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Pettersen defeats Choi for Safeway Classic title

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NORTH PLAINS, Oregon – Suzann Pettersen overcame a nine-stroke deficit with a 7-under 64 and beat Na Yeon Choi with a par on the first hole of a playoff to win the LPGA Safeway Classic on Sunday

In the playoff, Choi’s second shot on the par-4 18th went into the water to the right of the green, and she missed a putt for bogey before Pettersen sank her winning putt at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Pettersen, coming off a victory Aug. 7 in the European tour’s Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle, won her second LPGA Tour title of the year and eighth overall. The Norwegian star jumped to No. 2 in the world rankings behind Yani Tseng.

“I didn’t really expect this when I when I woke up this morning nine strokes back,” Pettersen said. “I guess when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll.”

Choi, from South Korea, finished with a 73 to match Pettersen at 6 under on the Ghost Creek Course.

Choi birdied the par-4 17th to take a one-stroke lead, but dropped a shot after leaving a chip well short on the final hole to force the playoff.

Christina Kim shot a 78 to finish a dismal 11 over, but it was just enough to keep her in the 10th spot in the points standings for the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will take on their European counterparts in late in September at Killeen Castle.

Pettersen, also the Sybase Match Play winner in May in New Jersey, locked up a spot on the European Solheim Cup team with her victory in Ireland.

She eagled the par-5 10th hole Sunday to help propel her into the lead.

“It was like 2 inches short,” Pettersen joked of her eagle shot – which was nearly a double eagle. “It was as close as you can get, I guess.”

But Pettersen’s recent success has been bittersweet. Recently she lost a dear family friend in a skydiving accident. And she was still reeling from the July 22 attacks in her homeland that left 77 dead. Anders Behring Breivik has admitted detonating a bomb that killed eight people in central Oslo and fatally shooting 69 others at an island youth camp.

“It makes you realize life’s not all about golf,” she said. “It makes you put things in perspective.”

In 2009, Pettersen came close to winning at Pumpkin Ridge, but settled for second after M.J. Hur birdied the second hole of a playoff.

Hee Young Park, still looking for her first tour win, shot a 67 to finish third at 5 under.

Paula Creamer had a 68 to finish another stroke back. The fan favorite had one of the largest galleries of the day, including a pink-clad admirer who carried a sign reading “Go Paula, Cream the Field.”

Choi tied for second last year, two strokes behind Ai Miyazato.

Miyazato had a final round 68 to finish this weekend at 1 under, while Michelle Wie shot a 75 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 9 over.

Kim went into the event trying to hold off Katie Futcher, Kristy McPherson and Vicky Hurst for the last of automatic spots on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Rosie Jones was set to add two captain’s picks late Sunday for the Sept. 23-25 matches.

The European Solheim Cup team will be finalized after the world rankings are updated Aug. 29. Pettersen, Melissa Reid, Laura Davies and Christel Boeljon have already locked up spots.