Unsung But Not Untalented

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I tuned in to the last half of the Memorial Sunday and my wife, surprisingly enough, sat down for a few minutes to watch. She stunned me when she asked me an embarrassing question: who the heck is Carl Pettersson?
 
Well, I mumbled, hes from Norway - (wrong ' hes from Sweden.) He played in Europe for awhile ' (actually, he belonged to the European Tour for only two years, the last one 2002.) And hes already won once in the U.S. (righto ' last fall at the Chrysler Championship.)
 
If I were a little more up-to-date on my Carl Pettersson profile, I could have told her that he has played in the U.S. for four years now, since 2003. I could have told her that his father was an avid golfer and an executive for Volvo Trucks in Sweden. I should have noted that, because of his fathers occupation, the family first moved to England, then to Greensboro, N.C., for Carls final two years of high school. And, Pettersson attended North Carolina State University, where he was an All-American for four years.
 
In short ' European-born, yes, but now thoroughly American. He speaks thoroughly American English, not English with a Scandinavian accent. Today he lives in Raleigh, N.C., which, if I remember correctly, isnt that far from the hometown of Barney Fife and Aunt Bea.
 
How many more Carl Petterssons are there who have won on the PGA Tour this year? Several ' and just like Pettersson, these guys can really play. Its gotten to the point that if you are going to really be cognizant of who the possible winners are, you have to conversant with about 100 or so players.
 
Rod Pampling has won this year on the big tour. So has Aaron Oberholser. Rory Sabatini, Stephen Ames, Brett Wetterich, Geoff Ogilvy, J.B. Holmes, Chris Couch, Aaron Baddeley ' theyve all won this year. If youre still living in the tour of two or three years ago - and maybe I have been ' a lot of these guys will seem like Nationwide Tour players to you. But they arent ' theyre now PGA TOUR stalwarts, the backbone of the PGA TOUR of today. A win from any of them no longer ranks as a surprise.
 
OK, I went to the PGA TOUR media guide to find out an interesting tidbit on each of them. These are things you already know if you are a true golf nut. And these are things you SHOULD know if you are at least a casual golf fan:
 
Rod Pampling is an Australian who is married to a clinical psychologist. Oberholser has helped out as an assistant golf coach at Santa Clara University. Sabatini is a South African who travels around the tour in an RV and has helped contribute almost $200,000 last year to soldiers and their families.
 
Ames is the first native of Trinidad and Tobago to play on the tour, though his father is English, his mother Portuguese, and his wife a former flight attendant from Canada. Wetterich, whose father started him swinging a golf club at 2, was granted a major medical extension carryover from 2001 when he underwent wrist surgery in January. Ogilvy is an Australian who has quite an interesting family tree ' he is a distant relative of Sir Angus Ogilvy, a member of Britains royal family, and is kin to a former king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce.
 
Holmes, second on tour in driving distance, grew up playing baseball until he won the first junior tournament he played' then proceeded to win his next three junior tournaments. Couch is the ultimate grinder, an extremely gifted junior who made the field at age 16 in the Honda Classic, but who once had to borrow $3,000 from Brendan Pappas in 2003 to keep playing. Baddeley? Hes an Australian who won the first of two Australian Opens at age 18. Baddeley was actually born in New Hampshire ' his father was chief mechanic for Mario Andrettis racing team ' but his family moved back to Australia when Aaron was 2.
 
Note that theres no Vijay Singh, no Ernie Els, no Retief Goosen named here. They havent yet won. But these guys have. And I havent even mentioned Lucas Glover, who hasnt won yet but who has finished in the top 10 six times and who currently stands No. 9 on the Ryder Cup list; or Vaughn Taylor, who has five top-10s and is No. 8 on the Ryder Cup. Wetterich, incidentally, is No. 7 on the Ryder list.
 
Heres the bottom line to all this: the PGA TOUR is presently in the throes of a major upheaval which is bringing unsung players to the front, players that you probably know little about.
 
But Els was in this same situation in the early 90s, same with Singh and Mickelson. Goosen was here 10 years ago. Tiger Woods was well-known as a teen-ager, so he probably wouldnt fit in here.
 
So the long and short of it is, a confusing influx of outstanding unknowns is making their presence known on the PGA Tour. And just because you ' or I ' arent familiar with them doesnt mean that they arent excellent players. They are winners at the highest level. Get ready because you will be hearing from them time and time again.