TAIPEI — Yani Tseng’s eyes began tearing up on the 18th fairway as her nightmarish final round at the LPGA Safeway Classic in Portland on Sunday was coming to an end, her chances of ending a 17-month title drought long shattered by a flurry of bogeys.
The former world No. 1 entered the final round with a three-stroke lead, but she failed to maintain the consistency she showed in her first three rounds, when she carded a total of three bogeys.
“I was determined to play aggressively. I didn’t want to be conservative, but the result didn’t come out the way I wanted it to,” Tseng was quoted as saying by the Chinese-language United Evening News.
Tseng finished the day with 6-over-par 78, leaving her with a four-day total of 12-under 276 that was good enough for a tie for ninth. She finished eight strokes behind winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who was paired with Tseng in the final group of the day.
While there was some consolation — it was her first top 10 finish since she fell out of the top spot in the Rolex Rankings in March 2013 — her tears on the final hole reflected her disappointment over a golden opportunity lost.
“This was an experience from which I learned a lot about strategy for the future,” Tseng told the newspaper.
The Taiwanese star had not led going into the final day of an LPGA tournament since the end of March 2012 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and the pressure of being the clear frontrunner apparently played on her mind.
Tseng parred the first hole but then lost four shots over the next three holes, including a double bogey at the second after her short bogey putt rimmed out of the cup.
She rebounded with birdies on the fifth and seventh holes, but Pettersen had taken a one-shot lead by then with four birdies after a double bogey on the second. When Pettersen opened up a two-shot lead with another birdie on eight, it only put more pressure on her Taiwanese friend and rival, whose confidence was waning.
Consecutive bogeys on nine and 10 effectively ended Tseng’s challenge, and her frustration showed on the back nine as she often visibly sighed and threw her club in anger at one point.
Her aggressive play backfired. Though she averaged 293 yards off the tee, her best showing of the four rounds, she hit only seven of 14 fairways, the lowest percentage of the week, and hit only nine of 18 greens in regulation.
Although Tseng was disconsolate at the end of her round, she told the United Evening News that she was still happy to be gradually regaining her old touch, which was on display Saturday when she shot a 9-under 63 to surge to the top of the leaderboard.
Asked to assess her overall performance, Tseng said: “I actually feel I played pretty well. I’ll keep working hard to regain my form as soon as possible.”