Class isn’t always permanent
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Annika Sorenstam isn’t the only one making a comeback in this week’s Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona. Another multiple major winner is returning to the fairways, albeit in a much more muted way.
Check the draw and you’ll see the name of Yani Tseng out at 12:03pm in the company of England’s Mel Reid and Sung Hyun Park of Korea. You can bet that three-ball will get less attention than the all-Swedish trio of Sorenstam, Madelene Sagström, and Anna Nordqvist off at 12:25pm.
Tseng is living proof the old adage “form is temporary, class is permanent" isn’t always true. The Taiwanese player was once top of her class, THE dominant player in women’s golf. She held the number one spot on the Rolex Rankings for 109 weeks between 2011 and 213.
The 32-year-old has 15 LPGA victories, five of them majors – two LPGA Championships, two Women’s British Opens and the Kraft Nabisco (now the ANA) Championship – all won between her rookie 2008 season and 2012. She had consecutive seasons, 2010 and 2011, of double major victories. That 2011 season saw her rack up seven wins. For a few years, it wasn’t a question of who would win a tournament; it was more like who could stop Yani from winning?
She was far and away the best player in the world, proving it again in 2012 with another three victories and compiling LPGA records faster than some outlets are currently putting Tiger Woods stories up on their websites. Then Tseng just quietly disappeared.
Tseng is now ranked 919th on the Rolex Ranking. She hasn’t played since the 2019 LOTTE Championship when she missed her fifth cut from five starts. She had a 76.44 scoring average from her nine rounds that season, her best score a 72. Tseng averaged 69.66 in that banner 2011 season.
Even Tseng doesn’t know, as she recently told former colleague Beth Ann Nichols.
“People ask, ‘What’s going on Yani? Why, why, why,’” she said. “Sometimes I want to know why too.”
Tseng isn’t the first player to discover the ephemeral nature of this great game. David Duval reached world number one, broke 60, won the 2001 Open Championship, and then just drifted into oblivion. Curtis Strange won back to back U.S. Opens, tried to change his swing and never got back to the form that took him to such heights.
Sandy Lyle anyone? Who’d have thought the Scotsman would win the Open Championship, the Masters and then never come close to winning another of the four tournaments that really matter?
At 32, Tseng still has many years ahead of her. Whether she can get close to the form that saw her dominate women’s golf is another question.
Remember, class isn’t always permanent.
#JustSaying: “The past, the real past, matters less than we pretend.” John Banville, The Sea