Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ricoh Women's British Open Sunday: Ya Ni Conquers Carnoustie, Convinces Even Me Tseng Dynasty Has Arrived

Everyone knows by now that, despite final-round 67s by Brittany Lang and Amy Yang and a 68 by Sophie Gustafson, Ya Ni Tseng took the Ricoh Women's British Open by 4 shots, making it 4 majors in her last 8 starts and making herself, at age 22, the youngest golfer ever to have already won 5 majors in her career.

Finishing at -16, Tseng didn't replicate the nearly-flawless week she enjoyed when she dominated the field at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, but she did do to playing partner Caroline Masson, who started the day 2 shots ahead of her and finished with 2 birdies in a row to salvage a 78, almost exactly what she did to Cindy LaCrosse at Locust Hill--played so brilliantly that the less-experienced pro just fell apart. But Masson shouldn't feel that bad, as she had plenty of company during WBO week, including Meena Lee's Saturday 80, Paula Creamer's Sunday 79, Caroline Hedwall's Saturday 76, Ji-Yai Shin's Thursday 75, Cristie Kerr's Saturday 74, and stretches of truly terrible golf from some great players. I've already written about Angela Stanford's late-Friday collapse (from which, it turns out, she never could recover), but Yang, for instance, finished Saturday's round bogey-bogey-birdie-double and opened Sunday with a bogey to go +4 over those 5 holes. Lang, too, had a terrible finish, but on Thursday rather than Saturday: after eagling the par-5 14th and birdieing the par-4 15th, she doubled the tough par-3 16th, failed to birdie the easy 17th, and bogeyed the tough 18th. On Sunday, Catriona Matthew had a great chance to put some pressure on Tseng down the stretch, but started making par saves on the back 9 instead of putting herself in position for birdies or eagles on the 2 short closing par 5s, and doubled the 18th when she got too greedy from the fescue and hit her approach shot out of bounds left. Meanwhile, Stacy Lewis would have been right in this thing were it not for 38s on the back 9 Thursday and front 9 Saturday. For Gustafson, it wasn't any particular stretch of holes that did her in, but a generally cold putter (she took 130 putts on the week) and poor bunker play (she was only 2 for 5 in greenside sandie attempts). In short, like Ai Miyazato last week at Evian, Tseng simply put too much pressure on the rest of the field and Carnoustie did the rest.

Of course, if Tseng hadn't gone on to win, we all would have been pointing to her +1 performance on the par 5s on Thursday and shaky putting over many long stretches as the culprit. But even though 36 players ended up under par on the week, none of them could match Tseng's combination of length off the tee, accuracy with her irons, ability to make pressure putts, and refusal to let little mistakes become big ones over the course of 72 holes. You know that Carnoustie was vulnerable when Katie Futcher could shoot a back-9 29 on Sunday that allowed her to equal Se Ri Pak's and Inbee Park's Friday 64s, but you also know how tough it could play, even in easy scoring conditions, when you consider that Futcher's previous scores on the back were 36, 37, and 40 (which included 3 doubles, 5 bogeys, 4 birdies, and an eagle). Just ask my pre-tournament picks Ai Miyazato (MC), Morgan Pressel (+2), Suzann Pettersen (E), In-Kyung Kim (E), Maria Hjorth (-4), and Mika Miyazato (-5) how easy Carnoustie was this week, and I think you'd come away even more impressed by Tseng's performance.

Think about it: Tseng how has 4 wins on the LPGA and 3 on the LET this year and would be running away with each tour's money-list title if she had bothered to join the LET after her 1st win Down Under (as it is, Ai Miyazato's win-MC combo in the LPGA's European swing is enough to give her a lead of over 150K Euros on Caroline Hedwall!). She has more 2011 LPGA Player of the Year points than her 2 closest pursuers (Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr) combined. Her scoring average is almost a full stroke better than Kerr's and Kim's, and around a stroke and a half better than her next closest pursuers (Shin, Pettersen, Lewis, Yang). So it's no surprise that she's broken the 16-point barrier in the latest Rolex Rankings and has what I believe to be the biggest lead in the rankings since the height of the Ochoa Era. As Hound Dog points out, she could well finish the year with more than 20 Hall of Fame points (out of the 27 needed to qualify, along with 10 years on the LPGA). For more on Tseng's historic win, check out the LET web site, LPGA.com, Fairways and Forehands, Beth Ann Baldry, Ron Sirak, Jason Sobel, and the SI guys.

Me, I've finally got to admit that we're living in what bangkokbobby seems to be the 1st to have coined the Tseng Dynasty!


Mike said...

Since you've accepted the arrival of the Tseng Dynasty, does that mean you'll start calling her "the Empress" like I do ;-)

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