Creativity, aggressiveness power Tseng

Yani Tseng

Yani Tseng

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – From time to time, Yani Tseng finds herself staring a hole in the trees. She can see a way out of jail. Her caddie, Jason Hamilton, sees a wedge back to the fairway.

“No, I feel I can do it,” Tseng tells him. “That’s why people say I’m aggressive. I am really aggressive because I know how to do it.”

Tseng and Hamilton don’t always agree on how to get out of trouble, but it’s tough to argue with a woman who, at age 22, has a chance to complete the career grand slam this week at the 66th U.S. Women’s Open. Fresh off a romp at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, her fourth major victory, Tseng comes to The Broadmoor feeling confident and comfortable about her game.

“After I see Rory McIlroy (win the U.S. Open), I feel much (more) relaxed,” Tseng said. “You just got to come out here and have fun, enjoy the pressure and enjoy the big crowds.”

Tseng’s power and shotmaking abilities can be traced back to one man: Tony Kao.

When a 10-year-old Tseng got out of school growing up in Taiwan, she headed to the range to see Kao, who, among other things, graded Tseng on her ability to hit 27 different shots.

Tseng used the wedge in her hand behind the 18th green at The Broadmoor to demonstrate the different ways Kao taught her to work the ball. For example, he’d challenge her to hit an 8-iron 100 yards with a high fade. She normally hit 8-iron 150.

“It’s training your imagination,” she said.

Tseng was graded on her shotmaking skills between grades two through six. After that, she mostly traveled to tournaments so their time on the range was limited. To this day, she enjoys taking 30 minutes of her practice time being creative. For Tseng, straight can be a bore.

“You feel like you’re not working,” she said of shaping the ball. “You’re playing a game.”

Tseng’s confidence in being able to pull off unusual shots has led to big numbers in the past. She’s now better at knowing when to play it safe, and when to be heroic. Tseng’s power and versatility elevates her game to a level most players on tour could never dream of reaching. She lives for a challenge, and that translates to major-championship trophies.

Tseng’s mother, Yu-Yun Yang, flew in from Taiwan earlier this week. She bought 75 hats from the U.S. Women’s Open merchandise tent to take back to the senior ladies of Shin Yo Golf Club, where Yang is president of the women’s association. She’ll get Yani to autograph them first, of course.

Tseng’s mother has been to four LPGA events this year and caddied for her when she won in Taiwan last winter. If Tseng makes history this week, she will be pleased to have her mother share the moment.

Reader poll

Will Yani Tseng complete the career grand slam this week?

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  • No 31%
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Her father, on the other hand, hasn’t been to a single event. That’s unusual, but, to put it bluntly, equates to less pressure for Tseng. Mom offers encouragement; dad generally does the opposite.

The last three weeks, however, their father-daughter post-round phone conversations have been different.

“He said, ‘You improved yourself. Your body language looks good,’ ” Tseng said with a broad smile.

“I’m very happy to hear that. Most of the time it’s, ‘What happened to your shot on the 12th hole?’ ”

Even dad can’t deny that Tseng has found her groove in the No. 1 position. Annika Sorenstam predicted Tseng’s rookie year that she’d be No. 1 someday. Tseng was stunned by the news.

“This time, I feel it’s different,” she said. “This time, I feel like, ‘Yeah, she might be true.’ ”

Obviously, that’s because Sorenstam’s prediction is now a reality. But it’s important to note that Tseng’s self-belief has never been stronger. She has embraced the No. 1 that sits beside her name.

“After I become World No. 1, I was little shocked,” said Tseng, who has security following her this week, which is also unusual. “So many interviews and so many people start to recognize me. But now I kind of I get used to it, and I can balance all the things.”

After Tseng practiced on Wednesday, she went to Pike’s Peak with her mother and manager. She’s staying on property at The Broadmoor, so there’s no need for mom to cook. The last two times Tseng has won she’s gone to IHOP before her afternoon tee times on the weekend. Her order: sirloin strip with mushrooms, two eggs, hashbrowns, toast and hot chocolate. To combat the grease, she chases it down with green tea from Starbucks.

She’s already scouted an IHOP location close to The Broadmoor.

“Maybe if I tee off like Rory McIlroy at 3:30 p.m., I might go to IHOP,” she said, grinning.

Never has IHOP tasted so good.

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