Suzann Pettersen set for Evian title defence

Suzann Pettersen set for Evian title defence

Suzann Pettersen starts her defence of the Evian Championship on Thursday and the bad news for her rivals is she is enjoying an outstanding run of form and is hitting the ball further and better than last year.

The 33-year-old Norwegian has finished in the top seven in her last five tournaments, including a tie for second in the last major, the Women`s British Open at Royal Birkdale.

"It`s been really good for the past month or so," said Pettersen. "Just unfortunate that I haven`t been able to close out the deal on the Sunday. But that`s a better problem than not playing well at all."

Florida-based Pettersen has been accompanied to Evian by her coach, David Leadbetter, and she added: "I`m a lot longer than last year with the driver and probably a club longer with the irons. It`s the clubhead speed."

Stacy Lewis, the world number one, has been a model of consistency on the LPGA tour this season with three wins and three top tens in majors to her name.

"But the big thing that sticks out to me is that I haven`t won one (of the majors)," said the American. "But it`s great to be back at Evian and I want to give myself another chance to win this week".

New Zealand`s Lydia Ko came close to making history at Evian last year when she finished second, two shots behind Pettersen as a 16-year-old novice.

Twelve months on and she is a 17-year-old professional and ranked third in the world.

But the end of her rookie season, highlighted by two wins on the LPGA Tour, has been blighted by a wrist injury and she had minor surgery at the start of this month in order to allow her to play this week.

France`s Gwladys Nocera is the local favourite.

"When I think about the Evian Championship I think about the Pro-Am that started 20 years ago and how a vision, a plan, goals and a dream can come up with something as big as the Evian Championship and the major we have today," said the Lausanne-based 39-year-old.

"We are very lucky to have such a big event in France and I am lucky to play.

"This year I want to really enjoy it. I have my family and quite a few friends here. I feel like I have a couple of years to go but then that will be it for me so I want to have real fun playing in this great event."

In the race for the inaugural Rolex Annika Major Award, Michelle Wie, the US Women`s Open Champion, leads the way ahead of Park Inbee (LPGA Champion) and Lexi Thompson (Kraft Nabisco Champion).

The award is for the player who has the season`s best overall performance in the majors, and they must have won one of the five. British Women`s Open Champion Mo Martin is missing from Evian due to a thumb injury.

"As soon as I heard about the award it was one of my biggest goals," aid Wie, who was runner-up to Thompson in the Kraft Nabisco and finished second in the Evian masters as a 15-year-old amateur in 2005. "Obviously it`s a very prestigious award with Annika (Sorenstam) being the presenter.

"It`s definitely something I really want to win. All I can do this week is play good golf and hopefully take care of it."

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