SEOUL (AFP) –
World number one Yani Tseng will look to turn around a recent slump in form when she defends her LPGA title in South Korea this week against a pack of Koreans eager to perform before their home crowd.
The Taiwanese fired a 14-under 202 in the three-round event in 2011, edging Choi Na-Yeon by a stroke and denying the South Korean a hat-trick of straight wins in the event.
The $1.8 million LPGA KEB-HanaBank tournament in Incheon, just west of Seoul, has proved fertile ground for local golfers, with South Koreans winning seven of the past 10 championships.
Last year, Tseng mixed long drives with some creative shot-making on the back nine in a performance that prompted Choi to declare no one would catch the Taiwanese in women’s golf for the foreseeable future.
Tseng, who won seven LPGA titles in 2011, appeared to pick up right where she left off in early 2012, winning three of her first five starts.
But the 23-year-old has been out of sorts since, with her last top-10 finish in stroke play coming in April in Hawaii.
Tseng has missed three cuts this year, after missing the weekend play only twice in 2010 and 2011 combined.
In the meantime, Choi and four other Koreans have claimed seven wins, including three of the four majors.
The most recent tour winner is Park In-Bee, who erased Choi’s two-shot final round lead in Malaysia. Four of the top-10 players in the world rankings are from South Korea.
Park, who rose a spot to number five after Malaysia, leads the money list over Stacy Lewis of the United States.
Despite her final round hiccup in Kuala Lumpur, Choi said her confidence was running high and there was no need to search for motivation when it came to playing on home turf.
“I am fired up for this tournament,” Choi said. “I can’t wait to go out there and start playing.”
Tseng was in equally confident mood ahead of tee-off Friday at the Ocean Course of the Sky72 Golf Club.
“I always love being back here, and I always play well here,” she said. “I am kind of back to where I was before. I am looking forward to this week.”
Discussing her recent slump in form, Tseng said it had been a positive learning experience that would make her a stronger golfer in the future.
“Over the last few months, I’ve been learning a lot from everything,” she said.
“I kind of realise I just want to enjoy my life, enjoy every part of my golf. This is a game I’ve loved since I was young.
“I feel I am happier, and enjoy life more instead of trying to worry about being number one and winning a tournament,” Tseng added.
“When you go up, you have to go down, and then you go up again. I think I will be stronger and tougher when I go up again.”