CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Wearing a blue top and a grey skirt – an outfit that would have been inappropriate for the Calgary cold a week ago, but perfect for the late-summer heat of Southwestern Ontario – defending Manulife LPGA Classic champion Suzann Pettersen walked around Whistle Bear Golf Club with a confident look and a determined attitude.
“I remember every hole like it was yesterday,” she said Tuesday. “It's not a course I feel like I have to go out and grind to get to know. I feel like I know the lines. I feel like I had a good feel for the greens. I think this week’s key is to try and go out and play aggressive. It sets up for it, and you have some reachable par-5s. Some of the par-4s, they move around a little bit to kind of make more exciting. It should be a good week ahead.”
Pettersen, who hasn’t had a win this year but has enjoyed a very steady season otherwise with seven top-15 finishes, admits her game turned around during the Olympics.
“It's taken a while for me to wake up. But I feel like I'm swinging the best I've done all year. My putting is getting better. I switched to old-style putter. So I feel like I'm back to some good grooves on the putting,” she explained. “The Olympics is kind of where my body showed up and was excited to play. So it's always nice when you have the desire of wanting to play well and feeling good and feeling good about your game as well.”
The 18th-ranked golfer in the world wasn’t overwhelmed at seeing other athletes in Rio, but recalls standing next to Usain Bolt as he was warming up, and says that was definitely a highlight.
“I watched Bolt on the eve of his 100-meter final. To stand on the warm-up track, literally right on the warm-up track right next to him was quite amazing and more fun than watching him actually run the actual race because you get so close,” she said. “To see how they prepare and how they warm up and how they get ready is quite cool.”
In 2015 at Whistle Bear, Pettersen managed to hold off a charging Brittany Lang – who fired a 7-under-par 65 in last year’s final round – by birding two of her final three holes. She admits it’ll take another strong, four-round performance to emerge victorious.
“It's always great to come back to places you've done well on. I played really good here last year, had a nice battle coming down the stretch, but I like the course,” she explained. “The course is in great shape again this year. I’m excited to get started.”
Pettersen, who has been a Nike-sponsored athlete for the past eight years, was shocked when the announcement came that it would not be producing golf clubs starting next year. She feels that the current batch of equipment is the best the Swoosh-brand has produced in the last while, so she’s going wait until the off-season before she starts testing equipment and golf balls.
“Nike is what I consider a family of mine. They have been supportive of me and I've been supportive of them. I had no plans in my head to change any equipment anytime soon, so I won't be rushing into looking into stuff, but obviously you want to be able to play the best equipment out there,” she stated. “I've been with Nike for eight years and I've never really had my eyes anywhere else. So I don't really know what's out there. So just going to try and take time to possibly look at other stuff. But like I said, no rush.”
Next year is also the Solheim Cup, and although she was embroiled in a controversy the last time around – and Team USA won 14.5-13.5 thanks to a final-day charge – she’s already excited for 2017.
“I feel like we are kind of on a little bit of a break this year. Usually that’s how it feels and then the actual year it kind of builds up and tension it tightens up the closer you get,” she said. “But, yeah, I'm excited to play another Solheim back on U. S. soil in a little bit over a year.”
In the interim, she’ll be watching Team Europe at the Ryder Cup. With a smile, her pick shouldn’t come as a surprise
“It'll be fun to watch the men play the Ryder Cup and battle it out. It's always close calls on who is going to win, but I think Europe has a strong chance with a lot of young players this year,” she stated.
Pettersen was able to return to Oslo, Norway – her hometown – for a little while this summer and is looking forward to returning again next week before the Evian Championship.
But for now, she returns to a place where she feels comfortable, having been the lone person to capture the Canadian Double (having won the CP Canadian Women’s Open in 2009 as well as last year’s Manulife LPGA Classic)
“I feel the same way about Canada as I do with Asia. It's been quite good to me overall these years. I've played a lot of good golf here,” she explained. “I don't mind coming back to a course where you've won, obviously.”