Tseng named POY before inaugural Taiwan event

Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi during a press conference for the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Championship.

Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi during a press conference for the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Championship.

TAIPEI, Taiwan – A police-escorted parade of sleek black Audis stopped traffic on the crowded streets of Taiwan's capital as World No. 1 Yani Tseng made her way to the opening news conference for the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Championship. With Taipei 101 – which at 1,670 feet, had been the world’s tallest tower until last year – serving as a backdrop, Tseng and good friends Suzann Pettersen (No. 2) and Na Yeon Choi (No. 4) addressed what was surely the most well-attended media event of the year on the LPGA.

Fittingly, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan made the announcement that Tseng had clinched the 2011 Rolex Player of the Year a mere 30 minutes from her childhood home. Tseng became the eighth player in tour history to win POY in consecutive years. In 2010, the race came down to the final tournament. 

“It feels very special for me to have the award announced in Taiwan,” said Tseng, who won six times in 20 events this season. She’s also in line to win her first Vare Trophy for lowest-stroke average, pacing Cristie Kerr by more than a stroke. In addition to the money list, Tseng’s dominance includes command of the following statistical categories: rounds under par, birdies, greens in regulation and driving distance average.

Whan said he hopes the global media have recognized that “virtually every time Yani picks up a club, she’s making history.”

Judging by Tuesday’s turnout, Taiwan has taken notice.

At the news conference, Choi recalled her first trip to Taiwan as an amateur, when a young Tseng carried her clubs on the back of a scooter. The pair have split the past two events on the Asian swing, finishing 1-2 in each.

Pettersen took a friendly jab at Tseng when she bragged that she “can’t wait to take (Tseng) down on home soil.”

Tseng joined the national team at Sunrise Golf and Country Club as a junior for monthlong training sessions for the Asian Games. She’s fully aware of the brutal winds that pound this elevated course. Several players carried only a handful of clubs around Sunrise on Tuesday, opting to play most of the course in their minds on a windswept afternoon.

“I thought if I had wings, I’d take off,” Pettersen said.

In addition to fielding questions, the three players held traditional Taiwanese puppets and posed for throngs of reporters. Quite an unusual sight.

When the news conference ended, the same security guards who looked after Lady Gaga whisked Tseng and her managers through a wall of hedges and back to the Audi parade.

The scene certainly cemented Tseng’s status as a rock star on the island of Taiwan and hammered home the importance of the LPGA’s presence in Asia.

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