Yani Tseng gets major LPGA win at Mission Hills
She credits her idol, Annika Sorenstam, after taking the title in the Kraft Nabisco tournament by one shot over Suzann Pettersen.
(Yani Tseng of Taiwan is sprayed with champagne by fellow golfer Morgan Pressel at No. 18 after clinching the victory at the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press/April 4, 2010)
By Peter Yoon (www.latimes.com)
April 4, 2010 | 8:20 p.m
The trouble with buying a house from Annika Sorenstam was twofold for Yani Tseng.
First, she considered Sorenstam an idol, and Tseng became tongue-tied in her presence. Second, the size of the trophy room left an indelible impression.
“It’s huge,” Tseng said.
One problem resolved itself this year when Sorenstam visited Tseng to give the young Taiwanese star some career advice. As for the trophy room, well, a few more days like Sunday won’t hurt.
Tseng, 21, gathered some hardware for the shelf by shooting four-under-par, final-round 68 to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Tseng’s four-day total of 13-under 275 outdistanced good friend Suzann Pettersen by one shot.
Pettersen, who trailed by four shots heading into the back nine, made a late charge but barely missed a chip for eagle on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.
It gave Tseng her third career LPGA title and second major. That is still well behind the 72 wins and 10 majors that Sorenstam won to fill the trophy room, but not a bad start for a player.
“I got one more to get in,” said Tseng, who won the 2008 LPGA Championship. The room “is still very empty now, but we’re on the way.”
She owes part of the victory to Sorenstam. Tseng acknowledged that even during negotiations last April for the home at Lake Nona near Orlando, Fla., she was scared to talk to Sorenstam.
“Every time I see her, I run out of words because she’s my big idol,” Tseng said.
But before this season, Tseng and Sorenstam sat down for a talk. Tseng, who, at No. 6 in the world rankings, is one of the tour’s best young players, needed advice on how to handle high expectations.
“She helped me a lot about my game,” Tseng said. “About the mentals.”
That came in handy Sunday.
Tseng used a chip-in eagle on the second hole to jump-start her round and was three under after three holes. After threading her second shot through the trees on No. 9 and saving par, she made the turn with a four-shot lead and then dialed back her aggressiveness and dared her chasers to catch her.
Pettersen did her best, hitting approach shots to within 12 feet on Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16, but made only one of the putts and trailed by two heading to the par-five 18th. Her second shot landed in the fringe, about 20 feet right of the hole and her eagle chip missed by mere inches.
“I gave it a go,” Pettersen said. “I tried to make it.”
It was the third time in four years that Pettersen has been runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco.
“It’s starting to feel like it owes me one very soon,” Pettersen said. “It’s disappointing when you’re this close and you really had a chance.”
Tseng and Pettersen were the only two who made significant moves Sunday. Song-Hee Kim shot 70 and finished third at nine under. Jiyai Shin, who shot 71 and tied for fifth at four under, was the only other player who began the day in the top 10 who broke par. That makes Tseng’s 68, tied for low round of the day, even more impressive.
“The pressure was there for her, and she executed very, very nicely,” Pettersen said.
The winner of the Kraft Nabisco event traditionally jumps into the lake near the 18th green, and Tseng was no exception. However, there was a problem: She doesn’t know how to swim.
“It was a little scary,” Tseng said. “I told my caddie, ‘I don’t know how to swim, can you help me get to the top?’ ”
Which brings us to one of the advantages of buying Sorenstam’s house: It has a pool.
KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP 2010
Mission Hill Country Club
Rancho Mirage, Calif.
April 4, 2010
Tseng makes dream splash following earth-shattering victory. After making an eagle on the second hole during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Yani Tseng never looked back. The 21-year old LPGA star notched her second career major victory today on the famed Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills Country Club. She followed up the win by making the ceremonial leap into Poppie’s Pond with her mother and a few close friends, while caddy Dave Poitevent belly-flopped his way into the water. When asked what she was thinking while jumping into the pond, Tseng said, “I said to my caddy – Wait, I don’t know how to swim! Can you help me?” Following the brigade of photographers and TV cameras, Tseng made her way across the bridge on 18 for her winner’s press conference. Still chilled from her plunge and dressed in a white terry robe, Tseng answered a bevy of questions from print media until an earthquake – later reported to be centered in Baja and to have reached 6.9 on the Richter Scale – interrupted the atmosphere. Tseng jokingly made a protective reach for her trophy on the table beside her, but the room settled down shortly after.
Since her last major win at the 2008 McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola, Tseng has worked hard to improve her course management, enlisting the help of a new teacher, a new caddy, as well as her idol – LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam. Said Tseng during today’s press conference: “I really want to thank Annika Sorenstam because she came to my house and we sat down and talked about two hours, and she helped me a lot about my game, about the mental, and she told me to go step-by-step…When you get inside the ropes you just want to have fun and play golf, and you don’t want to think about too much.” Perhaps the talk was not the only rub of luck for Tseng. Last year, the first-time home buyer bought Annika’s house in the Lake Nona community of Orlando, Florida. “’I feel like there’s a lot of magic in this one,’” Tseng said after the purchase a year ago this month. It looks like that magic followed her down the fairway this Easter Sunday.
A pack of major champions hungry for victory. Twenty-one year old Yani Tseng took home the first major championship of the 2010 LPGA Tour season with scores of 69-71-67-68 (-13). England’s Karen Stupples, who won the 2004 Women’s British Open, began the day at the top of the leaderboard (-10), but struggled to maintain her position from the very beginning of Sunday’s round. Despite the tough day on the course, Stupples was struck with tears of joy when she saw her soon-to-be 3 year old son Logan make his way to her outside the scoring tent.
Meanwhile, Tseng started the day off with an eagle on the second hole and a birdie on the third to quickly gain a two stroke advantage. Meanwhile, Pettersen battled her way down the fairway all afternoon, but in the end, her efforts could not produce a victory. A missed eagle opportunity on 18 resulted in a flood of emotion from the packed gallery, and a realization from Pettersen that this day belonged instead to her friend and fellow Orlando comrade, Tseng. When asked by the media what Pettersen said to her following the win, Tseng said: “She told me great job today, because she’s a really good competitor and was fighting for 18 holes. We never gave up, and we just kept playing very…aggressive. She played awesome on the back nine. She could have made those three or four putts and won the tournament.”