Pettersen has chance to overtake Park as No. 1

By Randall MellNovember 11, 2013, 6:30 am

The possibility of a giant jolt awaits late in the season in the women’s game.

Suzann Pettersen is in position to deliver it this week.

While the strength of field isn’t yet finalized for the LPGA’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational, it looks as if Pettersen will have a chance to overtake Inbee Park as the Rolex world No. 1 when play begins on Thursday.

If you follow women’s golf, that’s a shocker.

There’s nothing shocking about the idea that Pettersen is good enough to be No. 1. It’s just stunning that she could catch Inbee Park before this season is out. It will be a shocker if 2013 ends without Park atop the world rankings, given the history-making season Park has fashioned.

The Lorena Ochoa Invitational strength of field won’t be set until play begins, but if it is similar to last year’s event, and it appears it will be close, Pettersen doesn’t even need to win this week to move past Park. She may have a chance to overtake her as Rolex world No. 1 with a second-place finish. Of course, that all depends on what Park does this week. The projections will be more definitive later this week.

Pettersen, 32, is the hottest player on the planet, man or woman. She has won three of her last five starts, and yet even she didn’t see this coming so quickly.

Back in late June, Park won the U.S. Women’s Open for her third consecutive major championship, her sixth LPGA title of the year. She was a whopping 5.35 average world ranking points ahead of Pettersen at the time. Today, Park is at No. 1 with 11.98 average points. Petersen is second at 11.35.

“If you told me back in June or July that this was possible, I probably would have laughed at you,” Pettersen told GolfChannel.com. “It looked impossible back then.”

Park, Stacy Lewis and Pettersen were ranked 1-2-3 in the world, respectively, at the U.S. Women’s Open. They were paired together in the first two rounds at Sebonack, and Park delivered a powerful message. She beat Pettersen by a cumulative 19 shots in their two rounds together, Lewis by 12.

It proved a turning point for Pettersen, who missed the cut that week.

“It was a reality check,” Pettersen said. “You learn more when you fail than when you play well. I’ve always been like that. It was like that back in 2007, when I semi-collapsed at the Kraft Nabisco coming down the stretch. That was a big disappointment then, but at the same time, it makes you feel like you want to get revenge, you want to prove you are better than that.”

After blowing a four-shot lead with four holes to play and watching Morgan Pressel win at Kraft Nabisco in ‘07, Pettersen licked her wounds and rebounded with a vengeance. She won her first LPGA title a month later, her first major two months later and four more LPGA and Ladies European Tour titles before the year was out.

“It’s funny how you look at a year,” Pettersen said. “It’s been a great year this year, but if you ask me today what stands out about it, the first thing I think about is missing the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. It’s not winning Evian or another tournament. It’s something I could have done better. I think it’s just part of what drives me.”

Getting whipped by Park at Sebonack gave Pettersen a chance to compare her game with the world No. 1.

“I missed every putt, and I watched her make every putt,” Pettersen said. “It was very clear to me where I needed to get better.”

It also was clear to David Leadbetter, her swing coach.

“Suzann was like, `Well, we’ve got to change something,’” Leadbetter said. “She always reminded me of Nick Price. He was one of those players who I thought would enjoy a round where he shot 71 and hit every green in regulation more than shooting 66 with 25 putts. Suzann has come to realize how important putting is.”

Pettersen said she might not have worked 90 percent on her ball striking and 10 percent on her putting before the U.S. Women’s Open, but it seemed like it. After that thrashing at the hands of Park, Pettersen completely revamped her approach to practice. She says her practice is now 50-50, with putting getting as much or more attention than her ball-striking.

There weren’t any significant technical changes since the U.S. Women’s Open, Pettersen insists, just a new putting regimen for practice, a more structured routine with more time spent on the skill she never liked to practice.

“I always thought standing around the practice putting green was the most boring thing ever,” Pettersen said.

Since missing the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open, Pettersen’s record reads like this: T-6, T-4, T-7, win, win, T-3, T-3, win.

“I think people expected her to take over the mantel from Annika Sorenstam,” Leadbetter said. “She hasn’t quite done that, but I think over the next couple years you are going to see her best golf. I don’t think there’s any stopping her. She’s older, and she’s smarter, and she has goals in mind. She has the Olympics on her radar, and she wants to be No. 1.”

Pettersen, who has four LPGA victories this year and one LET title, has never been No. 1. She has been No. 2 behind four different No. 1s. She got in the rear view mirror of Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and now Park.

“I feel I’m more ready now to take it on than I’ve ever been,” Pettersen said. “I’ve been close in the past, but, sometimes, I think it’s been good for me to be that close, but still so far away, because it’s made me mature. I think it’s been a good process, to have a taste of being so close, but still having to work more, to learn more.

“This is the most comfortable I’ve ever been. In the past, I’ve chased it too much. Now, I’m not worrying if it’s going to happen or not. I feel like if I do my preparation and all my work, I’m really not going to stress out about it. In the past, I was maybe feeling like I was so close I had to do more of everything, practice more, play more, to the extreme of what was needed. Now I feel much more relaxed and that I can have more balance in my life.”

It’s a feeling that has her on the brink of delivering one more jolt to the women’s game this season.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.