Suzann Pettersen came from nine shots back entering Sunday’s final round of the LPGA Tour’s Safeway Classic to beat Na Yeon Choi in a sudden-death playoff to win her eighth tour event and second of the year. Despite her improbable victory, golf was secondary to the 30-year-old Norwegian star.
“I don’t think we can take anymore back home,” Pettersen told reporters Sunday night. “It’s been a brutal summer.”
Pettersen, who played the Evian Masters in grief over the bombing and mass shootings that killed 77 people in her hometown of Oslo in July, mourned the loss of a close friend who died last week in a skydiving accident. She dedicated Sunday’s trophy to the memory of 29-year-old Annan Henneie, who was survived by his wife and 10-day-old son
“This last incident was just the top of the ‑‑ just, I don’t know….It’s been very, very tough,” Pettersen said. “All I can think of is my love and my hugs go to his family and his wife and his little son. It’s just very, very sad.”
But Pettersen, who conceded she did not have a great feel to her game, had a job to do. “I dug deep, and grind, and made a few putts on the back nine,” she said.
Grinder. Grind, she did. Entering the final round at 1-over, Pettersen relied on her putter to help her mount her comeback. With five birdies and an eagle-3 on the par-5 10th on the Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, she clinched her victory with a short putt for par on the first playoff hole.
“I definitely didn’t think I was going to sit here when I started the day warming up,” Pettersen said about capturing her second straight victory after winning the Ladies Irish Open two weeks ago. “I did not anticipate this, but I’ll take it.”
After shooting a 3-over 74 on Saturday, Pettersen believed she was too far back to make a run at the Safeway title. So she set out with one goal: move up in the world rankings. Her caddie provided the incentive by telling her a low round could bump her up to No. 2 behind Yani Tseng.
“Sometimes you just need a few triggers like that to get an extra focus and make you wanting it because you’re kind of out of the hunt, you feel like,” said Pettersen, whose final-round 64 and playoff magic bumped her up to the second spot in Monday’s rankings.
Tseng, who finished tied for 13th, seven shots back of Pettersen and Choi’s 6-under, may be looking over her shoulder today because Pettersen said she was not satisfied with the “We Try Harder” spot.
Chasing Yani. “No. 2 ranking doesn’t really mean much to me,” Pettersen said. “I’m trying to chase down Yani. To [do that], you’ve got to win tournaments. I went one step in the right direction.”
Choi, for her part, began the day three strokes ahead of reigning Kraft Nabisco champ Stacy Lewis. A 3-over 39 on the front nine set her back but she was able to take a one-shot lead to the 18th hole. A missed par putt guaranteed a playoff with the surging Pettersen and an approach shot into the hazard on the same hole in overtime assured Pettersen’s win.