Pettersen shows she can take the heat

Posted: June 11, 2007

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Ten weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Suzann Pettersen began the final round tied for the lead. But with a three-stroke advantage going into the 15th hole, she scored a bogey, double-bogey and bogey on the next three holes and finished in a three-way tie for second, a shot behind 18-year-old Morgan Pressel.

It was a monumental collapse for the Norwegian, who rival Karrie Webb said is "oozing with talent." As play unfolded yesterday in the final round of the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course, the question was whether Pettersen could withstand the pressure and preserve the slender lead she had established. With both Webb and South Korean upstart Na On Min playing extremely well, that question was answered in the affirmative when Pettersen closed out the day with a 67 to capture the event with a 14-under 274. Webb was one shot back, Min two.

It was Pettersen's first victory in a major. And with it came more than just a small measure of redemption.

"Now I finally proved to you all that I can actually put it all together and take a major," said Petter-sen, who banked $300,000 for the win. Grinning, she said she figured she would not have to answer that question again.

Pettersen, 26, began the day a stroke behind Min, an 18-year-old who had shot a sizzling 7-under 65 on Saturday to surge to a 10-under total of 206 for three rounds. But the unknown teenager appeared to crack on the front nine yesterday, bogeying the sixth through eighth holes. However, she rallied on the back nine with four birdies to finish with a 12-under 276.

Webb also poured on the pressure. She entered the final round at 208, tied for third place with Angela Park, who finished in fifth place at 9-under, a shot behind Lindsey Wright. Well aware of how Pettersen had come undone in the Kraft Nabisco, Webb told herself that she just had to keep applying pressure. She had seen Pettersen "hit a couple of loose shots" the day before on the back nine.

"So, you know, I knew if I stayed pretty close that I would have a chance," Webb said. "She obviously executed very well coming down the stretch and she should be very proud of herself."

Webb added it took "a lot of courage and guts and trust in her ability" for Pettersen to overcome the Kraft Nabisco collapse.

"You know, she is someone you have been waiting to see, sort of; she has been an underachiever for a long time," Webb said of Pettersen. "So this is a great boost for her. I think you will see her continuing to play well for years to come."

Pettersen said she welcomed the pressure.

"You want to be under pressure," said Pettersen, who shot 69-67-71-67. "That is what you practice for every day." She added, "You just have to appreciate the wins when you finally do get them."

Pettersen described herself as "comfortable" and "calm" yesterday, unconcerned with what happened at Kraft Nabisco. But while she said she experienced some tension on the back nine, it did not prevent her from closing out the victory with some impressive play.

"Experience helps," she said. "I felt good.''

How does Pettersen see her career shaping up? She said she is capable of being the No. 1 player in the world.

"Well, it is my target," she said. "It probably helped with this win today. There are a lot of good players up there."

Pettersen added, "I was fortunate today. I played well and I had some good breaks. I mean, as long as you put yourself in position [to win], then everything can happen."

Wie flops

It was a forgettable tournament for Michelle Wie, the 17-year-old who has been battling a wrist injury. After shooting 73-74 to make the cut, Wie completely fell apart on Saturday, posting an 11-over 83 in a round that included eight bogeys and two double-bogeys. It was the worst score Wie has posted since turning pro in October 2005. Uncertain if she would play yesterday, she did so upon receiving clearance from her doctor and shot a 79 for a four-round total of 309.

Wie finished last by 10 strokes. She said she was "frustrated with my round today."

"I felt like I was playing a little bit better . . . but I made a couple of silly mistakes," said Wie, who added it was a "good decision" to play this week. "I just have to be patient with myself and work diligently on it."

Her old self

While she conceded that the score did not show it, perennial stalwart Annika Sorenstam was pleased with her closing 71. She finished tied for 15th with a 5-under 283.

"I felt like my old self today," she said. "I had a pretty good feel with the grip. It was just a good day." *

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