Suzann Pettersen

Norway's Suzann Pettersen competes in the final round of the HSBC LPGA Brazil Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, May 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Victor R. Caivano

GLADSTONE - Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr faced the media together at Sybase Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

"Does it hurt more to lose in a match-play event?" a reporter asked.

"Cristie, do you want to take that?" Pettersen said with a laugh.

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Pettersen defeated Kerr in last year's final. The two LPGA standouts are among the favorites when the $1.5 million Match Play Championship begins today at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Somerset County. The tournament features 64 of the world's top female golfers competing in match-play format. Pettersen is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, while Kerr is No. 5.

"You never know what's going to happen in match play," Kerr said. "There are a lot of upsets. People who you think should make it to the semis and finals don't. Some years they do. You just never know."

Sybase is the first of two LPGA stops in New Jersey this spring. The $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic will be held on the Bay Course at Seaview Resort in Galloway Township on June 1-3. Nearly all of the golfers who play Sybase also will tee it up at the ShopRite Classic.

Kerr and Pettersen are friends. But there wasn't much banter between the two during their championship match last year. The competition showed the grueling mental and physical nature of match play.

Kerr and Pettersen each won semifinal matches in the morning and then played the final in the afternoon. Pettersen won 1-up on an unseasonably chilly day when she sank a 15-foot, downhill birdie putt on the 18th hole.

Pettersen raised her arms, took a few steps and then collapsed to her knees.

"I think we were just trying to survive to stand up at the end there," Pettersen said Wednesday of last year's match. "It was a tough match to play 36 holes on Sunday. I was sick as a dog that week. You know what they say: 'Look out for the sick golfer.' "

There are several golfers to look out for this year, including past ShopRite winners.

Kerr won ShopRite in 2004. Brittany Lincicome won it last year and won this match-play event in 2006.

Yani Tseng, the world's No. 1 player, also will play Sybase and ShopRite. Tseng won three of the LPGA's first five events this year.

"I love match play," Tseng said. "Sometimes you need a little luck, because maybe you play perfect but still lose and sometimes you play bad and win. All you think of is how to beat the player in front of you."

There is a change in the Sybase format this year. In past years, top golfers randomly selected their opponents. This year the entire field was seeded, so the No. 1-ranked player meets No. 64 and so forth.

That change could mean fewer early-round upsets but more top-ranked and better-known players competing in later-round matches on the weekend.

American Stacy Lewis favors the new format. She is ranked No. 7 in the world and won Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in Alabama last month. Lewis lost to Pettersen in the third round of last year's Sybase tournament.

"I've gotten some tough matches early on (in the past)," Lewis said. "I'm looking forward to having the seedings being straight off the world rankings. I think it will be a little more fair."

But there still should be plenty of excitement.

Sybase is the LPGA's only individual match-play event. Golfers sometimes play head games with each other during match-play events. Sometimes they will concede 2-foot putts. Other times they will make their opponents sink them. A bogey or double bogey could cost a golfer a tournament in stroke play. In match play, it could have little effect.

"You have to be aggressive (in match play)," Lewis said. "You have to be willing to kind of take some chances."

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