Is Inbee Park or Yani Tseng Having a More Surprising Year?

Fred AltvaterContributor IIApril 5, 2017

TAOYUAN, TAIWAN - OCTOBER 26:  Yani Tseng of Taiwan and Inbee Park of South Korea embraces on the 18th hole during the day two of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship at the Sunrise Golf Course on October 26, 2012 in Taoyuan, Taiwan.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

While Inbee Park won her third consecutive major championship of the year at the U.S. Women’s Open, former No. 1 Yani Tseng missed the cut at Sebonack and continues to struggle.

This was Park’s second U.S. Women’s Open title and her fourth career major victory. Tseng won five women’s majors in a span of three years, but has not won a major since the 2011 Women’s British Open.

With the win at Sebonack, Park joins an elite group. Only three golfers have ever won the first three majors in a single season.

Bobby Jones won the first three majors in 1930 and went on to win the “Grand Slam.” Ben Hogan won the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open in 1953. The great Babe Zaharias won all three majors on the LPGA Tour in 1950.

Park will be looking to make history at St. Andrew's at the beginning of August in the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She could become the first woman ever—and the first professional golfer—to win four majors in a single season.

For the first time this year, the LPGA Tour will have five major championships on its schedule. In addition to the Kraft Nabisco, Wegman’s LPGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the Evian Championship will be held in September.

Park is playing with a calm confidence that bodes well for major championship performance. Her crisp iron play is setting up birdie opportunities, and she is putting the ball better than anyone in golfman or woman. She does not seem to get rattled on the golf course and is in total control of her game.

She has been the No. 1 ranked woman’s player since overtaking Stacy Lewis 12 weeks ago. Her latest win at the U.S. Women’s Open only widens the gap between herself and Lewis.

Tseng held the No. 1 Rolex ranking for 109 weeks. During that time, she was the most dominating player on the LPGA Tour, winning 13 titles from 2010 to early in 2012. She was the youngest player everman or womanto win five major championships, while only 22 years old.

She has not won since the Kia Classic in March of last year. In 13 starts this season, Tseng only has two top-10 finishes, and they were both at the beginning of the year. She finished runner-up at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and tied for third in the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Since then, she has missed two cuts and not finished higher than tied for 19th at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship. She has only earned $273,000 this year, nearly $2 million less than Park, and is No. 26 on the LPGA Tour money list.

While Park has won eight LPGA Tour tournaments and zoomed to No. 1 in the world, Tseng has fallen to No. 8 in the Rolex Rankings.

The win at the U.S. Women’s Open brings Park's winnings for the year to $2.1 million, $1.3 million more than I.K. Kim, who is second on the LPGA Tour money list.

Park, who is from South Korea, will turn 25 on July 12. Tseng, who is from Taiwan, is 24, six months younger than Park. Both women have a lot of golf left to play in their careers.

From April 2010 through March 2012, Tseng was unbeatable. Park has that same aura right now.

Media attention and the pressure to continue to perform at a high level affects every player differently. Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods seem to revel in the challenge of remaining at the peak of their game.

Other players would rather not have the added attention and prefer to remain anonymous while plying their trade in a more secure atmosphere.

Tseng found the constant media attention and pressure to remain No. 1 too oppressive, and it adversely affected her game.

Park will undergo massive scrutiny as the Women’s British Open looms nearer. Will the pressure to remain No. 1 and continue to win golf tournaments become too much for Park, as it was for Tseng?