Ricoh British Open: Sunday
Matt Cooper is reporting all week from the Ricoh Women’s British Open in Carnoustie.
SUNDAY AT THE RICOH WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN
Yani Tseng began and ended the week as Queen of the Castle.
On Wednesday night she visited Glamis Castle for a pre-tournament function and, true to her enthusiastic approach to life, enjoyed wandering round the lavish stately rooms and having her portrait drawn by a caricature artist.
Four days later she had once more proved that she is the queen of ladies golf, bettering a field that included the LPGA’s top 40 money winners this year, 39 of the LET’s top 40 money winners and every one of world’s top 15 players by four shots.
After a quiet opening round of 71, Tseng hit top gear and hunted down the long time leader Caroline Masson. Two rounds of 66 thrust her into second place, two shots shy of the inexperience Masson, and set up a duel in the benign conditions.
Well, okay, in truth the final day was played in more wind that the previous three days, but the week of weather which Carnoustie has enjoyed meant that the course conditioning drew criticism.
That mattered little for Tseng (although she later admitted she would have liked a tougher challenge). Instead she set about exerting pressure on the 22-year-old German. In that respect the first hole fooled us completely: Masson, unlike in round three, played it calmly whilst Tseng three-putted for bogey.
But from that moment on, the tide turned. Masson appeared exasperated with every shot of her bogey five on the second hole and, when she also bogeyed the third whilst Tseng birdied it, her three shot advantage had vanished, never to return.
Tseng would make back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes, but she recovered immediately and never looked threatened again. The title was hers.
A genuine world number one
Since the 2010 season began in late February Tseng has been little short of magnificent.
She has played 40 tournaments, completing 10 wins and adding another nine top five finishes. On only six occasions has she finished outside the top 30.
Those stats have vaulted her to the number one spot in the Rolex world rankings and would be impressive enough on their own, but what stands out is the ability to thrive when it matters.
Tseng is a world number one who has both quantity and quality – she plays well all round the world, on all tours, but, best of all, she also wins majors.
In the eight elite events of 2010 and 2011 her record is imperious: she won the 2010 Kraft Nabisco Championship and was runner-up in it this year; she won this year’s LPGA Championship and was 19th last year; she has been 10th and 15th in the US Open; and she has, of course, now won two British Opens.
A two-year 50% win record in the majors and never outside the top 20 – that’s what you call a bit good.
The win in her words:
On the wait to tee off: “I was a little nervous. My stomach was hurting. I was okay on the range but when I got to the putting green, my stomach was getting worse. I told my caddie and coach, but they said that’s okay, everyone else will be too.”
On maintaining her ploy of positive body language to combat nerves when making back-to-back bogeys: “I looked in my yardage book which has messages to remind me to do that. It said – good posture, good preparation and smile. It also helped that I knew the 14th is a par-five a good eagle or birdie opportunity.”
On playing the 72nd hole with a three-shot lead: “I was thinking about that guy … You know, that guy … Yeah, Jean Van De Velde!”
On her ambitions now that she has accomplished so much: “I haven’t won the US Open so that will be one of my goals next year. I just want to keep improving.”
Reflections for Masson:
At the start of the day my thoughts were these: the stats said that it was a two-horse race between Masson and Tseng, my head told me Tseng would win, and my heart was singing ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles’.
The first leader of the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open had been a German (the amateur player Sophia Popov who played in the first group and birdied the second hole to make the top of the leaderboard) and Masson made a good fist of attempting to end the week on top.
Ultimately she came up short, struggling in the heat of final round battle, in a situation far more tension-fuelled than any she had previously encountered. Her game struggled, but to focus on the fourth round rather than the 54 holes that earned the crack at the title would be wrong, not least because the player who took advantage, Tseng, is proof that final round nerves can be overcome.
Moreover, all week there has been plenty of reference to Ben Hogan and whilst the great man has rightly been remembered for being the most dedicated swing king of them all and a winner with an insatiable appetite for titles, what is often forgotten is that he was initially known as someone with the rare ability to mess up victory opportunities.
It will take Masson a little while to stop feeling sore about how her day turned out, but the longer and more visceral her memories of this day are the better (assuming she acts on what went wrong).
Prior to Tseng’s remarkable 2010-11 run she was frustrated by her inability to convert winning opportunities and turned to mind coaches and Annika Sorenstam for assistance. That approach has transformed her win-record and offers Masson hope when she assesses her week without the raw pain she’ll be experiencing in the next few days.
One thing is for sure – she is respected on the LET for her ability, maturity and personality. She was watched playing the final hole by caddies and fellow players who were proud of what she had achieved.
They are sure that good things await her in the future.
Overheard: A man looking at the standings for the two Solheim Cup teams: “It’s going to be annihilation basically, isn’t it?” What do you think? Agree? Disagree?
Quote of the day: Katie Futcher on her seven-under-par back nine: “I just hit my numbers and holed some putts.”
SATURDAY AT THE RICOH WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN
Round of the day: Simple: Yani Tseng’s six-under-par 66. She made one birdie and one bogey on the front nine but blitzed the back nine making four birdies and one eagle.
Stats of the day: The course stats remain the same and suggest that the final three holes might be crucial late on Sunday.
The 16th is a brute, the toughest on the course, and the 18th is only a little easier, ranked second toughest. The three par-fives also remain the three easiest holes on the course (with the 17th the simplest of all). All of which means that between those two toughies, the leaders will, in fact, have the reprieve of the most birdie-able hole on the course.
Analysis: How do the two leaders compare in facts and figures this week? Yani Tseng is hitting the ball further (272 yard average compared to 255) and making more
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