LOS ANGELES, USA, Feb 8 – Even after her dominant 2011 season, world number one Yani Tseng found room for improvement in her golf game that she hopes will pay dividends in the 2012 LPGA season.
She is the defending champion at the Australian Women’s Open this week at Royal Melbourne where the US LPGA Tour 2012 season officially begins.
“Hopefully it will be a good start for the year,” Tseng said in Melbourne.
“Last year is over. This is a new year for me. I have been working real hard in the off season to change my swing a bit, to make it more consistent. I think I am ready for this year.”
Tseng said the goal of the swing change was to maintain her distance but cut down on the effort needed in each swing.
“I feel I am swinging easier and striking the ball better,” she said. “Now I feel that if I swing 70-80 percent, the ball is still flying better than before.
“I always tried to swing really hard. Now I don’t swing so hard but the ball still goes that far. I am very happy about that…I can still rip it.”
The prospect of a new and improved Tseng is daunting news for her would-be rivals on an LPGA Tour that this season features 27 events worth $47 million in prize money.
Four new North American tournaments are on the slate, along with the addition of this week’s Australian Open to the tour’s lineup.
Twelve of the tournaments are outside the United States — a reflection of the globalisation of the women’s game.
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, currently second in the rankings, won twice last year and had nine more top-10 finishes.
South Korea maintains a strong presence at the top of the rankings, with Na Yeon Choi ranked third, and Sun Ju Ahn, Jiyai Shin and I.K. Kim at sixth, seventh and eighth. Japan’s Ai Miyazato continues to be a consistent contender.
Cristie Kerr is the top-ranked US woman as the season gets underway — at number four.
Kerr finished second on the LPGA Tour money list last year despite not winning a tournament — posting nine top-five finishes.
Not only would Kerr like to return to the winner’s circle, she’d like to challenge Tseng for the number one ranking she herself held in 2010.
“I think any time you are number one it is a tremendous accomplishment,” Kerr said as she prepared to tee it up in Melbourne.
“That’s where I want to be. That’s why I play. I’ve come out this year ready to play. I’ve got my goals. I want to win again, win multiple events, and hopefully another major. I feel like I am ready to go this year.”
While Michelle Wie will no doubt continue to be a big draw for US fans, another young American poised to make a splash is Lexi Thompson, the 16-year-old sensation who will be playing her rookie season after receiving an exemption from the minimum age requirement.