Yani Tseng sets near-record pace
At this point, the intrigue no longer is about what Yani Tseng's 2011 LPGA season will produce. The answer to that is clear: a considerable amount of awe. The only real question is where she will go from here.
The world No. 1 won again on Sunday. Her five-shot, home-turf victory in the Sunrise Taiwan Championship in front of prideful countrymen and women was Tseng's seventh LPGA title and 10th worldwide this season. It was her 12th career LPGA win in three seasons -- five of them major championships.
No player on tour is close. Other than Tseng, three golfers have won multiple times in 2011 -- Karrie Webb, Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen have each won twice. With two events remaining, Tseng already has clinched LPGA Player of the Year and the money title. She pretty much leads every statistical category worth tracking.
To find Tseng any meaningful competition, ignore the leaderboards and go straight to the history books. That is where her 2011 play comes into a little more perspective.
While seven victories is a bunch, the number significantly trails the single-season record of 13 set by Mickey Wright in 1963. But the difference comes with a sizable asterisk. In 1963, the LPGA's schedule included 32 events. This year, Tseng will play in only 22.
With seven victories in 20 events, Tseng is winning slightly more than one-third of her tournaments, which is almost identical to the pace that Wright set.
The most impressive victory ratio actually belongs to Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who won 11 times (second most in LPGA history) in 2002 while playing 23 events and 10 times in 2005 while playing 20.
Lorena Ochoa won eight times in 2007 playing a 25-tournament schedule.
Take away Sorenstam and Ochoa, and to find an LPGA player with more than Tseng's seven victories in a season you have to go all the way back to 1979, when Nancy Lopez won eight times.
And Tseng has two more tournaments remaining.
"It's incredible," Tseng told reporters in Taiwan on Sunday. "I wish this year would never end. I wish I could win more tournaments. I have two tournaments left, and then I will do my best and I'm really happy what I did this year, and so keep learning and get some more experience and try to make more history."
The hidden beauty is how Tseng is going about her domination of the women's game. She won by five strokes Sunday, her fourth win this year by four shots or more. She led by two going into the final round and carded a 6-under-par 66 to finish at 16 under par, well in front of runners-up Azahara Munoz and Amy Yang.
She played the final day with six birdies and no bogeys -- and an entire nation watching, including her elderly grandmother, whom she rushed to when the final putt dropped.
"My grandmother was on 18 hole," she said. "My mom told me, Grandma is going to go see you. I was like no, no, no, there's too many people. I'm like, of course, it's going to be crazy. If you want to come, just stay on the 18th hole.
"I was very happy to see her because she never take airplane to go to the other country, never in her life. So she always watch in front of TV and now she can see real me play on the 18 hole. So I was really, really emotional and very happy."
So crazy was Yani-mania during the week that the 22-year-old Taiwanese sports hero was forced to spend time behind closed doors, autographing little stickers then handing them out to avoid the crush of a signing line.
"Like, huge pressure before the tournament," she said. "I don't have good sleep, and I was feeling lots of pressure, and just incredible. But when the tournament is coming, I feel very relaxed.
"I just really surprised how many people are here just supporting this tournament, supporting the golf, because like I say, at first golf is not as popular like baseball, basketball here, but now seems like we're growing it a lot and I'm really happy to see this, and I wish in the future there will be more people and more people playing."
It didn't take Tseng long to spend a hefty chunk of the $300,000 winner's check.
Almost immediately after her victory, Tseng announced a $100,000 donation to the Golf Association Republic of China, a program that helps train and develop young golfers in Taiwan.
"It is a long road to develop and groom a golfer," Tseng said in a LPGA press release. "Young golfers need as much support as possible to help them compete with the best from the rest of the world, in addition to their own commitment and hard work. I hope I can set an example so more people will follow suit to help chip in and contribute to this cause in an attempt to bring out more young talents."
She also has offered to contribute personal instruction through a series of clinics.Now that's a trophy
If winning in her home country in front of a fawning nation was not enough to give Tseng a lasting memory, the Sunrise Trophy will do its part.
Valued at $100,000, the one-of-a-kind design is handcrafted from liuli, a precious Chinese glasswork. The trophy was designed by Taiwanese movie star-turned-entrepreneur Loretta Hui-Shan Yang. Yang has won the award for Best Leading Actress at the Golden Horse Awards twice and also was awarded the Best Actress prize at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
By the numbers
• 65: The 7-under-par final-round score by Morgan Pressel, the week's best round, moved the American into a tie for fifth.
• 22: Birdies by Amy Yang over 72 holes.
• 6: Strokes under par by American Cristie Kerr, who placed eighth, her best performance since missing the final day of Solheim Cup play last month with tendinitis in her right wrist.