With burgeoning confidence, Yani Tseng rolls
Since the LPGA was formed in 1950, only 17 women have distinguished themselves by winning six or more tour events in a single season.
Sixteen of them are members of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Yani Tseng will be arriving soon enough.
At the Hana Bank Championship in Incheon, South Korea, on Sunday, the 22-year-old star from Taiwan continued her mastery of women's golf, winning her sixth LPGA title of the season and ninth worldwide. She did it by carding a final-round 67 to finish at 14 under par and one shot better than two-time defending champion Na Yeon Choi.
After 16 birdies and seven bogeys over the opening two rounds, Tseng finished with a bogey-free final round to earn her 11th career LPGA title -- five of them majors -- in four seasons.
"It's a lot of fun," Tseng said after the trophy presentation. "I learned a lot from my mistakes, and this is my fourth year. I really get a lot of experience … from when I'm leading and winning a tournament, and I feel like my mental game is getting mature and my skills are getting better."
As unnerving as that might be for competitors, no one is arguing.
Before being paired with Tseng in the Hana Bank, Choi remembered last playing with Tseng in February at the HSBC Women's Champions. By the time Sunday was over, Choi said she could see a different player.
"She looks [like a] totally different person, very strong and confident walking, everything," Choi said afterward. "I'm very impressed with her playing."
What's not to like? Tseng has played 18 LPGA events this year, winning an average of one out of every three tournaments. There are four tournaments remaining, including the season-ending Titleholders in Orlando, Fla.
Annika Sorenstam, who went on to claim 72 LPGA titles in her career, won 12 times in her first four seasons. Lorena Ochoa won nine times during her first four years.
Sorenstam and Ochoa combined to own the women's world No. 1 ranking for a decade. After Ochoa retired in 2010, there had been an ongoing battle for the top spot, with Jiyai Shin, Cristie Kerr and Ai Miyazato spending brief periods at No. 1. But Tseng took over early this year and has controlled the game since.
Nothing suggests a change any time soon. Other than Tseng, only Brittany Lincicome, Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb, with two each, are multiple winners this season.
"I feel like my mental game is getting mature and my thinking more positive instead of negative," Tseng said. "I feel like this year, I can trust in myself more and believe in myself … that I can do this and I can win in this tournament. It just feels so much different than the last three years.
"Like this year, I always tell myself to keep my chest up and always keep smiling. If I smile always, that means I enjoy it on the golf course and makes me very relaxed. And the more relaxed I am, I can play better golf, too."
• 65: Course record score posted three times during the week: Yeon-Ju Jung on Sunday, Soo-Jin Yang on Saturday and Tseng on Friday.
• 5: The LPGA record for consecutive wins at the same tournament, accomplished by Sorenstam, who won the Mizuno Classic from 2001 to 2005.
• 1: Shot under par finish by Kerr (tied for 35th), making her first appearance after spending two weeks with her right wrist in a splint because of tendinitis.
• $270,000: Earned by Tseng at the Hana Bank Championship, which brings her to $2,396,838 for the year. Kerr, who is second on the LPGA money list, has earned $1,359,093.
Rookie of the year -- coming soon
Nothing is official, but it might as well be. The LPGA's 2011 Rookie of the Year will be Hee Kyung Seo. She all but wrapped up the award in South Korea by finishing 4 under and tied for 25th. Her nearest challenger is American Ryann O'Toole, who finished 68th at 14 over par after shooting a final-round 79.
South Korean star Se Ri Pak was disqualified after the first round for inadvertently signing an incorrect scorecard. Pak signed for a 3 instead of a 4 on the 17th hole.
"This was an honest mistake," Pak said afterward. "I am sure my fans are disappointed, but no one is more disappointed than I am."
LPGA vice president of tournament business affairs Mike Nichols said Pak came forward to acknowledge her mistake, and said her "honesty and integrity in bringing this to the attention of the rules officials should be applauded."