Tseng Ready to Move Forward


After a rough year in which she lost her No. 1 ranking to Stacy Lewis, Yani Tseng says she's prepared to get her game back in gear. The 24-year-old from Taiwan will find out in this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship. The LPGA Tour's first major of the year begins Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Tseng won the event in 2010, the second of her five major titles and one of the 15 victories in her brief, five-year career. But she's been in a drought ever since her last win on March 25, 2012, in the Kia Classic.

Tseng lost her No. 1 ranking three weeks ago to Lewis, then was unable to defend her title in the Kia Classic as she was forced to withdraw due to LPGA regulations after missing her Wednesday pro-am tee time because she overslept.

Adding to fuel to the fire, Focus Taiwan News Channel wrote last week: "In the wake of the missed tee time, a local weekly speculated in its latest issue that the 24-year-old Taiwanese golfer took to late night partying after gaining fame, which has hurt her game and disrupted her regular routine."

Tseng responded in Chinese on her Facebook page: "Saw a news today, very disappointed and very sad!" she wrote according to a Google translation. "I work very hard every day to practice, to make myself better!"

On Wednesday during a Q&A with reporters at Mission Hills, Tseng expanded on that Facebook post: "It didn't hurt as much as last year after I finished eight Top 10s, but it still hurts. Because I don't get it. I don't go to nightclubs at all. I don't know why they said I go to nightclubs and that's why I missed the tee time. Every player comes here to win a tournament.

"Everybody - no one is prepared to miss a tee time," she added. "I want to show up. I love playing in the Pro Am and love meeting new people and new sponsors. I love it, and this is my job. These are the things I love to do. I don't know what they do. They just made me feel really sad about that. I try not to think about it too much. I try to feel like it's a motivation. I want to show them my best. I want to show them I can play golf. Don't give me those crap."

Here's what else Tseng had to say about her disappointing previous year and what it'll take for her to get back into the winner's circle.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for being here in the press room once again. I'd like to welcome in past Kraft Nabisco Champion, multiple major winner, former No. 1 in the world, Yani Tseng is here. How are you?

YANI TSENG: Thank you. I'm doing good.

MODERATOR: Have you been practicing hard today?

YANI TSENG: Just a little bit.

MODERATOR: Talk about your game coming in this week and the importance of playing well at this major and where you've already jumped into the pond once upon a time?

YANI TSENG: One time is not enough. I have to do it again. It's a great golf course. This golf course fits my game very well, and I love this tournament. The first year I won my major, and I have so many memories here. I played Q school here trying to get into the LPGA, and my family is here with me this week, so I feel good. I feel very relaxed, and I just can't wait to tee off on Thursday.

Q. Suzann Pettersen was in here moments ago and she said you seem very motivated because you have your alarm clocks all set and ready.

YANI TSENG: At first I didn't feel so good. I just wanted to tee off on the first tee. I didn't care what score I shot, I just wanted to show up on the first tee and play a good tournament.

Q. Have you caught a lot of grief over that alarm clock situation?

YANI TSENG: I know. So many people have given me alarm clocks. But a few days ago I set it off like ten times. Everything was good. My phone was working. My alarm clock is working, so everything's ready to go.

Q. Let's talk about the No. 1 ranking and you've had it for so long. You talked a lot about maybe it would take some pressure off of you to not have that ranking and that it might be okay. Now that you don't have it, are you okay?

YANI TSENG: I'm totally fine. It takes a lot of pressure off. I feel like I don't have to play like world No. 1 anymore. I mean, that gave me a lot of pressure. I think sometimes it feels really good that you can say to yourself that your goal is to be world No. 1. So now world No. 1 gives me a lot of motivation. It's just like maybe two years ago. I know this feeling, and I know what it's like to be No. 2. And I always wanted to be world No. 1. And No. 1 is a big deal to me. It's like a dream come true. But even now I'm not world No. 1, but I still feel like I'm living the dream. I'm more appreciating it and I'm learning so much this past year being world No. 1. So everything now I just want to enjoy the golf.

This is a game I loved when I was young, and I just want to play like childlike. I just want to smile on the golf course and show my best to the fans and to the people out there watching me and supporting me. Doesn't matter how I play or what position I'm in, I just want to play good golf. I want to show my big smile on the golf course and to do the best I can. I know now I'm not world No. 1, but I do have confidence to get it back. Stacy is a great player and we're good friends. She gives me a lot of motivation. I try to learn from her and learn from other players. I just feel really good on my position right now. Doesn't matter what position it is, I feel very relaxed.

Q. Being No. 1 and some of the criticism that came with it, was that difficult to handle?

YANI TSENG: I feel like world No. 1 is not allowed to make mistakes. That's just how I feel. But I know the people around me, the media, the fans, family and friends, I give myself a lot of pressure, more than they do. I mean, that's just on me. I feel like I forgot how to enjoy golf. I forgot what I'm here for. I'm here to play and not because I'm world No. 1. So I just learned so much from the last few years. Being world No. 1 is great. It's one of my best memories, ever, and I wish it would continue in the future. Because I told myself the first year I got into the LPGA I told myself I want to retire on top. So now I'm still on top, and if I lose my World No. 1, but I'm not finished playing golf yet. I still have so many years to come. One day I wish I could retire on top.

Q. Does it feel weird though March 18th to look at the Rolex Rankings for the first time and not see your name at the top?

YANI TSENG: The first couple of days were weird. It's kind of sad, actually. I mean, I don't feel sad. That's kind of weird. I prepared for a couple of months already. But I know it's sad and I'm very emotional after that couple of days after I lost world No. 1, but after that I felt like total relief. I feel really good. I don't look at the ranking as much. Like I said, in the beginning of this year my goal was to have fun on the golf course, play the game I love. There is no way I get too stressful. I mean, 2 is good. 2 is not bad. I know 1 is great, but it's giving me motivation to be great again.

MODERATOR: You had No. 1 for almost 110 weeks. What was it like in your home country? I know the LPGA went to Taiwan for the first time. We were all there for the news conference, and everybody following you around. You talked about pressure and we asked about pressure. What was that like or what's it been like for you?

YANI TSENG: It's a lot. I mean, Taiwanese fans mean a lot to me. They're great and they're amazing. Every time I go back to Taiwan when I walk on the street or go everywhere, they always give me big support. They tell me to keep it up. They say don't worry about it. Just have fun. They don't really push me a lot. I think they understand more golf now. They understand how tough it is to stay on top. How tough it is to win a major and to win in the tournament.

After I lost world No. 1, I went on Facebook and so many people gave me big support and big hugs. I felt very emotional just seeing that because I felt like I let a lot of people down and made people disappointed because I lost world No. 1. But it was actually the opposite way. They even thought this would be better for me because that way I can relax a little bit. They want to see my smile on the course and they want to see that I'm enjoying golf again. Don't worry about world No. 1. They always tell me it doesn't matter where I am. They will always support Yani Tseng.

Q. Yani, you won major when's you were No. 1, and you won a bunch of tournaments when you were No. 1. When did it start to become stressful? Because when you were No. 1, you won majors and a bunch of tournaments. When was there a certain time when it became stressful?

YANI TSENG: I think the middle of last year, because I finished like Top 10 like eight straight Top 10s. After that, I finished on 12 or 13. And one of the media - I don't know why I read those things. I just read it on the internet it said Yani is playing bad. What is wrong with Yani? Yani is struggling. But I just finished 12th. That is the time I felt like, no, this is not right. To finish Top 10 is not that easy too. Why does world No. 1 have to win every week or have to finish Top 10? I think a lot of people still don't understand how tough it is. After that, when you get in that moment, it kind of broke my heart a little bit with the press saying that. After that, it took me a little while to go through.

Q. You haven't won on this Tour in over a year. Is that some added pressure to get back and win?

YANI TSENG: No. I just want to win a tournament. I don't care how long I have waited. This is the week I feel good because I think I was very close the last two years. I feel good about this week. I feel I have a chance to win, but I just want to go out there and try to do my best, play one shot at a time, and hopefully the results will come.

Q. There's a lot of mutual respect and admiration that you and Stacy have for each other. Can you just tell us how you guys first connected and became friendly?

YANI TSENG: We played a lot of golf together. We play a lot together, and we always talk about a lot of fun things on the golf course. We give each other very good motivation. I think last year - actually, the year before when I won the Player of the Year and she won the first time winner. She was helping me for my speech for Player of the Year. If I knew she was helping me with my speech that she was going to win it, I would have never let her help (laughing). But we started at that time, and after that we kind of became good friends and we joke around. Everywhere we go we say hi to each other. We chat a little bit. It's good to have a friend like that on the Tour. You can talk about anything you want. We're good friends outside the ropes and good competitors inside the ropes. If I don't win, I'm happy to see her win too.

Q. Is this golf course one that allows for a large number of potential winners or is there a limited group in the field who can win on this course in this tournament?

YANI TSENG: I think the people that believe they're going to win will win this week. It doesn't matter. Every player has a chance to win. If they believe in themselves they're going to win, I think they can win the tournament. I mean, there are so many great players on the LPGA Tour. Now the LPGA is getting stronger, getting much stronger. So I think the people on the Tour, we give each other motivation. I think a lot of people are going to have a chance to win this week.

Q. You were the runner up in Australia, top three finish also in Thailand. So your game, while you haven't had that victory that they were talking about there, it seems pretty good right now. Do you feel like you're ready at any moment to get back to the winner's circle?

YANI TSENG: I'm ready. I had the last two weeks off. So it was really good. Last week gave me a lot of time to prepare my game. And my coach, Gary, is here with me this week. He came early last week with me. So I feel like my game is great. I feel like I'm ready to go. I'm ready to have some fun.

Q. I know there were a few reports in Taiwan about what happened at the Kia and missing your Pro Am, and I read your Facebook post or I had it translated. Did that hurt almost as much as losing World No. 1, just in terms of what was being said?

YANI TSENG: It didn't hurt as much as last year after I finished eight Top 10s, but it still hurts. Because I don't get it. I don't go to nightclubs at all. I don't know why they said I go to nightclubs and that's why I missed the tee time. Every player comes here to win a tournament. Everybody - no one is prepared to miss a tee time. I want to show up. I love playing in the Pro Am and love meeting new people and new sponsors. I love it, and this is my job. These are the things I love to do. I don't know what they do. They just made me feel really sad about that. I try not to think about it too much. I try to feel like it's a motivation. I want to show them my best. I want to show them I can play golf. Don't give me those crap.

Q. That was funny. Is there a point where you'll just stop reading everything?

YANI TSENG: I try, but it's so hard. Especially because I love to see what people talk about me, and I enjoy doing that too sometimes. But when your mind is positive, everything goes positive. When your mind is negative sometimes, even little things will get harder. But now after last year, those things are no big deal to me anymore. I've become more mature. My heart is getting stronger, and I'm getting tougher too. So those things are no big deal. I'm fine. I feel good. I just want to play my golf. I don't want to worry about anything, and I just want to have fun.

Q. What do you think when you hear someone like Lydia Ko of 15 being so accomplished? Have you seen her much? What do you think about someone at her age being as advanced as she is?

YANI TSENG: That is amazing. I played with her in Australia. She doesn't seem like she's only 15 years old. How good she plays, she shot 9 under and played with me and Michelle, and she didn't even look like nervous. She just had fun. She smiled, and after she made a putt, she was like thank you. Thank you very much. It was so easy. It kind of reminded me I think I was like that when I played my best. It's just that easy. It was great to play with her because it kind of reminded me a little bit that that's how I want to be like her. So I'm learning from her, so it's good. It's great for golf to see younger people, younger generation now coming out. I feel I'm older now. I'm 24, but

MODERATOR: Very old, very old. I'd think about setting the timetable when you need to quit.

YANI TSENG: I'm not the youngest winning anything anymore. But it's good. It's good to see Lydia Ko come out. She has a great personality. She's a very good girl. She told me I was watching you guys when I was growing up playing golf. And I was like we're only nine years different. We're not that much different, but it's great fun. It's fun to see that.

MODERATOR: You've listed Annika as your personal mentor and somebody that's helped you quite a bit. I'd love for you to share a little bit of the tie with Annika who is the celebrity host and the ambassador of this tournament now and jumped in that pond three times. What has she meant to you?

YANI TSENG: She means a lot to me. She's so nice. She's always telling me you know where I live. Just knock on my door. You can do whatever you want. Ask me any questions. So I'm always texting her if I have any question and she's always replying to me immediately. She's great as a person and she's a classy player. I wish one day I could be like her inside the ropes and outside the ropes. Being a good player and being a good person too. I want to follow her and how much she's done for the LPGA and how much she's done for the Girls Juniors, it's amazing. She's still doing it. It's very impressive. Now I'm trying to fill the trophy room, so it's kind of stopped a little bit now, but hopefully I'll get back on track again.

MODERATOR: This would be a big victory if you jumped in the pond. What will do you? A big cannonball if it happened this time?

YANI TSENG: No. One of my friends gave me this snorkeling glass, so if I win this week, I'll wear my snorkel glass to jump in the pond.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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