(ed) after I missed a putt, after I made a bad shot,” she said.
Gilchrist has worked with Tseng since the start of 2010. She’s a dream student in the sense that she immediately applies Gilchrist’s advice, letting small areas of improvement add up to big results.
Tseng used to wonder why winning majors came easier than “normal” events. Like any potential World No. 1, she wanted to win everything.
“I figured out every time I play in a major my focus level is going up way higher,” she said. “So last year every tournament my goal is focus on every shot, like give 100 percent effort to every shot, focus as much as I can.”
She won seven times on the LPGA in 2011 and a dozen times worldwide. In the offseason, they worked on shaping shots and hitting recovery shots from all sorts of lies.
There was no need to revamp anything.
“The better you get what starts to happen is that you think you can’t mishit a shot,” he said.
A more mature Tseng is learning how to let things go.
Tseng’s incredible run these last 13 months make her the hands-down favorite this week. Her victory dive in 2010 didn’t meet the standards set by some of her friends so she has practiced new moves in her pool.
A wise-cracking Suzann Pettersen, three times a runner-up at this event, had this to say about Tseng’s practice jumps: “There’s a reason why I have a pool at home, too.”
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THE GRADUATE: Michelle Wie received her final report card on Tuesday: She passed all her classes. Now an official Stanford graduate, Wie enters her eighth Kraft Nabisco Championship in search of her first major title (and a reliable putting stroke).
“I have to trust my instincts,” Wie said. “Sometimes I have a very large tendency to over‑think and try too hard, and putting is one of those things that cannot work so well when you try too hard. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is try less, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my putting is just go out there and hit it.”
Wie said she feels her LPGA performance has been mediocre thus far, despite two Solheim Cup appearances and two victories. The bar was set so high for Wie that getting a degree from Stanford while playing full-time on the LPGA didn’t stop the golf world from feeling she should win more.
Perhaps now she can live up to the potential her game once promised.
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MAJOR TREAT: Lexi Thompson baked an Oreo dessert for fellow players and volunteers, a nice gesture from the rookie. Thompson didn’t qualify for last year’s Kraft but finished T-21 and T-24 in 2009 and ’10 respectively.
Thompson, whose father Scott is now off the bag and outside the ropes, has played in four LPGA events in 2012, her best finish coming in Thailand (T-14). She now has a veteran caddie in Greg Johnston, who spent a number of years with Juli Inkster before moving on to Wie and eventually Lorena Ochoa, among others.
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GOING DEEP: “Good, so now we have more space to cannonball. That’s exciting.” – Morgan Pressel on the deepening of Poppie’s Pond around the edges to 4 feet.