Back injury prompts Pettersen to skip Kraft

Suzann Pettersen

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Suzann Pettersen walked into the fitness trailer Monday afternoon at Mission Hills with a Norwegian film crew recording her every move. It could be a short documentary.

Pettersen confirmed Tuesday morning that she will miss the LPGA's first major tournament of the season, this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, because of a bulging disk.

"It's so unfortunate that I can't compete this week," Pettersen said in a statement released through the LPGA. "I dearly love this event and would do anything to play. At this point, I just need to be smart and not make a bad situation worse."

Pettersen is undergoing treatment in an effort to get back to competition as soon as possible, according to the LPGA.

Her swing coach, David Leadbetter, told Golfweek on Monday that her status was in doubt because of the injury.

A message left with Pettersen through her manager, Geir-Olav Killingstad, was not immediately returned. The Kraft Nabisco begins Thursday at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.

Pettersen, ranked No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, felt a sharp pain in her back early last week at the Kia Classic and withdrew from the event. Over the weekend, Leadbetter connected her with Tom Boers, Fred Couples’ longtime back therapist, and he didn’t deliver good news.

“He said her back is in such bad shape he doesn’t even want her to fly,” Leadbetter said.

Pettersen, whose 14 LPGA victories include two major championships, owns five top-5 finishes at the Kraft, including runners-up showings in 2007, '08 and '10. Leadbetter said she had high hopes for this year’s event.

“You know how she works out, she’s so super fit,” he said. “You do that to protect yourself from this sort of stuff. Sometimes you wonder, well, maybe she’s working out too hard.”

Pettersen, 32, withdrew from the season-opening event in the Bahamas with a shoulder injury. Back problems, however, are nothing new for Pettersen.

In 2005, debilitating back pain left her out of commission for eight months. The pain was so bad that she crawled around on her hands and knees. Doctors couldn’t guarantee that she would play again.

Pettersen, of course, proved them wrong, returning to competition with a full stop at the top of her swing to keep her back from collapsing. She played that way for 18 months.

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