Northern Irishman gets backing from unlikely source.
Under-fire world No 1 Rory McIlroy has received support from Taiwanese golfing sensation Tseng Yani.
Tseng watched on Sunday as her two closest rivals in the rankings, Choi Na-Yeon and Stacy Lewis, finished second and first respectively at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, slashing her lead to just 0.68 average points.
But Tseng, 24, who tossed her ball into a lake in disgust as she wound up tied 28th, said she simply did not care about being world number one any more after two increasingly difficult years at the top.
“I don’t care if I lose (world number one). I don’t really care about world number one now — I just want to have fun,” she said.
“World number one, I know it’s good and people like it, but I want to care about myself more and I just want to enjoy (myself). If I lose (it), I’ll get back one day too.”
Tseng’s candid comments come after McIlroy, under pressure after performing poorly following a lucrative switch to Nike clubs, walked off the course during a second-round blow-out at the Honda Classic in Florida.
McIlroy later blamed toothache for his sudden withdrawal, but the issue was clouded by reported comments that he was “not in a good place mentally” as he left the venue.
Tseng backed the 23-year-old Northern Irishman to bounce back, pointing out that he faced difficulties last year before winning his second major title and topping both the American and European money lists.
“Last year he struggled in the middle of the season too but he finished strong and (returned to) world number one. He will be back soon,” she said.
Tseng was reduced to tears last year as pressure built after a string of missed cuts, and after winning seven titles in 2011 she is now searching for her first victory in a year.
And Tseng, who has sought advice from former long-time women’s number one Annika Sorenstam, said few people could understand the difficulty of being at the top of a sport.
“It’s tough and it’s very lonely,” said Tseng. “No one knows how it feels. Everybody wants to be in your shoes but no one knows how tough it is.
“Not many people have been there before, so I don’t have many people to ask what should I do. You just need to find your way to stay on top as long as you can because everybody is different.
“Annika has a different way, Tiger (Woods), Rory, everybody has a different way to stay on top but you need to find your way. Now I’m looking for how can I be on top for as long (as possible) but sometimes I even feel maybe number two is good.”
She added: “The first year when I was world number one I felt good, I enjoyed it. But then every year, every month everybody kept building that expectation on me and I think that’s a lot of pressure.
“I want to play golf like a child, I don’t want to play golf with pressure, because if I don’t play well people say bad things about me, and I don’t want that. I want to focus on myself more and to ignore bad things.”
Tseng’s struggles at number one have been noted by America’s Lewis, who rose to third in the rankings by winning in Singapore and hopes to complete her ascent to the top spot in a matter of weeks.
“I know number one is a hard place to be,” said Lewis, 28. “But… I don’t feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff different, and right now, I don’t think number one is going to be any different.”