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Petterson has major focus

The Baltimore Sun

The memory of the back nine at Mission Hills Country Club in the final round of this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship no longer is lodged in Suzann Pettersen's head, if it was ever stuck there in the first place.

"I forgot about that a long time ago," Pettersen said yesterday.

Forgot about blowing a four-stroke lead with five holes to play and with it, a chance for her first major championship. Forgot about Morgan Pressel taking home the trophy, and the check, that seemingly had Pettersen's name on them.

Regardless of whether Pettersen has really put that April Fool's Day disaster in the California desert behind her, redemption might only be a couple of days away.

After shooting a 5-under-par 67 yesterday in the second round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship for a two-round total of 8-under-par 136, Pettersen will take a one-stroke lead into today's third round at Bulle Rock.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb of Australia, last year's runner-up, is the closest in pursuit of the 26-year-old Norwegian, who is one of the LPGA's longest hitters. Brittany Lincicome and 2005 U.S. Women's Open champion Birdie Kim of South Korea are two strokes behind.

In only her second tournament since being sidelined for nearly two months with a back and neck injury, three-time champion Annika Sorenstam is at 5-under-par 139. Sorenstam is tied with Pressel, Paula Creamer and Meena Lee of South Korea.

"I'm a competitor and I might be a little injured physically, but let me tell you, mentally I'm not," said Sorenstam, 36. "I'm probably strong as ever. So that's really what keeps me going."

A week after withdrawing from Sorenstam's tournament because of a reported wrist injury while shooting 14-over par in 16 holes, Michelle Wie barely made the cut and is at 3-over par 147.

"I think that deep in my soul, I really wanted to win this week," said Wie, 17, who shot a 2-over 74 yesterday. "But realistically, I just wanted to show myself that I'm better."

Pettersen found her own dose of redemption when she won last month's Michelob ULTRA Open in Williamsburg, Va., considered by most on the LPGA Tour to be the fifth major of women's golf.

"I felt like I played great all year and I've been in contention enough that when I finally was there, I was calm enough and I felt like I could pull it off," Pettersen said. "It just felt like I was ready."

Is she ready to win a major?

"I don't look at it that way," said Pettersen, who made three straight birdies yesterday starting on the par-5 15th to build her lead. "To be in contention, if it's a major or not, it's no different. For me, it's to win tournaments."

Not that Pettersen immediately dismissed what happened in the season's first major.

The tape of the final round was analyzed by her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, as well as her mental coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. Gilchrist used to work with Michelle Wie, while Nilsson is Sorenstam's longtime coach.

"Kraft was well evaluated," said Pettersen, who wound up losing by one to Pressel. "For me it was more like, what can I do different? I didn't look at it as a collapse."

But Pettersen admitted that she now understands what happened in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"I can easily feel how I felt the last couple of holes coming down the stretch," said Pettersen, who made three bogeys and a double bogey in the last five holes and missed a chance for a birdie to force a playoff on the par-5 18th. 'It was very tense."

It was hot yesterday in Havre de Grace. A steambath in the morning, the wide-open course turned into a cauldron by early afternoon, with temperatures soaring into the high 90s.

"I tend to like playing in hot weather rather than cold weather," Webb said. "My body appreciates it."

It's also obvious that Webb enjoys playing at Bulle Rock. It's where she qualified for the Hall of Fame two years ago and where she nearly won last year, losing to newly minted Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak on the first playoff hole.

Webb doesn't feel she is owed anything after losing to Pak on a monstrous shot the South Korean nearly holed out from 201 yards away with a 4-iron before making birdie.

"I guess you can never really think of it how the tournament is going to end on Friday afternoon," said Webb, 32, who has won seven majors and 35 LPGA events overall. "But I hope I would play well enough this weekend to give myself that sort of opportunity again."

Today she will be paired with Pettersen, a player who has seemingly put a past that included a back injury and more than a few ill-tempered moments behind her to emerge as one of the LPGA's up-and-coming stars.

"Suzann has always had more talent in her little finger than a lot of people out here," Webb said. "It's just a matter of time before she started playing the way she is."

LPGA at a glance


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