Pettersson Making Name for Himself

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04 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- His birthplace is Sweden, even though Carl Pettersson doesn't look the part.
 
He wears regular golf attire -- no pink pants, tight-fitting shirts or the bill of his cap flipped up. He sounds different than most of them, having moved to England at age 10 and then North Carolina as a teenager.
 
Carl PetterssonIn fact, Swedish golf officials didn't even realize Pettersson was one of their own until they saw his name in the college rankings a few years ago.
 
'The Swedish national coach called me up and asked if I was Swedish,' Pettersson said. 'He wanted to know if I wanted to play for Sweden. I guess that was the first time somebody in Sweden had ever heard of me.'
 
That could change this weekend at the Honda Classic.
 
The 26-year-old whom Jesper Parnevik jokingly referred to as a 'mystery Swede' made it no secret that he's the guy to beat on the Sunrise course at Mirasol.
 
Pettersson shot a 4-under-par 68 Friday, giving him a three-shot lead over Brad Faxon (66) and Todd Hamilton (66). At 13-under 131, Pettersson has the largest 36-hole margin on the PGA Tour this year.
 
'I've never had a 36-hole lead,' he said. 'We'll see what happens.'
 
He has had some success, although nothing that would make him a household name.
 
Pettersson was tied for the first-round lead in the 2002 British Open at Muirfield and still in contention Saturday afternoon until a sloppy finish knocked him out of the picture.
 
He was the runner-up no one remembers at the Buick Invitational last year at Torrey Pines -- Pettersson was never a factor, and finished four shots behind Tiger Woods.
 
Now, he has a chance to make a name for himself.
 
'It all depends on the weekend,' Pettersson said.
 
He will play the Sunrise course Saturday with Faxon, who was exceptional as ever with his putter. Faxon had five birdies in a seven-hole stretch -- one of them after a fortunate bounce off a trash can -- and saved par on four of his final five holes in making a 36-hole cut for the first time this year.
 
Faxon tore ligaments in his right knee over Thanksgiving, decided not to have surgery and is slowly putting his game together.
 
'The last two weeks there's been some good progress in my knee,' he said.
 
Hamilton was an All-American on Oklahoma's golf team, but that was back when Barry Switzer was the football coach. He has spent most of his 17-year career in Asia and finally got through Q-school last year. That makes him a 38-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour, and another guy who would love to make a name for himself at Mirasol.
 
The only difficulty Pettersson has faced this week is how to pronounce his name.
 
He was called 'PET-er-son' when he was in contention at Muirfield two years ago. But having spent the last 11 years in the United States, and married a girl from North Carolina, he decided to go with 'Peterson.'
 
Parnevik takes it one step farther, referring to him as 'the only redneck Swede on the planet.'
 
For two days on the Sunrise course at Mirasol, he's simply been the best golfer.
 
Pettersson opened with a 63, although Faxon and Hamilton surpassed him on the leaderboard by the time the Swede teed off in the afternoon.
 
He hit a 6-iron into 12 feet for birdie on the par-3 11th (his second hole), and got away with a slight miss on the difficult 14th. Pettersson was trying to land his 7-iron from 181 yards, some 15 feet right of the hole, pulled it slightly and came within inches of holing out for eagle.
 
His lone bogey came from a fairway bunker on No. 2, but he atoned for that by smashing a 3-wood from the left rough to the front of the green on the par-5 fifth, two-putting from nearly 100 feet for birdie.
 
Pettersson still has his work cut out for him.
 
While Mirasol has been kind and gentle, all it takes is a little wind to make the elevated, heavily contoured greens turn even the good shots into a potential disaster.
 
The cut, which was a record 6-under last year at the Sunset course, was even par.
 
Greg Norman, making his 2004 debut, looked like he might make the cut until he hit a provisional ball on the 13th hole fearing his tee shot was in the hazard. Players are not allowed to hit provisional shots unless the ball is believed to be lost or out of bounds, and Norman wound up disqualifying himself.
 
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