Yani Tseng’s Taking Over For Tiger

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 13, 2011
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Yani Tseng, of Taiwan, chips during a practice round for the Women’s U.S. Open golf tournament at the Broadmoor Golf Club July 6 in Colorado Springs. AP photo/Mark J. Terrill

It’s been the modern day version of the search for the Great White Hope.

Not the racist effort to reclaim Caucasian dominance in boxing, but the quest to identify someone capable of taking the mantle from Tiger Woods as the world’s most dominant golfer or at least someone good enough to provide him with some much needed competition.

Injuries have taken their toll on Woods, who has plummeted to No. 17 on the World Golf Rankings, and all the young guns who were thought capable of taking his place have failed to live up to the hype imposed on them.

Until now.

The world’s most dominate slayer of greenside competitors is not the jovial Phil Mickelson or the mature beyond his years Rory McIlroy.

It’s a small Taiwanese woman with little of the flair but every bit of Woods’ single-minded dominance.

Yani Tseng is Tiger Woods of the early aughts. In fact, she’s even better.

At just 22, the Orlando resident already owns Annika Sorenstam’s house and four of the last six majors. She has 19 wins worldwide, including eight on the LPGA Tour. In 10 starts on the LPGA Tour this year, she has eight top 10 finishes, including three wins. She has three other wins internationally. Tseng is the youngest player, man or woman, to accomplish as much since Young Tom Morris took home his fourth Open Championship in 1872 at the age of 21. One can’t speak of her “tender age” because as she has shown as much compassion for her counterparts as Joey Chestnut does a Coney Island brat.

That fact was never more obvious than at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. On the 71st hole and sitting at 18 under par, Tseng took all of her allotted time to line up a birdie putt on 17. The reason? She wanted to get to 20 under just to challenge herself on the back nine of a tournament she ran away with by 10 strokes. That’s Tigeresque.

Need more numbers?

She is currently first in rounds under par, birdies, scoring average and greens in regulation. In her last 10 rounds of golf before the U.S. Women’s Open, her stroke average was 66.9.

A win at the Open, played this past weekend and completed after MidWeek went to press, would give her the career grand slam two years earlier than Woods and a decade before Sorenstam.

A victory would also give her 15 Hall of Fame points, putting her more than halfway to the LPGA minimum of 27 for enshrinement. Even more than a few new title sponsors, the LPGA needs a superstar it can sell.

Sadly, Tseng is not that person. She’s got the game, just not personality or U.S. citizenship. To those who know her well, Tseng is a personable young athlete with a sharp sense of humor who has worked on her English skills with as much determination as she does her golf game. But without Paula Creamer’s sparkle or Michelle Wie’s PR machine, LPGA commissioner Michael Wan will be hard-pressed to market such a dominating talent.

To put it honestly, Tseng lacks the sexuality that still goes a long way in determining the marketability of female athletes. See Danica Patrick and Natalie Gulbis.

If she were a few inches taller and little bit blonder, the job would be easier. Unfortunately, there is no place in product endorsement for a female athlete without runway good looks. Even on the LPGA Tour.

Following Tseng’s victory at the LPGA Championship in Rochester, Sorenstam, in a phone interview with The Golf Channel, called Tseng “amazing” and “the new face of the LPGA.”

Sadly, that face is just not cute enough to entice advertisers.

But that’s society’s problem, not hers. She just has to keep doing what she does, and that’s being the most dominate force in golf.

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