Yani Tseng hopes to take a leaf out of Rory McIlroy’s book when she sets out to defend her title at this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool.
The 23 year-old Taiwanese player started the year with a bang when she won three times and notched a further five top-10 finishes in her first eight starts on this year’s LPGA Tour but her form has subsequently dipped coming into an event where she is bidding to become the first player to complete a hat-trick of consecutive Ricoh Women’s British Open titles.
“I have been struggling a little the last few months, but I think it’s a good time to be back here and I think it’s my turn to start playing well again,” she said after her final practice session.
“I have been watching Rory McIlroy and I think I can learn from him,” she added. “He was a little down for a couple of months then he won the PGA Championship and since then he’s won another two (titles).”
Tseng believes she has been her own worst enemy as she has endeavoured to cope with the first slump in a stellar career during which she became the youngest player to win five Majors, at the age of 22 years, 6 months and 8 days.
“I think I have been a bit hard on myself and I have never been like that before,” she admitted. “I read an interview Rory gave when he said he just tried to be patient because he knew he couldn’t play well every week and that’s what I will try to do.
“I want to get back to enjoying the game and smiling on the golf course like I used to. My goal this week is just to have fun and show my smile to the fans out there.
“I love the British Open and its history and tradition. I love the golf course and the conditions. The tougher they are, the happier I will be. I don’t know why.
“I feel I’m ready. I’m ready to rock.”
That will be ominous news for the rest of the field who have little doubt the Hoylake course will be a stringent test for the best women golfers in the world.
1986 champion, Laura Davies, who this week plays her 100th Major and makes her 32nd appearance in this Championship, believes the scoring will be high if the weather does not improve and hopes that won’t affect the public’s perception of the women’s game.
“We know how good we are and want to put on a good show for TV but that’s not going to be easy in these conditions,” she said.
“I have heard some of the girls saying that 8-over par might win this week. That might be a bit extreme, but they might not be far off it the forecast is right, and I can only hope people will not judge us purely on our scores.”
Davies comes into the 2012 Ricoh Women’s British Open fresh from a tie for second at last week’s Uniqa Ladies Open in Austria and has not discounted the possibility of winning the one Major title she needs to earn a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“This would be the perfect place to do it,” she said. “It would be the perfect time but I’ve had about eight goes at winning this tournament to get into the Hall of Fame and I haven’t done it yet. Hopefully, this might be my year.”
The veteran English woman found her form on the greens last week in Austria and she sees that as the key to her chances.
“I have been putting well all year but they haven’t been dropping,” she said. “I’m stroking it well but they keep burning the edges. Last week I holed a few and that made all the difference. This year I have had two seconds and a third on the weeks I have putted well and if I can do that here hopefully I will be in the mix.”
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew also believes she is approaching the sort of form she displayed while winning the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes and she arrives on the Wirral fresh from a victory in the recent Irish Ladies Open at Killeen Castle.
“Obviously, I played well in Ireland. I loved going back to Killeen Castle, where we won the Solheim Cup, and I played pretty well in the States, in Canada and then last week at Kingsmill,” she said. “I feel like I’m coming into some good form.”
While in Canada, where she finished just outside the top-10, Matthew had a chance to watch new sensation, Lydia Ko, as the 15 year-old New Zealand amateur became the youngest ever winner of the LPGA Tour, and she could not have been more impressed by what she saw.
“I don’t think you can quite believe how good she is at 15,” he said. “The composure she showed on the last day was incredible. She actually went away from the field, I think. I suppose it’s slightly embarrassing to be beaten by a 15 year-old, but she’s a fantastic player and got huge potential.”
Ko is not the only youngster to come into the Championship on a high because 20 year-old Scot, Carly Booth, has won twice on this year’s Ladies European Tour, at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Ladies Open and the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, and currently holds down first place on the ISPS Handa Order of Merit.
Booth, whose father Wally was a Commonwealth Games silver medal wrestling champion and a bodyguard for the Beatles, was a hugely successful amateur but admits she has taken her time to find her feet in the professional ranks.
“My first two years on the Tour were little bit of a struggle,” she admitted. “The first year, I was still at school, so that was hard to try to do both. Last year, I focussed purely on the Tour but still found it tough. I missed my first six cuts and my confidence went down from there.
“I think it was a lot harder than I expected,” she added. “I went through Q-School easily, got my Tour Card and, I don’t know, I think my expectations were a little too high. I was trying to do it for everyone else, not just for me.
“This year, my main focus was just on trying to enjoy my golf, so I just tried to relax and it started to come together.”
The first round of this year’s Championship starts at 7.00 am tomorrow (Thursday) morning. This year, for the first time, there will be a two-tee start for the first two rounds. First off the 1st will be Spain’s Azahara Munoz, Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson and England’s Florentyna Parker. The first group off the 10th comprises Ko, America’s Alexis Thompson and Japan’s Kaori Ohe off the 10th.
This year, for the first time since 2010, there are ten amateurs, headed by World No. 1 Ko, in the 144-strong field. The others are China’s Jing Yan, Amy Boulden from Wales, Ireland’s Leona Maguire and Bronte Law, Charley Hull, Emily Taylor, Alex Peters, Charlotte Thompson and Holly Clyburn from England.
The full draw can be found here.