“Sometimes it takes good conversations with people you trust and in the circle that makes you realize that you could have been a better person,” said Suzann Pettersen during Wednesday evening’s interview with Tim Rosaforte on Golf Channel.
Those conversations propelled Pettersen to sit down for a one-on-one interview with Rosaforte to address publicly her role in the controversial Saturday Four-Ball Match involving Team U.S.A’s Alison Lee at the Solheim Cup. It was Pettersen’s first interview since the conclusion of the matches two weeks ago.
“I don’t want to really apologize for what happened, but I want to apologize for the way I handled the situation,” said Pettersen at the start of the interview.
One of the first topics Pettersen addressed was what exactly happened on the 17th green Sunday morning during the conclusion of their Four-Ball match, which had been delayed due to weather and was finished before the Sunday Singles Matches. Currently all square in the match, Pettersen said she clearly remembers Lee facing a 15-footer for birdie that rolled just past the hole.
“I can see in my head, I can see how the ball rolls by the hole and I’m the first one to let someone pick it up and let’s move to the next hole. At that point of the match it just ran by I don’t know a foot further than what I thought,” said Pettersen. “And before I even had the time to think like should she putt it or not putt it, she already picked it up and that’s kind of when I looked back and I think you could look at my kind of body language, I was like not a word was said.”
Pettersen told Rosaforte that when she addressed this same issue in her press conference following the conclusion of the matches that she did not regret not conceding the putt to Lee, saying match play is just as much about the mental choices players make with their opponents.
“That’s what match play is also all about, it’s a mental game. You can have, you can play the first six holes and you give every four footer for the first six and then on the seventh hole you might have someone putt a three-footer or a two-footer and you try to get in their head,” said Pettersen.
“When I looked back thinking should I have just calmed it all down and not walked off the seventeenth the way we did straight away, or should we have had a talk about it. I mean I don’t know, but had I had her putt it again, maybe that’s just the competitor I am, and most likely she would have made it. But that’s not the point in match play, that’s also the mental part of it that just it happened so quick, it’s such a bizarre situation.”
But the negative feedback Pettersen began receiving on social media Sunday evening hit her hard and got her re-thinking her decision.
“It really took me some reflections to kind of realize what had gone down early that day and I did actually cry,” Pettersen told Rosaforte. “When I got down to the team room, got myself some water and Carlota Ciganda took me aside and she goes ‘how are you doing?’ and I just absolutely fell apart and for her to see me like that when I’m usually the big sister trying to encourage them to do well, I think that was tough for her to see as well. But I just couldn’t hold it back because I felt like I could have done stuff so differently.”
Pettersen told Rosaforte her conversations with Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam and even Michelle Wie on Sunday evening of the Solheim Cup helped her come to the realization that she could have handled the situation differently. Monday, she met with Team U.S.A.’s Captain Juli Inkster to address the situation face-to-face and posted an apology that same day on Instagram, which Pettersen says came directly from her.
“The entire letter was straight from my heart,” said Pettersen. “Hopefully my apology went a long way for people who thought I did something, or handled the situation a little bit not in the right way and it was very sincere. Monday morning was probably the most emotional I’ve ever been after a golf tournament, it was very sincere. Every word that came out was straight from my heart.”
Pettersen and Hull were able to earn the point from their Saturday Four-Ball Match over Lee and her partner Brittany Lincicome, but came up short in the end, with Team Europe losing 14 ½ to 13 ½ to the Americans who staged the biggest comeback in the history of the event to win. Several members of Team U.S.A. spoke to the motivation they felt during the Singles Matches in righting the wrong they believed had been done to Lee during that controversial match.
Pettersen’s interview with Rosaforte concluded with her sharing what she has taken away from this experience, realizing the price that comes with trying to win no matter what.
“We all are role models for fans around the world, for kids growing up,” said Pettersen. “I would love for them to remember me as the fiery, intensive like with good intensity, big heart, that never kind of gave up. I want people to know that you can still compete that way. But I also want people to remember that you can’t win at all costs.”
Pettersen has yet to address the situation directly with Lee but plans to do so in-person. Both Pettersen and Lee are in the field at next week’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.