Pettersen content playing 3rd fiddle

June 04, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Most of the attention going into this week's McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace has centered on the budding, if probably brief, rivalry between the world's top two female players.

Suzann Pettersen, third behind Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam in the rankings, doesn't mind. The 27-year-old from Norway will carry a title into tomorrow's opening round that neither Ochoa nor Sorenstam can claim: defending champion.

"I really don't pay attention to that," Pettersen said yesterday about the lack of attention for herself and the rest of the LPGA Tour in the wake of Ochoa's continued dominance and Sorenstam's recent retirement announcement after her win in Williamsburg, Va., last month.

Pettersen, whose one-shot victory a year ago at Bulle Rock was her first win in a major and helped erase the bitter memories of blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to play in last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship, is looking for her first LPGA Tour win this year.

After winning five times last year, including three events in October, Pettersen's best finish on tour this year has been a couple of seconds, including another at the Kraft Nabisco. She recently won the Swiss Open on the women's European Tour.

"If I could be a little more consistent on the greens, that would help me a lot," said Pettersen, who is tied for second in average putts per green on the LPGA Tour. "I'm much more consistent this year than I was last year, so just be patient."

Pettersen changed caddies earlier this year, dropping relative newcomer James Walton for veteran LPGA Tour caddie Greg Johnston.

"It's nice to have a guy like him on the bag, very calm," said Pettersen, who had a reputation for getting upset on the course. "He knows his stuff. He's always there. If you pop the question, he will be there. He's always prepared."

Ochoa returns

Ochoa, who withdrew from last week's tour stop outside Charleston, S.C., and returned home to Mexico after learning that her uncle had suffered a stroke, arrived at Bulle Rock to play nine holes Monday afternoon and then played in yesterday's pro-am.

Ochoa got home after her uncle, Pedro Ochoa, who was also diagnosed with leukemia, died last Wednesday. Aside from trying to win her second major this year and third straight overall, Ochoa said part of the motivation to win this week was "to give them [her family] some joy on Sunday."

Major change

Players often change caddies, but how many do it on the eve of a major championship?

That's exactly what Na On Min of South Korea did, letting go of veteran caddie Dana Derouaux after last week's Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. It came after Min, who finished 40th on the money list as a 19-year-old rookie a year ago, missed the cut for the fifth time this year.

Min, who finished third in the LPGA Championship last year after holding a one-shot lead through 54 holes, has yet to name a replacement. Derouaux, whose three decades on the tour include long stints for former stars Jan Stephenson and Donna Caponi, was at Bulle Rock looking to be hired by another player.

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