Tseng enjoying her time at the top of the LPGA

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Yani Tseng teeing off last week. The top LPGA golfer will be at the ShopRite Classic at the Jersey Shore this week.

Yani Tseng has achieved a lot on the LPGA Tour in just over three years: six victories including three majors, becoming the second-youngest (behind Nancy Lopez) to win an LPGA player-of-the-year award. Now she has the world's No. 1 ranking.

But when the subject of being the tour's newest breakout star gets brought up, the 22-year-old woman from Taiwan shakes her head and would rather marvel at the competition at or near the top of the LPGA.

She said the identity of the world No. 1 "changed almost every week last year. So that's why everybody pushes everybody else to get better. We know we're pushing each other. I think it's fun for the fans, fun for the media, and it's fun for us, too."

Coming off her player-of-the-year win in 2010, Tseng enjoyed an unprecedented start to this season, winning four straight events - one in Taiwan, two in Australia, and the LPGA season opener in Thailand. That rocketed her to the top of the world ranking, where she has remained heading into this week's ShopRite LPGA Classic at Seaview Resort's Bay Course.

"I'm enjoying it very much," she said. "I don't feel too much pressure. I'm learning from my mistakes. You're always learning. I'm only 22 so I have a long way to go. It's not like I have to do it now. I just don't want to put too much pressure on myself. I want to have fun. I know if I have fun, I'll play better."

Local golf fans got to know Tseng right away. In her rookie year, she defeated Maria Hjorth in a playoff to win the 2008 McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Maryland, becoming the second-youngest major champ in the tour's history. She called the moment "pretty cool . . . just a great memory for me."

She added two majors last year, the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open.

Off the course, Tseng doesn't sound as if she's afraid to be one of the faces of the LPGA Tour. She is a full-time resident of Orlando, where she lives in a home formerly owned by Annika Sorenstam, her idol growing up. She speaks English fairly well and is always working to improve it.

"There are many Asian players on the LPGA Tour and I don't know if the fans know we can speak English," she said. "I like fans to know they can talk to me in English."

Tseng said she is getting recognized more off the course in the United States. In Taiwan, however, where golf has jumped in popularity thanks in part to her, it's a different story.

"It's a little crazy there," she said. "They'll tell me, 'You did a good job,' and they'll want to take pictures and have me sign autographs, all kinds of stuff. . . . When I'm walking on the street, most of the young people know who I am. They know golf now. I think it's getting more popular."

Tseng's last event was the Sybase Match Play Championship, where she was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Before that, she missed her first cut of 2011 at the Avnet LPGA Classic, but said she didn't get too disappointed.

"I was happy," she said. "I didn't lose any confidence. I'm learning from my mistakes, and I'm hoping the next time will be better. Every week is different."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.