Last week Carl Pettersson posted his best career finish in a major with a T-3 at the PGA Championship – a performance that perhaps will be remembered more for the two-stroke penalty in the final round than his stellar play on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
No matter. The Swede shrugged off the major disappointment, then on Thursday continued his red-hot form at his hometown event, the Wyndham Championship. Pettersson, who lives about 90 minutes away in Raleigh, got off to a quick start and posted a bogey-free, 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over David Mathis and Tim Clark in the opening round. Defending champion Webb Simpson was among the players who shot 66 in the morning wave.
“Sometimes after a great week, you feel a little bit flat the next week,” Pettersson said, “but I think it helped getting off to such a good start (two birdies in his first three holes), and I played solid.”
The 34-year-old N.C. State product was one of the favorites this week at Sedgefield Country Club, and for good reason. Already this season he has a win (RBC Heritage), a runner-up (Shell, Sony) and the T-3 at Kiawah, earning more than $3 million in a season for the first time. Last week, he held a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds – the first time he’s led at a major – and shot even par on the weekend, when the spotlight was at its most intense. Said Pettersson, who is up to No. 32 in the world ranking, “I think this game is very streaky. We get on a good run, and you’ve got to keep going. It seems like when you’re playing well, you never think you’re going to play bad.”
Though Sedgefield was expected to play more difficult in 2012 – earlier this year, they converted the greens from bentgrass to Bermuda – Pettersson benefited from a couple of good breaks in the thick rough to post his lowest round on Tour since . . . well, the 2008 Wyndham, when he shot 61 in the second round en route to a two-stroke victory. It’s one of three top-5 finishes there since 2007.
Why does he play so well in Greensboro?
“It’s close to home,” he explained. “I lived here obviously in high school, and I just like it. It fits my eye very good off the tee. Every tee shot I stand on, every tee box, I’m comfortable. I seem to read the greens really well, and I think that’s the key, hitting the fairways and making some putts.”