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Why Am I Smiling?
YANI TSENG
March 07, 2011
With three majors, the No. 1 ranking, four wins already in 2011 and a new friend named Annika, my life (at 22, no less) couldn't be better. Now, let's talk
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March 07, 2011

Why Am I Smiling?

With three majors, the No. 1 ranking, four wins already in 2011 and a new friend named Annika, my life (at 22, no less) couldn't be better. Now, let's talk

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When I was preparing for the new season I knew there were huge expectations for me to play well. Last year I won two majors, the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open, and became the youngest player to win three major championships. (I won the LPGA Championship during my rookie year, in 2008.) It was a huge honor to be awarded 2010 LPGA Player of the Year.

This year I had the pressure of playing my way to No. 1 in the world, which has been a dream of mine since I was 12. Another goal is winning this year's U.S. Women's Open, which, at 22, would make me the youngest player (male or female) to win a career Grand Slam. These are big deals, and there was only one person I could talk to who would understand.

I went to see former No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, who is not only my friend but also my role model. We met at her house in Florida in January, and I asked her for advice on how to handle the pressure. She told me that I can't be afraid and need to embrace the opportunity.

Annika's advice was helpful. I won my first four starts in 2011, and now I'm No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings. In January I defended my title at the Taifong Ladies Open, an LPGA of Taiwan event. My mother, Yu-Yun Yang, was caddying for me, which made the victory even more special. A few weeks later I traveled to Australia to defend my title at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, and I won by seven shots. Before the final round I got an e-mail from Annika that said, "Great playing in Australia. Keep up the good work and bring it home." The next week I won the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters and moved to the top of the world ranking. I followed that up two weeks ago with a victory at the LPGA opener, in Thailand.

While I was there I was excited and proud that all four big newspapers from my native country of Taiwan covered the tournament. The local media gave me the nickname Queen of Golf. I laughed and said, "Thank you, but I don't think I'm there yet—I need to continue to work hard."

I feel honored to have a friend like Annika. At the 2008 Women's British Open she predicted that I would be No. 1 in four years. When the media told me what she said, I thought it was a joke. When I found out they were serious, I was in shock—my idol believed I was going to be No. 1.

Since I was 12 I wanted to be like Annika and play with her on the LPGA tour. Watching her on TV inspired me to practice and work hard to achieve my goals.

I actually live in Annika's old house at Lake Nona in Orlando. When I first saw the house in January 2009, I knew right away that I wanted to buy it. I think that's because it made me feel closer to Annika, who now lives about 300 yards down the street.

I went through a minislump for about two months in 2009 after I missed the cut at the U.S. Women's Open. When I became No. 1, I looked back to that time when I felt frustrated and shed many tears. I felt I had all the tools, but there was something missing in my game.

During my postseason meeting with my team, I expressed a desire to get advice from Annika. However, I was too nervous to approach her, so my longtime adviser, Ernie Hsu, reached out to her. Annika even offered to walk to my house. Over a bottle of good red wine, we talked for 2½ hours. It was extremely generous of her to share her experiences with me, and to learn from the best player in the world was inspiring.

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