In a wide-ranging interview Wednesday on "Golf Central", Suzann Pettersen detailed how she “fell apart” emotionally amid the public backlash over her role in the recent Solheim Cup controversy, how Phil Mickelson helped her through “the nightmare” and why she’s sorry for the way she handled the matter.
“You can’t win [at] all costs,” Pettersen told Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte. “Obviously, the sportsmanship and the integrity of the game I felt were left on the sideline. That’s kind of what really hurts me, because 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 came under fire after American Alison Lee was penalized for improperly picking up her ball when she thought the Europeans had conceded her short putt at the 17th green in a fourball match on the final day of the Solheim Cup. Pettersen was criticized for holding Lee to the penalty after it appeared the Europeans may have misled Lee into thinking the putt was conceded. Though the Americans would go on to win the Solheim Cup, Lee’s penalty created a furor.
“I’m hard on myself, and when I’m on the golf course I don’t smile a lot,” Pettersen said. “I fight to the very end, but at the end of the day, you got to go to bed with a heart saying, `Today, I did something right,’ and that’s kind of what was tough for me, sitting on Sunday night and reflecting and talking to other players about how I had the chance to be the bigger person in the whole picture . . . I never won a point that felt so bad in my entire life. I feel like it just took away the greatness of the Solheim.”
Pettersen said she did write the apology that appeared on her Instagram page the day after the Solheim Cup.
“The entire letter was straight from my heart,” she said.
Pettersen said teammates warned her in the clubhouse after Sunday’s singles matches not to look at her cell phone and the social media reactions to her role in the controversy. She said she couldn’t help looking.
“That’s when it really hit me,” Pettersen said. “I did actually cry.”
Pettersen said she broke down when teammate Carlota Ciganda pulled her aside in the team room late Sunday to ask how she was doing.
“I just absolutely fell apart,” Pettersen said. “For her to see me like that, when I’m usually the big sister trying to encourage them to do well, I think that was tough for her to see as well, but I just couldn’t hold it back, because I felt like I could have done stuff so differently and put the game of golf in a different light.”
Pettersen said she has had some helpful conversations with some of the game’s “icons,” including Mickelson, Butch Harmon, Michelle Wie, U.S. captain Juli Inkster and European assistant captain Annika Sorenstam.
Mickelson called Pettersen in Germany after the matches ended. Both she and Mickelson work with Harmon.
“One of the first players to reach out to me was Phil on Sunday night,” Pettersen said. “I don’t know how I can thank him enough for the words and the hours on the phone, the conversations we had for the good and bad. This went both ways. He wasn’t just trying to pat me on the shoulder, `Oh, this will be fine.’ He asked me some critical questions, and I had to answer them.”
Pettersen said Wie sought her out in the team hotel after dinner late Sunday.
“I had a great conversation with Michelle Wie, which probably meant the world to me at the time,” Pettersen said. “She took the time to come see me knowing I was emotionally hurt from all of this and this was the last thing I wanted happening, and I’m sorry how it all went down. The words exchanged both ways really helped me.”
Pettersen said she hasn’t spoken to Lee yet, but she intends to do so on the LPGA’s Asian swing.
“She will be one of the first people I will try to reach out to once we get to Asia, and I see her in person,” Pettersen said.
Pettersen said Sorenstam saw all the potential ramifications of the phantom concession early on.
“Annika was a great person for me to lean on in the hours after it all went down,” Pettersen said. “She could see the bigger picture much sooner than I could, talking to her Sunday night.”
One of Pettersen’s harshest critics was Hall of Famer Laura Davies, a former European teammate. Davies has scored more points than any player in Solheim Cup history. Pettersen said Davies’ opinions stung her.
“At the time, it hurt tremendously, I have to say,” Pettersen said. “She’s been a role model for me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her game and her person and everything she has achieved . . . Hopefully, we’ll square it all up when I see her next. I’ve had a few battles with her in the past, and we always seem to come out on the good side."