Pettersson's success befits competitor of any shape

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April 15, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- At 5-foot-11 and more than a few calories north of 200 pounds, Carl Pettersson isn't exactly a picture of physical fitness.

"Drink 10 beers and eat a tub of ice cream before you go to bed," Pettersson said when asked how he achieved his current stature.

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You can almost hear Jack LaLanne rolling over in his grave.

But what the XL Swede lacks in size medium shirts, he makes up for with self-deprecating humor, the swing of a pure ball-striker and a killer stroke with his long putter that when you add it all up produced a fifth career win and his first in two years following a final-round 69 Sunday at the RBC Heritage.

"It's getting harder and harder to win out here," said Pettersson, who moves to fourth in the FedExCup standings with the victory. "I feel like in the last two or three years it's become really competitive."

And really fit.

In a changing landscape where length and swing speeds are increasing and body fat decreasing, Pettersson is proof there's still a place out here for someone whose idea of a workout regimen includes 12-ounce curls.

There was, despite what your eyes might tell you, a time when it wasn't always that way for Pettersson.

Following the 2008 season, which was Pettersson's best to that point in his career, he hit the gym and shed 30 pounds in an effort to improve his game even further.

Instead, he played worse. Pettersson missed 12 cuts in 29 starts, including six in a row at one point which actually would have been eight straight if not for a WD thrown in there.

A year and a few tubs of ice cream later, Pettersson reduced that number to nine and won another RBC event, the RBC Canadian Open.

Speaking of the victory at St. George's Golf & Country Club, Pettersson was lamenting what he thought was a missed cut that Friday night so he downed a few beers afterward. Seven to be exact.

He of course didn't miss the cut and went on to shoot 60 the next day and eventually win the tournament with a 67 in the final round.

"It took a while to get the swing back," says Pettersson, who added that the loss in weight threw his timing off. "Just the last like six months I felt comfortable again."

It has certainly shown.

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FedExCup standings
Carl Pettersson's victory at Harbour Town moves him to No. 4 in the race for the FedExCup race. See where everyone else stands. Standings

Two weeks ago in Houston, Pettersson made another change, tweaking his swing and going to a new Nike Method long putter. He went on to finish second.

At Harbour Town, Pettersson led the field in greens in regulation and putting. On Sunday, he began the day with a one-shot lead and increased it to by five with three birdies over his first five holes.

No one got closer than three back of Pettersson, but it wasn't until he got through the par-3 14th that he felt safe (even though he bogeyed the next hole for a third-straight day).

"I don't like that tee shot one bit," Pettersson said. "Anything can happen there. I've hit it in the water before, I've hit it left, and I knew [it] was a hole you could rack up a big number on."

Pettersson of course knows all about big numbers, at least when it comes to calories. Unlike a lot of Swedes, as he pointed out, he doesn't have a 28-inch waist nor does he eat bananas at the turn.

He doesn't even consider himself as much Swedish as he does American after moving away from the Nordic country to England as a 10-year-old in 1987 and seven years later to North Carolina. Earlier this year, he even became an American citizen.

He did, however, tie countryman Jesper Parnevik for the most career wins on TOUR by a Swede, and his father also worked for Swedish carmaker Volvo, which in English translates to "I roll."

That's exactly what Pettersson did at Harbour Town, proving that winners out here still come in all shapes and sizes.

"Ultimately it's a hand� eye coordination sport," Pettersson said. "Just because you don't look like an athlete doesn't mean you're not an athlete. We're not running marathons; we're just walking 18 holes. It's great to be fit and everything, but I feel like I'm fit enough to get around 18 holes."

And fit enough to slip on a tartan jacket for his latest victory. Pettersson even has a plaid vest at home to match.

"I wore it at Christmas one year; it might have been in '09," he laughed. "I don't know if it still fits."

Maybe not, but he's certainly comfortable in his own skin.

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