Sunday, June 10, 2007
Pettersen atones for her meltdown with a major
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- With a major championship in her
grasp, Suzann Pettersen never flinched.
Not at the furious charge from 18-year-old Na On Min, who made
four straight birdies to pull within one shot. Not at the
relentless pressure from Karrie Webb, who birdied the last two
holes. And not at memories of a major meltdown 10 weeks ago.
Pettersen felt like a different person at the LPGA Championship.
And it showed.
The 26-year-old Norwegian redeemed herself Sunday with a 5-under
67 for a one-shot victory over Webb and her first major. She played
so close to perfection on the back nine at Bulle Rock that she had
a birdie putt on every hole, only two of them longer than 12 feet.
There was no choke from this champion.
"I wasn't even close to being in those emotions that I was back
then," said Pettersen, who blew a three-shot lead with four holes
to play at the Kraft Nabisco. "I finally proved to all of you that
I can actually put it all together and take a major. So now, I
probably don't have to get that question again."
The only question now is how good she can get.
Webb described her earlier in the week as having more talent in
her tiny finger that some players on the LPGA Tour, and Pettersen
showed it on a demanding course, finishing at 14-under 274.
"I believe I can be the best player in the world," said
Pettersen, who overcame a back injury two years ago so serious that
doctors told her she might not ever play again. "But you have to
give me time. It definitely helps with my confidence."
Webb closed with a 67 and had to settle for second again.
A year ago, Se Ri Pak beat her in a playoff with a 201-yard shot
that stopped a few inches from the cup. This time, Webb finished
with two birdies that, considering what happened at the Nabisco,
she thought might be good enough.
"I knew what happened to her at Kraft, and I just knew I needed
to keep putting pressure on her," Webb said. "She obviously
executed very well coming down the stretch, and she should be very
proud of herself. It shows a lot of courage and guts and trust in
Min, trying to become the youngest major champion in LPGA
history, ran off four straight birdies through the 16th hole to get
within one shot and had a 10-footer on the 17th. But she settled
for pars on the last two holes for a 70 to finish third. It was her
first time playing in a major, and only her sixth tournament as a
Pettersen bounced back from her collapse at the Nabisco by
winning a month later at the Michelob Ultra Open. But at the
McDonald's LPGA Championship, she removed any lasting doubts about
She made four birdies on the back nine, none bigger than a
12-footer on the par-3 17th to give her a cushion going to the
final hole. She needed only two putts from 30 feet to win, and the
pace was perfect, just like every shot she hit down the stretch.
"It's certainly a nice feeling to stand on the green by
yourself and lift the trophy," said Pettersen, who earned $300,000
and surpassed $1 million for the year, second only to Lorena Ochoa.
Ochoa remains No. 1 and without a major. She was close enough to
make a move, one of eight players separated by three shots at
various stages of the back nine, but missed key birdie chances and
had to settle for 69 and a tie for sixth, six shots behind.
Michelle Wie of Honolulu completed an acrimonious stay at Bulle
Rock with a small consolation -- her first performance-based
paycheck of the year.
"It's a good feeling to get a paycheck," she said with a
Then again, she had to make an 8-foot bogey putt on the final
hole to break 80, it was her 20th consecutive round without
breaking par, she finished in last place by 10 shots, and her
21-over 309 was the highest 72-hole score of her career,
professional or amateur.
"I think it was a good decision (to play), but also maybe a
couple of weeks too early," Wie said. "I have to test the waters
sometime. I felt like this week is a lot better than last week, and
I hope the U.S. Open is going to be a lot better."
The Women's Open is in two weeks at Pine Needles.
The teenager who stole most of the attention through three days
was Min, who showed some recovery skills of her own. Playing in her
first major, and only her sixth tournament as a pro, she lost a
two-shot lead on the front nine by missing par putts inside 4 feet
and failing to get out of a bunker on the eighth hole for her third
Min didn't make another birdie until the 13th, and then she
Most of the back nine was a duel between Webb and Pettersen,
with the Norwegian in the final group and always in the lead.
Webb got to within one shot with a 40-foot birdie on the 11th,
and Pettersen answered with an 8-foot birdie on the 13th. Moments
later, Webb made an 8-foot birdie on the 14th.
The pivotal hole was the par-5 15th, which can be reached in two
with a good drive.
Webb didn't hit one. She pushed it into the right rough, had to
chip out short of the hazard that left her 207 yards away and did
well to make par. Pettersen found the fairway and the green, and
two-putted for birdie to lead by two with three holes to play.
"One shot -- I'll be thinking of a lot of places where I could
have made that up," Webb said.
Pettersen won't have to think about Kraft Nabisco until she
returns to the California desert next year as a major champion.