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Yani Tseng regains confidence but not lead

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese golf favorite Yani Tseng regained her confidence yesterday after the first round of the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters tournament in New Taipei, showing a good start following hernia surgery in late October, but failed to turn her strong performance into a lead.

Under sunny skies, the former world No. 1 carded a 4-under 68 to end the round tied for fifth with current world No. 5 So Yeon Ryu of South Korea and world No. 6 Lydia Ko of New Zealand.

Grouped with world No. 7 Na Yeon Choi of South Korea and Sandra Gal of Germany, Tseng had a birdie and a bogey in the front nine and was left watching as the other two kept making birdies.

“I had a rough start today, but I managed to keep patient, taking it slowly and playing more aggressively in the back nine,” she said at a post-game press conference.

Describing her drives and putts as poor, the 24-year-old said she focused too much on her moves and gestures rather than how to play the game.

Tseng finished her back nine flawlessly as she birdied on the 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes without any bogeys.

“I saved par on the 15th tee beautifully and built up my confidence afterward,” she recalled, adding that the birdie she made on the 17th hole from a bunker was “very lucky.”

Looking ahead, Tseng said she would choose not to overthink things and aims to play as well as she did on her back nine.

“The surgery took away all the bad stuff,” she said, referring to her rocky performance in recent games. “After a month of true rest, the longest I've had in my career, I will not make any adjustment, as no adjustment is the best adjustment,” she said.

At the tournament, Tseng will be looking to recapture some of the form and consistency that kept her in the world's top 10 from mid-2008 to July 2013.

She is now ranked 32nd following a difficult year in which she has had only four top-10 finishes.

Despite her strong performance, 24-year-old Tseng was still four shots behind world No. 1 Inbee Park of South Korea, who finished the day at the top of the leaderboard with a sizzling 9-under 63.

“The wonderful scoring was my career-low, and I haven't putted this well for three or four months,” Park said after the round. “I hit the way I wanted to,” she added.

Playing in nice weather conditions also gave her an edge, the 25-year-old said, adding that the weather allowed players to be able to show off their skills.

“There's still a lot of room to improve, as we still have two more days to play,” Park said modestly. She made 24 putts in the first round.

Taiwanese amateur golfer Cheng Ssu-chia got much attention from the media Friday as well, tying for top amateur in the first round.

The 16-year-old carded a 2-under-par 70 to end the round tied for 11th overall and for leading amateur with Lee So-young of South Korea.

Swinging Skirts is a 54-hole tournament played over three rounds Dec. 6-8. The tourney has become an official leg of both the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Tour and the Taiwan Ladies Professional Golf Association. This year, 96 players are competing for a total prize money of US$800,000.

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Inbee Park, a professional golfer from South Korea, plays at the 2013 Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters Tournament in New Taipei City yesterday. Park finished the day at the top of the leader board with a sizzling 9-under 63. (CNA)

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