The Pepper Mill

June 22, 2008

I HAD the opportunity to meet Yani Tseng (below) at the 2005 U.S. Women's Amateur and thought right away that she was one of those kids who gets it. The teenager from Taiwan was focused but fun, eager to share and improve her developing English skills, and an amazing ball striker. She was also extremely disappointed after losing in the first round. She rebounded the next week to win the North and South Amateur, besting Morgan Pressel, the newly crowned Amateur champion, in 39 holes. Two weeks ago Yani, 19, became the youngest McDonald's LPGA champion in history. Last week she walked inside the ropes with me at Torrey Pines as I covered the Woods-Mickelson-Scott group, and it reminded me how cool it is to spend time with people who play this game because they are in love with it. Yani got teary when she first saw her picture on the cover of the weekly golf magazines, talked about wanting to buy a pool table with her winnings, cried again when she saw the replay of her winning putt, dreamed about making it into the LPGA Hall of Fame and then broke out in a cold sweat when Adam Scott walked by! She was astounded by the size and constant motion of the galleries and how focused the players remained in spite of the throng. The best part of the day was the innocent excitement she brought to everything. It's easy to get cynical when you've been around the game awhile, but Yani is a breath of fresh air as well as a very good golfer.

TALK ABOUT major role reversal. With its graduated rough, varying tee positions, firm-but-under-control greens and slightly wider fairways, the U.S. Open has stolen some of the drama, excitement and crowd noise—literal thunder—that the Masters has lost in recent years. Sure, there were grinding pars and pitch-outs from bad lies, but the temptation to hit a world-beater from a so-so lie in the rough and the par-5 finishing hole brought back the possibilities of heroic shots and huge numbers. The results lent an excitement you could actually hear. At Augusta we heard a lot of grousing about the course's being too hard, but not this week. What a turnaround!

Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA vet and an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes letters at dottie@siletters.com.

PHOTODAVID WALBERG (PEPPER)
PHOTOMIKE EHRMANN (TSENG) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)