World No. 1 golfer Yani Tseng started slow in the first round of the season-ending CME Group Titleholders, but rallied to card birdies in three of the final four holes. Yani, who is having one of the best seasons in LPGA history, shot a ho-hum two-under 70, leaving her four shots behind the first-round leader Na Yeon Choi.
Yani actually played much better than she scored.
“I played really good today,” Yani told me and another reporter, standing outside the ropes encircled by a group of fans that were waiting for a picture or autograph with the 2011 LPGA Player of the Year (she locked up the award a month ago). “I hit lots of good drives and lots of good shots. I mean, I just kept to myself to be patient today because I just missed lots of putts, but I made good strokes — they just didn’t go in.
“I was really happy the last two holes, I made two birdies, finished 2‑under par, then a save on 18 that was really good. It’s only the first day and I’m still not far away, and there are three more days to go. I’m really happy what I did today and I just need to be patient.”
It was just one of those days where nothing dropped, so Yani, smiling, expects the opposite in the second round.
“I putted really good, just the ball just didn’t go in, probably just I needed a little more luck,” said the 22-year-old from Taiwan. “And on 16 I told my caddie, maybe I’m going to shoot 10‑under tomorrow because no balls dropped in today, so maybe I’ll have good luck tomorrow. But I’m still happy.”
If I wrote this yesterday evening, I’d prognosticate she was going to shoot 63, but it appears things aren’t working out today, either. Yani’s having a rollercoaster of a round, which includes two birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey. She’s fallen back to T19 and has some work to do, but there’s also a good amount of golf left. I’d love for her to pull it together and notch a 12th victory in 2011. Of the 11 tournaments she has won worldwide, 8 have been LPGA events.
Meanwhile, teen phenom Lexi Thompson, who became the youngest player in history to win an LPGA event at the Navistar Classic in October, shot one-under 71 on Thursday. Cristie Kerr, the highest-ranked American at No. 3 in the world rankings, has been battling a stomach flu all week, but managed to grind it out to post a respectable four-under 68 (and she looked really, really sick, which made it more impressive).