PRIDDIS — Suzann Pettersen has 18 holes to truly put two years worth of close calls behind her.
Despite being one of the top players on the LPGA Tour, the Norwegian hasn’t lifted a trophy in North America since 2007. She’s rarely going to get a better opportunity than the one she’ll have Sunday with a five-shot lead over Angela Stanford heading into the final round of the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
The biggest key for Pettersen will be to stay aggressive.
“I’m not trying to hold on to anything,” she said after shooting 5-under 66 on Saturday. “I’m just going to see how low (I) can go. There should be no limitations on how deep you can go on this course.”
Pettersen proved that during a third round played in tough conditions at Priddis Greens, matching Morgan Pressel for the low round of the day.
Her lead was six or larger for much of the afternoon, but Stanford rolled in a 60-foot eagle putt on the final hole to shoot 69 and draw a little closer. Karrie Webb (68) is six behind, while In-Kyung Kim (69) and Lorena Ochoa (72) are seven back.
Stanford is well aware of the heartbreak Pettersen has experienced with six runner-up finishes on the LPGA Tour since her last victory. The most recent was a playoff loss at last weekend’s event in Portland.
With Pettersen on the verge of a big win at the US$2.75-million event, Stanford hopes to add another painful chapter to her story.
“Well I don’t feel that bad for her,” she said with a laugh. “Not bad enough to not show up and fight tomorrow.”
If Stanford needs some inspiration, she only needs to revisit her own experience at this event in 2006.
She took a four-shot lead into the final round at London Hunt that year and ended up losing the tournament by one shot to Cristie Kerr — a player who started eight shots back on Sunday.
“I thought about that coming off the tee box here on 18,” said Stanford. “You never know.”
Truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot to suggest that Pettersen will be caught.
She opened with a sparkling 65 in windy conditions on Thursday afternoon and has been the most consistent player in an extremely strong field so far.
Even though the weather has changed repeatedly throughout the week, it’s played into her hands each time.
“It seems like the harder the conditions, the more creative I get with my shots,” said Pettersen.
“I’m kind of trying to stay in control of the ball flight. I keep rolling the putts in.
“You’ve just got to be really patient out here.”
There’s only one wish she has for the final day’s weather forecast: “As long as it doesn’t snow, I’m happy.”
The breeze picked up on Saturday and sent temperatures down, cooling off several golfers that had owned Priddis Greens over the opening two rounds. Only 19 of 74 players broke par on the day.
Pettersen actually got off to a slow start with some loose shots and a bogey at the third hole. After calming down and finding a rhythm, she went on to pick up six shots over the final 14 holes.
There’s no secret about what it will take to beat her on Sunday.
“I’m going to play ahead of her and hopefully make a few birdies to get a low round,” said Ochoa.
“You never know how it’s going to happen.”
A few of the other challengers are hoping the big lead ends up getting to Pettersen when she returns to the course.
“She’s out there by herself,” said Webb. “And sometimes that’s a bit of a daunting task . . . You know you don’t have to do anything stupid — attack pins and stuff like that — so sometimes that takes you out of your gameplan.”
Added Stanford: “If you have a four- or five-shot lead then somebody’s got to make at least five or six (birdies) to beat you. You don’t have to make as many so you tell yourself you don’t have to make as many.”