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Wednesday February 20, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday April 17, 2013 MYT 12:42:53 AM
BANGKOK - Two-time defending champion Tseng Yani will seek her first victory in nearly a year at the Honda LPGA Thailand this week as she clings to her position as world number one.
The 24-year-old "Pride of Taiwan" has topped the world rankings for 106 weeks but she arrives at Pattaya's Siam Country Club defending a precarious 1.29 points lead over South Korea's Choi Na-Yeon.
One year ago, Tseng's second straight win at the Thai event seemed to herald another season of dominance but the victories dried up in March, raising pressure on the young star.
However, Tseng got off to an encouraging start to the 2013 season last week when she carded a final round of 66 to finish second at the Women's Australian Open, behind winner Shin Ji-Yai but ahead of teenage prodigy Lydia Ko.
"Those fans, they always give me 100 percent support, they give me a clap even I don't make a good shot," Tseng said last week, when asked about her strong crowd support in Australia.
"They always encourage me and they're always like, 'Go Yani!' and so it's always so much fun. I always feel good to hear that on the golf course."
Tseng leads a high-quality field featuring most of the Asian-dominated top 10 for the four-day event starting Thursday. New Zealand amateur Ko, 15, who became the tour's youngest winner last year, is playing on a sponsor's invite.
South Korea's Shin is fresh from her 11th career victory, and third in seven LPGA tournaments, last week.
Ko, who won last August's Canadian Women's Open at the age of 15 years, four months and two days, will line up for another chance to win her second LPGA title before her 16th birthday in April.
But her coach Guy Wilson is resisting calls for the Seoul-born youngster to quickly turn pro.
"She's got an extraordinary career ahead of her, I'm sure," Wilson told Radio New Zealand this week. "If anything, it would be a greater risk to go (professional) too soon than to hold on."
America's Michelle Wie, who is also of Korean origin and failed to match sky-high expectations after she turned pro at 16, is another player in the Pattaya field. The world number 74 is playing on a sponsor's invite. - AFP
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