Yani Tseng began the year with three quick victories but the LPGA star complained at the outset of the 2012 season about problems with her “team.” Now, a key member of Tseng’s entourage — caddie Jason Hamilton — is off the team bus and on someone else’s bag, as the world’s top-ranked golfer struggles to regain her winning ways.
Tseng, who made her New England debut at Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade’s charity golf tourney earlier this month, told Hamilton on Tuesday she was in the market for a new looper, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry. That was two days after the five-time major champ finished in a tie for 50th at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Hamilton, who quickly landed a job with PGA Tour player Danny Lee, whom he’s worked for in the past, told Baldry. “Things have been weird for four or five weeks.”
While it was unclear what Hamilton meant, there has been an undercurrent of discontent within Team Tseng for several months. The 23-year-old Taiwanese rock star began the year as she finished her 2011 World Domination Tour — with three quick wins in five events — but has battled a sore elbow and internal pressures all season.
Tseng talked early in the year about she remained holed up in her hotel room during the season-opening Women’s Australian Open, rather than enjoying her usual road-trip diversions.
“Everything I’m thinking, what time to go work out, what time I should go to the golf course, or what can I improve today. Everything’s about golf,” Tseng told reporters. “Before, I always keep having fun, go out, go sightseeing, and see how beautiful the city [is], but not the week in Melbourne. So that’s kind of not normal for me.”
She also said she “got very crazy” with her associates during their stay in Melbourne and that just about anything members of her “team” did irked her.
“‘You look like you’re really mad,’” Tseng said her posse told her.
Recently, Tseng’s nerves seem to have taken a hit as well, after tying for 59th in last month’s Wegmans LPGA Championship and then missing the cut — her first MC in 26 tournaments dating back to April of last year — at the NW Arkansas Championship. She has even had to refute reports that she planned to retire because of her recent slump.
“It’s hard to get your confidence back when you lose it,” Tseng told GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell after the LPGA Championship. “My confidence is at zero right now.”
Tseng joked with Mell that she would follow Grace Park, who played her last tour event in the final round of the Wegmans, to the bench.
“I’m going to retire, too,” Tseng said. “This game is too hard.”
With the story making the media rounds, Tseng told fans via her Facebook page that she was not quitting the game in which she has 15 tour wins.
“As much as possible try to make myself more enjoyable to play, and not care about the results!” Tseng said, according to a June 12 translation of a message that she posted in her native language. “I know I am to hard on my self, but sometimes it is really difficult, but I will try to do my best ! Learning from the mistake ! To find ways to solve! I believe I will be stronger and better! Thank you for your support !
“Also, I did not say i am going to retire yo!” the translation added. “Do not misunderstand! Competition just began !!!”
While Tseng was able, early in the season, to overcome her balky elbow and whatever was bugging her off the course, she decided to make the caddie change in the midst of a slump that included over-par performances in 11 consecutive rounds.
In the two years they were together, Tseng and Hamilton won 16 tourneys worldwide. Tseng, who will play next at the Evian Masters in two weeks, told Baldry she had not yet chosen a new caddie.
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminerWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?