Winless since last August’s Safeway Classic, defending champ Suzann Pettersen lost in Thursday’s first round of the Sybase Match Play Championship to Jodi Ewart.
Pettersen, ranked third in women’s golf, was unable to get much going against the contest’s 62nd seed.
"I just played awful from the fairway to the green," Pettersen told reporters following her disappointing opening match. "I missed more greens today than I have all year."
The eight-time LPGA tour victor was not the only big name to make an early exit, as Jennifer Johnson bounced Paula Creamer, 3 and 1, Brittany Lincicome lost a 2 and 1 match to Ryann O’Toole, and Ai Miyazato lost to Mariajo Uribe on the last hole.
Creamer’s last victory was at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, but the world’s 11th-ranked player was philosophical about her latest setback.
“That’s sports, that’s golf,” she said. “Match play is a funny game. ... I wish I could have put more pressure on [Johnson] coming down the stretch but that’s the way match play is.”
What began as a walk in the park for the world No. 1 turned into a tough battle as Yani Tseng lost an early 4-up advantage to Jeong Jang, who took the top seed to the 18th hole. Jang, with two tour wins, fought her way back to get to all-square through 15 holes, but Tseng’s par on 16 gave her a 1-up lead and when the two players matched pars on 18, Tseng was on her way to the next round.
Tseng was relieved not to need extra holes but was not happy with her putting.
“It's a tough day for me today and I feel I'm pretty lucky to win a match today,” she said. “Hopefully tomorrow it's another new day and hopefully tomorrow I'll drop more putts.”
Tseng hoped some words of wisdom from putting coach Dave Stockton would help.
“I haven't seen him for a month so I think that's why my putting is off,” she said. “So I'll call him tonight to figure out what can I do for tomorrow.”
Natalie Gulbis, whose play has been on the rise since the start of the 2012 season, continued making her presence felt with a 1-up triumph over Mika Miyazato. Down by four through 10 holes, Gulbis went into overdrive, winning six of the final eight holes to make it to Friday’s second round.
“Last year I actually had Suzann Pettersen 4-down and she came back and beat me in the first round,” said Gulbis, who notched two top-10 finishes in her last three events, including a tie for eighth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. “So I had the reverse, and with match play, you just don’t give up until you run out of holes.”