TURNBERRY, Scotland – The wind and stinging rain lashing off the Firth of Clyde raked away whatever it could Friday at Trump Turnberry.
Confidence was separated from players almost as quickly as loose shots were.
The Ricoh Women’s British Open left one player after another cursing, muttering and snarling, but Suzann Pettersen wasn’t among them.
While the 34-year-old Norwegian isn’t exactly known for her long patience, she was unshakably in control through her morning round.
“I felt I was in 100 percent control of the ball, the flight, the spin,” Pettersen said. “Everything you need in conditions like this. So this ranks pretty high as a good round of golf.”
Pettersen’s 3-under-par 69 was the round of the day through that morning wave, the only round in the 60s. In fact, it was the only round under par in that first-half wave. It moved Pettersen to 7-under 137, which looked like a safe bet to leave her atop the leaderboard at day’s end with first-round leader Hyo Joo Kim struggling in tough conditions.
The ball striking exhibition Pettersen put on was another sign that the changes she is making with swing Butch Harmon are fully taking hold. Pettersen left David Leadbetter for Harmon in November of last year. She’s bidding to win the third major championship of her career.
“I always felt like I had a different gear in my body,” Pettersen said. “I’ve said it many times. I feel some of my best golf is still ahead of me. To get there, I feel like going to Butch was the right thing. One, from a technical standpoint, simplifying everything. Ease up the kind of pressure on my body. I feel like I’ve had a lot of injuries throughout the years.”
Harmon has made Pettersen’s swing wider and more shallow.
“It’s just a much easier move,” Pettersen said. “Mentally, it’s probably never been this easy for me . . . Essentially, handshake-handshake. It’s super simple.”
Pettersen believes her new swing is easier on her body, makes it easier to practice more and might prolong her career.
“Butch has pushed me quite a lot,” Pettersen said. “He’ll give it to me if I don’t play well, for sure.”
Pettersen has won two majors, the 2007 Women’s PGA Championship and the 2013 Evian Championship. She’s had close calls at the Women’s British Open. She tied for second last year and tied for fourth the year before.
Spared playing in the heavier rains in the afternoon, Pettersen still contended with winds gusting to 25 mph.
“The ball is not flying anywhere in the wind,” Pettersen said. “The first five or six holes play a fraction easier, but as soon as you turn the corner around the lighthouse, you hit the wall on 12. It’s really tough.”
At the 12th, Pettersen had 156 yards to the flagstick into the wind. She hit a hybrid and still came up short.
“I flushed it,” she said.
James Walton, Pettersen’s caddie, said she managed her way around shaping shots. She hit 11 of 14 fairways, and she hit 14 greens in regulation, impressive in the conditions.
“She can shape the ball both ways in these winds,” said James Waltson, Pettersen’s caddie. “It makes a massive difference.”
Rounds like Thursday’s fuel Pettersen’s belief her best golf is yet to come.
“I have a lot of goals left out there that I want to achieve,” she said.