Suzann Pettersen savours room with a view

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SHE could just as easily have been speaking metaphorically. The wind, after all, was fairly picking up and she was safely back in the clubhouse on seven-under after a flawless 67.

In Suzann Pettersen’s case, though, the Norwegian world No 3 literally has the “best seat in the house” in St Andrews this week.

Staying in a private property overlooking the 18th green on the Old Course with a stunning view towards the West Sands, the 32-year-old is an ominous presence on the leaderboard at the halfway stage in the £1.75 million Ricoh Women’s British Open over the Old Course.

On a day when the wind, gusting up to 20mph, really became a factor for the first time in a month-long festival of links golf – it started at Castle Stuart then moved on to Muirfield and Royal Birkdale before continuing here – Pettersen made the most of playing the majority of her second round when the conditions were still fairly benign in the Auld Grey Toun.

After manouevring herself into contention by coasting to the turn in 31, five-under, she then reeled off nine straight pars coming home and admitted afterwards to having good vibes about her chances of claiming a second major title after winning the LPGA Championship six years ago. “I really feel like I’m in control of my game; I’m simplifying everything,” declared Pettersen, who, along with 
Catriona Matthew, will be the cornerstone of Europe’s defence of the Solheim Cup in Denver in a fortnight’s time. “I’m not being greedy off the tee and that’s paid off so far while I’m also feeling great with my putter so that’s a very good sign.”

On her accommodation for the week, she added: “I have the best seat in the house, for sure. It’s 11.30am now, so I can go there and watch golf for the next eight hours.”

Before Pettersen had a chance to sit back and watch the fun, Japan’s Miki Saiki, playing in the match behind her, set the clubhouse target of nine-under after a 66 – one less than her closing effort when tying for seventh behind Lorena Ochoa here in 2007.

In a career first, the 28-year-old holed two fairway shots in the same round – an 8-iron from 127 yards at the fourth for an eagle-2 then a pitching wedge from 108 yards to repeat the feat at the seventh, as the seven-times Japanese LPGA Tour winner went out in 30.

That was the easy part of her day. “Shopping”, when asked if she had any hobbies, was the only word of English Saiki, a jewellry-nut who once boasted she’d travelled to an event with 50 pairs of earrings, could muster at her post-round interview.

Through an interpreter, however, she did admit the round had probably been the best of her career “because it’s a major and the history of the course” and also revealed how her grandfather inspired her to become a professional golfer. “At first I didn’t take it seriously but, when he passed away, I decided to live up to his dream,” she confessed.

After holding the lead for most of the afternoon, Saiki was joined then overtaken by Korean Na Yeon Choi – known to her fellow players as “NYC” and “The Big Apple” – as the 25-year-old carded a splendid 67, her second of the week, in the testing afternoon conditions to move to ten-under.

“I’m very satisfied, especially with today’s round as the course was playing at least three to four strokes harder than yesterday,” said last year’s US Women’s Open winner, who revealed her title bid was being fuelled by a strong Irish influence.

“I’ve been struggling with confidence but my Irish coach, Robin Symes, came over from Korea to be here this week and gave me a pep talk,” added the leader. “I’ve also got an Irish caddie, David Jones, as a one-off for this event and I am trusting both of them 100 per cent this week.”

Choi’s compatriot, Inbee Park, is eight shots behind after a 73 but the 25-year-old has certainly not given up on her bid to become the first player, male or female, to win four majors in the same season after arriving here with the Kraft Nabisco, LPGA Championship and US Women’s Open titles already in the bag.

“I’m not striking the ball that bad or putting that bad, so that tells me that I’m not feeling the pressure,” admitted Park, whose every word in interviews and every step on the hallowed fairways has been the subject of almost unprecedented media attention this week.

“Whether I win or don’t, I’ve collected great memories the last two days and, if I can handle this kind of pressure, then I’m not really going to be afraid of any kind of pressure from now on in my career,” she added.

Like Pettersen, American Morgan Pressel, the joint-overnight leader, didn’t put a foot wrong in her 70 for eight-under. “My lag putting was excellent and I didn’t have to fight for pars,” reported the 25-year-old, who found it amusing to discover how quickly the weather can change in Scotland.

“When we were on the 12th, it looked like the world was ending,” she said of a sudden squall. “We spent five minutes putting on our rain gear but then had to take it off on the next hole because it was bright and sunny.”

Playing with Pressel, Matthew’s mood wasn’t exactly bright and sunny after a 74 that left the 2009 winner alongside Park on two-under. “It was just one of those days,” remarked the 43-year-old Scot. “But, if it’s going to be really windy over the weekend (and she’s hoping it is), it’s amazing what can happen even if you score a couple-under.”

Swede Camilla Lennarth, the other first-round pacesetter, came crashing back to earth with an 82 that saw her miss the cut, a fate also met by former winners Karrie Webb and Yani Tseng as well as Carly Booth after a 73 for seven-over.

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