In a way, Yani Tseng didn’t really mind that hernia operation. Because for the first time in a long time, she was able to rest.
“First time I feel my mind is totally relaxed,” said Tseng from her second home in San Diego. She felt “useless,” and it was great.
Jiyai Shin of South Korea won the ISPS Handa Australian Open at Royal Canberra Golf Club on February 17, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. Earnings: $180,00
Inbee Park of South Korea won the LPGA Thailand golf tournament in Pattaya, southern Thailand, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. Earnings: $225,000
Stacy Lewis of the USA won the HSBC Women’s Champions at the Sentosa Golf Club on March 3, 2013 in Singapore. Earnings: $210,000
Stacy Lewis won the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, March 17, 2013. Earnings: $225,000
Beatriz Recari, of Spain, won the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club, in Carlsbad, Calif., March 24, 2013. Earnings: $255,000
Inbee Park, right, of South Korea, won the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., April 7, 2013. Earnings: $300,000
Suzann Pettersen won the LPGA Lotte Championship presented by J Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Hawaii. Earnings: $255,000
Inbee Park, of South Korea, won the North Texas LPGA Shootout at Los Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, April 28, 2013. Earnings: $195,000
Cristie Kerr won the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., May 5, 2013. Earnings: $195,000
Jennifer Johnson won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala., May 19, 2013. Earnings: $180,000
Ilhee Lee of South Korea won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic at the Ocean Club in Paradise Island, Bahamas, May 26, 2013. Earnings: $195,000
Karrie Webb, of Australia, won the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer in Galloway Township, N.J., June 2, 2013. Earnings: $225,000
Inbee Park won the Wegman’s LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., on June 9, 2013. Earnings: $337,500
Inbee Park, of South Korea, won the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers, Ark., on June 23, 2013. Earnings: $300,000
Inbee Park, of South Korea, center, won the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on June 30, 2013. Earnings: $585,000
Park and her mother, Young Hee, demonstrate a proper takeaway.
Beatriz Recari, of Spain, won the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, July 21, 2013. Earnings: $195,000
Stacy Lewis of the US won the Women’s British Open on the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland, August 4, 2013. Earnings: $402,584
Lydia Ko of New Zealand won the CN Canadian Women’s Open at The Vancouver Golf Club on August 26, 2012. Earnings: Amateur
Suzann Pettersen won the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola in Portland, Ore., September 1, 2013. Earnings: $195,000
Suzann Pettersen won the Evian Championship in the French Alps town of Evian-les-Bains, September 15, 2013. Earnings: $487,500
ShanShan Feng of China won the Reignwood LPGA Classic at Pine Valley Golf Club in Beijing, China, October 6, 2013. Earnings: $270,000
Lexi Thompson, won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 13, 2013. Earnings: $300,000
Amy Yang, center, of South Korea won the LPGA KEB-Hana Bank Championship in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea, October 20, 2013. Earnings: $285,000
Suzann Pettersen after she won the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club in Yangmei, northern Taiwan, October 27, 2013. Earnings: $300,000
Teresa Lu of Taiwan won the Mizuno Classic at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club on November 10, 2013 in Shima, Japan. Earnings: $180,000
Lexi Thompson won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex at the Guadalajara Country Club, November 17, 2013. Earnings: $200,000
Shanshan Feng won the season ending CME Group Titleholders golf tournament at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., November 24, 2013. Earnings: $700,000
Tseng, 24, had experienced pain while hitting driver for the past couple of years, but it wasn’t until September that she showed her manager the increasingly large protrusion. Tseng immediately saw a doctor, who said surgery could be scheduled the next day. She protested, not wanting to miss part of the Asian swing, particularly the LPGA event in Taiwan. The doc told her to swing easy and pack light for the next month, and she had surgery Oct. 30, putting an early end to a somewhat shocking 2013.
For 109 weeks Tseng had been at the top of women’s golf. Stacy Lewis overtook her last March in Phoenix, and Tseng expressed relief. No one, however, could have predicted the ensuing tumble. She ended the year No. 29 in the Rolex Rankings, and, for the first time in her career, failed to earn $1 million in a season, making $405,068. It also marked the first time in six years on tour that she didn’t win a title.
“You have to want to be there,” said Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, of being at the top. “In Yani’s case, Yani didn’t want to be there. She wasn’t comfortable. So what happened? You let off the gas pedal a little bit and you start losing it all.”
For six months Tseng didn’t want to be seen in public back home in Taiwan. Everywhere she went, people asked why she wasn’t playing well.
“I didn’t go back to Taiwan much,” Tseng said. “I was kind of hiding in the U.S. I was very afraid.”
Then there was all the advice. Everywhere she turned, someone had an opinion. Tseng began to second-guess herself. Confusion set in.
On the golf course, a tree she wouldn’t even see as World No. 1 suddenly became a focal point. She grew frustrated. Her scoring average in 2011 (71.07) won the Vare Trophy. This year, she ranked 35th in scoring, up 2.047 strokes.
“I knew how tough my mental (game) can be. But I still couldn’t control myself,” said Tseng, who dropped from No. 15 to No. 76 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
She switched coaches, leaving Gary Gilchrist over the summer to begin working with Kevin Smeltz, who recently became the face of the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C. She wanted to hear “a different way to explain the same thing.”
Close friends encouraged her to approach the game like an artist. Passion is everything, they said. She returned to Taiwan this fall more confident, walking the streets with her head held high. Now when people ask questions, she responds by saying, “I’m doing well, but thanks for asking.”
“When I look back I know it was not a good year,” said Tseng, “but I feel I improved everything else except the score. I improved my life, my personality, the way I’m thinking.”
In looking at what happened to Tseng this year, Daniel said, credit those who have been on top for a long period of time for having the desire and heart to get up every morning and do what it takes to be there.
Tseng wants to get back there.
“These couple years, I learned a lot,” Tseng said. “My goal is to still try to get on top and to play the golf I love.”