November 25, 2007

Newsmakers 2007: Suzann Pettersen

Until this season Suzann Pettersen was known more for the off-color word she uttered on national TV during the 2002 Solheim Cup than for her on-course accomplishments. The first four years of the 26-year-old Norwegian's LPGA career were a waiting game as injury and anger conspired to sabotage her considerable talent. But with five victories (including a major championship) this season, Pettersen emerged as the prime rival to challenge Lorena Ochoa for the top spot in women's golf. The seeds for Pettersen's big year were planted last winter when she dumped long-time swing coach Simon Holmes in favor of Gary Gilchrist and began working with Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson on her overall approach to playing. After missed cuts in her first two events, things clicked quicker than even Pettersen imagined as she finished second at the Safeway International with a closing 66 and T-2 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she stumbled home with two bogeys and a double bogey over the final four holes. "Last week I felt like I won second place," she said after the Kraft Nabisco, referring to the Safeway. "This week I felt like I lost first place." The old Pettersen would have screamed and sulked, but the new convert to the Marriott-Nilsson Vision 54 philosophy viewed the Mission Hills meltdown as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. Three events later, at the Michelob Ultra Open, she picked up the first LPGA victory of her career. To prove the turnaround was for real, a month later she won her first major at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, closing with a back-nine 32 to hold off Karrie Webb by one stroke. Pettersen capped the year nicely with a sizzling October in which she won three of the four events, finishing fifth in the other. Her five victories were second to Ochoa's eight (the only other LPGA player with multiple wins was Paula Creamer). Is Pettersen ready to challenge Ochoa for the top spot in the Rolex Rankings? "That certainly is my goal," she said. "But give me time." Well said--and every word was printable.