GLADSTONE, N.J. -- Everyone knows about Yani Tseng's 13 tournament titles last year, but one of 2011's most underrated feats in women's golf was Suzann Pettersen's dominant match-play record.
Across the continent last year at Killeen Castle, the No. 3-ranked player in the world helped Europe grab the Solheim Cup in spectacular fashion when she birdied three straight holes to complete a comeback against Michelle Wie on the final day in the Europe's 15-13 win over the U.S.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Even before crushing the U.S. team's hopes last year, Pettersen won the only match-play event on the LPGA Tour. She's back to defend at this week's Sybase Match Play Championship, opening up against Jodi Ewart of England tomorrow.
"You have to bring your 'A' game and you can't take anything for granted," Pettersen said Wednesday at Hamilton Farm G.C. "If you're playing Cristie [Kerr], or you're playing who ever else it might be, you just have to bring it on and take on every shot and try to win as many holes as you can."
The need to be more aggressive in this format seems to be a common theme.
"You're just trying to make a lot more birdies than the other player," said Angela Stanford, a four-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup team. "Match play's a nice change of pace. We obviously only get to play [a match-play event] once, but there's not a lot different about it."
Stacy Lewis, another member of last year's American Solheim Cup squad, can't think of a tougher tournament on the LPGA schedule.
"I think this is the hardest event to win because you've got to win six matches, and if you catch somebody when they get hot then you never know," said Lewis, a winner of the last domestic event in Mobile in late April. "It's definitely the hardest tournament to win."
Having played in the Solheim Cup for the first time last year, Lewis said the competition level in Ireland was a terrific experience. While the Sybase isn't as emotional comparatively, she's learned more about strategy for what it takes to win a match. Still, she's not about to compare this to the next Solheim Cup, which is slated for next August at Colorado Golf Club.
"It's a completely different animal than this," she said. "There's so much more emotion to it and you want to beat that other team so bad. This, it's a little different because you get paired against your teammates sometimes."
Pettersen, who played Kerr, one of her good friends in the final last year, knows there might be a target on her back because of her stellar record in match play. More importantly, she hopes this event is a chance for her to rekindle some positive vibes from last year.
"I've had a slow start. I had a fantastic offseason, so it was a bit disappointing going to Asia and not performing better," she said. "This will be a great kind of kickstart to get into a good summer stretch when we play several majors.
"It's just a matter of time. The day it all clicks it will be exciting again."--Stephen Hennessey