HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Suzann Pettersen is hitting almost all her shots, but all anyone wants to do is talk about her mental game.
The Norwegian heads into the third round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock today with a one shot lead at 8-under-par, after a posting a 67 Friday under a scorching Maryland sun. Also bringing the heat is a packed field near the top of the leaderboard that includes Karrie Webb (7-under), Brittany Lincicome (6-under), Birdie Kim (6-under), Paula Creamer (5-under), Morgan Pressel (5-under), Annika Sorenstam (5-under) and Meena Lee (5-under).
The question many want to know here is whether Pettersen can shake off the memory of the LPGA Tour's first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April, where she lost a four-shot lead on the back nine in the final round.
"Well I forgot about that a long time ago," Pettersen said. And then she spent the next 20 minutes being asked to remember it.
"I didn't look at [the Kraft Nabisco] as a collapse," she told reporters. "I looked at it as what I can do different, what I can do stronger when I get to the next tournament and I'm in the same situation. For me that's kind of how I took it."
Pettersen said her win last month at the Michelob Ultra Open helped her get over the Kraft Nabisco. "I felt good about myself and I felt like I was ready to win when I won. Now I'm just shoulders down, I'm pretty relaxed and just try to hit good golf shots," she said.
Still, Pettersen will be asked about the Kraft Nabisco anytime she's hovering near the top of a leaderboard at a major, unless she finds a way to win one.
She is in nightly contact with her mental coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, who are in Sweden. They have to be happy with Pettersen's performance here yesterday, which saw her card seven birdies, including ones on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 that capped off a 4-under 32 on a back nine. Pettersen needed 25 putts all day.
Has she seen the tape from the final round of the Kraft Nabisco, where she went bogey, double bogey, bogey on the last three holes? No, she said. Instead, Nilsson and Marriott and her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, examined the horrors and gave her notes.
"You don't try to find weakness," Pettersen said. "You try to find your strong skills and how to use them as how to use them as often as you possibly can. Take whatever happens as a challenge."
Michelle Wie doesn't have two mental coaches (at least not yet), but she does have plenty of luck. Wie needed the last golfer in the last group of Friday's action to bogey the last hole to make the cut at 3-over-par.
Karen Davies obliged, and Wie is heading into the weekend. Davies and Wie are paired together for the third round, teeing off today at 8:32 a.m.
That's not a contender's tee time (Pettersen goes off more than six hours later). But that's OK with Wie for now.
"I think that deep in my soul, I really expected like - not expected, but I really wanted - to win this week," Wie said, standing outside the scorer's tent after her 2-over 74. "But realistically, I just wanted to show myself I'm better ... like I can play and actually make birdies out here and I can actually keep it in the fairway."
Wie even had enough good humor after a way right and wild tee shot on 18 put her weekend status in jeopardy to crack a joke.
"It's hot," she said. "It's really hot. But you know the hotter it is the more weight you lose. So I'm happy about that."
With 17 players within five shots of the lead, it's hard to figure out where to focus today.
In only her second tournament since being sidelined in April with a back injury, Sorenstam looked solid Friday, carding six birdies to get to 5-under. She is in a 2:13 p.m. pairing with Pressel, one of the young contenders to Sorenstam's throne in women's golf, having won this year's Kraft Nabisco.
Lincicome has posted back-to-back 69s, knowing a few more of those could give her a major title. Birdie Kim isn't so happy to be tied with Lincicome at six under having given back any advantage she gained from being the first round leader - she shot 71 Friday.
The 43-year-old Laura Davies, seeking her fifth major, took a much steeper stumble, going from just one back of the lead to a tie for 23rd after a second round 75. Start missing fairways and you're quickly forgotten.
World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa is six shots off the lead, and needs to make a fast birdie run to stop her winless streak in major championships (she is 0 for 22).
June 9, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.
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