Friday, August 3, 2012

What is going on with Yani Tseng?

It seems like just yesterday, that I was writing a post asking if anyone would step up and challenge Yani Tseng. My, how things have changed. In a few short months, Yani has gone from complete dominance to completely out of contention. Let us look at her season so far. I am going to break it down into three parts.

First 5 tournaments:
Wins: 3
Top fives: 4
Top tens: 5
Missed Cuts: 0
Broke par in: 12 of 16 rounds or 75%
Per round average: 69.15

Next 4 tournaments:
Wins: 0
Top fives: 1
Top tens: 3
Missed Cuts: 0
Broke par in: 63.6% of rounds played.
Per round average: 70.36

Last 4 tournaments:
Wins: 0
Top fives: 0
Top tens: 0
Missed cuts: 2
Broke par in: 1 of 12 rounds or 8.3%
Per round average: 74.75

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the steep drop that has occurred. The per round average is alarming. Last year she led the tour with a per round average of 69.66.

Earlier in the year it seemed to me that just about everyone, including myself, was pointing to her as the next great golfer. We had her following in the footsteps of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa. Did we all jump the gun?

I started to wonder if Annika or Lorena had suffered through any slumps like this after becoming the best female player in the game. Here is what I found:

You have to look long and hard to find anything resembling a slump after Annika soared to the top.
The worst period I could find was back in 1999, when over a 4-tournament span, she failed to finish in the top ten and posted a per round average of 72.80. Not up to her standards, but not all that bad either.

Lorena became the top player in the world and retired without ever having a slump. Her worst period would be in 2009, when over a  period of four tournaments she finished 16th, 6th, 40th, and had a rare missed cut. Her per round average over that period was still a stellar 70.9.

The above shows that neither of those superstars ever had to go through what Yani is going through now.

Some might say that while this makes for a good story, it is too early to draw any conclusions. I say that this bears watching. We have seen examples in all sports that when a player loses confidence, it sometimes takes a very long time to get it back. Sometimes it never comes back. Look at Song-Hee Kim, who in 2010 had more top-10 finishes than anyone on the tour. She now is a long shot to retain her playing card for next year.

One more thought on the subject. A few weeks back I wrote an article on the Americans underachieving, to which I got a huge response. The general consensus was that the Asian players are far outworking the Americans. That opinion seemed unanimous, coming from Asians, Americans, and some of the players themselves. Being around the game as much as I am, I can't disagree. But will they burn themselves out at an early age? Is that what is happening here?

I welcome all opinions on the subject.

Other Tidbits:

Inbee Park has five consecutive top-ten finishes.

The tour's next stop will be in Ohio for the playing of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, which I will be attending. An unusual amount of players will be skipping this event. They include Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb, Hee Young Park, Catriona Matthew, Maria Hjorth, Sun Young Yoo, Sophie Gustafson, Karen Stupples, Shanshan Feng, Juli Inkster, Caroline Hedwall and Lexi Thompson. Incredibly, there is no television broadcast for this tournament.


Anonymous said...

Considering that the Jamie Farr event was a bit of a question mark you would think that the the players would show more support. It's not like the PGA where there are a cornacopia of events to pick and choose.

sports medic

IceCat said...

There is no TV and the purse is among the smallest on tour because they're being thrifty, given the state of the local economy. Even if they splashed out the extra money to help underwrite the TV production costs like the other domestic tournaments do it is doubtful the casual fan would pay much attention since incredibly the Farr was scheduled for the same week as the PGA Championship, the only such time this year when an LPGA tournament is played opposite a men's major. Given the event's history it deserves a better fate than that.


Anonymous said...

Pretty amazing that so many top players are skipping a tournament when their schedule is as limited as it has become. On the other hand, a number of lower ranked players will get an extra start. I doubt it's the lack of TV coverage that is causing them to skip the Farr, but shame on xxx Golf Channel for continuing to claim that they are the home of the LPGA, then not finding 2 hours a day for a tournament with as much tradition as the Farr.

On Yani, this is the second down patch of her career. Remember, she started out her LPGA career with a number of high finishes and a couple of wins, then she fell off the map for what seems like well over a year.

The "On the Range" guys talked with her coach and he said that some bad habits had seeped into her swing - and they were the kinds of habits that would be a real pain to root out - so she's cleaning out the closets, as it were.

The other interesting bit that I have heard was from the Tour Tempo guys. As her results have dropped, her tempo had also gone haywire. It has become very inconsistent. Pretty hard to argue with that observation since they are simply recording her swings and counting frames.

The Constructivist said...

Ya Ni had missed only 4 cuts in her entire LPGA career until this down patch. So her loss of accuracy with her driver and approach shots is a big cause for concern. Which only serves to set off how amazing Annika and Lorena were. Let's face it, though, everyone else you might think of has had tough times in their careers, whether it's long stretches without wins (Pettersen, Kerr, Creamer), terrible and prolonged slumps (Ai Miyazato, Seon Hwa Lee), injuries (Pettersen, Creamer, Shin), or whatever. Even the super-consistent Na Yeon Choi has had some bad runs this year. So basically Ya Ni has shown some signs of weakness for the first time in well over a year, and it's probably giving a lot of other top players some hope. I think it's great for competition on the LPGA although I can't see Ya Ni's problems getting much worse than they have been or lasting very long....

Just look at her career stats as of the end of last season first relative to her rookie class:

and next relative to the rookie classes of 2006 through 2008:

diane said...

I'll be at the Jamie Farr Thursday and Friday. Maybe we'll find each other amid the throngs, Tony. 8-)