Yani Tseng gets major LPGA win at Mission Hills
The trouble with buying a house from Annika Sorenstam was twofold for Yani Tseng.
First, she considered Sorenstam an idol, and Tseng became tongue-tied in her presence. Second, the size of the trophy room left an indelible impression.
“It’s huge,” Tseng said.
One problem resolved itself this year when Sorenstam visited Tseng to give the young Taiwanese star some career advice. As for the trophy room, well, a few more days like Sunday won’t hurt.
Tseng, 21, gathered some hardware for the shelf by shooting four-under-par, final-round 68 to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Tseng’s four-day total of 13-under 275 outdistanced good friend Suzann Pettersen by one shot.
Pettersen, who trailed by four shots heading into the back nine, made a late charge but barely missed a chip for eagle on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.
It gave Tseng her third career LPGA title and second major. That is still well behind the 72 wins and 10 majors that Sorenstam won to fill the trophy room, but not a bad start for a player.
“I got one more to get in,” said Tseng, who won the 2008 LPGA Championship. The room “is still very empty now, but we’re on the way.”
She owes part of the victory to Sorenstam. Tseng acknowledged that even during negotiations last April for the home at Lake Nona near Orlando, Fla., she was scared to talk to Sorenstam.
“Every time I see her, I run out of words because she’s my big idol,” Tseng said.
But before this season, Tseng and Sorenstam sat down for a talk. Tseng, who, at No. 6 in the world rankings, is one of the tour’s best young players, needed advice on how to handle high expectations.
“She helped me a lot about my game,” Tseng said. “About the mentals.”
That came in handy Sunday.
Tseng used a chip-in eagle on the second hole to jump-start her round and was three under after three holes. After threading her second shot through the trees on No. 9 and saving par, she made the turn with a four-shot lead and then dialed back her aggressiveness and dared her chasers to catch her.
Pettersen did her best, hitting approach shots to within 12 feet on Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16, but made only one of the putts and trailed by two heading to the par-five 18th. Her second shot landed in the fringe, about 20 feet right of the hole and her eagle chip missed by mere inches.
“I gave it a go,” Pettersen said. “I tried to make it.”
It was the third time in four years that Pettersen has been runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco.
“It’s starting to feel like it owes me one very soon,” Pettersen said. “It’s disappointing when you’re this close and you really had a chance.”
Tseng and Pettersen were the only two who made significant moves Sunday. Song-Hee Kim shot 70 and finished third at nine under. Jiyai Shin, who shot 71 and tied for fifth at four under, was the only other player who began the day in the top 10 who broke par. That makes Tseng’s 68, tied for low round of the day, even more impressive.
“The pressure was there for her, and she executed very, very nicely,” Pettersen said.
The winner of the Kraft Nabisco event traditionally jumps into the lake near the 18th green, and Tseng was no exception. However, there was a problem: She doesn’t know how to swim.
“It was a little scary,” Tseng said. “I told my caddie, ‘I don’t know how to swim, can you help me get to the top?’ ”
Which brings us to one of the advantages of buying Sorenstam’s house: It has a pool.