Suzann Pettersen took advantage of the long LPGA offseason skiing the slopes of Vail, Colo., with her family during the Christmas break. She will tell you she almost grew up on a pair of skis, dropping her backpack at home after school before racing off to the slopes. She says she skied practically every day of the winter growing up in Norway, where on Saturday she was named the nation’s 2009 Female Athlete of the Year.
Pettersen, 28, is a six-time LPGA winner. Five of those victories came in the 2007 season with her sixth coming last year at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Pettersen for a Quick Round.
Did you get to ski some fresh powder in Vail?
Yes, it was fantastic. Vail was like a postcard. It was magical. I just enjoyed the time with my family and doing something different from golf, something I like to do.
Do your managers and family worry about you on those mountainous slopes?
I used to be quite crazy, I’m a little more conservative now, but I make sure I have fun on the slopes. My family’s fairly good skiers, so we compete.
The winter Olympics are right around the corner. Will you watch wondering if you could have made the Norwegian Olympic ski team if you hadn’t chosen golf as your profession?
I probably could have been a professional skier, but I also think I could have gone into physiotherapy. I like the body. I like to work with the body. I like working with people.
The PGA Tour season is underway, but you’re still five weeks away from the LPGA’s season opener in Thailand . Will you get a little stir crazy waiting?
I just enjoy the time off. Once the season kicks in, you are so focused throughout that period, so it’s nice, mentally, to be off. I just enjoy normal life.
Two years ago, the LPGA schedule featured 34 events. There are only 24 on this year’s schedule.
It could have been a lot worse. If you look back at 2009, when we were approaching the U.S. Open in July, there were 12 tournaments on the schedule. At the end of the year, we had 24. There was some great work behind the scenes. There are some empty spots on the front of the schedule, but we take it as a good sign that the next couple years will be strong. The players are still great. It’s still a great product. With our new commissioner, I think we are in a good position to make a step forward.
Are 24 events enough for you?
If I look at my last three years, I haven’t been playing much more than 25 anyway, so I’m looking to maybe add one or two events, in Europe . I think it’s nice to support the European Tour as well, since I represent Europe in the Solheim Cup. For the top players, I think you will see most of us playing virtually all the tournaments, unless they fall oddly in the schedule.
What are your first impressions of the new commissioner, Michael Whan?
I’ve only met him a few times. I know he’s a marketing guy, which I think is a good thing right now, to help us go out and get the sponsors back. I think he will be open minded to different solutions. He seems like a very nice guy and he loves golf. He puts the players first, that’s important. That means he will come to us and talk to us, maybe listen to us.
You start the year No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. How ambitious are you? How much do you want to be No. 1?
Obviously, I have a dream, and I am not accomplishing that before becoming No. 1. But there are so many great golfers out there right now, and everyone keeps getting better, so you just have to keep working hard. I would like to be at the No. 1 spot before I end my career.
You broke through in 2007 to win five LPGA events and another on the European Tour. This is a funny question, but was there a little bit of a curse in that, in the sense that you set the bar so high that there’s disappointment in winning just once the last two years?
I was looking for more consistency last year, and I achieved that (with 12 top-10 finishes). I can’t be too disappointed, and I got my win. You want to win multiple times, but, like I’ve said before, you have to make sure you put yourself in a good position. If you keep knocking on that door, the door will open.
We’ve heard a lot from the men about how the new rules governing grooves affects them. What about the women? How are they affecting your game?
I’ve been testing the new grooves, and playing with them for awhile now. It has affected me in that I have to move to a little softer ball, to get the spin on the ball back up. It actually surprised me how much the spin on the ball drops, especially on the wedges. And the ball flight a little bit. Like everything else, you have to practice with it and make sure you know how it works.
You’re one of the tour’s longest hitters. Will you sacrifice power with the softer ball?
I don’t think it’s going to affect my distance that much. If I have to give up a few yards, I would rather do that to have more control with my short clubs.