Evian-les-Bains, France-When the LPGA resumes play this week it will be at the site of one of the most beautiful venues that the tour annually visits. The Evian Masters held near the shores of Lake Geneva is a prestigious event with one of the biggest purses that the ladies vie for every year and next year will become the tours fifth major championship. It is also where World No. 1 Yani Tseng will look to regroup a golf game that has hardly reflected the high standard of play we are accustomed to watching from the Taiwanese player.
Two weeks ago at the Women’s U.S. Open Tseng finished 50T, never contending at the one major her prolific resume still lacks. This came after missing her first cut on the year in Arkansas and a 59T at the LPGA Championship, the second major of the year.
The downward spiral has been surprising considering she started her year with the same dominance that brought her eleven international wins last year. With three wins and eight top tens to start the season, it appeared that Tseng was on her way to dominating the tour in the same fashion as 2011. Yet the past six weeks have proven to be anything but predictable for Tseng who looks for the first time in her storied career uncomfortable on the golf course.
Changes appear to be in the making as she heads to France however. She fired her caddie Jason Hamilton of two years right after the U.S. Open. Hamilton had been on her bag for sixteen wins though he sensed a change was coming. “I wasn’t surprised at all,” Hamilton said about the firing, “things have been weird for four or five weeks.” While a new full time caddy has not been established, veteran caddy Basil Van Rooyen will be on the bag in France.
Though caddy/player chemistry is important it is hard to believe that has been the pressing problem with Tseng’s game the past month. There has been speculation that perhaps Tseng has been injured. For several months she has been treating a chronic tendonitis in her right elbow though Tseng has recently clarified that is has been more of the mental aspects that have affected her game. In an interview with USA Today a few weeks ago Tseng has this to say about the state of her game:
“It’s more about the mental things, because my coach Gary (Gilchrist) was here with me like these couple of weeks and said my swing now can win the tournament,” Tseng said. “But sometimes when I start to tee off I still worry about if my ball is going to go right or left. I have been struggling with my game the last couple of months. I just have to try to not think about a result and just think about the process.”
Golf has always been more of a mental game than a physical one. The greatest champions have the ability to display a mental fortitude at a completely different level than their competitors when it matters most. For Tseng the mental toughness that she has portrayed the past couple years has rarely faltered. Since taking over the reins of World No. 1 from Lorena Ochoa, she has dominated on all levels. Her powerful swing leaves most around her intimidated and her ability to produce a lot of birdies under pressure has been something to marvel at.
Which is why the past six weeks have been so odd. While of course all great players go through occasional slumps, Tseng has lacked the usual smile and enthusiasm that she normally plays with and has made her a fan favorite the past couple of years. Tseng has plenty of opportunities over the next couple of months to right the ship. The LPGA will continue a busy summer with seven events in the next two months including the final major of the year, the Ricoh’s Women’s British Open. The Evian Masters may be the best place for Tseng to get back on track. An incredible atmosphere anchored by a world-class golf course, seems like the perfect combination for the World No. 1 to find her way again.