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Suzann Pettersen back to where career changed

A year ago when Suzann Pettersen came to Kingsmill for the Michelob Ultra Open, she was known best for being the player who gave away a major tournament only a few weeks earlier, finishing 4 over for the last four holes at the Kraft Nabisco.

Now, she’s one of the world’s top-ranked players, a five-time winner with sweet memories of a putt that dropped on the third hole of a playoff to finally get her over the hump. When the winning putt disappeared, giving her a victory over Jee Young Lee, she was on her way.

“Once the ball starts rolling, you play good, you get good results, you get confidence,” Pettersen said in looking back at the victory, which made her the first Norwegian to win on the LPGA Tour. “When you get confidence, it feels like you can do whatever, not just in golf, in life in general, in whatever you do. If you get good results, you start feeling good.”

That kind of feeling is one many expected Michelle Wie to have by now, before her desire turned more to attempting to compete against professional men, and before wrist injuries put her on the shelf altogether.

Now a freshman at Stanford, Wie is making just her second appearance on the LPGA Tour this season, and hoping to improve on her first: in the Fields Open in her home state of Hawaii in February, Wie tied for last among the 74 players who made the cut.

For the past month, Wie has been in Orlando, Fla., working with David Ledbetter on getting her game back into shape. Before that, a broken wrist and then a sprained wrist left her unable to do the things on a golf course that once made her a phenomenon.

“It’s been a hard month,” Wie said after a practice round Tuesday. “Practice, practice. You know, finally, I just want to get out and play already so I’m really excited.”

It have been several years since Wie played in the Michelob Ultra Open, and while her appearance at women’s events has always garnered a lot of attention, the setbacks that find her still hoping to make a mark have tempered somewhat the buzz her presence creates.

To hear Paula Creamer tell it, the tour has been doing just fine without her.

“There’s a lot of good players that are playing well. Juli Inkster, last week being right in contention and going to a playoff,” she said. “I think the tour is in a wonderful place and I think her playing it helps, but at the same time, I think we’re doing pretty good.”

While Wie’s star has not yet shone brightly, Lorena Ochoa, Creamer and Pettersen have stepped forward, ending Annika Sorenstam’s run as the game’s most indomitable force.

After winning at Kingsmill, Pettersen quickly won the LPGA Championship for her first career major last year, and then won three of the four events she played in October.

Instead of being one of the best golfers never to win, she’s one of the ones to beat in the event in Williamsburg that has become one of the most popular on the LPGA circuit.

In the world rankings, she’s third behind Ochoa and Sorenstam.

“You want to beat the best players out there. That’s why you practice,” Pettersen said. “You want to be there on Sundays, on the back nine when it all comes together.”

Last October, Pettersen beat Ochoa on the second hole of a playoff at the Longs Drugs Challenge, and later added back-to-back wire-to-wire victories in two other events.

Pettersen is without a victory this season, but has finishes of second and third in seven events and is fifth on the money list. The players ahead of her— Ochoa, Sorenstam, Creamer and Yani Tseng—will all be in the field this week on the 6,315-yard River Course.

Creamer is coming off a playoff victory against Juli Inkster last week, and looking forward to finishing a four-week stretch of tournaments before taking a week off.

She arrives feeling like she’s on a roll, too, and ready for more good things.

“I always felt when I play five, six tournaments in a row, I’ve always played my best,” she said. “I’m more of a person who needs to play a lot rather than practice. And, for me, that’s just kind of a blessing in disguise, going out and playing four in a row.”

 

May 8, 2008




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