Gustafson to let her game do the talking
Sophie Gustafson was the 2001 Australian Open champion. Photo: Getty Images
Sophie Gustafson says she never stutters when she swears, so the 2001 Australian Open champion is hoping to rediscover her best form at Royal Canberra.
Gustafson's speech impediment means she generally avoids the media, the Swede granting only one television interview in her two decades on the professional circuit.
She earned worldwide praise for her courage when she fronted the camera's after helping Europe win the Solheim Cup over USA in Ireland in 2011.
But the 39-year-old, who held off a fast-finishing Karrie Webb to win the 2001 Australian Open, wants to earn more credit for her game.
Gustafson finished a disappointing 65th on the USLPGA Tour money list last year failing to register a single top-10 result.
''I'm hoping I'm not quite at the end [of my career] yet, even though last year sure felt like it,'' Gustafson told The Canberra Times via email.
''Going around the world playing bad golf doesn't make anyone happy, so I'd better step up if I want to play a few more years.
''It [the 2001 Australian Open] was very cool and it's still one of the highlights of my career. Being able to hold off Webby in her prime is something I'm very proud of.''
The four-time European Tour order-of-merit winner has drawn strength from providing inspiration for fellow stutterers through her Solheim Cup interview.
''I have definitely heard from more people who stutter and how I have influenced them. That's pretty cool since I never met anyone with a worse stutter than me,'' Gustafson said.
''When you put a camera in my face, my speech gets 100 times worse, which is why I haven't done many interviews.
''The thing is that the more comfortable I am with someone, the better I speak.
''I have no problem in communicating with my caddie, I never stutter when I swear.''
American glamour girl Michelle Wie, who will be one of the main attractions for the audience at the Australian Open, is famous for playing a handful of men's events early in her career.
Gustafson also tested herself against the men on the Japan Tour in 2003, and would love to get the opportunity again.
''I think I got the offer to come over and play just a week before the event,'' she said.
''I was actually leading after nine holes, and I still have a picture of my caddie and I with the scoreboard in the background on my wall.
''I outdrove my playing partner a couple of times and he wasn't happy about it, but it made my caddie and I chuckle that he cared.''
The Royal Canberra layout is still a mystery to Gustafson.
''I haven't played Royal Canberra and haven't heard much about it either. The closest I've ever been is when we drove through Canberra in 1997, when I caddied a few events on the men's tour,'' she said.
''Yani [Tseng] and Stacy [Lewis] would get my money if I was a betting person [as the players to beat].''
WOMEN'S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
At Royal Canberra Golf Course from Thursday to Sunday. Tickets at Ticketek.