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Pettersen expects 'the worst' at U.S. Women's Open

Suzann Pettersen of Norway tees off on the third hole during the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship LPGA golf tournament in Ranch
Suzann Pettersen of Norway tees off on the third hole during the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship LPGA golf tournament in Ranch

(Reuters) - Suzann Pettersen has long relished the grueling challenge at the U.S. Women's Open and once again she is using the psychological ploy of expecting "the worst" in this week's edition at Southampton in New York.

The 32-year-old Norwegian, an 11-times winner on the LPGA Tour, knows as well as anyone that grinding out pars and keeping errors to a minimum is the only recipe to possible success in the third women's major of the season.

"The U.S. Open is the ultimate test of the year," the world number three told reporters at Sebonack Country Club on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday's opening round.

"I usually always judge how they set up the course (based on) how the men's U.S. Open has been played a couple of weeks prior. Having seen that (at Merion for the men), I expect the worst so everything else will be a treat.

"I assume the hard holes will be playing hard, and the shorter, easy holes, they'll kind of let us have a go at. That's kind of how I prepare."

Pettersen has recorded four top-10s in 10 starts at the U.S. Women's Open, with a best finish of joint second at Oakmont Country Club in 2010.

"I like it when par is a good score," the Norwegian said.

"I like that fighting spirit. You're not going to play perfect golf out here, but if you can eliminate the big numbers I think you'll be fine.

"This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I'm excited to get started. I feel like I've done a lot of good stuff in my preparation. All I can do is to kind of ease up and try to play some good golf."

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

Pettersen, who clinched her only major title by a shot after closing with a five-under-par 67 at the 2007 LPGA Championship, likes the links-style feel at Sebonack where she believes the greens present the biggest challenge.

"Off the tee, this course is fairly generous compared to other U.S. Opens we've played," she said.

"People are talking about these greens being very big. I actually find them very small.

"If you're looking at the sections you're hitting it into and where you really want to be, they're fairly small and you've got to be really precise. You get to learn the contours of the greens and you can see how to use it to access certain pins.

"First time I saw this course, I was almost overwhelmed how tricky it was. But the more you play it, the more you fall in love with it, and I'm looking forward to a test."

South Korean world number one Park Inbee, a five-times winner on the 2013 LPGA Tour, is a heavy favorite this week as she seeks her third major crown of the year.

While Pettersen applauded Inbee's form, she was reluctant to describe the Korean as a dominant player who could be bracketed with former world number ones Annika Sorenstam of Sweden and Lorena Ochoa of Mexico.

"Inbee has had a phenomenal year so far," she said.

"It's not really very surprising that she keeps contending and makes those crucial putts on Sundays. The best part of her game is her putting.

"I don't quite look at Inbee as dominating, if you want to call it that, as Annika was and Lorena was. There are a lot of us in the hunt for that number one (spot). I know where I stand and I know what I have to do.

"If I look at my own game, I've been playing good in the tournaments I really want to play well in. If you keep winning tournaments, it will kind of take care of the rest of the stats."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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