Pettersen back to LPGA in pursuit of No. 1 Park
Suzann Pettersen of Norway hits a shot at Mission Hills Hainan in Haikou, on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, on March 8, 2014 - by Xaume Olleros
The $1.8 million event debuts at 6,507-yard, par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club with 18 of the world's 20 top players in the field of 144 seeking a $255,000 top prize.
South Korean star Park has ruled the rankings for the past 54 weeks but is being chased by Norway's Pettersen and American Stacy Lewis, ranked third -- all seeking their first tour win of the season.
Pettersen hurt her back after the LPGA Founders Cup and missed the year's first women's major at Rancho Mirage as well as a tuneup event and last week's LPGA stop in Hawaii, where she was defending champion.
"So very happy to be here. Just really happy in general to be out playing," Pettersen said. "I was trying to make it for Hawaii, but at the same time, I can’t rush something that I can’t control."
Muscular and joint issues sidelined Pettersen rather than a disc problem, which was at the heart of men's world number one Tiger Woods' recent troubles and surgery.
"Sometimes you have just got to address the challenges you're facing. For me, it was just to get my back as close to normal as soon as possible so I don't miss too much of the season," she said.
"I've been in this position before. It's amazing how quick you kind of forget once you get going and things just are going your way. Really makes you appreciate what you can do. It’s nice to get dressed yourself."
Park has confidence, after making some putting improvements last week, that her first win of the season is near.
"It just feels like it’s coming pretty soon," Park said. "I feel like my game is in good shape. Even if I didn't win this year, I feel like I’m a little bit more consistent than last year and I'm playing good golf. My putting was a little bit shaky early this year but starting in Hawaii everything really felt like it was clicking. I feel like I’m going to have a good week soon."
Park has never before visited San Francisco and has played tourist for part of the week.
"I had never really been in downtown San Francisco," Park said. "I got to look at Fisherman's Wharf on Sunday and had some good food and walked around a little bit. Really cool city. Really enjoying myself."
US star Michelle Wie, who won last week in her home state of Hawaii for her first LPGA triumph since 2010, looks for another triumph in another familiar area, having attended college at nearby Stanford.
"The best five years of my life were spent here in the Bay Area," Wie said. "It's fun to come back and see all of my friends. I haven't been back since I graduated so this has been pretty amazing."