The Yani Tseng show goes to Alabama
The LPGA season is starting to look like Yani Tseng's personal reality show. She shows up, she stars.
When the world No. 1 from Taiwan tees off Thursday in Prattville, Ala., in the Navistar LPGA Classic, she will be the featured story in a field of 144 golfers that includes 13 of the top 15 in the world. Again.
After winning her fifth LPGA tournament of the year last week in the NW Arkansas Classic, Tseng -- at 22 years, seven months and 14 days -- became the third-youngest player in LPGA history to reach 10 career wins.
Only Nancy Lopez (1979) and Marlene Hagge (1956) did it quicker, each bettering Tseng by only a few months.
"You know, I always tell myself, my goal this year is to be No. 1, and then I did it first this season," Tseng told reporters after arriving at the Robert Trent Jones Trail's Capitol Hill Senator Course.
"Now I just keep achieving my goal, like hitting the driving straighter and bunker shots save more and getting my putting average lower, and those are three things I needed to work on and improve, and I just keep doing it this year, and it seems to work out pretty well."
You might say that. Tseng will be making her 96th career LPGA start. She has 10 wins, 44 top-10s (46 percent of her starts) and only six missed cuts in her career.
Thompson track record
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Thompson, who already has moved into second-stage qualifying for 2012 LPGA status, is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption with good reason to expect success.
The South Florida teen has played three times in Alabama LPGA events during her short career, challenging for the title on each occasion. Thompson has recorded five of eight rounds in the 60s in Prattville at the Navistar LPGA Classic and finished tied for 27th and tied for 16th. She placed tied for 19th earlier this year in Mobile at the Avnet Classic after sharing the lead entering the final round.
Thompson has been granted an exception for the LPGA minimum age rule of 18 to attempt qualifying. She will play in the second stage later this month in Venice, Fla.
Solheim Cup in force
Twenty of the 24 players who will compete in the U.S. vs. Europe Solheim Cup next week in Ireland are playing this week, including all 12 members of the American team.
There have been five occasions when a Solheim Cup participant won an LPGA Tour tournament in the final event before the Solheim Cup.
Sweden's Annika Sorenstam accomplished the feat twice (1998 and 2002). None of the five had losing Solheim Cup records that season and none lost in singles.
Rookie donation pledge
LPGA rookie Jennifer Johnson this week promised to donate half of any winnings from this week's event to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services for injured service members and caregivers.
The tournament hopes to raise $100,000 for the foundation, providing free admission to all fans and asking for a donation to the cause upon entrance.
"It's an honor to be playing with some of the wounded warriors," Johnson said early in the week. "I hope that I can show these guys my appreciation for everything that they've done for our country."
The highest ranking player missing from this week's field is South Korea's world No. 5 Jiyai Shin, who according to her agent was hospitalized Monday in Seoul with severe back pain.
Shin, 23, a five-time winner on tour, has five top-10s in 14 appearances this year and tied for sixth in her last competition -- the Canadian Women's Open three weeks ago.
"She is suffering from pain in the back and the right big toe ... she has to be treated for three weeks," her doctor said in a statement released by the player's marketing firm.
Shin said in the statement she has been bothered since playing in the Canadian Open.
Australian Katherine Hull birdied the 71st hole and held off Brittany Lincicome by one shot at last year's Navistar LPGA Classic, finishing at a tournament-record 19 under.
The former Pepperdine player had just one bogey for the week and went bogey-free the final 55 holes on the way to her second career victory.
This year, Hull has labored through an up-and-down season that includes four top-21 finishes and a season-best tie for sixth.
Although Hull insists she remains confident about her game, she concedes several off-the-course issues have stood in the way.
"I've kind of had a rough year off the golf course, and it's affected what's going on on the golf course, so it's been hard to kind of get that in check," she told reporters. "But I think I've turned the corner, and I'm looking forward to finishing the year off a lot better than what it has been this summer.
"Golf for me right now is all mental. It's such a game of confidence, and I'm just going to try and get that back. It's always, I guess, a work in progress, as is life."
Around the green
There is good reason to expect the leaders to go low this week. A tournament record has been established each of the past four years -- 14 under in 2007, 15 under in 2008, 18 under in 2009 and 19 under last year.
The 2009 Navistar LPGA Classic was the last of Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa's 27 career LPGA wins. Ochoa won the event in 2008 and 2009 before announcing her retirement from active play in April 2010.
This week's Navistar will be the next-to-last event in the United States this season. After going to Ireland for next week's Solheim Cup, the LPGA schedule resumes with tournaments in South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico before returning to the United States Nov. 17-20 for the season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Orlando.
China event canceled
The LPGA received notice this week from the China Golf Association that the Imperial Springs Tournament planned for Sept. 29-Oct. 2 cannot proceed as scheduled.
The event was previously scheduled for Aug. 4-7 and was postponed until September to allow the title sponsor and tournament organizers more time for proper permitting. Subsequently, the LPGA received assurances that the event could be staged as planned in late September.
In a statement released Wednesday, LPGA officials said they remain committed to pursuing a future event in the China market. Players were informed of the development during a meeting at the Navistar Classic.