Yani Tseng has her smile back, and that can only be bad news for the other competitors in the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open at Royal Canberra this week.
The world's No. 1 player endured the first truly rough patch of her stellar career in 2012, but she is through it. Six weeks off including a spot of snorkelling in the Philippines and some time at home in Taiwan did the trick.
Plus a chat to her mother, Yu-Yun, back at home in Taiwan helped. The elder Tseng reminded her daughter it had been the Chinese year of the dragon in 2012. "I was a dragon, so my mum said: 'It's okay, your bad year is over. Your good year is coming this year.''
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Exactly how 'difficult' her season was remains a moot point. Certainly there were questions in the media about her desire to play after a string of disappointing results in mid-season, with three missed cuts in four weeks. She sacked one caddie then another, and admits with hindsight that she was searching for a solution that was not there.
In a sense there is a parallel with Karrie Webb, Australia's top chance this week. Like Webb, Tseng won everything quickly, climbed the mountain she had set out to scale. Then she confronted the question: what next?
Webb believes Tseng just needs to relax and understand you cannot always match the kinds of years she had in 2010 and 2011, when she won four majors and climbed to No. 1 in the rankings. "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!'' mused Webb.
The veteran and the new superstar spoke about the issues at the Open's gala dinner this week. ''She spoke about how awful her year was last year,'' said Webb. ''I would have sat here and said exactly the same thing about how awful my year was ... at the time. It's just when she's living in that moment of playing unbelievably well, that drop off, and then having to answer questions: Why? Why? Why? Why aren't you playing like you did last year. It's just honestly physically impossible to maintain what she was doing. Until she gets a bit older, I don't think she'll realise that.''
Fortunately Tseng has figured it out and learned that she needs to appreciate the game again. Her coach, Gary Gilchrist, told her she was ''overthinking'', and that she had lost her inner peace. Another friend at home in Taiwan told her to start thanking her golf clubs, and Tseng immediately burst into tears. Her answer to poor form was to practise harder; now she knows that she overdid it.
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"I have a good team, I have good friends, everybody cares about me,'' said the 24-year-old, twice before a winner of the Australian Open (in 2010 and 2011). "They don't care if I'm world No. 1. They hug me and comfort me. They just care I'm happy every day because last year I looked at lots of press (commentary) and it drove me crazy. People are (saying) like 'what's wrong with Yani?' I feel it hurts a lot when I see those things on the news and see what fans are talking about me, saying 'Yani is struggling.''
The chasing pack at Royal Canberra this week for the start of a new LPGA season is strong, headed by world No. 3 Stacy Lewis, the top American player and also the LPGA's player of the year in 2012.
Lewis, who lost a playoff for the Open at Royal Melbourne last year, remains the understated figure of her country's golf, remaining in the shadow of the media stars like Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie, despite better results. "I'm not Michelle Wie. I get that, and I'm fine with that. It just gives me more motivation.''
Feisty Lewis has her eyes on the No. 1 ranking, having climbed to No. 2 last year before sliding to No. 3 late in the year behind Tseng and Na Yeon Choi of South Korea. "My goal is to put myself in contention every week and chip away at Yani's No. 1 ranking,'' she said.