CANBERRA, Australia — Yani Tseng felt the pressure of being the No. 1 player last season, plus trying to defend 11 tournament titles around the world.
After a six-week break and a weekend off at home to celebrate the Chinese New Year with her family, Tseng is starting at the Women's Australian Open, the first event on the LPGA Tour schedule.
"I was in Taiwan for Chinese New Year last week for a couple of days," Tseng said. "My mum told me last year was a bad year for Dragon, and I was Dragon. So my mum say, 'It's okay, your bad year is over. Your good year is coming this year, the Snake.'
"I go, 'Okay, that's good.' So I'm very excited for this year."
In her first competitive round of the year today, she is grouped with Lydia Ko, 15, an amateur who won the New Zealand Open last week to become the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour. Also in the group is American Michelle Wie, who makes her Australian debut and looks to make a strong start after missing the cut in 10 of the 23 tournaments last year.
In the other high-profile first-round group at the par-73 Royal Canberra Golf Club, four-time champion Karrie Webb plays alongside 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis of the United States and defending champion Jessica Korda.
Tseng, 24, who has held the No. 1 ranking for two years, finished tied for eighth at the Australian Open last year after winning the two previous seasons. She then won in Thailand as part of a run that contained three titles and eight top-10 finishes.
But things started going wrong for her in May. She didn't win another title and had only three more top 10 finishes, all on the Asian swing late in the season. The struggles shocked her, particularly after a stellar 2011, when she won seven tour titles and four others worldwide.
"I know it's been a tough year for me, but when I look back, I have three wins, I have 12 top 10s, so that's still pretty good," she said Wednesday. "Because all the people are putting high expectation on me, even myself. I've been putting so much pressure on myself."
Lewis had her best year on record, winning four titles and notching 16 top-10 finishes. Attaining the No. 1 ranking is a career goal.
"It's kind of the goal that is in the back of your mind," she said. "You're not thinking about it walking down the first hole. It's one that you're thinking about at the end of the week.
"It's a big goal, and so for me, I have to put little goals before the big one. I'd like to get there. I think it's pretty cool to be able to say that you're No. 1 in the world."