World No 2 Suzann Pettersen talks golf and the Winter Olympics ahead of her season opener at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at The Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne.
Q: The young girls that are coming through, the strength of them, how strong they are physically and mentally. Do you see that much more now than when you started?
SP: You know I think actually the change in the game of golf and the approach actually changed before I got into it. I think Tiger in the late 90s was one of the first, at least the first male really - I don't know if he was the person who really took the serious and total approach but I guess he kick started the new type of player that you see now.
You see the young players coming out, they're really prepared, they're physically strong, stronger than probably when I started, mentally up there with the best, competing with the best in the world; just really solid players. It's really fascinating to see how good they are at such a young age because I felt I was fairly good at the time, but I was keeping up with the best amateurs in Europe when I was about 18/19 years of age.
Q:Have you had a chance to see this golf course, have you played here before?
SP: No, I have not played here. I played 18 holes yesterday. It reminds me very much about the other courses in this area, Royal Melbourne, I played a couple of years ago, I played Yara Yarra way back, one of my first years on tour. But it's a typical links course. It's not the type of course that I've seen pretty much since the British, so it's a little bit unusual. I've played more traditional or American courses over the last two or three months. So you've got to adjust accordingly and hopefully there will be a kind of kick start that gives us a nice challenge early on in the year.
But it's been a good off season for me, I've been doing a lot of training, kept myself busy and I feel like I'm very eager to start competing again.
Q. You had a great year last year, probably your best year I would imagine. What was it that kicked that in for you? Why did you do so well last year? Have you been able to work out what the secret was?
SP: There's no secret. I guess it's really hard work over a long time. I've managed to stay in fairly good condition healthwise, no massive injuries. I've been practising the way I want to practice and have showed up more often to tournaments well prepared to actually play. So for me there's no secret, it's a lot of hard work and it's all got to click at the right time, but that's the fun challenge.
Q. As a top grade player do you feel like you should start favorite?
SP: I guess being a favourite is not a bad thing.
Q. Do you feel like you can go out and win?
SP: I would not be here if not, so I guess so and I guess being a favourite means a lot of pressure, more expectations but it also means that you're probably pretty good. That's how I look at it.
Q. If the wind picks up do you feel like your experience can help you in those conditions where others might struggle? Is that your thinking?
SP: I think this is a course where the wind kind of brings the character to the course as well. So I hope it's not horrendous conditions like it was on Sunday, when it was blowing 40 miles per hour; that was tough. I don't think it was playable on certain holes. I'll see what the days brings, I'll try to get into a good start and find a good rhythm straight off the bat and see what the week brings.
Q. Jessica Korda was in earlier and she's re-making her whole swing, changing it completely. When you reflect on your swing, has it changed much since you came in as a professional until now?
SP: Not really. Golf is about a continuous process. As golfers we seem to be perfectionists. You think that you can do things better even though your game might be at a fairly good level and you might feel like you've got more in you. The consistency is probably what, for me, is the most important thing.
Jessica is still a very young player; she's got fantastic talent. She's already won a couple of times out here; she knows what she's doing. I think the only one who can really know if a change is worth doing is yourself.
Q. But you haven't remade your swing at any stage, you may have changed but it…
SP: My basic swing has stayed the same but I've approached it in different ways. I feel like I've settled in with what I feel I'm best at - I'm too old to start changing and am going to just stick with what I have.
Q. Do you have your eye on No. 1?
SP: Not really, I just want to check how good I can possibly be; that's my entire dream, that's my goal. If that is being No. 1, if that is being No. 2 for the rest of my life, then that's what I will be. I feel like I've got more in me, my best golf is still to come. I was home last year; I was touching on where I feel like I should be and that's what's driven me through the winter. I was glad I didn't get to that spot because it's also given me a little bit more of motivation to dig a little bit deeper and grind it a little bit harder.
Q. Are you interested in the Winter Olympics?
SP: I've been up all night for the last four days, Norway is doing pretty good. Yesterday was one of the biggest days for us, there was a little bit of a disaster but it was a very good start. It was very neat, I know pretty much all the Norwegian athletes who are competing. It's such a small country and we're a very good community between the different sports so it's a lot of fun to see your friends compete, to do well, not so well, but to see the emotions and the process they go through. I just can't wait for Rio myself.
Q. Can every kid in Norway ski or skate?
SP: No, in Norway kids are born with skis on their feet, or in Scotland they're born with golf clubs in their hands! It's a national thing to do and the Winter Olympics is the nation's pride and honour. If we fail here, it's national depression for months.
Q. If you were in that Winter Olympic team for Norway, what sport would you be competing in?
SP: It would probably be alpine downhill, I like skiing.
Q. That's lunacy you realise?
SP: That's skiing's Formula One so that's what I'd want to do.