Planet Golf — 01 April 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Tseng’s fate depends on back nine play

Yani Tseng not only will be trying to hold off her LPGA contenders Sunday in the Kraft Nabisco Championship but also she’s hoping to better herself.

Tseng, the world’s No. 1 female player, is tied for first with Sweden’s Karin Sjodin at 9-under par in the season’s first major. Tseng, who led by two shots entered Saturday’s third round, shot a one-under 71 amid gusting winds at the Mission Hills Country Club.

Tseng, the Taiwan native who has won four of the last eight LPGA majors, seemingly had last year’s Kraft championship locked up until she ballooned to a 38 on the back nine and lost by three strokes to Stacy Lewis. Saturday, she pumped it up again with a 36 on the back nine to give up solo possession of the lead.

“Today when I played Back 9 it’s kind of for me a little memory of last year on Sunday, the Back 9,” Tseng said afterward. “I just feel like I wasn’t comfortable with myself a little bit and just thinking too much and trying too hard.

“It’s good to find out early. You still have that problem a little bit. So tomorrow I just want to go there and try to play my best and play one shot at a time and just have fun and just really enjoy as much as I can tomorrow.”

With a victory, Tseng can make history – again. At 23 years, two months and nine days, she would become the youngest golfer ever – male or female – to win six career majors. Tiger Woods currently has the record, getting his sixth at 26 years, three months and 11 days. LPGA legend Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus and Karrie Webb are the next three on the list.

Tseng won the RICOH Women’s British Open last July so a victory also would give her back-to-back major championships, becoming the 15th player to do that. The last player to accomplish that was Lorena Ochoa, who won the British Open and the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship. Tseng is Ochoa’s  successor as the dominant player on the LPGA circuit.

Tournament officials have moved up the start time Sunday and will have threesomes tee off – instead of twosomes – because of concern over late-afternoon storms and high winds.

“Hopefully, it’s a good day. I mean, yeah, last two weeks the Sunday we always played in the bad weather. But we got this Saturday, but I think it’s fun. As long as no rain, snowing and no hail, we should be okay to play,” Tseng said.

“I grew up in Taiwan. I mean Taiwan is a little island. It’s always very windy. I think all the players have that experience that played very windy, cold in Taiwan. So I think that’s why I’m pretty good with the wind player.”

On the surface, Sjodin appears no match for Tseng Sunday. She is ranked 216th in the world, has never won on the LPGA Tour since joining it in 2006, and has had just four top 10 finishes in six-plus seasons on Tour.  Sjodin also has some health issues. She injured her rib Friday.

“When I walked between 9 and 10 yesterday something happened and I had a hard time breathing and had to ask for the medical… to come out and tried to pop something back in place,”  Sjodin said. “I don’t know if it’s dislocated, if that’s the word that people use. Around the turn it started hurting, but then it kind of went away again. So I think the heat probably helps it when it’s warm out.”

Nine players are within four shots of the lead, including 17-year-old Lexi Thompson at 4-under.

Shell Houston Open

Louis Oosthuizen, who hasn’t had much traction on the PGA Tour since his victory at the 2010 British Open, has a two-shot lead entering the final round of the Shell Houston Open. He is at 17-under 199. Hunter Mahan is at 15-under while Brian Davis and Carl  Pettersson are tied at 14-under.

With the Masters coming up, Oosthuizen is hot. He now has six straight rounds in the 60s and his 17-under is a career-best third-round score.  There’s more than just money at stake here. Victory will earn the final spot in the Masters, which begins April 5.

Tour veteran Jeff Maggert, two years away from qualifying for the Champions Tour, is playing in his ninth and final event on a Major Medical Exemption. The Houston native soared to a 4-over 76 to fall nine shots behind Oosthuizen.

He needs to make $202,609 to match No. 125 from the 2011 money list and retain his medical status. That would be a top-5 finish.

Ernie Els is tied for 14th, which will likely end his 19 straight year streak of playing in the Masters. He needs to win in Houston.  There are 31 players in the field scheduled to play in the Masters.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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