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Pettersen earns her first LPGA Tour victory
Suzann Pettersen had played well for three days, just as she's played well for most of 2007. But going into Sunday's final round of the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, even she didn't believe she would be able to make a climb up the leaderboard. Not in this tournament, which saw the River Course record of 63 tied twice in three days. Not with those South Korean birdie machines -- Jee Young Lee and Sarah Lee -- ahead of her.
But on a windy day that only she seemed equipped to handle, Pettersen came from four shots back to win on the third playoff hole. Her tap-in for par at No. 18 came right after Jee Young Lee missed from 2 feet, an anticlimactic finish to an interesting final round.
"It feels special, I must say," said Pettersen, a 26-year-old Norwegian, of her first win on the LPGA Tour. "I didn't expect to win. After yesterday, I felt, OK, I'm four shots back. I just want to go out and post a number. That was my plan. So when I finished on 18, I felt at least I had posted a number."
Her number for the day was 3 under, making her the only player among the final 24 to tee off Sunday who broke par. And her number for the tournament was 10 under (66-72-68-68--274), which thanks to Lee's 1-over day resulted in a trip to No. 18 for a playoff.
Pettersen had a chance to end it on the second playoff hole, but her 10-footer for birdie just missed. She tapped in for par, and Lee did the same -- though she had to laugh after it rattled in. Then came the third playoff hole, right back to the tee on 18. Each was on the green in two, and each had makeable birdie chances.
Neither had birdied the 18th this week -- six pars each. But Lee was 12 feet from the pin.
"I told my caddie," Pettersen said, "she's going to make this."
She didn't, pushing it to the right. Incredibly, she blew the 2-footer, which she appeared to rush.
"Kind of disappointing," Lee said through an interpreter. "I over-putted."
Pettersen, who had left a 15-foot putt for birdie about a foot short, didn't. Tour vet Lorie Kane ran onto the green and doused her with a couple of Michelobs.
"It doesn't get much better than this," Pettersen said.
Pettersen takes home the $330,000 winner's check, the most lucrative of her five-year LPGA career. And since the Michelob was one of the 10 Winner Events for the LPGA Playoffs, she became the third automatic qualifier for the ADT Championship in November.
"That's pretty cool," she said.
Pettersen came into the week on a nice roll with four straight finishes of 13th or better. But she was haunted by her monumental collapse -- on April Fool's Day, no less -- at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Leading by three shots with four holes remaining, she went bogey, double-bogey, bogey, to fall out of the lead.
Sure, she thought about that a little Sunday. But in a good way.
"The last couple of holes at Nabisco were a bit tense, and when I look back, you waste energy here and there when the shots don't come out as you (want)," Pettersen said. "Today, I just thought there was no point in wasting energy. You use it to your advantage and be calm and committed.
"Even in the playoff, I don't think my heart rate was much more than when I played the regular 18 holes. It could possibly be the experience I had a month ago."
And now Lee will have to overcome that awful feeling. Following her third-round 63, which tied the course record, Lee had a three-shot lead at one point Sunday. Pettersen pulled into a tie at 10 under when she birdied No. 11, and Lee kept wasting her chances. At both No. 16 and 17, she left birdie putts just inches short.
In the end, Pettersen was too good. Of the 77 players who made the cut, she was the only one who played a bogey-free round on Sunday.
"It's a huge step to win your first one," she said. "A lot of players say that's the most difficult one. I mean, you grind, you grind, you grind ... it feels really good."