RBC HERITAGE: Carl Pettersson

Taking aim at more Palmetto fortunes

bspear@thestate.comMarch 9, 2013 

Don’t blame Carl Pettersson if he relishes a return to South Carolina with his golf clubs in hand.

Like most who enjoy the Palmetto State’s embarrassment of riches in courses, he takes his affection one step further. The transplanted Swede, who also holds U.S. citizenship and lives in Raleigh, played two of the best in 2012 and banked more than $1.4 million.

Pettersson used his April visit to roll to a five-stroke victory in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Golf Links. He returned in August, gave futile chase to Rory McIlroy and shared third place in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

“South Carolina was very good to me last year,” he said in looking toward defending his Heritage title.

He chooses to focus on the positives — his sparkling 2012 season, his five career PGA Tour titles and a “pretty good” start to this year — rather than engaging in a battle of words over the proposed belly-putter ban.

“I really can’t comment,” he said, although he cannot help but be pleased with the PGA Tour’s stance of opposing the ban proposed by the game’s rules makers, the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.

But he did take issue with the proposal at the season-opening tourney in Hawaii, telling reporters, “It seems silly to ban something that’s been around for 40 years. It’s unfortunate. I feel like I’m 16 years behind because I haven’t putted with anything else for 16 years.”

Pettersson took up the long putter between his sophomore and junior years at North Carolina State and has used the stroke to earn more than $19 million on the PGA Tour.

He will come to Harbour Town in April armed with confidence built in the 2012 tournament. He blistered the front nine all week and pulled away from the field with another quick start in Sunday’s final round. He took a one-stroke lead into the final round and immediately pulled away.

“Any time I’m in that position, I just keep my head down and play golf,” Pettersson said, and his strategy worked with birdies on three of the first five holes. “I separated myself (from the field) and (on the back nine) I could watch the scoreboard.”

He paused, then added, “It’s not always that way.”

Indeed, four months later in the PGA, Petterson’s chances of overtaking McIlroy disappeared quickly. Pettersson incurred a two-stroke penalty after moving a leaf on his backswing with his ball in a hazard.

Officials needed slow-motion replays to confirm the infraction, and Pettersson said, “I didn’t realize (the club hit the leaf), but it did. I was wrong.”

That’s about all he did wrong in the state a year ago. No wonder he looks forward to returning in April.

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