Golf can be a cruel game. One minute you're on an all-time high and just seconds later the sport can bring you to your knees. Even the best players are not immune from the perils of the game, as these stars discovered.
Yani Tseng looked set to become the greatest female golfer of all time in her early twenties. It seemed fitting then that Tseng should purchase the former Florida home of Annika Sorenstam. After all, she too needed a substantial trophy room to fit all that silverware. Yet, by 23, after winning five majors, nine tournaments and over $9 million in prize money on the LPGA, Tseng appeared to disappear from the face of the earth altogether.
Tseng has so far switched coach, caddie and made major swing changes in an attempt to change the tide, but to no avail. She instead cites the pressure of being number one as the main trigger behind her downfall.
She currently ranks 215 in the world rankings.
Aree Song looked to be on a collision course with success, playing in the final round on Sunday at the 2000 Kraft Nabisco Championship at the age of just 13, and breaking several ‘’youngest’’ age records in a glittering amateur career. By 17 she had qualified for the LPGA Tour, becoming only the second player to be granted an extension to play on the circuit before reaching her 18th birthday.
As with so many child prodigies however, by the time she made it to the big time she appeared burnt-out, citing exhaustion as she withdrew from the entire 2007 season. She would return to the LPGA, alongside her twin sister Naree, after winning 2009 LPGA Qualifying School, but would retire before her 30th birthday having never won on the LPGA. She now coaches at a golf complex in Thailand.
The tale of Ian Baker-Finch is enough to make any golfer shudder. Shortly after winning the 1991 British Open at Royal Birkdale, the Australian’s game irreversibly collapsed. By 1998 the situation had grown so dire that in a two-year period he failed to make a single cut on the PGA Tour. In a desperate bid to cure his game, Baker-Finch made it through more than 30 coaches, psychologists, hypnotists, nutritionists, healers, gurus, swing doctors and spiritualists. No one ever managed to save his game.
While much of the talk this year has been about Lydia Ko’s slump, her rival’s drastic drop in form has been significantly more dramatic. Ariya Jutanugarn has missed six cuts since ascending to World No. 1 after winning the Manulife Classic in May, including the season’s final three major championships. While we all know how quickly the golfing tide can change, the Thai star’s struggles have been incredibly pronounced, going from the world’s top player to someone struggling to break 80 within the space of just a few weeks.
The former World No. 1 won eleven times between 1997 through 2001, and may have captured many more had his top form not coincided with the peak of Tiger’s formidable career. But after suffering with back injuries in 2002 his game completely deserted him and despite regaining his fitness the American was never able to recapture his form. By 2005 the situation got so bad that he missed 18 of 19 cuts on the PGA Tour.
Despite his prolonged slump he stuck with it, signing off for a 2nd place finish at the 2009 US Open, but would never manage to win again, eventually retiring in 2014.
Michelle Wie looked set to be the female Tiger Woods when she broke out on the scene as a precocious thirteen-year-old. By the time she turned professional at the age of sixteen, accompanied by huge publicity and endorsements, she had recorded three top-5 finishes in major championships.
But despite remaining one of the biggest names on the LPGA, the illustrious career she looked destined for never really transpired. The jury remains out on Wie’s up-and-down career, which at least in its early stages was plagued with controversy, with many citing her decision to try and play on the men’s tours as the reason behind her struggles.
Despite dropping to 105th on the LPGA Money List in 2016, the American has enjoyed a fantastic season this year, clawing her way back into the Solheim Cup team, and at just 26, could well have her best years ahead of her.
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