NAPLES, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen this week is making her first start on American soil since she found herself at the heart of the Solheim Cup controversy that stirred up so much vitriol in Germany almost nine weeks ago.
Standing on the driving range Wednesday preparing for the CME Group Tour Championship, Pettersen feels comfortable that time is working its magic, soothing any wounds that may linger.
“I think everything’s good,” Pettersen said between shots. “It’s good for me. I feel like it’s all dying down on tour.”
Pettersen came under fire on Sunday morning of the Solheim Cup after American Alison Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt on the 17th green, saying she thought she heard the Europeans concede it. The controversy erupted after Europe’s Pettersen stepped forward to tell the rules official that neither she nor her playing partner Charley Hull conceded Lee’s putt in their fourball match. The Americans were penalized and lost the hole in a vital match leading into singles. The match ended with both Lee and Hull in tears and Pettersen bombarded with criticism that she violated the “spirit of the game” with unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I am disgusted,” European Hall of Famer Laura Davies said, doing the analysis for Sky Sports 4. “She’s been very unsporting. We’ve (Europe) got the point, but they’ve got the moral high ground.”
Two-time major champion Zach Johnson called it “a disgrace to the sport.” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin was also critical of Pettersen in the American telecast.
While Pettersen initially stood her ground in the news conference after the Americans staged a historic comeback victory, holding to her position that she was within the rules of the game, she later said she was emotionally overwhelmed by the public backlash when she took to social media thereafter. She cried in the team room.
Pettersen met with U.S. captain Juli Inkster before leaving Germany and the next morning issued a nearly 300-word apology on Instagram. Ten days later, Pettersen went on Golf Channel to further apologize and explain what happened in a 17-minute interview on Golf Central.
“I don’t want to be remembered as someone who just gave it all and couldn’t care about the integrity of the game, because that means more to me,” Pettersen said in her Golf Central interview.
While this may be Pettersen’s first tournament on American soil since the Solheim Cup, she has crossed the paths of American players numerous times since leaving Germany. In fact, this will mark her sixth LPGA event since the Solheim Cup. Pettersen played four times on the fall Asian swing and last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico. Pettersen has been paired with Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis, Lizette Salas, Brittany Lincicome and Angela Stanford since the Solheim Cup.
On Saturday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Stanford and Pettersen were among four players who got stuck in a shuttle bus delayed two hours in a nightmarish traffic jam en route to the golf course. Stanford also played with Pettersen in the second and third rounds in Mexico City. While the two are on good terms, the Solheim Cup memory is there.
“I’m not one of those people who likes to remind someone of their mistakes, but she did make a mistake,” Stanford said. “I’m not saying it was a rules mistake, but an error in sportsmanship, and that’s what the Solheim Cup is all about. It helped light a fire for us. Ultimately, it sparked us. Unfortunately, she has to live with that.”
Lee said Pettersen approached her on the driving range in Malaysia in their first event together three weeks after the Solheim Cup.
“We did talk,” Lee said. “But for me, our talk was really personal. I don’t want to share what went on.
“I still look up to Suzann. She’s one of the best golfers out here, and I still respect her. I feel like now everything that happened is dying down, and I’m really happy about that.”
Lincicome played with Pettersen in the first round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the Solheim Cup didn’t come up.
“We talked about my wedding, her relationship and everything but that,” Lincicome said. “It’s so far in the past. It is what it was, and now we’re buddies again.”