By Vince Robitaille
A lingering elbow injury? No. An entire field of the LPGA’s best players at the RR Donnelley Founders Cup? As it has been demonstrated over and over again, no. Even hail in Arizona apparently doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to stopping the outright most dominating figure, in the 500-year-old sport that is golf, since the glory days of Tiger Woods. In a week orchestrated around the celebration of the LPGA’s past, in the collective effort of honouring the other Tour’s trailblazers, and future, synthesized in the blonde 11-year-old hurricane named Izzy Cantwell that swept through Friday and Saturday’s televised coverage, what was really exalted is its present, best summarized in two words which, I’ll give it to you in spades, respectively begin with the letters “Y” and “T”.
The parallels with the heydays of the Californian feline are numerous and easy to spot, the quintessential one, though, is found in the weirdly familiar feeling that arises when one’s about to ask about the week’s results in women’s golf: the potent question isn’t who anymore, but how? Well, this week she did it in a fashion that wasn’t without reminding us of one of the greatest clichés of tournament golf – most precisely one linked to the Masters Tournament – “It doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday”. In fact, at the turn, Tseng found herself trailing the 2010 Money List No. 1, Na Yeon Choi and former World No. 1 Ai Miyazato, by 1 and 3 shots respectively. A slow start – both literally, as two distinct 60 minutes long play interruptions put an halt on any kind of momentum she could have picked up on the front nine, and figuratively, as the aforementioned momentum never really got going – couldn’t, in the end, keep her from kicking off her newest campaign on American soil with a second victory in as many weeks.
To recap yesterday’s action without analyzing the weather’s effects on it is, for lack of a better expression, grossly inadequate. While Miyazato annulled any kind of advantage the interruptions could have brought her adversary by picking back where she left off, namely hitting fairways and greens as well as draining just about every putt facing her, the softened playing surface, occasioned by the rain and melting hail, mitigated Tseng’s strengths. In fact, while the impact of an ever so slightly more level driving distance average is non-negligible, the more receptive greens enabled Miyazato to be considerably more aggressive with her hybrids and give herself genuine opportunities to shave some strokes and separate herself from Tseng and Choi, which she did, until a certain someone shifted gears.
The charge began on 10th and, much like the Tiger of old, one could notice with a mere look at her demeanour. After a bomb of a drive that found the left rough, if you can call it that, and seeing Miyazato send her approach in a green-side bunker, Tseng proceeded to airmail a short iron to the back of the putting surface and to drop the subsequent 20 footer to shave a stroke. After a second-straight birdie on the par-5 11th, Tseng, now tied for second at 15-under with Choi, was now but a mere shot behind Miyazato. After all members of the last threesome of the day had safely laid up on the short 13th, Tseng, who found herself pin-high, but two feet right of the green, sunk her putt from the fringe to reach 16-under and, concurrently, Miyazato; the latter seeming to deflate instantly, never to be in real contention again. A fourth birdie over a stretch of five holes, saw the current World No. 1 take the lead for the first time in the final round. Keeping her foot to the floor, she converted another opportunity, in blatantly dreadful weather, and reached the winning mark of 18-under for the tournament; Choi and Miyazato, much to their very own dismay, would close out a lone stroke behind.
Tseng’s triumph – on a stormy dusk ill-suited for anything but a Sergio Leone film – leaves one wondering if there is something, or someone, out there capable of impeding the expansion of her control to all forts of the LPGA tour. While some see, in the young Lexi Thompson, the wild gunslinger that holds enough ammunition to bring down Yani Tseng, I, for one, would put my money on – if one were to ask me, thus placing me under the proverbial gun– either a tendency for the latter’s trusty putter to suddenly start misfiring from point-blank range – a surprising amount of 5-footers did slip by this weekend – or on another young up-and-coming American whose name I shall only reveal Wednesday.