ANA Inspiration: Pernilla Lindberg out to prove win was no fluke

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

ANA Inspiration: Pernilla Lindberg out to prove win was no fluke

LPGA Tour

ANA Inspiration: Pernilla Lindberg out to prove win was no fluke

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Pernilla Lindberg is one of those naturally happy people. Ask anyone who knows her.

“One thing I can tell you, I’ve known Pernilla, she’s been out on the tour for 10 years now, and I’ve known her almost that whole time, since she was a rookie or thereabouts,” said Chris Garrett, the first-year tournament director of the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration. “And I’ve never seen Pernilla without a huge smile on her face. So we are proud to have her as our defending champion here.”

Lindberg’s victory in the 2018 ANA inspiration – her first win on either the LPGA or the Ladies European Tour – amped up the wattage of that perpetual smile.

“If you ask my friends or family, they will say I am a very happy person whose smile easily comes to me,” said Lindberg, who returns to the desert this week to defend her ANA Inspiration championship. “But that week, just all the hard work that I put in for so long, it just kind of all came together, and the way I had to grind it out and obviously the playoff over two days, that kind of made it extra special, extra joyful.”

Lindberg’s win in the LPGA’s first major championship of the season was more than just unexpected, since Lindberg has had a solid career on tour but never won.

The Swedish star, who played her college golf at Oklahoma State, survived an eight-hole playoff with LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park that spanned two days, the longest playoff in the 47-year history of the event at Mission Hills Country Club.

As Lindberg returns to the desert in defense of the ANA Inspiration title, she says one of the keys to her 2018 victory was trying to treat the week as normally as possible, staying away from thoughts of the tournament while not at the course. That included a popular activity for desert visitors, a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

“I had been up there in the past, one of the first few years that I played here,” said Lindberg, who had her parents from Sweden with her in the desert to watch her play in the major championship. “My parents had never been up, even though they had been to this event before. So we took them up there Friday evening and then had a nice dinner down in Palm Springs that evening.”

That laid-back, almost everyday approach to the week included breakfast at the same spot each morning with her parents and her caddie/fiancée (now her husband). It provided a calmness and normalcy for what turned into the greatest week of her professional golf career.

“That week I managed to really, as soon as I left the golf course, on purpose, stayed off my phone more than I normally would because it is hard leading wire to wire,” Lindberg said. “So I just kind of tried to spend time with my parents and my fiancée at the time, now my husband. Just tried to stick to our normal routines off the course and obviously I had quite a few late tee times on the weekend. So I had time to kill.”

Lindberg looks back on the victory as not just a magical moment, but as a testament to what the 32-year-old had tried to do throughout her career.

In leading or sharing the tournament lead at the end of all four rounds and then coming back for Monday to complete a record-setting playoff against the LPGA Hall of Famer, Lindberg grinded out a victory by relying on the best part of her game, her putting. Time and again in the final two rounds and in the playoff, Lindberg made key putts to either make birdies or to avoid bogeys, keeping her at the top of the leader board.

“I started working with a putting coach in 2011, and before then, my putting was really inconsistent. We haven’t really worked on changing my stroke or anything, really,” Lindberg said. “He’s just made me realize kind of what I was doing good in my putting and really focus on that and give me a good way to practice my putting, and that brought it to the strength of my game. Unfortunately, my ball striking is not always matched up.”

If there was a disappointment for Lindberg in her 2018 season, it was not being able to follow up the ANA Inspiration win with a second victory or more top-10 finishes. She’s had just one top-10 finish since the ANA win, something she attributes to more off-course distractions because of the victory and inconsistencies in her game. She said she’s putted well at times and hit the ball well at times, but not at the same time.

“If feels bad saying I would ever look back on 2018 and say it was a disappointing season, because at the same time it was the best season ever on tour for me because of the win,” Lindberg said. “But I feel like for each and every year that I am out there the expectations of myself also get higher. I demand more of myself. I obviously wanted to back up that win with more wins or top-10 finishes just to prove to myself and other people that it’s not a fluke that I won here.”

 

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