Why Suzann Pettersen's childhood dream looks like it's about to become a reality
PHOENIX -- I've seen a lot of Cups in my career. Walker Cup, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup. But the best team match I have ever witnessed was in the 2003 Solheim Cup.
On a brilliant September Saturday in Barseback, Sweden, the last match of the day was a four-ball with Americans Kelly Robbins and Laura Diaz taking on Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen for Europe.
With that match still on the course, the score was 8 1/2-6 1/2 Europe. The importance of the point was huge. If the Yanks won, they'd trail by just one going to singles. If the Europeans took it, they'd be up by a sizable three points.
Through 15 holes, the match was all square. No. 16 was halved with birdies, as was No. 17, when Sorenstam ran in a 16-foot putt on top of a four-footer by Diaz.
Europe won the match 1-up when Pettersen made a 10-foot birdie on No. 18. In all, Diaz/Robbins and Sorenstam/Pettersen combined to make 15 birdies. The next day, Europe coasted to victory. That four-ball was the pivotal match.
I left Sweden that week thinking Pettersen, all of 22 at the time, would challenge Sorenstam's unquestioned position as the best in women's golf. More than a decade later, Pettersen might finally be ready to reach the top.
The 5-foot-8 Norwegian looks like she could be a professional skier as she possesses as much pure physical talent as anyone on the LPGA.
It's always been difficult to put your finger on the missing piece in the equation, and there have been times when it seemed as if she had the puzzle solved.
The first LPGA win did not come until 2007 and when it did, it let to big things. By year's end she had five victories to her credit, including a major at the LPGA Championship.
But because of injuries, swing issues, equipment changes and who knows what else -- Pettersen has always had a quick temper and was even quicker to be too hard on her self -- she won only once from October 2007 until May 2011.
Now the floodgates seem open again.
Pettersen has two victories in 2011 and in 201,2 then piled up four titles last year, including another major at the Evian Championship. She is No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings and within striking distance of the Inbee Park, who has been No. 1 for 49 weeks.
"I don't think about it that much, to be honest," Pettersen said Tuesday at the JTBC Founders Cup when asked about the rankings. "My goal is to get the best out of my game."
Still, she admits that since she started playing golf as a little girl she has had dreams of being the best in the world. In fact, she says that of the goals in a dream book she made back then -- a childhood treasure she only recently rediscovered -- being No. 1 is the last item left on her bucket list.
"I feel like I've been in this position before, but this is the most comfortable I've been with the sport," Pettersen said, perhaps indicating a new maturity that might lead to greater consistency on the course.
"I guess there's a dream inside of me that kind of still is very much alive, but it's not something that I kind of run around and think about every day," she says of the ideas she expressed in that book on which she put Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Sorenstam on the cover.
Now, she begins the American swing of the 2014 LPGA season, fresh off three promising but winless efforts in Asia and Australia. Her focus is on mechanics and staying mentally in the here and now.
"I've been trying to get a little more speed through impact," Pettersen says simply. "That's pretty much it."
And if she is able to climb over Park to No. 1, that will pretty much be it in terms of that childhood dream book.
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