Yani Tseng

Yani Tseng, of Tawain, hits from a trap on the 16th hole during a third round match against Candie Kung of Taiwan, in the LPGA Sybase Match Play Championship golf competition at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., Saturday, May 19, 2012. Kung 3 and 2. (AP Photo/MelĀ Evans)

Mel Evans

Time Magazine called Yani Tseng one of the 100 most influential people in the world last month.

SportsProMedia last week proclaimed Tseng the most marketable female athlete in the world. The sports industry news magazine and blog ranked Tseng No. 10 overall right behind New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow.

Who says the LPGA needs a dominant American to boost the tour's popularity?

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Tseng, who was born in Taiwan, is No. 1 in the Rolex Ranking of the world's women golfers and easily one of the world's most recognizable female athletes.

Tseng - as she is in every LPGA event she enters - is the favorite when the $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic begins Friday on the Bay Course at Seaview Resort in Galloway Township.

"I think all the players want to win the tournament," she said before the Sybase Match Play LPGA championship in Som-erset County two weeks ago. "I want to play and do my job on the course and play one shot at a time and try to win every week."

And her record on the course is among the best in golf - male or female.

She's won 15 LPGA events since 2008, including three this year.

Tseng, 23, has won five major championships. She is the youngest player male or female to ever win five majors. Tiger Woods won his fifth major at the age of 24. Jack Nicklaus was 26 when he was his fifth major.

But it's Tseng's personality that also sets her apart. She is quick to smile or poke fun at herself in a news conference.

"If we're having fun on the course," she said, "people have fun watching, too."

Tseng appeared on episode on the Golf Channel show "Big Break" last week. She described the experience as fun but with a laugh said she looked like a bit of a mess on television.

She entertained reporters at the Sybase Match Play Championship in Somerset County two weeks ago with tales of her basketball prowess.

She is more of a post player that outside shooter. Her opponents during three-on-three games rarely foul her.

"I'm the very aggressive (one)," she said. "They're kind of very careful to touch me because they don't want me to get injured."

Tseng is the face of a tour that features players from all over the world. The LPGA embraces its diversity as a strength.

But a few years ago the media wondered how the tour would succeed in the United States if it was dominated by foreign-born golfers who spoke little English and couldn't relate to American fans.

Tseng has helped change that perception.

"It's a non-issue any more," LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said of players not being able to speak English.

Tseng has spent 68 weeks at No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, which began in 2006. Annika Sorenstam of Sweden spent 60 weeks at No. 1 from February 2006 to April 2007. Lorena Ochoa of Mexio reigned as No. 1 for 158 weeks from April 2007 until May 2010.

"I don't feel like I'm like a Lorena or Annika yet because this is just the beginning for me," Tseng said. "I want to be like them in the future."

Tseng grew up idolizing Sorenstam. Tseng actually lives in Sorenstam's old Orlando, Fla., home.

When she has a question about being No.1 in the world, Tseng most often asks Sorenstam.

"She's really helping me to be on this stage, to be the world No. 1, how to handle the fans, media, and the golf course," Tseng said.

Tseng probably wouldn't mind emulating Sorenstam this week. The retired Swede won the ShopRite Classic three times (1998, 2002 and 2005) and still the holds the tournament record at 17-under-par 196.

Contact Michael McGarry:


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