February 20 — Michelle Wie, who knows a thing or two about playing to packed golf galleries, accorded her playing partner rock-star status after Yani Tseng cruised to a five-stroke win Sunday at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening event in Thailand.
Sizzling. For sure, golf’s hottest player continued her quest to become the tour’s next Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa, with a final-round 6-under 66 for a 15-under victory. It was Tseng’s third win as many weeks and fourth overall in 2011.
“Yani played fantastic,” an admiring Wie told reporters after coming up short of Tseng by five strokes. ” She played like a rock star out there. She made every single putt and zero mistakes.”
The world’s top-ranked woman golfer served notice on a strong field that her three-win 2010 season — which included titles at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Women’s British Open — was no fluke.
Confident. “I have lots of confidence. All day I was patient and focused and I just tried to control what I could control,” said the 2010 Player of the Year. “I feel very excited every week. Next week is a new week and I’ll enjoy it.”
Just what I.K. Kim, Karrie Webb (T3), Paula Creamer (fifth place), and Juli Inkster (sixth) wanted to hear as they head into the February 24-February 27 HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore.
As further evidence that Tseng is on the path to fill the void left by the retiring Sorenstam and Ochoa, consider this: both former superstars began their Hall of Fame careers at the Australian Ladies Masters, which Tseng won by four strokes.
Determined. Tseng, who also hoisted the 2009 LPGA Championship trophy, does not lack determination. She said her goal at the beginning of the year was to be the best player in the world — a target she achieved after back-to-back wins on the Ladies European Tour.
The 22-year-old from Taiwan won’t get ahead of herself, however. She knows full well that Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, and Cristie Kerr all shared top billing last year. With Creamer in good health and Wie showing she plans to be in contention, Tseng has her work cut out for her.
“It is so soon,” Tseng said after rising to the top of the rankings leaderboard. “I wasn’t expecting it as quickly as this. I still have another 10 months to go. I just need to be very patient and keep working hard and I still have lots of things to learn too.”
Tseng, Wie, and Webb, by the way, became the first trio of players to ensure spots at the season-ending Titleholders tourney in Orlando in November. The event is the first of its kind, with the top three finishers from each LPGA event earning their way into the season finale at Grand Cypress Golf Club.
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