Reinvigorated Pettersen primed for 2010

Suzann Pettersen works out in her Orlando, Fla., area house.

Suzann Pettersen works out in her Orlando, Fla., area house.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Christmas tree is still up at Suzann Pettersen’s house, though the limbs are bare.

“The guy hasn’t come to take care of that yet,” she said Feb. 2, emerging from her basement gym.

No one actually enjoys taking down Christmas decorations. So when you’re the No. 3 women’s player in the world, you have the option to pay people to make your house look like a Pottery Barn catalog. Pettersen doesn’t have time to piddle with holiday trim. 

As soon as the clock struck 2010, she began her two-a-day gym sessions and short-game boot camp. 

The ultra-fit Norweigian is practically jumping out of her Nikes she’s so amped for the season to begin. Like many LPGA players, she has tweaked her offseason regimen as well as her support team. She’s focused, relaxed and confident that her preparations have never been better.

“This offseason, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time on areas that I really need to improve, rather than spend so much time and energy trying to get the technique perfect,” she said.

Pettersen’s breakout year came in 2007, when she won five tournaments and finished second on the money list. With an incredible intensity and physique, it seemed Pettersen could run circles around many of her peers. In 2008, however, she made changes in practically every area of her game. The result? She was winless that season.

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Last year, she won the Canadian Open, a week after losing in a playoff at the Safeway Classic. A foot injury kept her on the sidelines during fall’s Asian swing, and she finished fifth on the money list.

We’ve come to expect more from Pettersen. A one-win season is mediocre for a player of her talent. Perhaps the intensity that fuels her perfectionism actually has held her back these last couple of seasons. It’s not easy to follow up a five-win season, making the recent feats of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa all the more impressive. 

In her home gym, Pettersen made a compelling case for a strong upcoming season. Her trainer, Dave Herman, said she has taken her fitness – particularly her deep core strength – to another level. She’s generating even more speed (think Tiger, not Bolt).

“It’s ridiculous,” Herman said. Her clubhead speed clocks in at about 99 mph.

Speaking of Woods, there’s a “Just Do It” poster, complete with the classic Tiger fist pump, hanging on Pettersen’s gym wall. The two Nike athletes have been known to send each other an occasional text message. An encouraging note from Woods helped spur Pettersen to victory in Canada last summer. When asked if they’d exchanged any texts lately, Pettersen neither would confirm nor deny.

This time of year, she spends up to three hours per day stretching, strengthening and riding a stationary bike. 

“If I want (my body) really fresh, I ease up,” she said. “Sometimes I want to (go hard and) break everything down, then give it a couple of days’ rest. That’s the benefit of being fit and knowing what your body needs. You can really control the state of your body.”

Last week Pettersen flew her caddie David Brooker, down to Orlando to bring him up to speed on her progress. “Team David” includes Herman, Brooker and instructor David Leadbetter. Brooker spent the last several years with Lorena Ochoa before they parted ways midway through 2009. He picked up Pettersen’s bag in July.

Leadbetter has been with Pettersen since summer 2008. She now feels she’s in maintenance mode with her technique. This mindset has enabled her to focus more on other areas of her game – i.e., putting – that can lower her scoring average. Pettersen generally spends no more than 90 minutes on the range before going to play 18 holes, a routine that has left her mentally refreshed.

“If I putt well, I should win more tournaments,” she said. “That’s just a straight fact.”

The marriage between the speed she is building with Herman and the technique she’s learning from Leadbetter is starting to click.

“I’m getting the max out of my technical potential, which is nice,” she said.

Pettersen has done mental work with Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott the past several years but is taking a break. Her conversations with them are on hold as she tries to implement what she has learned on her own. 

Also, after nine years with IMG, Pettersen decided to make a change in management companies. She recently signed with Wasserman, but said she still will consider longtime Norweigian manager Jan Ove Nystuen her “right hand.”

“I feel like I’m in very good hands with a company that’s up and coming (and) has a lot of passion,” said Pettersen, who joins Vicky Hurst in Wasserman’s lean LPGA stable. “They want to put in a lot of hard work.”

Pettersen spent only one week in Norway during the offseason. She also joined her family for eight days of skiing in Colorado before returning to Orlando. 

Construction is set to begin this week on her lakefront home. Walls will be torn down to make room for a new office and bedroom.

Pettersen has made a habit of tearing things down, only to build them back stronger than before. 

It seems she can hire someone to do everything but win.

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