As Yani Tseng walked to 18, she recalled one of the most famous moments at Carnoustie — Jean Van de Velde, holding a three-shot lead, standing in the Barry Burn at the ’99 Open Championship, where he posted a triple-bogey to ultimately lose in a playoff. Tseng, who also had a three-stroke advantage, played the hole perfectly to cruise to a four-shot victory in defense of her Women’s British Open title.
“I had a three‑shot lead so I thought I’d better hit a good drive here to win the tournament,” said the 22-year-old from Taiwan. “I thought, okay, let’s hit a good drive, finish here, and I hit a good drive and the second shot I hit 9‑iron, and I feel like a little juiced up, so full shot 9‑iron. I hit it like 135 I think, so that was a great shot.
“When you come on this golf course you’re going think about him. I did think about it a little bit.”
Somewhat surprising, yet incredibly endearing that the most dominant player — male or female — in the world at the moment would allow such doubts to creep in, but that’s also what makes Yani so likable.
As she waited to tee off, her stomach hurt from the nerves.
“When I practiced I felt okay, but when I got to the putting green, when the tee time was getting closer and close, my stomach was getting worse,” said Yani. “I just feel like this is the real deal, I feel nervous. But I told my caddie and told my coach today, I feel nervous, and they told me, ‘That’s okay, the other players are going to feel as nervous as you are.’
“So that just made me feel a little relaxed.”
Last year Yani won after going into final round with a lead, which she’s said was a breakthrough for her mentally. Prior to capturing the ’10 Women’s British Open, she had always come back from behind to take the title. With the lead, she felt there was more pressure because of the expectations. Once she was able to overcome those demons, she’s become mentally stronger, but she’s developed little tricks to help her.
“I looked in my yardage book which has messages to remind me to do that,” said Yani, referring to how she combated nerves after making back-to-back bogeys on the back nine. “It said – good posture, good preparation and smile, so I looked at yardage book and just kept telling myself, okay, sometimes on links golf course you’re just going to get bad luck, and just forget about that, always look forward, good posture, chin up, and then smile, and it helps a lot.”
At 22 years, 6 months, 8 days, Yani became the youngest player — male or female — to win five major championships. Tiger Woods previously held the record at 24 years, seven months. Yani is ten years ahead of the pace when compared to her role model and mentor, the legendary Annika Sorenstam, who was 32 when she captured her fifth major.
How many career majors will Tseng win? Sky’s the limit, but she has one goal in her sights.
“I haven’t won the US Open so that will be one of my goals next year,” said Yani. “I just want to keep improving.”
(AP Photo/Scott Heppell)