Suzann Pettersen: A Little Bit Older, A Little Bit Wiser

The LPGA Tour returns to the great state of Texas after an absence of more than 20 years for the North Texas LPGA Shootout. They’ll be teeing it up for 72 holes at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Las Colinas is the same the course the PGA Tour plays the Byron Nelson, albeit at about 6,400 yards. [The Byron Nelson is played at the TPC Las Colinas now re-branded the TPC Four Seasons Resort, not the Las Colinas Country Club. Too many Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.]

The greens are larger and faster than they were last week at Ko Olina in Hawaii, so there is some eagerness among the players to get after it.

Last week’s winner, Suzann Pettersen stopped by the media center for what ended up being a fairly extensive interview. It was quite eclectic, but there was some really good stuff that touched on the principle interest of this blog, the golf mastery process. 

Here’s a very zen-like answer to a question about what was working well in her game right now:

I don’t know.  I get the ball in the hole in a few strokes.

I don’t know.  I mean, I work hard.  The practice is paying off.  I feel good.  I don’t really question my game too much.  I play what I have, try to make the most out of every round.

I really took good advantage last week on the first day in very good playing conditions, and managed to get a 7‑under par that helped me kick start the week.  Obviously played great during the following two days in the wind. Putting good, too.  I mean, everything is just coming together.  It’s nice I can keep it up even after Kraft (T3).

Q. You talked last week after you won about this is your 11th year on tour.  You figured out how to play a lot smarter.  You are aggressive when you need to be and layup when you need to.  Is that something you think about in a week like this where you know the wind might be blowing, you might be worried about playing too aggressively?

No, but I think what I tried to say and what I still believe in, I can play defensive golf.  I can play away from the pin, but it’s hard to live with that.  I would rather be aggressive and make mistakes that way.

If you know your short game and putting is good enough, you dare to take on more pins and you can be more aggressive.  But for me to play defense and try to protect something is just not me.  It’s hard for me to sleep at night if I feel I played that way.

I’m just now trying to stick more to what I know and what I trust.  If you pull the wrong club and try to be too aggressive, so what.  You just try to get up and down.

Just feeling really good.  The things I’ve been working on over the winter are kind of all falling together.  Just, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, golf is a weird sport.  Sometimes you feel on top of world and the next day you don’t know how to hit the ball.  Just appreciate all the good days.

Having beaten Lizette Salas in a playoff last week adding to her successful playoff record, why does she think that she excels at them?

I mean playoff is — you’ve just got to keep the engine going.

I think to start off when I came out on tour, and especially in Europe when I made it to a playoff, I was just happy enough to be there.  You know, win or lose, you were still top two.

I don’t really think like that anymore.  Now it’s when you get to the playoff you can be a bit more aggressive.  It’s really similar to match play.

But I think I feel pretty comfortable.  I trust my game and I kind of trust that what I have, that it’s good enough.  I think that’s pretty much it.  That’s pretty much how I play match play, and that’s probably why I love to play the Solheims.  It’s all or nothing.

In response to a question about a hard par-3 in Arkansas that was going to be shortened for this year’s tournament in a couple of weeks, she segued off to course setups:

In general, I think the LPGA should make the par‑3s and 4s tougher and ease up on the par 5s.  You look at Augusta coming down the stretch.  Why is it so exciting?  13, 15.  The guys are hitting irons into the greens.  It can really make a difference.  You can make a move with a three or you can really make a disaster out of it or make a six or seven.

I think that’s the excitement that the fans want to see.  It’s more fun for us as well.

Anybody looking at Suzann can see that she’s extremely fit and, as with everything in the professional game, even more so in person. So what is her take on the importance of fitness to her game?

Well, I think in general golf has changed a lot over the last 16 years.  I think you look at most of the top golfers now as athletes, not just as golfers.  I think the entire attitude, commitment from every player has changed.  Look at all the young guns coming up on the men’s and women’s side.  It’s a complete package.

Being a part of the Nike team you really feel like an athlete alongside all the other sports and great athletes.  Doesn’t matter what sport.  So I think it’s a change for the better.  I don’t know.  I look at myself as an athlete.  I work hard; I train hard.

Fitness is just a part of what I do, but I also love to do it.  It’s not just I do it because someone told me to do it.  I think when you’re fit, first of all, you feel strong, you’re mentally strong, and you recover faster, especially traveling all the different time zones.  It’s injury preventing most importantly probably, and also sets off a good technique.

There are so many benefits from being in good shape and being healthy that I don’t know why you wouldn’t go that route.

The race for World No. 1 has turned into a real horse race with the honor changing hands with some regularity once Yani Tseng came back to the field at the beginning of the year. Is that chase something Suzann regards as fun?

Not really.  I just wish I was there and way ahead of everyone else.  (Laughter.)

No, I mean, obviously like I say week in and week out:  The depth in women’s golf is very deep at the moment.  We have a lot of great players from around the world, and I think that’s one of our strong sides, to represent pretty much the world out here [on the LPGA Tour].

It’s nice to see different names up there week in and week out.  Not to take anything away from Annika [Sorenstam] and Webby [Karrie Webb] and Se Ri [Pak] when they were fighting it out, but there are a lot more names now who can win, which makes it more exciting when you do win.

You have to bring your A game to the course every single day.  At Kraft I played three great rounds and one sloppy round.  That’s not going to get the job done.

So just trying to stay on top of everything.  There is only so much you can control.  What I’m trying to do is make my practice and training as hard as I can so I can ease up when I go and play and just enjoy it. So the practice is the hardest thing, so when I tee it up I can just relax.

There has been an infusion of fresh young talent on the LPGA Tour. What would she say the difference is between her generation and this new one?

Well, I just think you look at golf, you look at tennis, you look at all these other sports, the kids coming out, they’re younger and better at a younger age.  I don’t know if it’s the training regime or whatever they do growing up and how hard they practice, but if you look at all the young girls coming out, they’re all pretty fit, tall, and hit it a mile.  They’re fearless.  They haven’t been out here enough to know the humps out here.

But it’s fun to see.  There is a lot of great young American players coming up and great personalities as well.  I think we’re in very good shape for the future to come.

At which point the moderator checked to see if there were any more questions. And when there weren’t, she thanked Suzann, “A very thoughtful interview.  We appreciate that.”

There you go.  That’s what you get with age.

Said no doubt with a hint of smile. It’s part of the new Suzann Pettersen who refreshingly lets her hair down a little more in public as I highlighted in, “Suzann Pettersen: The Ice Queen Has Melted a Little.”

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