PGA Tour Confidential: Yani Tseng dominates LPGA Championship

PGA Tour Confidential: Yani Tseng dominates LPGA Championship

Yani Tseng won the LPGA Championship by an astounding ten strokes to capture her fourth major title at the age of 22.
Kevin Rivoli/AP

Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Another major championship week, another runaway victory for a 22-year-old star. Rory McIlroy appears on his way to greatness, but Yani Tseng became the youngest modern player (male or female) to win four major championships. (Young Tom Morris, born in April of 1851, won his fourth Open Championship in 1872.) With her 10-shot victory, she served notice that she just might rewrite the LPGA record books. How many majors do you see Yani winning, and what do you like most about her game?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Tseng appears as if she’s fearless, bullet-proof. You have to admire that degree of confidence.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: McIlroy may or may not achieve greatness, but Tseng already has, even if she never hits another shot. What’s NOT to like about her game? And she seems to be a fun person, too.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I love that she hits it a mile, smiles on every tee box and lives in Annika Sorenstam’s old digs. That trophy room is filling up quick. Four majors by age 22? I’ll say she gets to 15.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: She’s only 22 and has four under her belt, so who knows — 20-25 majors? The power she generates through her swing is amazing. She’s got a great personality, too. If only more people knew that she does speak English, and quite well.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I like everything about Yani’s game. As good as her ballstriking and putting are, what is most impressive is her ability to raise her game for the most important tournaments. That’s a gift few have. Her idol, Annika, won 10 majors. Tseng, if she stays healthy and motivated, might double that.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Yani wins 10 more majors by the time she turns 30. The LPGA isn’t that deep, and it’s not going to get any deeper with so few tournaments.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Earlier today our friend Brandel Chamblee was talking about her grip, how she holds the club like no one else on the LPGA, and that gives her a huge advantage in terms of length and distance control.

Godich: Yani is the clear-cut No. 1, but which woman is in the best position to challenge her?

Lipsey: Nobody. It’s a race for No. 2, exactly like it was with Tiger at his peak.

Herre: Suzann Pettersen has a game as big as Yani’s and may be an even tougher competitor. Cristie Kerr was also no fluke when she reached No. 1, and I’ve always thought she had the best putting stroke on the LPGA tour.

Gorant: It has to be someone who can keep up with Tseng off the tee. You would think, all things considered, that it would be Pettersen, but for some reason she rarely seems to be able to put it all together. After that, we’re on graduation watch: Michelle Wie’s from Stanford and Lexi Thompson’s from high school.

Hack: I feel better about Pettersen after her win at the match play this year. She has the length and athleticism to keep pace with Yani. Jiyai Shin has proven she has the goods. Kerr and Paula Creamer have had great moments, too, but Yani stands alone.

Gorant: Shin and Creamer and to a lesser extent Kerr are just giving up too much in distance to consistently compete with Yani. They may have a week here and there, but they have to be so much better in every other phase of the game to keep up.

Evans: Cristie Kerr is the best of the lot, in terms of experience and ability.

Shipnuck: I love Jiyai Shin, but she has so much less firepower than Tseng. Ditto Miyazato. Creamer has a brittle body and appears to be easily distracted by the trappings of fame. Kerr has the putting stroke but always gets in her own way mentally. Pettersen can’t close. Lincicome has tons of talent but not the drive to be great. Wie could be a legitimate threat, but she’s too smart and well-rounded for a golfer; I don’t think hitting balls will ever be enough for her. In short, there are no challengers for Yani.

Godich: I’m getting almost as tired of the Michelle Wie college fallback as I am of Tiger’s ongoing swing overhaul. Shouldn’t we expect more from Wie?

Wei: Having played in college, not even in the big leagues, I can say from personal experience that it’s pretty difficult to focus on golf and school. I think she tweeted during the Kraft that she was taking a midterm in between rounds? Grinding through a tournament is hard enough without adding the stress of school and taking tests on the road. You almost have to choose one or the other. She’s done a decent job.

Lipsey: Wie almost won majors as a teenager, so she set an Everest-high bar that she’ll be measured against for the rest of her career.

Gorant: It’s hard to expect a lot right now. Once she’s a full-time golfer, she’ll have to back it up with some Ws or fade from the conversation.

Hack: The LPGA schedule is so herky-jerky that all of the players are dealing with layoffs and rust, not just Michelle.

Herre: Could be that Wie’s best days as a golfer are behind her. Maybe she simply wants a different kind of life. Pro golf might seem glamorous, but it’s a grind and can be very lonely, especially for women.

Tell us what you think: How many majors will Yani Tseng win before she is done?

Godich: Fredrik Jacobson broke through for his first win in the birdie-fest at the Travelers, but for the first two days the big story was 19-year-old amateur Patrick Cantlay. A week after being low am at the Open (with a 21st-place, even-par finish), Cantlay turned heads by taking the lead at the halfway point with a second-round 60. He’s been adamant about returning to UCLA. Is that the right move, or should he just turn pro before he tees it up at this week’s AT&T?

Herre: If Cantlay continues to play like he did at the Open and in Hartford, he will soon face a decision: do I stay in school or do I set myself up financially for the rest of my life? The money might not be on the table a few years from now.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: If Cantlay is serious about becoming a top professional golfer, he’ll develop as a player a lot faster on the Tour than at UCLA.

Lipsey: Many American golf prodigies seem too caught up in the college thing, as if it’s the moral high road. If your life plans are pro golf, why linger in a place where your game and career will stagnate? Turn pro!

Hack: Hard to blame him for wanting to spend four years at the world’s most beautiful college campus.

Shipnuck: As a Bruin, I know how much fun he would be giving up. The Tour is a cut-throat business and can be a soul-sucking grind. I wouldn’t wish that on a 19-year-old. He should stay four years. The Tour isn’t going anywhere.

Godich: He can spend his “winters” there. The kid needs to take advantage while the opportunity is there.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Go pro, get the endorsement deals, but finish that degree in your spare time because you never know when your game will abandon you.

Evans: Cantlay needs to turn pro now if he wants to fulfill his golf potential. College doesn’t prepare you for life on Tour or the game of life.

Wei: Does life on Tour prepare you for the game of life? That’s debatable!

Hack: Maybe he wants more seasoning and realizes he’s shooting these scores with no pressure. Game’s a lot different when the dollar signs mean something.

Wei: I respect Cantlay for continuing to insist that he’s returning to UCLA, but to continue to get better, he needs to consistently play with the pros. Look at Europeans like Rory McIlroy and Matteo Manassero, who skipped the whole college thing. Maybe that’s part of the problem with the Americans. Stop going to school, kids!

Gorant: Interesting, though, that he said he didn’t want to turn pro because he enjoys being a kid. It sounds like he knows what it means to be a pro, and maybe knows he’s not ready for that yet.

Walker: Rory McIlroy should take him for a ride in the Lamborghini to help him see the light.

Tell us what you think: Do you think Cantlay should stay in school or go pro?

Godich: Dustin Johnson suggested last week that he might look into a dual membership on the PGA and European tours. Wonder if he filled in his new caddie, Joe LaCava, when he hired him away from Fred Couples a few weeks back. Also wonder if a dual membership is a good idea for a guy who has taken a step back this year. Thoughts?

Lipsey: Globetrotting and chasing dollars usually kill your game.

Gorant: He played over there this week and didn’t do much better, finishing tied for 18th, as did Martin Kaymer.

Wei: D.J. doesn’t really strike me as a world traveler. Great to see him expand his horizons, but chasing dollars doesn’t lead to winning championships.

Herre: Could be fun for him, and if he’s going to try it, he should try it while he’s young. Maybe he would benefit from a broadening of his horizons.

Shipnuck: I think Europe would be good for D.J. He needs something to engage him. New courses, new cities, new challenges…why not?

Wei: Nah, I think D.J. should stick to what’s worked for him in the past.

Evans: Dual membership could net Dustin regular appearance fees, but it’s not going to help his game. He needs to become a regular winner on his home tour before he gets too big for his britches.

Walker: It’s a sign of the times. The top players are going to be world players now. Johnson wants to play the big money events in the Middle East and Asia, so why not join the European Tour? In this era of private jet travel, a flight from Myrtle Beach to Munich isn’t all that taxing.

Lipsey: Sounds like you speak from experience?

Walker: Just projecting from my experience sitting in coach next to the bathroom when the door won’t close from LaGuardia to Atlanta.

Tell us what you think: Should Dustin Johnson join the European Tour or stay in the States?

Godich: Steve Williams will be back on Adam Scott’s bag at this week’s AT&T. How much longer can we expect to see Stevie working for the Aussie? In other words, give me your best guess on when we’ll see Tiger Woods back in competition.

Gorant: Bridgestone.

Shipnuck: I think we’ll see Tiger at the British. He has an immense amount of pride — you know he’s not happy with all the unfavorable comparisons to Rory. I think that’ll give him a little spark that’s been missing.

Evans: British Open.

Hack: Torrey Pines.

Wei: Torrey Pines, or maybe his charity event in December.

Herre: I’m going to say he’ll be back for the British, but I’m interested to see what he looks like this week when he shows up in D.C. Is he still wearing the boot? Using crutches? Those would be bad signs.

Walker: This week’s tweet — “Feeling stronger every day, but not 100%” — sounded like he plans to return at the British Open.

Tell us what you think: When do you think Tiger will return to professional golf?

Godich: John Huston won for the first time in his third start on the Champions Tour. Anybody notice?

Wei: No.

Gorant: Most of the guys who finished behind him noticed.

Hack: Blast from the past! I did not notice. But I remember John was streaky on the kids’ tour, and he holed an approach shot on 18 in the first round of the 1997 Masters. Something else monumental happened at that Masters, if memory serves.

Shipnuck: John Huston is actually a pretty fun character — a well-known practice round sharp and owner of a very dry wit. I’m glad to see him back on the scene.

Herre: Don’t know if anybody noticed, but a guy like Huston could do some damage on that tour. He’s young, long and can go low like few pros can. When he gets on a roll, look out. Not sure if he’s had injury or other issues, but I haven’t heard much about him in almost a decade.

Godich: I did see one highlight where he rattled the flagstick on an approach from the fairway. I immediately thought about the shot he jarred at the Masters.

Tell us what you think: Do you regularly watch Champions Tour events?

Godich: After a four-bogey stretch on the back nine when the BMW International Open was his to lose, Sergio Garcia birdied the 18th to make a playoff, which he lost to Pablo Larrazabal. That’s two solid showings in two weeks for Sergio, who played his way into the British Open. Should we take him seriously at Royal St. George’s?

Gorant: I think so. The main thing for Sergio is that he putted well. He drained a six-footer on the 72nd hole to stay alive and then made some nice putts in the playoff, which went five holes. More important, he didn’t curse the golf gods afterwards.

Herre: Yes. Sergio’s game has been building this year. He played well at the U.S. Open and then almost won this week. Playing his way into the British will help his confidence. One thing about Garcia: he’s a shotmaker. If he can do anything on the greens, I could see him contending at St. George’s.

Wei: His three-birdie, two-eagle stretch on Nos. 6-11 was incredible. Too bad he blew it with those bogeys on the back. I think he’ll contend at RSG, which is pretty impressive considering that a month ago we were talking about the possibility of him not getting into the U.S. Open or the British Open.

Shipnuck: Sergio’s long game is almost all the way back, and that alone is enough to get him into the top 10 at the British. But it’s telling that no one was the least bit surprised that he blew the tourney by missing a short putt. With his yippy stroke, it’s hard to imagine him winning unless the weather is horrendous and he can decisively outplay the field from tee-to-green.

Evans: Sergio could have a McIlroy-type week at St. George’s, or he could shoot 150 over two days. It all depends on how well he tends to the demons in his head.

Hanger: Sergio has so much natural talent that you have to think he’ll get a major win eventually. He’s starting to show his old form, so I think he has as good a chance as anyone at the British.

Hack: Not sure how he’ll handle Sandwich’s quirks, but he’s clearly back in the mix. And amazingly he can still get his first major at an age (31) well ahead of Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and even Ben Hogan.

Walker: Put me in the “no way” column on Garcia at the British Open. His putting is too big a weakness, and I don’t think he’s ever admitted it to himself. I’m still figuring out the Tour’s new Strokes Gained-Putting stat, but Garcia’s rank (169th) isn’t good.

Tell us what you think: Can Sergio Garcia win next month’s British Open?