Yani Tseng, the world's No. 1 woman golfer, has all the motivation she needs to keep working on her game right in her own house.
Tseng, a 22-year-old from Taiwan, bought the Orlando, Fla., home of golf legend Annika Sorenstam in 2009. Sorenstam won 10 major titles and 72 LPGA tournaments overall in her Hall-of-Fame career. Her 5,400-square-foot house included numerous trophy cases.
"The first time I went to see her house," Tseng recalled in a recent radio interview, "one case had five trophies in it. I said 'can you leave the trophies in this house, too?' She said, 'No, sorry.' "
Tseng is working hard on filling up those spaces. She already has three major titles and seven LPGA wins overall in just her fourth season on tour. She shoots for her fourth major beginning today at Locust Hill Country Club, where the world's top women tee off in the Wegmans LPGA Championship over the next four days.
Tseng says Sorenstam -- and all her former trophy cases -- provide inspiration.
"I think that helps a lot because when I go back home I see the trophy case is empty," Tseng said. "So that inspires me to keep working hard and not keep looking at an empty trophy case."
Tseng has been a star on the horizon of women's golf for years. She beat then 14-year-old Michelle Wie on her way to winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2004. She beat U.S. star Morgan Pressel to win the North-South Women's Amateur in 2005. Sorenstam predicted four years ago that Tseng would become No. 1 in the world.
Tseng has been playing since age 5, when her mother, a caddie, and her father, a top amateur golfer, began taking her to the driving range near their home in Taipei. She soon began taking lessons and practicing up to five hours a day.
Her athleticism lent itself to a power swing, which is what sets Tseng apart. She uses her leg drive to play an explosive game and hit it longer than most players.
"I think the secret is because when I was young, like the first time I started playing golf, my coach teach me just hit it as hard as you can, don't care where the ball is," Tseng said. "So I kind of hit it as hard as I can every time like for two years. I didn't even know where my ball was going, but I just hit it hard. I think that's where I get the power from."
The 5-foot-6 Tseng ranks fifth on the tour in driving distance, averaging 271 yards off the tee. Her iron play is awesome, too. She's hitting 75 percent of greens in regulation, which ranks sixth best.
Tseng became the second-youngest player ever to win a major (behind only Pressel) when she claimed the LPGA Championship at age 19 in 2008. She added the Kraft Nabisco and British Open major titles in 2010. She already has two LPGA wins and two international tour wins this year.
"Yani is a very, very talented player," said former world No. 1 Karrie Webb. "She's very, very long, and I've played with her quite a few rounds already this year, and I think one of the reasons why she's playing so well early this year is she's hitting it long and straight. She's really not hitting too many wild tee shots, which is then setting up relatively simple iron shots for her. And I think when she gets her putter going, they are the weeks that she really dominates."
The retired Sorenstam has been a mentor to Tseng the past couple of years. Tseng, who ranks first on the LPGA money list this season ($905,725), went to Sorenstam before this season to get advice on dealing with the pressure of being the world's No. 1.
"I went to her house and just asked a couple questions for this year because I know I'm going to have lots and lots of pressure this year, and I don't -- sometimes I even don't want to talk about that," Tseng said. "I think everybody knows not to think of the result. But how do you organize the steps? It helps me to focus on one shot at a time and have fun on the golf course instead of thinking too much about the score. She helps me with this.
"She's my role model, and I wish in the future I could be like her," Tseng said of Sorenstam.
Tseng is off to a good start on that objective.
> Wegmans LPGA Championship
WHEN: Today through Sunday.
WHERE: Locust Hill Country Club, Pittsford.
TICKETS: Purchase daily tickets at all Wegmans stores or at the tournament gates. Daily ticket: $35; Tournament Pass: $100; Clubhouse Pass: $145. Children 15 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.
DIRECTIONS: Take NYS Thruway to Exit 46, go north about 5 miles to Jefferson Road (Route 252). Turn right on Jefferson Road about 2 miles to course.