Yani Tseng continues LPGA dominance
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Penguins have the South Pole. Democrats have Massachusetts. Yani Tseng has LPGA major championships.
The terror of women's golf, a 22-year-old from Taiwan, is doing it again. Already the youngest player in LPGA history with three major titles, the world's No. 1 female golfer will march into Sunday's final round of the LPGA Championship primed to become the youngest to win four.
"That sounds pretty good," she said. "It's in my mind, that's for sure. I'm right here. I'm trying to win another major."
Playing at Locust Hill Country Club under gum-gray skies darkened by storm clouds, Tseng positioned herself with a third-round 67 Saturday afternoon to go 13 under and five shots clear of the second-flight contenders.
It was the day's low score, matched only by Cristie Kerr. Tseng played the round with six birdies, 11 pars and one bogey. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and found 14 of 18 greens in regulation. She was never in a bunker. She used a thrifty 27 putts, a number that could easily have been even lower.
"I felt good," Tseng said. "My tempo is much better than the first two days."
When the performance was over, two-time LPGA winner Morgan Pressel and second-year pro Cindy LaCrosse, looking for her first LPGA win, were her closest challengers -- both five shots back.
LaCrosse, the 2010 Futures Tour player of the year, is competing in only her 12th LPGA event and shot a second-straight 69 to join Pressel, who carded 70, at 8 under.
"I'm five back no matter who it was," Pressel said of the leader. "I would probably have to play pretty well to beat them. Has she had any bogeys this week? I think she has made some mistakes and people are human.
"You never know what's going to happen. I'm going to go out and play my game and shoot as low a score as I can and we'll see what happens."
To answer to Pressel's question, Tseng has had four bogeys over her last 54 holes -- the fewest of anybody in the field.
"She's an amazing player," said LaCrosse, who will join Tseng in Sunday's final pairing. "You never know what she's going to do. But my game plan is kind of the same. I'm still trying to hit the fairway and greens. I just got to focus on what I'm going to do."
Everybody will be eyeing Tseng. History in the making tends to do that to people. With a win Sunday, nobody else on either the LPGA or PGA Tour will have moved as fast at Tseng. Tiger Woods won his fourth major at 24. Se Ri Pak was also 24 when she won a fourth. Although Patty Berg won four by the time she turned 23, that was before the LPGA -- the oldest league in women's sports -- had even been formed.
Tseng turned professional in 2007 and qualified for the LPGA in 2008. At age 18 she made the 2008 LPGA Championship her first U.S. tour victory, and last year added the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open to her major championship collection.
Earlier this year, she lead the Kraft Nabisco with one round to play but finished runner-up to Stacy Lewis after a closing 74.
Going into that final day, Tseng, an engaging and outgoing personality who has worked hard on her English skills and makes an effort to interact with fans, had grabbed the tournament trophy that was being displayed on the first tee box when she arrived for play.
Did she get ahead of herself? Did she create her own jinx?
"I don't know," she conceded Saturday. "When I see a trophy, I just figure I want to grab it. But a couple of days ago one of the hockey fans told me they will never touch a trophy until they won. Before, it worked out. It just did not at Kraft. This is a major, so I better not touch it this time. That's how I learn."
Even with that minor setback, Tseng still has two wins, a second and a total of four top-10s in the past five LPGA majors.
"I just love it," Tseng said when asked to explain what it is about big events that brings out her best. "I love the crowds. Majors always get big crowds. The course is very hard and I always like challenge. It just makes me feel like I can more focus on the major.
"I know, you make bogey, everybody is going to make bogey. It's not easy to shoot low scores on a major golf course. So that's always in my mind. I don't get too much expectations, like shooting 20 under. I need to be patient, and that works out well."
So far this week, it would be hard to argue against that strategy. Tseng shot an opening-day 66 to lead by one shot over Paula Creamer. Friday's second-round 70 retained a one-shot advantage over Pat Hurst. Now Rory McIlroy seems to be her best challenger.
How do you say "Whoa, Nellie!" in Taiwanese? Very easy: "Yani."