Philadelphia, PA – After her third consecutive tournament over par, it's time to talk about Yani Tseng.
The LPGA star and world No. 1 finished in a tie for 50th on Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open, where she never posted one round of par, and all the rest above. She went 78-78 during the weekend to end at 14-over.
That performance is the latest in a recent string of bad events for Tseng. Back in May, she was ousted in the third round of the Sybase Match Play Championship, then tied for 12th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Not great performances, but not terrible ones, either.
But since then, her play has only gotten worse. She finished tied for 59th at the LPGA Championship in early June, shooting 13-over, then missed the cut at the NW Arkansas Championship before struggling this past weekend.
All this from a player who won three times earlier in the season, who became the youngest player ever to win five majors, who won seven times in 2011.
As Tseng explained after her final round Sunday, she never put together a sustained run of good play. She said it was like "some amateur" playing her back nine in the final round, where she carded three bogeys and three triple bogeys.
"These four days, I played nine holes good, played good nine holes every day. It was like switch on and off. It was like perfect front nine, and back nine was just way off," Tseng said. "It was like a totally different person playing golf."
That's a scary prospect because an on-form Tseng is a pretty good golfer. And Tseng expects a lot out of herself. She said she booked her flight for Monday because she foresaw herself being at the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday night, in contention and possibly in the winner's circle.
But Tseng's struggles boiled down to her mental state.
"When you get everything going ... it's very easy to make a putt, hit shots," she said. "But when you have a couple bad holes, couple bad shots, it's really hard to continue playing well."
More than that, Tseng's inability to move on from a bad hole doomed her. She said she went through stretches where she'd think about mistakes she just made, and the problem compounded itself.
That theme is not a new one for Tseng. Back at the LPGA Championship, Tseng went 76-75 during the first two rounds to enter the weekend at plus-7 and well off the lead. She explained after the second round that she played well on the front nine, then poorly on the back nine.
Perhaps more to the heart of the matter, Tseng mentioned multiple times that she thought her struggles derived from a mental problem. She hits the ball well on the range, but can't transfer success to the course.
In a very transparent moment during that weekend, she said she needs to get her mental setup like it was at the beginning of the year.
So, is it panic time for Tseng? Hardly.
While Tseng detailed her poor and inconsistent play Sunday, she also said it wasn't the end of the world. And it's not. It's three tournaments. But because it's Tseng, it's very easy to make too much of her struggles.
The 23-year-old is the kind of transcendent talent who wins so much and in such a dominant way that the story shifts from "Tseng wins" to "Tseng doesn't win." Because of her incredible success, it's that much more of a story when she goes into a month-long slump.
But every player goes through them, including Tseng, who had a somewhat rocky close to her 2010. After winning the NW Arkansas Championship, she played four tournaments and finished 41st, second, 27th and 21st. She was above par in three of those tournaments. Every player goes through slumps. When she goes a whole year without winning and misses a dozen cuts, then it's time to worry.
For now, Tseng will have time off before the Evian Masters during the last weekend of July. Based on her comprehensive track record as a player, and not just the last month and a half, nobody should have any reason to doubt she'll be in contention for the title.