Pettersen roars from nine shots down to win Safeway Classic in playoff

Suzann Pettersen
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Suzann Pettersen's eighth career victory jumped her up to No. 2 in the women's world rankings behind Yani Tseng.
By
Anne M. Peterson
Associated Press

Series: LPGA Tour

When Suzann Pettersen started the day nine strokes behind leader Na Yeon Choi at the LPGA Safeway Classic, a victory was the furthest thing from her mind.

She was thinking she'd finish the tournament west of Portland, then jump on the flight for the CN Canadian Women's Open in Mirabel, Quebec.

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But caddie Dave Brooker gave her pause when she was on the driving range Sunday morning.

Brooker suggested she could take the No. 2 spot in the world rankings with a low round.

"Sometimes you just need a few triggers like that to get an extra focus and make you want it, because you're kind of out of the hunt, you feel like," she said.

Pettersen took the hint and rallied to win Sunday, overcoming the big deficit with a 7-under 64 and beating Na Yeon Choi with a par on the first hole of a playoff at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

In the playoff, Choi's second shot on the par-4 18th went into the water to the right of the green, and she missed a putt for bogey before Pettersen sank the winner.

Pettersen, coming off a victory Aug. 7 in the European Tour's Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle, won her second LPGA Tour title of the year and eighth overall. The Norwegian star jumped to No. 2 in the world rankings behind Yani Tseng.

"The No. 2 ranking doesn't really mean much to me. I'm trying to chase down Yani," Pettersen said. "To chase her down, you're going to have to win tournaments. I went one step in the right direction."

Choi finished with a 73 to match Pettersen at 6 under on the Ghost Creek Course.

Choi, from South Korea, birdied the par-4 17th to take a one-stroke lead, but dropped a shot after leaving a chip well short on the final hole to force the playoff.

"I just hit it and missed the shot, and it's my fault," she said about the final hole of the day. "I think I still got great experience. Like if next time I'm in the same situation, I'll be better than the other player, right?"

Christina Kim shot a 78 to finish a dismal 11 over, but it was just enough to keep her in the 10th spot in the points standings for the U.S. Solheim Cup team for the matches against Europe in late in September at Killeen Castle. Rosie Jones then completed the 12-player team by adding Vicky Hurst and Ryann O'Toole as captain's picks.

Pettersen, also the Sybase Match Play winner in May in New Jersey, locked up a spot on the European Solheim Cup team with her victory in Ireland. The European team will be finalized after the world rankings are updated Aug. 29.

Pettersen eagled the par-5 10th hole Sunday to help propel her into the lead.

"It was like 2 inches short," Pettersen joked about her eagle shot -- which was nearly a double eagle. "It was as close as you can get, I guess."

But Pettersen's recent success has been bittersweet. Recently she lost a dear family friend in a skydiving accident. And she was still reeling from the July 22 attacks in her homeland that left 77 dead. Anders Behring Breivik has admitted detonating a bomb that killed eight people in central Oslo and fatally shooting 69 others at an island youth camp.

"It makes you realize life's not all about golf," she said. "It makes you put things in perspective."

Pettersen was playing at the Evian Masters when the attack occurred. She rushed home to grieve with her countrymen after the tournament. She played in the Women's British Open before returning home again.

In 2009, Pettersen came close to winning at Pumpkin Ridge, but settled for second after M.J. Hur birdied the second hole of a playoff.

Hee Young Park, still looking for her first tour win, shot a 67 Sunday to finish third at 5 under.

Paula Creamer had a 68 to finish another stroke back. The fan favorite had one of the largest galleries of the day, including a pink-clad admirer who carried a sign reading "Go Paula, Cream the Field."

Choi tied for second last year, two strokes behind Ai Miyazato.

Miyazato had a final round 68 to finish this weekend at 1 under, while Michelle Wie shot a 75 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 9 over.