Pettersson rides hot putter to PGA lead

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Another player who wields a long putter is in the lead at a major championship. Only this time, it might not be the guy you were expecting.

Carl Pettersson, who has anchored the putter to his sternum for the past 15 years, missed only three greens and took advantage of benign conditions Thursday, shooting a bogey-free 66 at Kiawah Island to lead by one at the 94th PGA Championship.

“I think we’ve seen it about as easy as it can get today,” Pettersson said of Kiawah’s Ocean Course, which was relatively defenseless during a warm and muggy morning.

The easier conditions were a welcome reprieve for the Swede, who owns a spotty record in the majors. He has only a pair of top 10s in golf’s biggest events – none since 2008 – and his 66 Thursday was the first time he’s ever broken 70 in the PGA.

This season has arguably been his best on Tour. In April, Pettersson won the RBC Heritage – contested about two hours away, on Hilton Head Island – and has two other runner-up finishes (Sony, Houston). He’s ninth in FedEx Cup points. He has amassed nearly $2.7 million in earnings.

Of course, nobody wanted to discuss that afterward. The hot topic in his news conference, as it’s been for months now, was the prevalence of the long putter. Three of the past four major winners have used a longer-than-standard-length putter, and Pettersson, 34, has played with one for 15 years, dating to his career at N.C. State.

“I don’t like the way they say it’s easier to putt with a long putter, an anchored putter,” he said. “It isn’t easier. If it was easier, everybody on Tour would use a long putter or a belly putter. You have to practice and develop a stroke with the long putter just like you do with the short putter. There’s no guarantees of making it easier.”

Asked if he’d be willing to adapt if the club was banned, Pettersson quipped, “Would I adapt? Well, I’d have to. I’ve got a high school diploma. What else am I going to do?”