Saturday, January 20, 2018
Golf

Switching roles for LPGA's first major, Kraft Nabisco

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Yani Tseng lost the No. 1 ranking in the world to Stacy Lewis three weeks ago, then was booted out of the Kia Classic a few days later when she overslept and missed her pro-am tee time.

Winless in more than a year, the 24-year-old Taiwanese star enters the LPGA Tour's Kraft Nabisco Championship in a far different position and frame of mind than she did last season.

"I'm totally fine," Tseng said Wednesday, a day before the start of play in the first major of the year. "It takes a lot of pressure off. I feel like I don't have to play like world No. 1 anymore. I mean, that gave me a lot of pressure. I think sometimes it feels really good that you can say to yourself that your goal is to be world No. 1. So now world No. 1 gives me a lot of motivation."

Last year, Tseng won three of the first five tournaments of the season and entered the major championship fresh off consecutive victories. She hasn't won since, a drought that has hit 23 events, and has dropped to No. 2 in the world.

"I just want to enjoy the golf," said Tseng, the 2010 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner. "This is a game I loved when I was young, and I just want to play like childlike. I just want to smile on the golf course and show my best to the fans and to the people out there watching me and supporting me."

While Tseng has struggled, Lewis has six victories in her past 24 events. She won four times last season to take the player of the year award and won consecutive titles this year at the HSBC Women's Champions and the LPGA Founders Cup to wrest away the No. 1 spot and the burdens that go with it

"It's been chaos is what it's been," Lewis said. "I think with all the requests and all the attention, I expected it, but it was a little bit overwhelming. I was glad we had a week off last week and just got away and took some time off and really just cleared my head. Coming back this week I feel really relaxed."

Lewis, 28, won the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship for her first tour title, beating Tseng by three strokes.

New Zealand amateur star Lydia Ko makes her first start in the event. Ko won the Canadian Women's Open last year August to become the youngest tour winner at 15 years, 4 months, 2 days. She has two other victories in pro events, the New South Wales Open last year and the New Zealand Women's Open this year.

"It's really good to be up here," she said. "I played the course a couple times, and it's in really good form."

. fast facts

This week on tour

PGA: Texas Open, TPC San Antonio. TV: Today-Friday, 3 p.m., Golf Channel; Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m., Golf Channel; 3 p.m., Ch. 8

LPGA: Kraft Nabisco Championship, Rancho Mirage, Calif. TV: Today-Friday, noon; Saturday-Sunday, 5 p.m., Golf Channel

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