by Jeff Skinner
Yani Tseng may be looking to keep her winning streak going this week at The Kraft Nabisco Championship but she certainly will change at least one thing she did from last year.
Tseng, a past winner here in 2010 had the lead going into the final round at last year’s Kraft. She was paired with Stacy Lewis in the final group and as she walked to the first tee she playfully grabbed the trophy that was displayed next to the first tee. She hoisted the trophy overhead, turned to the crowd and smiled a winner’s smile. She then went out and shot her highest round of the week and lost as Lewis claimed her first LPGA win.
It wasn’t out of character for Tseng to play around and have fun during a round, that’s what she does. She enjoys herself on and off the course but many think that her pre-round trophy grab may have angered the golf gods and cost Tseng another major. It’s hard to think that Tseng could anger anyone. She is one of the easiest going, relaxed, fun loving players anywhere and her playful moment that day was just that, fun.
Tseng has taken having fun to a new level on the golf course. She has three wins in five events on the LPGA so far and it looks like there is no limit on what she can do. Last season she had 12 worldwide wins and became the youngest player in golf history to win five majors at 22.
But the scary thing is she can get better. Tseng has been in the top ten in driving distance since she established herself on tour. Last season she led the LPGA in many statistics including driving distance at 269.2 yards. According to the stats compiled by the LPGA, Tseng ranks a lowly 17th so far this season. Maybe she’s hitting fewer drivers but if she does start to hit it longer the other players won’t have any chance at all.
Tseng felt the pain when she didn’t close out the 2011 Kraft. Champions don’t let opportunities for majors slip through their fingers like she did last year. To remind her of her failure she placed a stuffed “Angry Bird” in her 2009 Kraft trophy that sits in her crowded trophy case. She’ll be trying to make up for last season against the best field of the year on The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Defending Champion Stacy Lewis wouldn’t mind being paired with Tseng again on Sunday as she tries to go back to back. All the top golfers in the world will be looking to make that famous leap into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday. The LPGA certainly has put together some star-studded pairings.
Teen phenom Lexi Thompson is paired with 2007 winner Morgan Pressel. Veterans Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr will do battle as they have for a decade. Sandra Gal and Michelle Wie have to be the tallest pairing on the course. Stacy Lewis and Natalie Gulbis will both be looking for their second LPGA Tour win. Paula Creamer is looking to break her putting slump and will get a close up view of the best in the world as she and Tseng are playing together. And all of the top ten players in the world including Na Yeon Choi (2) and Suzanne Pettersen (3) are hoping to make their first leap into the pond.
The Kraft has a very long and significant history in women’s golf. Previously known as The Colgate Dinah Shore when it started in 1972 it offered a much larger purse than any other tournament and through the dedication of Dinah Shore it became the premier tournament in ladies golf. The “Dinah Shore” as it was known became a major in 1983 and boasts a list of champions that looks like a Hall of Fame registry. All time victory leader Mickey Wright won here as have Judy Rankin, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, Juli Inkster, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Dottie Pepper, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.
Who will make that historic leap on Sunday evening? No one knows yet but the field is set for a wonderful week on the LPGA Tour.