MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Yani Tseng unleashed her new, more powerful swing at Royal Melbourne on Monday, playing nine holes of practice to hone the tweaks to her technique and familiarize herself with the sandbelt course that will host the Women's Australian Open this week.
Tseng started 2011 with a title at the Women's Australian Open and went on to win a total of 12 tournaments, including two majors and seven on the LPGA Tour to finish with the No. 1 ranking by a wide margin.
The 23-year-old Taiwanese golfer started preparing for the 2012 Australian tournament – which on Thursday kicks off a three-week Asian swing before the LPGA Tour moves to U.S. soil next month in Arizona – by watching how Tiger Woods and Co. handled Royal Melbourne Golf Club's Composite course during the Presidents Cup in November.
“I watched many holes and … I learnt a lot from the TV,'' she said Tuesday. “I know which places you better not go and the strategy to play. It worked out pretty well.
“You are going to use a lot of imagination to play on this course.''
Her nine holes Monday gave her an even better appreciation of the layout at Royal Melbourne, which is hosting a professional women's tournament for the first time.
“It was pretty tough. The greens were fast. I am very excited and I can't wait to go out and have fun,'' she said in comments reported Tuesday by Australian Associated Press. “We have a good field this week and a great golf course.
“The course is not long but you need to be very focused. Every shot. If you just miss-focus on one shot, you can get in big trouble. This week will be like a major course. You need to be smart, patient and focus on every shot.''
Six of the top 10 women are competing this week, with the tournament added to an expanded LPGA schedule after increasing the prize money to $1.1 million.
No. 2-ranked Suzann Pettersen, No. 4 Cristie Kerr, No. 7 Jiyai Shin, No. 9 Stacy Lewis and No. 10 Brittany Lincicome are all in the 156-player field for the LPGA's 2012 opening event, along with seven-time major winner Karrie Webb, who is aiming for her fifth Australian Open title.
They're all chasing Tseng, who has won back-to-back LPGA Player of the Year awards.
“I always have a good start here in Australia, hopefully it will be a good start for the year,'' Tseng said. “Last year is over. I have been working real hard in the offseason to change my swing a bit, to make it more consistent. I think I am ready for this year.''
In a bid to add to the five major titles she has already collected, Tseng has tried to increase her physical strength and modify her swing.
“I have tried to get physically stronger, so my swing can match my physique,'' she was quoted as saying. “I have more power. I don't swing as hard as before – I feel I am swinging easier and striking the ball better.
“Now I feel that if I swing 70-80 percent, the ball is still flying better than before. I always tried to swing really hard. Now I don't swing so hard, but the ball still goes that far. I am very happy about that … I can still rip it.''