5 Things: Tseng likely to win Kraft
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – As Suzann Pettersen stood on the practice putting green Saturday afternoon, the flags above her whipped wildly in the wind. She had catapulted back into relevance at the Kraft Nabisco Championship with a flawless 6-under 66 in calm conditions and watched as Mother Nature gave her the late assist.
“You’ve just gotta know the forecast around here,” she said with a smirk. Pettersen trails by five.
Lexi Thompson also capitalized in the morning with three consecutive birdies to start her round. Earlier this week she dined at Panda Express and posted her fortune on Twitter: “Your presence livens up any conversation.” That certainly held true on Day 3 in the desert.
Yani Tseng, however, remains the center of attention around here. Her ability to rewrite the record books on a weekly basis should make her the story in all of golf, though sadly that’s not the case.
2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship: Round 3
Check out photos of Saturday's round at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco from our Tracy Wilcox, who's in the thick of things at Mission Hills.
Five things to know going into Sunday:
1.) Pay attention: Yani Tseng is likely to win her sixth major championship tomorrow. On Monday, will anyone care? In a perfect world, the headlines and storylines the day after would center around Tseng’s complete dominance. The reality is that the Kraft will be a distant memory as the golf world turns its attention to Magnolia Lane.
That being said, pay attention to Tseng on Sunday. Appreciate the kind of talent and mental toughness it takes to dominate at this level. At age 23.
Tseng struggled on the back nine as she lost control of her emotions. She got rattled when her group was put on the clock on the 11th hole. It’s the third consecutive week that has happened to her group.
“I don’t know if I play too slow or what,” she said.
Tseng had a key par save on the 16th hole and a one-foot birdie putt on the 17th to give herself a share of the lead going into the final round. She said she was thinking too much on the back nine and flashed back to last year’s loss to Stacy Lewis.
“But I hung in there and tried to smile more,” she said. “I’m happy it happened today and not tomorrow.”
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2.) Beware of the unknown: A strange thing happened to Karin Sjodin on the way to the 10th tee. On Friday Sjodin said she suddenly had a hard time breathing and had to receive medical attention before starting the back nine. She took some medicine and had a trainer tape up her ribs this morning. A 4-under 68 helped calm the pain during the third round. She’s tied for the lead with Tseng at 9-under 207.
“The day was kind of smooth,” said Sjodin, an interesting choice of words for someone who spent the day in 20-plus mph winds.
Sjodin was a standout player at Oklahoma State and a top amateur in Sweden, helping her country win the World Amateur Team Championship and taking the individual title. Yet her time on the LPGA has been mediocre at best.
“I think in college and amateur golf I lived off of my long drives,” Sjodin said. “I never really realized what my weaknesses were because I could just bomb it up there.”
It has taken a while for Sjodin to get the rest of her game up to speed, but the fit Swede now plays a more controlled game and finds herself in the final group for the first time in her career.
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3.) Major overkill: Katherine Hull thinks that majors are overrated. She doesn’t view the Kraft Nabisco Championship any differently than last week’s Kia LPGA Classic.
“But I’d love to win one, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “There’s so much media hype that goes with them.”
Hull posted a 3-under 69 in the afternoon and sits four strokes back of Sjodin and Tseng. The two-time winner was a college teammate of Lindsey Wright’s at Pepperdine. The pair’s games were so similar that in four years their 119 rounds were separated by a mere 10 strokes.
Both players took time off last year to deal with bouts of anxiety and depression. Hull withdrew from the Evian Masters and British Open in July to deal with off-course personal struggles. She didn’t go on medication like Wright, but the time off helped heal. Hull is in a much better place now, and it’s helping her game.
“Golf-wise I said to my mom on the phone last night I actually feel like the old me,” Hull said.
“I think my best golf is still ahead of me.”
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4.) Don’t turn around: When Hee Kyung Seo accepted her Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award last November, she looked directly at Yani Tseng, seated at the center table, and issued this warning: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
Well, Seo is back in the mirror. The runner-up at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open is three shots back after posting a 3-under 69.
“She just flushed it,” said her veteran caddie, Dean Herden, of the day’s play.
Seo lost in a playoff earlier this year to Jessica Korda in Australia and tied for sixth in Australia. South Korea’s “Supermodel of the Fairways” is ready to shine.
“Be patient. I learned this at the U.S. Women’s Open,” Seo said. “I could win as soon as possible I hope.”
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5.) A message from someone who has been there: “I guess what I can say or what I can tell (Yani) is just to enjoy the moment because it doesn’t stay that way forever.” – Lorena Ochoa