Maybe her intensity radiates more in match play.
Rolex world No. 3 Suzann Pettersen, the defending champion with the LPGA’s Sybase Match Play Championship beginning Thursday at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone N.J., is on an impressive match-play roll over the last year.
Pettersen mowed down a formidable cast of foes winning this event in 2011. It’s eye-opening to look a year later at who she beat. She eliminated four players who are now among the top seven in the world.
“I didn’t feel like I had an easy route,” Pettersen told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview. “I feel like I had to take down everyone around me [in the world rankings].”
Pettersen defeated current world No. 7 Stacy Lewis, No. 1 Yani Tseng and No. 2 Na Yeon Choi on her way to knocking off No. 5 Cristie Kerr in the finals.
“It was a fantastic week for me,” Pettersen said. “Everything seemed to click for me at the right time. It was a lot of hard work to stand there with the trophy at the end, but I like the grind of match play, the way it’s a fight to the very end.”
Last fall, Pettersen rolled to a 3-1 mark leading Europe to victory in the Solheim Cup. She delivered clutch shots and putts to defeat Michelle Wie in a pivotal late singles match that helped the Euros finish off a furious charge.
The one-on-one nature of match play can draw out the best in Pettersen’s game.
“Suzann is very intense, and match play suits her personality,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She gets psyched up for it. She is very, very competitive. She is that way in tennis and skiing. I think it’s just that she hates to lose, and match play is a good format for her because, in stroke play, she can be hard on herself. In match play, she puts her focus on her opponent.”
Given the nature of match play, where losing a hole with a big number isn’t so damaging, Pettersen feels as if she can go with her aggressive instincts more.
“It brings in more aggressive play,” she said. “You take more dead aim at certain pins at certain times, while in stroke play, you might be aiming 15 feet right.”
Pettersen opens with England’s Jodi Ewart, ranked No. 210 in the world, in Thursday’s first round. Pettersen is in a bracket where she could meet Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis and Na Yeon Choi in a bid to make the finals.
An eight-time LPGA winner, Pettersen followed up her Sybase title last year by winning the Safeway Classic three months later. In seven LPGA starts this season, Pettersen has one top-10 finish, a sixth-place at the Lotte Championship.
“She’s had a funny year so far,” Leadbetter said. “If you ask her, she’ll say she is hitting it way better now than last year. She just seems to be throwing in a bad round every tournament. It’s very strange, just one of those things. She’s actually putting well, her short game’s good. It really feels like she could break out at any time.”
Pettersen’s aiming to make it this week.