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Winless Pettersen set to defend Match Play title

- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GLADSTONE, N.J. (AP) - A year after meeting for the Sybase Match Play Championship, defending champion Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr are in the same position on the LPGA Tour.

The two veterans are ranked in the world's top five. And they are in the mid-teens in earnings. Yet they're both doing something neither expected in May _ looking for their first win of the year.

Pettersen and Kerr will try to break into the win column this week when 64 of the tour's top players gather at Hamilton Farm Golf Club for a four-day grind and a $375,000 top prize. The tournament favorite has to be Yani Tseng, the No.1-ranked player who has already won three times this year.

Pettersen, who won twice last year, hasn't finished better than sixth in eight events. It hasn't been all bad. The Norwegian, after all, hasn't finished worse than a tie for 26th in any event, but it's been one off round that has often kept her from challenging for a title this year.

The 31-year-old, who is ranked No. 3, admits she's off to a slow start, but she feels her game is falling into place. She hopes this tournament gives her a kick start.

"I know where my game is at. I feel like I've been in this situation before," Pettersen said. "You get the questions, `When are you going to win, when are you going to kind of be there on a Sunday?' It's just a matter of time. The day it all clicks, it will be exciting again. And if we keep working hard and putting in the hard effort, I think the results will show."

Kerr, who is ranked No. 5 in the world, might be a little more desperate. It's been almost two years since she won the LPGA Championship for her 14th career victory. The 34-year-old Kerr has two Top 10 finishes this year, but like Pettersen, it's been one bad round which has prevented her from contending more.

Kerr not only wants to win for herself, but she feels that if Americans can win on tour, it will help the LPGA grow.

"We are trying, we are trying our hardest, I can promise you that," Kerr said. "We're working hard and we definitely need to win."

Winning this event won't be easy. The eventual champion will have to capture six matches and sometimes, it's just a matter of luck. You play well, and someone plays better and you're still out.

Stacy Lewis, who won the LPGA's last official event in Mobile, Ala., feels this might be the toughest event to win, especially with double rounds scheduled on the weekend.

"If you catch somebody when they get hot, you never know," she said. "It's definitely the hardest tournament to win. You're going to have a bad day, you're going to have a bad round, and if you can find a way to grind that match out in the second or third round, a lot of times that will win you the tournament."

Pettersen said both she and Kerr limped to the finish line in the final match last year.

"I think we were just trying to survive to stand up at the end there," Pettersen said. "It was a long week. I was sick as a dog that week. You know what they say, `look out for the sick golfer.'"

Despite the fatigue, Kerr felt both played well.

"We were definitely tired coming to the back nine on the last match, and that's also this tournament," she said. "It's a test of endurance and a test of who's the last person standing. I think that when you're in the final match and you're playing against one of your friends, of course you still want to win, but you want to have a good match.

"And we did."

Pettersen will face Jodi Ewart in her first-round match Thursday. Kerr is paired against Belen Mozo of Spain, Tseng drew Jeong Jang of South Korea, while Lewis will play fellow American Pat Hurst.

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