In some ways, the LPGA Tour faces the same problem that has hovered over men's golf for the better part of the last decade. Or ever since Tiger Woods came along. If you want to call that a dilemma. Still, his presence has created a singular story line. With the women it was Annika Sorenstam, who just announced that she will retire at the end of the season. Now it's Lorena Ochoa, who essentially has owned her sport over the last 18 months.
The year's second major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, tees off on June 5 at Bulle Rock Golf Club, in Havre de Grace, Md. Norway's Suzann Pettersen is your defending champion. Most of the talk that week will no doubt center upon Ochoa, who has won the last two majors. Or even Sorenstam, who won the tournament three straight times (2003-05). Pettersen, who spoke with the media from Europe yesterday, understands. Still, she believes it's about more than just one or two household names.
"I think there's a lot of good players coming through," said Pettersen, 27, who won five times in 2007 after never finishing higher than third. "Pretty much all of them have already proved they can win. I mean, Lorena has set new standards, the way Annika did when she was [on top]. That makes everyone behind her work harder, want to win more.
"I think it's just a great combination. So many good players, a good mixture. And all the young ones, especially the Americans. There's just so many. That's probably what was missing when Annika was dominating so much. We are competing in America. It's very good to have the Americans showing face.
"For me, I really don't look [up] at anyone. I just try to do what I can do to become the best I can be. But you might ask another player and she would say, 'Yeah, Lorena is very dominant.' I know I can beat her if I play my best golf. That's what I try to focus on."
She has yet to win again this season. But she was runner-up at the first leg of the grand slam, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in early April. For the second straight year. So maybe it's simply a matter of when she will add another major. Or even more.
"For me it's about winning tournaments," Pettersen said, "of course trying to peak at all the majors. Like in any sport, it's very hard to peak [for those weeks]. You're depending on so many other factors. You never know what's going to happen. You might get a flu. You might have a headache on Thursday morning. Now I'm just trying to prepare the best way possible for me to perform my best. Whatever happens that week, you just have to deal with it."
But winning a first one undoubtedly makes it easier to do it again.
"I just think it changes my mind-set," she explained. "I know I pulled off a really big one. You know you've done it before. That's always going to help you. [But] I'm not trying to put too much pressure on myself than there already is . . .
"I'm just trying to move forward."
Speaking of which, she feels Sorenstam is doing the right thing at this point in her life.
"It's always kind of a shock, when the word comes out officially," Pettersen said. "I know she's been thinking about it. She kind of halfway said it at the Solheim [Cup], that that might be her last one. But it's always a surprise.
"As long as she's happy with it. She's done everything for women's golf, been a great role model. She can really sit back and be really proud of all she's achieved. There's nothing more for her to prove. She has been one of the best ever. She set records that everyone will try to chase for the next decade."
It didn't sound like she was just referring to Ochoa.
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