PINEHURST, N.C. – Race horse down.
Workout wizard Suzann Pettersen, who has been to women’s golf training what Tiger Woods has been to men’s golf training, laughed when asked about her exercise schedule in the gym.
“Well, considering that two and a half months ago I couldn’t stand up,” she replied, “I feel pretty good. My workouts haven’t been very tough (or nonexistent), and it makes me feel lazy. At the same time, though, it fits my goal.”
Pettersen and Woods, both thoroughbreds when it comes to exercise, helped inspire touring professionals and amateurs alike to pursue vigorous workout routines.
The great irony, of course, is that both Pettersen and Woods are struggling with back issues. Woods had back surgery on March 31 and only recently has begun to hit full golf shots. He missed the Masters and U.S. Open. Pettersen felt a sharp pain in her back in March, withdrew from the Kia Classic and then skipped the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women’s major championship of the year.
Thanks to rest and rehabilitation, Pettersen is in the field for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. She tied for 8th with a 14-under-par performance in the Manulife Financial Classic, played June 5-8.
However, Pettersen’s daily life has changed. After dealing with the uncertainties for back pain, she recounted her lineup of goals from the last three months.
“The first priority was to be pain free,” she said. “The second was to move around like a normal human being. Then I wanted to come back and play and compete, which was very important to me. I warmed up, and I played. That’s how I did it. There was not much practice at all, which is probably a good thing for me. I’m starting to feel better. I can start adding things to my schedule.”
For a woman known for her intense physical workouts and lengthy golf practice sessions, this slowed-down schedule is a complete changeover.
Back pain can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. At least one medical group, the Laser Spine Institute, focuses heavily on golfers and uses Natalie Gulbis and Peter Jacobsen as representatives (both had LSI back surgery).
Pettersen, who has not had surgery, is a six-year member of the Nike touring staff, and generally she uses the same 14-club configuration regardless of the course:
DRIVER: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 (10 degrees) with Fujikura Motore Speeder 6.3 VC Tour Spec shaft;
FAIRWAY WOODS: Nike VRS Covert (15 degrees) with Fujikura Motore Speedeer 6.3 VC Tour Spec shaft;
HYBRID: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 (18 degrees) with Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana D+ 92 Hybrid shaft;
IRONS: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Forged (4- and 5-irons); Nike VR Pro Combo (6-iron through pitching wedge); all with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour shafts;
WEDGES: Nike VR Pro (48 degrees); Nike VR Forged (52 and 59 degrees); all with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour shafts;
PUTTER: Nike Method Core 3i;
GOLF BALL: Nike 2014 RZN Black.
Pettersen has experimented with all the Nike RZN balls, particularly the Platinum model, but settled on the Black model. She has worked extensively with Nike golf ball engineer Rock Ishii to find the right ball, calling Ishii “a genius at what he does.”
For the U.S. Women’s Open, she is using new wedges (same models and lofts, with fresh grooves). To deal with conditions at Pinehurst, she revealed that some of the bounce on each wedge has been reduced by grinding.
“I’m anxious to play,” she said.
Spoken like a thoroughbred.