Tseng hoping to regain 2011 form
Yani Tseng succumbed to the immense pressure of being the No 1 player in women's golf last season and the pressures of trying to defend 11 tournament titles around the world.
She felt a bit burned out in the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
The Year of the Snake, she expects, will be much kinder to her.
After a six-week break, and then a weekend off at home to celebrate the Chinese New Year with her family, Tseng is starting her 2013 campaign at the Women's Australian Open, the first event on the LPGA Tour schedule for the season.
"I was in Taiwan for Chinese New Year last week for a couple of days and I got some red envelopes for my family," she said, acknowledging a tradition at Chinese New Year. "My Mum told me last year was a bad year for Dragon, and I was Dragon. So my Mum say, 'It's OK, your bad year is over. Your good year is coming this year, the Snake.'
"I go, 'OK that's good.' So I'm very excited for this year."
In her first competitive round of the year on Thursday, she'll be grouped with Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old amateur who won the New Zealand Open last week to become the youngest winner ever on the Ladies European Tour.
Also in the group will be Michelle Wie, who is making her Australian debut and is keen to make a strong start to the season after missing the cut in 10 of the 23 LPGA tournaments she played last year as her ranking dropped into the 60s.
Tseng has held the No 1 ranking for two years, so she knows she'll have to get down to business quickly. In the other high-profile first-round group at the par-73 Royal Canberra Golf Club, four-time Women's Australian Open champion Karrie Webb will be playing alongside 2012 LPGA Player of the Year Stacy Lewis and defending champion Jessica Korda.
Korda won a six-way playoff at Royal Melbourne last year with a 25-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole to capture her first LPGA Tour title. She warmed up for her title defense with a fifth-place finish earlier this month at the Australian Women's Masters, which Webb won for the eighth time.
Tseng finished in a share of eighth at the Australia Open last year, after winning the title in the two previous seasons.
She rebounded from that by winning in Thailand in a roll that contained three titles and eight top 10 finishes until things started going wrong in May. She didn't win another title and had only three more Top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour - all on the Asian swing late in the season.
It came as a shock for her and her fans, particularly after a stellar 2011 when she won seven LPGA 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 too. I've been putting so much pressure on myself.
"Last year was very challenging for me and I'm growing a lot from last year. So I think now maybe last year was my best year to my career and my game to mature."
One of the important changes is learning to ignore her critics.
"Last year I look at lots of press, I look at lots of news - it drive me crazy," she said. "It was like if I finish out of top 10 and people are like: 'What's
wrong with Yani?' But I was finishing 12 or 13 but people were just starting asking me what's wrong with you?
"It hurts a lot when I see those things on the news and see what those fans are talking about me, saying 'Yani is struggling. Yani couldn't play golf anymore.' But now I kind of think through already ... and that way I can keep growing up."
Tseng said she listened to advice from her coach about focusing on the positives and not to let minor setbacks on the course lead to bigger stumbles.
"I was thinking about my score, I was thinking about world No 1 and I was afraid," of losing the top ranking, she said. "I was over thinking a lot."
Australian veteran Webb has seen the highs and the lows in her long career, and thinks Tseng's 2012 needs to be put in perspective.
"Yeah, that was a terrible year she had last year, three wins, $1.5 million. I would have hated to have a year like that," Webb joked at the pre-tournament news conference, then expanded on it. "She missed a couple of cuts, yes. She didn't have a great year, but she had a good year. I just hope that she doesn't put that pressure on herself to have one of those 11 win years. Those come along not very often."
Stacy Lewis had her best year on record, winning four titles and notching 16 Top 10 finishes to win the Player of the Year Award. Attaining the No 1 ranking is now 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."