Yani Tseng train keeps rolling

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Step right up. Come one, come all. Just bring your best punch.

It also might be a good idea to pack a lunch.

The Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major of the season, goes into third-round play Saturday at Mission Hills Country Club, and the single remaining storyline is as obvious as the nearby snow-capped San Jacinto Mountains that rise out of the Southern California desert.

Is anyone up to scaling the challenge that is Yani Tseng?

For entertainment's sake, somebody should at least make Tseng sweat, but all of a sudden her golf seems too easy for that to happen. The 23-year-old from Taiwan has won two of the last three majors and already has a career total of five. She has been the winner in three of this season's five events.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Yani Tseng shot her second consecutive 68, then left to play some pickup basketball.

Now, once more with feeling -- a feeling that she might be in the process of overwhelming a season in a way that no one has seen.

"She's an amazing player right now," said Na Yeon Choi, world No. 2 behind Tseng.

Is she beatable?

The question seemed to stop Choi like a crossing guard. After a pause during which you could almost hear the wheels in her brain working, the best player in the world not named Tseng admitted she wasn't sure.

"She's playing so well, nobody knows."

This much is for certain. Nine of the last 10 rounds of golf played on the LPGA tour have ended with Tseng as the leader.

She extended the streak on Friday with her second straight round of 68, and at 8 under is one shot in front of Haeji Kang and two beyond Sun Young Yoo and Lindsey Wright.

"She has such confidence," Yoo said. "She's hitting it so good, and she's making everything. So I'm pretty impressed."

Tseng's performance produced six birdies and two bogeys. A day after saying she "didn't have my A-game," Tseng hit nine of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. It was such a taxing round that as soon as golf was complete, she announced plans to head off for some pickup basketball.

"I'll take it easy," Tseng promised. "I was really happy how fresh I am in the last few days."

She's playing so well, nobody knows.
LPGA No. 2-ranked Na Yeon Choi on if No. 1 Yani Tseng is beatable

But basketball?

"I've played basketball since I was very young, almost every day I played,'' she said. "Then when I came to the States, I didn't have many friends here to play with. But it seems that my manager used to be a basketball player, so we play a lot together."

Finally, a Tseng shortcoming. As much as she says she enjoys hoops -- big Orlando Magic fan -- there are no misconceptions.

"I'm too short," she said. "I'm really happy I'm a golfer. But I like to run around and do some shooting and play 3-on-3 with other friends."

Almost as fascinating as Tseng's fast break into golf history is the conundrum it seems to be presenting the LPGA. While golf loves a dominant player who draws attention and awes, there has got to be a secondary storyline. If you didn't want to cheer for Arnold Palmer, there was Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods has his camp, Phil Mickelson has his. Hard as it is to believe, not everyone cheered for Annika Sorenstam. Everybody needs a foil.

So far, Tseng simply has her way.

"People need to just step up to the plate and give her a bit more competition," Paula Creamer said.

And it wouldn't hurt, at least not the LPGA's home turf, for the challenge to come from an American.

Only one American, Vicky Hurst in a tie for seventh, is among the top 10 going into Saturday. Cristie Kerr, the top-ranked U.S. player at No. 4, is well back. Creamer, No. 9, trails by six. Brittany Lincicome and Michelle Wie missed the cut. Rookie Lexi Thompson needs more time.

"Ideally, what I'd love to happen for the tour is have Yani, Lexi, Michelle and Paula ... everyone at the top of their games playing at the same time," said LPGA Hall of Famer Meg Mallon, the next U.S. Solheim Cup team captain. "It would be wonderful for our tour."

Except right now, until further notice, it's Yani's tour.

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