Former Spirit Player Tseng Wins 5th Major

August 1st 2011 -
Courtesy of GolfWeek

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Yani Tseng arrived on the 18th tee at Carnoustie Sunday evening with a three-shot lead. During her post-round press conference, she struggled to recall Jean Van de Velde’s name, but his play down the 72nd hole a dozen years ago was fresh in her mind.

“When you come on this golf course, you’re going to think about him,” said Tseng, who piped a drive down the center of the fairway that left her with 135 yards in, a full 9-iron she confidently placed 3 feet from the hole.

Tseng closed with birdie and won the Ricoh Women’s British Open July 31 by four strokes, Van de Velde’s triple-bogey a nightmare she’ll never know.

Tseng became the youngest player to win five majors titles at 22 years, 6 months. Tiger Woods accomplished the feat in 2000 at 24 years, 7 months.

“There’s so many great players making history on this golf course,” said Tseng, who finished at 16-under 272, four shots clear of Brittany Lang. “It’s my honor to be a part of this.”

Tseng spent the week at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel in a room that overlooked the 18th green. On Saturday night she ordered Chinese take-out and relaxed, trailing an unknown German named Caroline Masson by two shots. She was fine on the practice range Sunday, but by the time Tseng reached the putting green, her stomach started to ache.

“I just feel like this is the real deal,” said Tseng. “I told my caddie and my coach I felt nervous, and they told me, 'That’s OK, the other players are going to feel more nervous than you are.' ”

Tseng backed off her opening tee shot due to a premature camera click. She three-putted for bogey on the opening hole to give Masson a three-stroke advantage. Masson’s troubles started early, however, and her round quickly spiraled out of control. She closed with a pair of birdies to shoot 78, falling into a tie for fifth.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Masson, on someone her age winning five majors. Carnoustie marked Masson’s second major championship appearance. “Her head is really good, and she knows what to do. I can learn a lot from her, and I did today.”

Tseng looked like she might open the door for Scotland’s finest, Catriona Matthew, and Lang after she made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13. Tseng said she looked to her yardage book for positive reminders: Good posture. Good preparation. Smile.

“I looked at the yardage book and just kept telling myself, 'OK, sometimes on links golf courses you’re just going to get back luck,' ” Tseng said. Her tee shot on the 13th hit the flagstick and landed near a bunker, where she faced an awkward second shot that led to bogey.

A two-putt birdie on the 14th put Tseng back in good form, and she called the 10-foot par putt on the 15th “huge.” Birdies on the last two holes helped the World No. 1 close in style. With nine LPGA victories already to her credit – five of which are majors – her peers know what’s coming when her name is near the top of the leaderboard. Tseng won the Wegmans LPGA Championship last month by 10 strokes.

“It usually means that not much is going to go wrong,” said Lang. “You’re going to need to make birdies to catch her because she’s pretty steady.”

Na Yeon Choi doesn’t want to call Tseng intimidating, simply because that doesn’t help Choi any mentally. But she said everyone on tour is aware that Tseng has “a great feeling so far this year.” Matthew called her five majors “amazing.” She only wished the Scottish fans who turned up could’ve cheered on more birdies than par saves. The 2009 British Open winner parred eight of the last nine holes, double-bogeying the last to finish tied for fifth.

This marks the second consecutive season Tseng has won two majors. Even she never saw this kind of success coming so quickly.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lang said. “She’s so mentally strong, and she’s so aggressive and confident. She’s just got it all. It’s pretty cool, cool to watch.”

Tseng was showered with champagne on the 18th green by her manager, Naya Hsu, and her caddie’s fiance, Katy Mullin. She planned to stay up all night celebrating in the Carnoustie Hotel before her early flight to Taiwan.

“I think in my mind – wow, five times major – I never think about that,” Tseng said. “I feel like this is just very special.”