Carl's confidence: Focus on Pettersson's putter, his citizenship or his weight, but don't forget his golf game

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2013 

Carl Pettersson is a strong proponent of the anchored putter that the USGA has proposed eliminating. He's also one of the best putters on the PGA Tour.

JAY KARR THE ISLAND PACKET — Island Packet

Carl Pettersson, during the most successful season of his professional golf career, fielded the same questions week after week during 2012.

About his long putter and the upcoming anchoring debate. About his citizenship and the Ryder Cup. About his weight.

The topic of his golf, it seemed, languished somewhere far behind, but Pettersson was quietly manufacturing a solid year. His five-shot victory at the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing is where his game came together. A shot-shaper who enjoys the meandering Harbour Town Golf Links, Pettersson pulled away from the field with crisp iron play and, yes, the broomstick putter he has used since his days as an amateur at N.C. State.

"This game's all about confidence, I think," Pettersson said. "Obviously winning at Hilton Head gave me huge momentum and confidence for the rest of the year."

Pettersson finished 13th on the PGA Tour money list, earning $3.54 million to push him to more than $21 million for his career. He won for the fifth time, tying Jesper Parnevik as the most successful player out of Sweden, and a tie for third at the PGA Championship in August was his best finish in a major.

Pettersson was twice a runner-up and posted six top-10 finishes.

Familiar topics dotted his interviews throughout.

For the record:

  • On the putter: Pettersson picked up the long putter at N.C. State after watching friend and teammate Tim Clark roll it well. He spent hours of practice becoming comfortable, has now used a long putter 16 years and employs a Nike Method prototype with good results.

  • He finished 20th in 2012 in strokes gained putting, a statistic that measures the number of putts a golfer takes relative to the PGA Tour average. He finished 23rd in 2011 and second in the stat in 2010.

    Since the United States Golf Association and Royal & Ancient proposed a ban in November 2012 on anchoring putters to the body, Pettersson has been among the go-to sources for a reaction. Golf's governing bodies allowed a comment period and are expected to make a final ruling this spring. As of the beginning of Masters week, when the USGA and PGA of America announced a junior initiative to grow golf, no decision had been announced.

    PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke out against an anchoring ban. Some of golf's biggest names, including Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, have supported the ban.

    "I'm happy with the way that the commissioner and the PGA Tour, the stance they took," Pettersson said. "I support them 100 percent. ... We'll let it play out and see what happens."

  • On his citizenship: Pettersson, born in Sweden in 1977, also became a U.S. citizen in January 2012. His dual citizenship raised questions about his Ryder Cup eligibility.

  • Pettersson couldn't play for the U.S. team, because he wasn't born here. And he couldn't play for Europe, because he wasn't a member of the European Tour and said the demands from playing two tours competitively were more than he wanted.

    The longtime North Carolina resident, who also lived in England five years, considers himself mostly American.

  • On the weight: At the end of a solid year in 2008, after he won in his adopted hometown of Greensboro, N.C., Pettersson launched a fitness kick, thinking a slimmer frame was the next step in his career. He dropped 30 pounds.

  • The result was a disastrous 2009 season. He missed 10 cuts in 15 tournaments and withdrew from two others.

    At times, Pettersson employs his dry humor to make the first joke about his size. Other times, he has been shorter.

    "I lost some weight, my golf game sucked, and I put the weight back on," Pettersson said in response to a reporter's question at the PGA Championship this past August. "Yeah, that's kind of old news."

    Pettersson is back to his comfort food, joking at the 2012 RBC Heritage he regained his old form with 10 beers and a tub of ice cream each night.

    The Raleigh resident is a fan of North Carolina barbecue and owns his own pull-behind pig cooker, according to a recent PGATour.com interview with his wife, DeAnna.

    "He's pretty much a Southern guy," said Richard Sykes, long-time golf coach at N.C. State.

    Sykes remembered Pettersson as a solid ballstriker, a trait he noticed when he first recruited Pettersson at Grimsley. Sykes had to wait as Pettersson detoured to Central Alabama Community College, where he was a two-time junior college individual national champion.

    Pettersson was a two-time All-American for Sykes at N.C. State, where he earned a reputation as a fun guy.

    Sykes didn't like facial hair, and Pettersson wanted a goatee. Coach and player cut a deal, that whenever Pettersson finished top-five, the goatee would survive for another tournament.

    Pettersson pumped his fist on the way back to the team van after a subsequent top-five finish, the look staying for at least another week.

    Pettersson, Clark and fellow Wolfpack teammate Marc Turnesa shared a duplex in Raleigh. Clark told Golf World in 2006 Pettersson would offer Clark his bed when Clark would stop in after setting out in professional golf.

    "He was a whole lot of fun," said Sykes, who stayed with Pettersson one year on Hilton Head and planned to visit the Masters this past week to watch the opening round pairing of Pettersson and Clark. "Everybody on the team just loved him."

    When it comes to his game, Pettersson takes himself seriously. And he answers only to himself. His homemade swing has held up through 13 years of professional golf, without much of a look from an outside eye and never with a regular swing coach.

    Pettersson relies on his instincts and rarely spends time away from the game.

    After the FedEx Cup playoffs ended this past fall, Pettersson continued his season in Asia and competed in the Franklin Templeton Shootout in December.

    "This game drives you a little mental sometimes," Pettersson said. "But I enjoy practicing and playing. I work at the game pretty hard, but I enjoy it, too."

    CARL PETTERSSON BY THE NUMBERS

    2 -- Countries of which he is a citizen (Sweden, United States)

    3 -- Career third-place finishes

    4 -- Career runner-up finishes

    5 -- Career PGA Tour victories

    20 -- 2012 rank in strokes gained putting on PGA Tour

    45 -- Career top-10 finishes

    70 -- Position in FedEx Cup rankings

    97 -- Career top-25 finishes

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