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May 28, 2017

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Yani Tseng eyes defense of title in front of cheering home crowd

TAIPEI--Taiwan's Yani Tseng is back in Taiwan to defend her title at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and will be part of one of the featured pairings at the US$2 million tournament that opens today.

The world No. 1 Tseng, paired with world No. 3 Na Yeon Choi of South Korea and Jessica Korda of the United States, will set off from the first tee at 11 a.m. at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club.

Tseng is not nearly the prohibitive favorite she was coming into last year's event — the first LPGA tournament ever to be played in Taiwan — having suffered a prolonged slump before finishing third at last week's LPGA event in South Korea.

Her familiarity with the course, one she grew up on, may still gave her an edge, but Tseng admitted Monday at the opening of the Yani's Smile and Courage Exhibition that the pressure of being No. 1 in the world has affected her.

"As No. 1, I feel more and more pressure and everybody is trying to grab every piece of me. When you play good, everything is good but when you don't play so good, everything is bad," she said.

"Even when you think there are good things, they still say bad things ... I feel very lonely because no one understand since they haven't been world No. 1 before."

The exhibition displays some of Tseng's diary entries and yardage books that she said offer a glimpse into the pressures of being held to the highest standards and the target everyone is chasing.

"I just want to let people know this is not easy, but I'm still working really hard and doing my best to keep world No. 1 and to really enjoy the life," she explained.

"It's very hard for me the past three to four months and now it's getting better. I wish the fans keep supporting me no matter how I play."

Tseng has won five out of the six tournaments she has played in Taiwan since turning pro in 2007, including four consecutive wins since 2010.

She had finished outside the top 10 in 11 straight LPGA events before last week's third-place finish, however, leaving local fans wondering if she can rise to the occasion again this year.

Many of the 78 players competing in the event, won last year by Tseng by five shots, have a legitimate chance at taking the title. Some of them will be teeing off Thursday just after Tseng.

World No. 8 Ai Miyazato of Japan, world No. 5 Inbee Park of South Korea, perhaps the hottest player on the LPGA Tour coming into the event, and world No. 11 Paula Creamer of the United States will tee off at 11:10 a.m.

They will be followed by Se Ri Pak of South Korea, world No. 7 Suzann Pettersen of Norway and world No. 10 So Yeon Ryu of South Korea at 11:20 a.m.

The final group of the day 10 minutes later will be Lexi Thompson of the United States, Sandra Gal of Germany and Karin Sjodin of Sweden, all of whom have played well recently.

The four-round tournament opens Thursday at the course in Yangmei Township, Taoyuan County.

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