Suzann Pettersen spent most of her season finishing outside the top-15 in tournaments. But a late renaissance has Norway’s pride looking like it’s is 2007, her breakout six-win season, all over again.
While ending the winless drought that had plagued her for 15 months could have seemed enough for most, back-to-back victories on the Asian Swing were seemingly more appropriate for Pettersen. After all, with her perfectionist demons at bay – even for a short while – and with her putting on an upswing, few can match the de facto Solheim Cup European team leader.
Pettersen’s two-step actually started by a late weekend tangle with a 2011 teammate over in Incheon, South Korea. She opened with a tournament-record 63 at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship and following it up with a moving day 68 (the event was scheduled for 54 holes), the Norwegian found herself ahead of her eventual toughest competition, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew. Her five-shot cushion over the entire field shrunk as she stumbled out of the gates, and Pettersen appeared poised for a disappointing finish mainly accountable to missed opportunities from the fairway and her [almost trademarked] shaky putting. Thankfully for the Norwegian, however, the cure to her woes ironically lies in placing herself in pressure-packed and precarious situations – case in point, her 1-up comeback triumph over Michelle Wie at the 2011 Solheim Cup highlighted by her clutch putts on Nos. 16, 17 and 18.
Little could plausibly be expected from the 43-year-old Matthew – the opposite could be said of Yani Tseng who was knocking at the door for the first time in months. Tseng finished third; a feat that she would go on to repeat the following week at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship in what represents very bad news for the other members of the LPGA Tour.
As Matthew has showed several times over the past seasons, it’s hard to dismiss her, especially in sub-par playing conditions. A seven-shot rally enabled Matthew to take advantage of Pettersen’s wobbly round and grab a hold of first place, forcing the tournament to extra holes. Ultimately, the Norwegian’s self-described aggressive approach to the third and final playoff hole, paired with her propensity to make putts that she normally does not when it matters the most, gave her the victory.
On the other hand, the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship unraveled according to a different storyline. Where the HanaBank Championship had Pettersen playing trailblazers from the get-go and everyone else playing catch-up, the Audi-sponsored outing had the Norwegian stuck in the peloton at 3-under. Her move for daylight came late Friday as, with six holes left and sitting on another 3-under posting, the previous week’s champion switched gears – as she would put it in a post-round interview – and recorded four birdies; thus proverbially trading blows with Round 1 leader Inbee Park to join the latter atop the leaderboard.
Moving day would see the current LPGA Player of the Year leader claim a two-shot advantage over Pettersen, but struggles Sunday – a 2-over 74 – would, eventually, have the best of Park. As Pettersen enjoyed a second title in as many weeks, Catriona Matthew, through rounds of 66 and 68 sandwiched between a pair of 70’s, managed another top-4. Things are looking up for the Scot as she’s set to defend her ownership over the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.