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Yani Tseng: Bouncing back to No. 1?

By Karla Villegas Gama, CNN
updated 6:38 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
Yani Tseng joined the LPGA Tour in 2008 and is a five-time major winner.
Yani Tseng joined the LPGA Tour in 2008 and is a five-time major winner.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yani Tseng is the youngest golfer in history to have won five majors
  • The Taiwanese 15 LPGA titles during her first five seasons on the Tour
  • The 24-year-old has not won a tournament since March 2012
  • Her swing coach says it is important that too much pressure is not put on Tseng

(CNN) -- In 2011, Yani Tseng surprised the world with a feat that neither Tiger Woods nor Jack Nickalus could accomplish. On August 1, aged 22, the Taiwanese became the youngest golfer to win five major championships.

Nini, as her friends call her, has two Women's British Open, two LPGA Championship and one Kraft Nabisco Championship trophies in a special case set at her Lake Nona home, which she bought from her long-time idol Annika Sorenstam.

In her first five seasons as an LPGA member she earned 15 titles, 10 of them between 2011 and 2012.

Her accomplishments took her to the top of the Rolex Rankings and she stayed there until March 2013, when American Stacy Lewis ousted her.

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But those achievements must feel some way away with Tseng going through her least successful season since 2009.

After leading women's golf for two years, Tseng sits 14th in the rankings. She has not won a single tournament since March 2012 and, for the first time since she joined the LPGA, she missed five cuts consecutively.

"I think when you played that well and you get to a certain level where you are above everybody else you feel you are flying so high," Gary Gilchrist, Tseng's swing coach since 2010, told CNN

"Being No. 1 at a young age is very tough and you still have a lot to learn about yourself; suddenly you win two tournaments and bang you are No. 1 in the world."

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Tseng is one of the most committed players on the LPGA Tour. She knew that playing her best was not enough and so she perfected her English to have a better relationship with sponsors, media and fans.

Her life seemed like a dream-come-true, but the truth, according to Gilchrist, is that she felt a little bit out of her comfort zone.

"As she kept on winning it was fine, then she started to struggle a little bit with her game because she felt like 'hey, being No. 1 is not all that is made out to be'.

"It is like you don't live your own life, you live the life according to being No. 1 in the world."

At last March's LPGA Founders Cup, Lewis was closer than ever to become the best golfer on the planet.

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"It will be a good release for me," admitted Tseng when asked about the possibility of being usurped in the rankings.

Five months after her revelation, Tseng is outside the Rolex Rankings top 10.

From January to August 2013, she has earned $273,743. Two years ago, in that same period, she grabbed $1.7 million.

Getting back to where she used to be will be a tough task. Especially since Inbee Park has taken the game to a whole new level, having won the first three majors of the season, something only Babe Zaharias had previously accomplished back in 1950.

"All she has to do is recommit and motivate herself to get to that level, she needs to go back to the things that made her be No. 1," said Gilchrist.

That includes working in her personality. Gilchrist describes her as an "outgoing, fun and true to herself" kind of person, but she is an aggressive player.

So, is this a mental or a technical issue?

"She's always had an unorthodox golf swing but she has won 22 times," answered Gilchrist. That means she has more titles than many golfers ever get in a lifetime, and she just needs to grab the U.S. Women's Open to complete the career grand slam.

"She is not scared of competing with anybody and finds new ways to challenge herself," Gilchrist said of his 24-year-old charge.

The $64 million question is: can she come back?

In 2011, Tiger Woods sat 52nd in the men's rankings, today he once again leads men's golf.

"You don't want to put too much pressure on her, you want to give her time to grow and learn," continued Gilchrist.

"This may be a difficult time for her but I think this is going to cause great growth in her.

"She has to go out there and be Yani. The more she can be Yani the better she is going to be. She plays with her heart, she has great determination."

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