Pettersen energized by new swing coach Harmon

By Randall MellJanuary 27, 2015, 10:56 pm

OCALA, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen is officially under Butch Harmon’s wing.

When Pettersen left her long-time coach, David Leadbetter, late last year, she said she wasn’t sure what direction to go, but she knew she needed something Harmon could give her.

“I had some good years with David, but I felt like I needed a little kick in the butt and some fresh energy,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen tees it up Wednesday at the LPGA’s season-opening Coates Golf Championship looking to regain the form that moved her to the doorstep of the world No. 1 ranking early last year. She’s looking for some of Harmon’s magic to help fuel a return to leaderboards, trophy presentations and a berth in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The Olympics have been an important goal for Pettersen ever since golf won a return to the games. With Pettersen turning 34 this spring, the opportunities for Olympic gold will be limited in an event that is only staged every four years.

“I felt like if I was going to do something like this, it was now or never,” Pettersen said.

Harmon taking on Pettersen says a lot about his belief in the player’s ability. He keeps his stable of world-class players small, with Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker and Rickie Fowler the only PGA Tour pros he currently teaches. Natalie Gulbis is the only other woman among his clients.

“I think Suzann Pettersen should be the No. 1 player in the world,” Harmon told “She has all the characteristics you need. She’s talented, she works hard, and she’s a fierce competitor.”

Pettersen has 20 professional victories around the world, 14 of them LPGA titles, two of them majors, but she has never held the No. 1 ranking. She has been so close, though. She has been No. 2 behind four different players. She has been in the rear-view mirrors of Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park.

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With five victories worldwide in 2013, including a major, Pettersen moved within hundredths of a decimal point of overtaking Park late in the year with momentum rolling, but she hurt her back early in ’14. She withdrew from the Kraft Nabisco last spring with the injury and never got the momentum back.

“Last year was awful, getting as close as I was to nailing one of my biggest dreams,” Pettersen said. “Health issues got in my way, and I kind of played through it. It was frustrating, but I kept myself in the game.”

Pettersen was frustrated she couldn’t close a pair of chances in majors last year. She was in the final Sunday pairing chasing Park at the Ricoh Women’s British Open but watched Mo Martin win. She was in the final pairing just a shot behind Brittany Lincicome at the LPGA Championship a month later and struggled to a 76, with Park taking the title.

“She got a little bit lost last year, and she wasn’t as consistent as she needed to be,” Harmon said.

Pettersen said she huddled with Greg Norman and Darren Clarke at the World Celebrity Pro-Am in China in October of last year to get their take on Harmon.

“I’ve always been very curious about Butch,” Pettersen said.

A few weeks later, Pettersen was on her way to Las Vegas to work with Harmon. Pettersen said she immediately liked the way her game responded.

“Butch doesn’t sugarcoat anything,” Pettersen said.

They made a quick connection.

“I have a sailor’s mouth, and Butch has a sailor’s mouth, too,” Pettersen cracked.

In simplified terms, Pettersen said Harmon has been widening her swing while also making it more shallow. She also said he has helped her dial in her short irons and sharpen her short game.

“I felt very energized when I went to him the first time, and I picked up his changes very quickly,” Pettersen said. “Even from the first lesson, I was hitting it great.

“I’m very glad he wanted to take me on. He’s pretty tough who he takes on, and who he doesn’t. Obviously, he requires you to do quite a lot of work, but that’s never against my nature. It’s been a very good fit for me, and I’m very happy.”

While Harmon isn’t overhauling Pettersen’s swing, the changes aren’t inconsequential. There are new habits being formed.

“Old habits can creep in, but she’s incorporated the changes very well,” Harmon said. “The big thing will be having confidence in them under the heat of battle. You have to trust the work you’ve done.”

Harmon sparked quick improvements in Jimmy Walker’s game, when he took him on a couple years ago, and in Rickie Fowler’s last year. Pettersen is hoping for the same, though she says she has cautioned herself to be patient.

“Every now and again, the old habits are going to sneak in, but I know the corrections,” Pettersen said. “I know the way to get out of it. I wouldn’t expect this to be something where I have to wait until May before it kicks in and I start playing well. I’m very excited to get started. I feel like I’m prepared and ready to play.”

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Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

Bernhard Langer did not.

The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”