Date: February 13, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Pettersen is a-hunting

Suzann Pettersen is nothing if not confident. She does not compare herself to women, she says, because her game is closer to the men. A reporter asked her about her 280-metre drive on the 13th hole today, and she quipped back: “Have you not seen my guns? That (gymwork) is all I&aposve been doing this off-season. That&aposs nothing.&apos&apos The Norwegian is already No. 2 in the world after a cyclonic 2013 season both in America and Europe, and if she wins the ISPS Handa Women&aposs Australian Open at Victoria this week, she will claim top spot in the rankings for the first time. In her first tournament of the new season, she seems to have brought a hunter&aposs instinct and some extra power from an off-season in the gym. Pettersen hit 15 greens and rammed home nine birdies yesterday in her opening-round 66, six-under-par, seizing upon the pristine conditions and taking the lead in the $1.2 million tournament. She birdied the last three holes of the day, the seventh, eighth and ninth on the course, to overtake American Jaclyn Sweeney and South Korea&aposs Hee Young Park, who are closest at five-under. Late in the day American Jessica Korda joined that pair at five-under in second place. After her brilliant round, Pettersen she felt she could have gone lower. “I feel like I left a lot of shots out there,&apos&apos she said. “I mean I three putted a couple of greens, stupid three-putts really. It was a little bit of a mixture but 66 opening round, I&aposm very happy.&apos&apos The Norwegian is a statuesque figure on the course and she said today that it was the men who she was trying to imitate. “I don&apost really measure myself up against other players, especially my competitors. I measure my game, always have, towards the guys. I think I have the most to learn from them.&apos&apos Her clubhead speed now exceeds 160km/h (measured at 102 miles per hour), which is certainly in the domain of male professionals. “Well I think overall, I think the guys are more creative with the golf ball, they hit more shots, which I&aposve always — that&aposs kind of how I play. I don&apost just kind of hit a straight shot, I usually work the ball towards certain pins and I just feel like I learn a lot from watching the best male golfers play, even just watching them on telly, you can see kind of how they&aposre using their different shot making to attack certain pins. You see some girls I think do that, but not as many as on the guys and I&aposve been fortunate enough to play and practice with the best guys in the world and learn a lot.&apos&apos Pettersen will overtake Inbee Park of South Korea to be No. 1 for the first time if she finished outright second or wins this week. Park is not playing this week and the door is open, to be sure. The Open started under a smoke-haze and in humid conditions but with no wind. Pettersen was the best of the favorites, but New Zealander wunderkind Lydia Ko also rallied later in her round to card a 68 to be just two from the lead. Australia&aposs Sarah Jane Smith also had a 68 that was bogey-free, making her the equal-best of her compatriots, along with 17-year-old amateur Minjee Lee from Perth, runner-up in Queensland last weekend, who began nicely. Veteran Karrie Webb began with a one-under-par 71, the same score as world No. 3 Stacy Lewis of the United States. Webb played much better than last week at Royal Pines, overcoming a slightly off-putting start to the day on the 10th tee. As she was standing over the golf ball with driver in hand, rules official John Hopkins stepped forward and told her: “Karrie, you&aposre fractionally in front of the (tee) marker.&apos&apos Webb re-teed her ball a few centimetres back, avoiding a potential two-shot penalty and another controversy to go with her disqualification for signing an incorrect card at Royal Pines last weekend. Hopkins, who was brave to speak up, happens also to be chairman of Golf Australia and had played with Webb in the pro-am on Wednesday. “John Hopkins thought that my ball was ahead of the tee markers, which no one else in my group did, but as long as he did,&apos&apos said Webb afterward. “As long as he felt useful, I guess that&aposs a good thing.&apos&apos