By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – Pernilla Lindberg was ecstatic to win the first major of 2018, but acknowledges that the U.S Women’s Open is the biggest championship in their game.
After capturing the ANA Inspiration two months ago, Lindberg will go for successive major titles at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama starting on Thursday.
“The ANA is cool because it’s the same course every year (Mission Hills in California), it has tradition,” the Swede said in a telephone interview with Reuters on Friday.
“But if you mention the U.S. Open to anyone, people might not follow golf but they understand it’s a big event.
“The money is also the biggest,” she added in reference to the U.S. Open’s purse of $5 million, more than $1 million than any other LPGA event.
Lindberg’s victory at the ANA, in a three-way playoff that stretched into Monday, was a reward for perseverance for a player who has never finished higher than 40th on the LPGA money list.
This time last year, she was also going through a poor stretch of performances missing five cuts in six events and starting to doubt herself.
“I had a bit of a rough summer. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to be on that Solheim Cup team,” she said in reference to the biennial team event against the United States. She did not make the European team.
“Obviously it got to me. That’s when I started to doubt myself the most. I didn’t see myself as belonging out there. I thought my game doesn’t match up.”
Lindberg slowly played her way back into form and then found a new sense of belief when she contended at the LPGA’s season-ending Tour Championship.
“That week was a turning point,” she said.
“I proved to myself I could hang in there with a chance to win and that gave me so much confidence.”
Four months later she was a major champion.
Imbued with even greater self-belief after her ANA victory, and at age 31 entering what should be the peak years of her career, she is confident of a similarly strong performance at Shoal Creek, though is not promising victory.
Lindberg skipped the LPGA event in Michigan that ended on Sunday, preferring instead to prepare at home in Florida, with a special emphasis on her short game because U.S. Open courses are set up to exact a heavy toll on players who do not display a deft touch around and on the greens.
“That’s where you’re going to be saving shots,” she said.
South Korea’s Park Sung-hyun won the U.S. Open tournament last year by two strokes in Bedminster, New Jersey.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)