Emily Pedersen: 'I didn’t really know how to handle playing badly'

The Dane’s dramatic fall down the rankings has been halted and she heads to the US Women’s Open with a more mature outlook

If form is the barometer most worthy of attention before a major championship, there may be little need to look much further than Emily Pedersen in respect of the US Women’s Open, which begins on Thursday in Houston. Having lived through feast and famine, the 24-year-old Dane’s recent resurgence has proved startling.

A year ago Pedersen had slipped to 549th in the world. A Solheim Cup player in 2017, she found herself in a rut, technically and psychologically. Now Pedersen is preparing for the final major of 2020 as the name on everyone’s lips: back to back wins in Saudi Arabia, plus victory at the Spanish Open, meant she cantered to the Ladies European Tour’s order of merit title. No assessment of this run would be complete without acknowledgement of earlier struggles.

“There were loads of times where I wondered what was going on,” says Pederson, now the world No 69. “It’s hard to accept after you have been at a certain level. It’s like you suddenly don’t know how to ride a bike. You get shocked, you get frustrated. You need to accept where you are then start working hard again. It took me a long time to reach that acceptance point.”

Pedersen was a captain’s pick for the match between Europe and the US three years ago. From there, she started to believe she had extra points to prove to a watching world. Instead of enjoying a platform for immediate, further success, Pedersen spiralled into dangerous territory. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and that was the start of a down period,” she says.

“I didn’t really know how to handle playing badly because it had never happened. Then I couldn’t let it go, I couldn’t play badly on the course then go home and be OK. I was emotionally controlled too much of the time and I had to learn how to separate things.

“I had to mature a little bit. A rough patch does that, I’m mentally stronger and more prepared for things not going my way. Two years ago, I started seeing a psychologist so I could start to know the difference between being a golfer and being a person. Golf takes up a lot of time and it can be quite difficult to separate the two things.”

So who are the two Emily Pedersens? “Emily the golfer can be very hard-working, intense, determined, wants to win all the time. Emily off the course is a lot more chilled out and laughs a lot.”

Emily Pedersen was a captain’s pick for the Solheim Cup in 2017.
Emily Pedersen was a captain’s pick for the Solheim Cup in 2017. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

As the Ladies European Tour entered lockdown, Pedersen was afforded a chance to modify and stabilise her swing. She had tied for seventh in South Africa immediately before the break, with subsequent results even more impressive; Pedersen shared second in the Scottish Open, tied 11th in the Women’s Open, won in the Czech Republic and tied for third in Switzerland before her late season trio of victories. “Coronavirus was pretty good for me because it gave me a few months to work really hard on things,” she says. “I was able to make changes. Sometimes that is difficult, you are travelling 25 weeks in a year where it’s hard to get work done. It becomes all about quick fixes to play each week.”

Such progress, though, has been bittersweet. The freezing of status on the US-based and lucrative LPGA Tour means – barring success in the US Open – Pedersen must play in Europe once more in 2021. Even qualifying school for the LPGA Tour has been cancelled. “It frustrates me a lot,” she says. “I want to base myself on the LPGA, I want to compete against the best players in the world every week. I wish there was a way I could have played myself in.”

The Solheim Cup does at least offer 2021 scope. It would be a real surprise if Pedersen is not part of the European contingent next September in Toledo. “That’s a big thing for me. I believe I have grown a lot since that last time. I am in a far better place to handle it if I make that team. I feel ready to take up that challenge again.”

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

Pedersen was introduced to the game by her father, who bought her a club membership when she was 10 with a view to the benefits of something they could enjoy together. Emily’s stellar amateur career was to include glory at the 2014 British Ladies Amateur Championship.

Pedersen is at a loss to explain why the US Women’s Open has been so unkind to Europeans. Since the heady days of victories for Annika Sorenstam and Alison Nicholas between 1995 and 1997, this continent has delivered one winner.

“There is only one direction I want to go in,” she says. “There might be little bumps but when they come I will be more prepared to handle them. I won’t panic or stress as much. I can accept that everyone has down periods in my career; that’s why I won’t go as deep as I did the last time.

“It’s never a bad thing, going into a major with three wins. I’m feeling good but I’m trying to stay humble. It’s a good field and there is a lot of work to be done.”


Ewan Murray

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Catriona Matthew paints ominous picture of Ladies European Tour | Ewan Murray
The US-based 47-year-old Scot says up-and-coming European female golfers need a part-time job to support themselves and the financial contrast with the LPGA is certainly stark

Ewan Murray

20, Apr, 2017 @1:57 PM

Article image
Charley Hull withdraws from ANA Inspiration after positive Covid-19 test
The English golfer Charley Hull has been forced to withdraw from the ANA Inspiration after testing positive for Covid-19

Ewan Murray

08, Sep, 2020 @7:06 PM

Article image
Ko Jin-young wins Evian Championship – as it happened
HBH report: Ko Jin-young won her second major title of the season after a slow burning but ultimately dramatic afternoon in France. Scott Murray was watching.

Scott Murray

28, Jul, 2019 @5:46 PM

Article image
New talks put American takeover of Ladies European Tour back on track
Professional women’s golf in Europe is set to be afforded a timely boost after talks resumed for the LPGA Tour’s proposed takeover of the Ladies European Tour

Ewan Murray

16, Oct, 2019 @12:50 PM

Article image
Georgia Hall: ‘We’re paid very well on the women’s tour … but the men earn so much more’ | Donald McRae
Georgia Hall had her breakthrough victory by claiming the British Open in August and tells Donald McRae that for the first time in her career she can now approach a new year without any financial concerns

Donald McRae

04, Dec, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Minjee Lee wins 2021 Evian Championship – as it happened
Hole-by-hole report: Minjee Lee came from seven back to win her first major championship. Scott Murray was watching.

Scott Murray

25, Jul, 2021 @4:07 PM

Article image
European Tour could launch takeover bid for Ladies European Tour
The European Tour may launch a takeover bid for its struggling ladies equivalent, which has been hindered by the loss of tournaments in recent times and is also a potential business target for the US-based LPGA Tour

Ewan Murray in Des Moines

20, Aug, 2017 @7:14 PM

Article image
America on Georgia Hall's mind as golf's big time awaits | Ewan Murray
Young Englishwoman is targeting the riches on offer in America’s LPGA Tour after winning the European order of merit and starring in the Solheim Cup

Ewan Murray

03, Dec, 2017 @8:30 AM

Article image
LPGA Tour makes swing towards mixed golf events and more prize money
LPGA Tour commissioner, Mike Whan, tells Ewan Murray there have been constructive talks on both sides of the Atlantic about inaugurating mixed tournaments

Ewan Murray

17, Sep, 2018 @3:30 PM

Article image
The Koreans may be missing but 2020 remains a big year for women's golf
Concern over whether majors retain their sheen when big names are absent is offset in this coronavirus-hit year by a greater good

Ewan Murray

29, Jul, 2020 @12:49 PM