Tseng back in form, takes the lead at Safeway Classic after third round
CNA and agenciesPORTLAND, Oregon -- Former world number one Yani Tseng, trying to end a 17-month victory drought, fired a 9-under par 63 Saturday to take a three-stroke lead at the LPGA Safeway Classic.
September 2, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
The 24-year-old from Taiwan owns 15 LPGA titles and spent 109 weeks at number one — a run that ended in March — but she hasn't made it to the winner's circle in 36 events, since a triumph in the Kia Classic in March 2012.
Now out of the world top 10 at 15th in the rankings, she missed the cut in four of her last five tournaments.
However, she looked like her old, dominant self on Saturday at Columbia Edgewater Country Club with a round that included 11 birdies and two bogeys.
Her 54-hole total of 198 broke the tournament record of 199 set by Swedish great Annika Sorenstam in 2002, when the event was played over three rounds.
“It was awesome,” Tseng beamed after coming from five adrift to take the lead. “It's great to be back in this position. I haven't been here for a long time.”
Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum, who led after each of the first two rounds, carded a 71 and shared second on 201 with Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, who posted a 70.
World number two Stacy Lewis fired a 65 to move into a tie for fourth at 14-under, where she was joined by fellow Americans Morgan Pressel (65) and Lizette Salas (68) and Sweden's Anna Nordqvist (63).
Tseng caught fire early, with birdies at six of her first eight holes. She made the first of her two bogeys at the ninth, but bounced back with a birdie on 10.
Another bogey at the par-five 12th was followed by a birdie at the par-three 13th, which she said was key to her round.
“That's an important putt for me, and I think kind of a little turning point on the back nine,” Tseng said of her 12-footer at 13.
She added three more birdies, at 15, 16 and 17 to gain breathing room on the field.
“I've been working really hard,” Tseng said. “I want to get back in this position, so I don't feel any surprise because this is what I'm working hard for.”
“I want to get back in this position, so I don't feel any surprise because this is what I'm working hard for,” Tseng was quoted as saying in a post-game interview, according to The Associated Press.
Tseng “looked very much like her old self” on Saturday after struggling for a long time, The Oregonian newspaper reported.
She snagged 15 LPGA Tour titles during her first five seasons and remained at No. 1 in the world ranking for 109 weeks but has not managed to score a win in any of the 36 events since the Kia Classic in March 2012. She missed four cuts in a row earlier this summer for the first time as a pro.
Tseng returned to Taiwan for two weeks in August and reconnected with her first golf coach Tony Kao, who went to Portland with her for the US$1.3 million Safeway Classic.
Gary Gilchrist, Tseng's swing coach since 2010, was quoted by CNN on Aug. 28 as saying that it is important not to put too much pressure on her because being No. 1 at a young age is very tough and she still has a lot to learn about herself.
Pettersen, ranked number three in the world, was looking forward to playing with Tseng in the final group on Sunday.
“There's no one that I'd rather see playing better and playing well again than Yani,” Pettersen said. “I know she's been through a very rough patch.
“Like I said to her, she's just got to stay patient. She's too good not to kind of hang tough and be in the game.”