EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Suzann Pettersen is doing quite nicely running on fumes.
This is her fifth consecutive week playing, but she is as dangerous as she is tired when she’s like this.
Pettersen looks like she could be on one of those runs of hers again, the kind where she wins in bunches.
With a 5-under-par 66 Friday at the Evian Championship, Pettersen put herself in contention to win another LPGA title, her second major. If not for a short missed putt at the last hole, she would be tied for the first-round lead. Instead, she’s a shot behind Japan’s Mika Miyazato.
“I’m starting to get tired,” Pettersen said. “At the same time, it’s not a problem firing up the adrenalin. It’s easier on a day like today than in a pro-am. That adrenalin gets you going and gets the concentration up.”
Pettersen, 32, is looking to win back-to-back LPGA events. She won the Safeway Classic two weeks ago as part of a hot run. She has played six times in the last seven weeks. Her last four LPGA starts look like this: T-6, T-4, T-7, win.
Amid this run, Pettersen helped the Europeans win for the first time on American soil in the Solheim Cup, and she also hosted her own charity event, the Suzann Pro Challenge in Norway. Those were two emotionally charged events, in different ways.
“When you’re playing good, you just want to play,” Pettersen said. “I probably play my best when I play quite a few weeks in a row.”
After Pettersen won her first LPGA title in ’07, the floodgates opened. She won six times around the world over the next six months. She won three LPGA titles in October of that year alone.
If Pettersen is worried about running out of gas this week, she got some good news Friday after her round. The LPGA announced it’s shortening the Evian Championship to 54 holes. Thursday’s first round was washed out. Saturday’s forecast calls for 40 percent chance of rain, Sunday’s for 80 percent and Monday's for 80 percent.
This Evian Championship’s debut as a major has been fraught with logistical challenges.
The $8 million golf course redesign was hampered the last year by a terrible winter and equally bad spring. The new design isn’t playing the way Evian officials hoped, though it’s proving a brutish test anyway. There are bare patches marked as ground under repair, and players complained the greens were bumpy and difficult Friday in the afternoon. While firm and fast would best serve the design, the championship opened with the tour implementing lift, clean and place rules.
“It played how I thought it would play,” said Stacy Lewis, the Rolex world No. 2, who is trying to win back-to-back majors. “I still don’t know if we should be playing a major on this golf course this year. I think it’s too early. A couple of fairways haven’t been cut in a while, you can tell. It’s really a shame, because it’s a great place to come and it’s usually a great golf course. It’s just a shame we’re playing a major on something like this.”
Lewis opened with a 69 and is four shots off the lead.
“It was frustrating, but more because of the quality of the greens,” Lewis said. “I bounced a lot of putts around. It’s hard to play when the greens are like that, but everyone is playing on them.”
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, who’s trying to become the first man or woman to win four majors in a single season, opened with a 74. She was penalized a shot when her ball moved after she addressed it. She won Evian a year ago.
“It’s a totally different course,” Park said. “It’s definitely tougher, definitely longer.”
If Pettersen is going to catch Miyazato, she’ll need to keep her adrenalin going. There’s a pack of quality players chasing.
Se Ri Pak (66), Sandra Gal (66) and Christina Kim (67) looked rejuvenated. Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old amateur, opened with a 68 in her bid to win back-to-back LPGA titles. She won her last start at the CN Canadian Women’s Open three weeks ago. Michelle Wie also opened with a 68. So did Hall of Famer Karrie Webb. Lewis is right there four back with Na Yeon Choi and Angela Stanford.
“I’ve been very consistent, I’m feeling good,” Pettersen said.