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Sweden’s Carl Pettersson fired two-under-par 69 to win the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. His winning score of 270 (-14) bested that of second-place finisher Zach Johnson (275) by five shots and third-place finisher Colt Knost (276) by six shots.
Pettersson began the weekend two shots behind second round leader Colt Knost but ended up having a pretty easy time of it on the weekend. On Saturday, Pettersson blasted the front nine at Harbour Town for five straight birdies (holes two through six) as he went out in five-under 31. His even-par 35 on the back saw him take the 54-hole lead to the tee on Sunday afternoon. Pettersson cruised to victory on Sunday on the back of three birdies in the opening five holes. Knost, who began the day one back searching for his first career Tour win, couldn’t handle the pace. He made bogey on one, birdie on two and then triple-bogey on three to find him five shots behind and Pettersson never let him back into the tournament. Zach Johnson came as close as three back but his final 13 holes were played in two-over par as he settled for second alone.
After an opening round 70, Pettersson only made four bogeys the rest of way en route to his first victory on Tour in 2012. Pettersson played all four rounds at Harbour Town under par and was only one of eight guys to fire in the 60’s on Sunday.
Carl Pettersson is the only Swede to win the RBC Heritage in its 44-year history and is the first international winner since Aaron Baddeley in 2006.
Carl Pettersson is better than you think. How so? With this victory he ties Jesper Parnevik for the most wins on Tour by a player from Sweden with five. Only 34 years of age, Pettersson has more wins on Tour than Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney and Ian Poulter. He has just as many as Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, and Tom Lehman.
All the talk last week was about Sweden’s Peter Hanson. Now Carl Pettersson has the stage!
Absolut solid play!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
The last 11 of 16 players who led after 54 holes on Tour have blown the lead in the final round. Carl Pettersson now makes it 11 of the last 17 as he won for the fourth time in six career tries when holding the 54 hole lead.
Pettersson is only the sixth champion at Harbour Town since 1983 to win WITHOUT playing the previous week at Augusta for the Masters.
Now, back to the déjà vu!
Pettersson used the formula that we’ve seen from multiple champions this season on Tour: He was first in putts per GIR; first in putts per round; 10th in strokes gained putting. Oh, and he was first in GIR as well. This formula works and it led to him leading the field in birdies as well with 22. Pettersson only carded six bogeys for the entire four rounds which led to his five-shot victory.
In 2012, Pettersson has been quietly going about his business before Sunday’s win. He finished T2 at his season-opener at Hawaii before making in the cut in four of his next six. His best finish in that stretch was T33 at WMPO. In his last three outings before this week he was CUT, CUT and T2 last time out at SHO.
With this victory, Carl Pettersson earns $1,026,000 and 500 FedExCup points. Pettersson now has five-career wins on Tour and is now fourth in the FedExCup standings behind leader Hunter Mahan.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 17 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-6-2 as Carl Pettersson scores another point for the “middle”.
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33) and now Carl Pettersson (34) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour.
The internationals break up the American’s three-week string of victories with Pettersson’s victory this week.
Zach Johnson: The cut-making machine continues to roll on in 2012 with his best finish of the season this week. His previous best was T8 at Humana and interestingly enough that was his last top 10 in his last nine events. Always accurate off the tee, it was Johnson’s iron play this week which vaulted him to second place. He finished T13 in GIR and when you putt it as solidly as he did this week (T2 putts per round, ninth in strokes gained-putting) that’s a fantastic combination. Johnson was T2 with 18 birdies made on the week as well. Nine birdies and an eagle against only three bogeys on Friday and Saturday saw Johnson climb the leader board to get into position. After three birdies in the opening five holes and Sunday, Johnson had a shot but ran out of gas down the stretch and Pettersson was just too good on this day. Fast greens, windy conditions for most of the weekend didn’t faze Johnson. Just like it didn’t at Augusta in 2007!
Colt Knost: After finishing T23 in his opening event at Sony back in January, Knost’s Mayakoba. In six other events, Knost was CUT twice and his finishes were 73rd, T67, T66 and 89th his last time out at SHO. Congratulations if you saw this coming. Knost finished the week T7 in GIR and was leading the tournament in strokes gained-putting until his Sunday 74. After finishing 156th on Tour last year, Knost qualified through Q-School for 2012 by finishing T27. Finishing third twice already in 2012 should take $700,000 and it’s not even May.
Kevin Stadler: Regular readers of this column know that Stadler was “The Mayor” of the sleeper column before Henrik Stenson took over recently. After his T82 at SHO, I wasn’t sure what direction Walrus Junior was heading. In the bottom 10 in driving accuracy this week, Stadler still found a way to finish second in GIR. His putter was also to thank as he finished a tidy 12th in strokes gained-putting. After 67-68 on the weekend here, it looks like the answer is right back to the game he was playing in March before the pothole that was SHO. He now has hit the top 10 in three of his last four starts (SHO) and I’ll be right back on his bandwagon after this T4.
Billy Mayfair: After opening up on Thursday with a round that saw a hole-in-one followed by bogey, double-bogey, it looked like Mayfair was just making up the numbers this week. CUT in four of his previous nine outings, Mayfair logged a one-over 72. The next three rounds he only made four bogeys to his nine birdies and he found himself T4 at the end of the week including 67-69 on the weekend. Mayfair, like Knost, best finish was at Mayakoba (T12) and he only had one other top 30 (T29 Sony) in 2012. He finished T53 in GIR but was T3 in putts per round. There’s a saying about driving and putting that would probably fit here…Mayfair now has hit the top 10 five times in 22 career starts at Harbour Town.
Matt Bettencourt: Following the same formula as Stadler and Mayfair, Bettencourt started his week two-over 73 on Thursday. Following the same formula as Stadler and Mayfair, Bettencourt played excellent golf Friday-Sunday firing rounds of 69-69-69. Following the same formula as Stadler and Mayfair, Bettencourt was first in putts per round, T6 in putts per GIR and sixth in strokes gained-putting. In 11 previous events in 2012 Bettencourt was CUT six times and WD once. His finishes in 2012 were T58, T72, T26 and T48. He now can add T4 to his resume for 2012. Again, spotter’s badge if you had him in your league, team or wagers this week.
Boo Weekley: It’s been a busy week for the boys from Northern Florida and Boo Weekley tried to join Bubba Watson as back-to-back winners this week at Harbour Town. One of the favorites around these parts didn’t win but disappoint either this week with his T6 finish. His T6 joins his two victories, T12, T13 and T46 in his six lifetime starts. Boo’s course knowledge and confidence here is through the roof and this showed throughout the week. He made 15 birdies even though he was 59th in strokes gained-putting and T25 GIR. The name of the game is getting the ball in the hole and Weekley did a pretty good job of that until his 38 on the back Sunday cost him a few bucks. He hits the top 10 for only the second time this season joining his T3 at Puerto Rico. In his last two events, Weekley has finished T14 and T6.
Matt Every: Shot the round of the day on Sunday with five birdies and one bogey for 67. Every’s putter was the hot club in the bag as he finished second in strokes gained-putting which helped offset his T37 in GIR and T62 in driving accuracy. It’s been a wavy-gravy season but Every keeps finding ways to hit the top ten. He began the year T6, CUT, CUT and T3. In his next five events, he was CUT three times and finished T48 and T24 in the other two. Looks like it’s time to take a look if this springs Every forward. Microsoft Word loved that last sentence…
Charley Hoffman: This week turned out to be a coming-out party for guys like Hoffman, Bettencourt and Knost after quiet play in 2012. Hoffman’s best finish before his T8 was T14 at TC. He backed that finish up with T59 and T75 in his next two outings. After his 65 on Friday, Hoffman played well enough to hit the top 10 for the first time this season after 70-71 on the weekend. I’ll need to see some more solid play from Hoffman, Bettencourt and Knost to make them regulars in these columns.
Jim Furyk: Outside of his second round 75, Furyk was Furyk this week at a course where he won in 2010. In his last four starts, he’s finished P2 at TC, T11 API, T11 Masters and T8 this week. It looks more and more like the Furyk of 2010 again. He thrives on courses where par is an excellent score and the conditions are not set up to be birdie-fests. He proved that again this week and should be on your list as spring continues.
Kevin Na: Last Sunday at Augusta Na used a final round 68 to climb up the leader board to finish T12. Sadly this week for Na, his Sunday back nine of 38 moved him from T4 to T8 but another excellent finish. I opined earlier in the week that I was getting back on this roller coaster and he didn’t disappoint this week outside of the three consecutive bogeys on 12, 13 and 14 Sunday. His putter is where he makes his money and that wasn’t the problem this week as he finished fourth in strokes gained-putting.
Harris English: Earlier in the season I combined English and Bud Cauley in some of my previews because these young ‘uns were playing so well and I couldn’t pick between them. This week it was English’s turn to have his best career finish on Tour with T8. We remember his final round 77 at Honda and wondered if that would bother him moving forward. He followed up with two CUTS in his next two events before righting the ship at SHO for T18. He’s now hit the top 25 in five of the 10 events he’s played in 2012 thanks to his T14 in season-long GIR. English and Cauley (T37 this week) are names you should have written down by now.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Luke Donald: He entered the week as the No. 1 golfer in the world and he leaves as the No. 2 after his T37 this week. According to the OWGR’s formula, he needed a T9 or better this week to mathematically better Rory McIlroy who was not playing. Whatever. He’s good. McIlroy is good. Golf is in pretty good hands right now. Donald finally breaks his streak of top-three finishes at Harbour Town. He led the field in pars this week because his normally trusty short game wasn’t up to top speed. This is the exception, not the rule, but after a T32 at Augusta and T37 this week I’ll be taking a closer look on how high he continues to rank each week.
Brandt Snedeker: Just goes to show that it’s hard to finish with 64 here every year! The defending champion began Sunday six shots out of the lead and knew it would take another 64 or lower to contend this week. Instead, he went the opposite direction firing 75 with doubles on 15 and 17 costing him a few bucks in the end. Thanks to his putting all week (T1 putts per round; T7 strokes gained-putting)he finished a respectable T17 which earned him his sixth finish inside the top 25 in 2012.
Matt Kuchar: Entered Sunday T14 before a final round 77 knocked him back to T44. His putter went cold and the bogeys followed as he carded seven of them plus a double in the final round. After three stroke-play events in the top 10, I wouldn’t put too much stock in one bad Sunday round when moving forward.
Webb Simpson: After consecutive T14’s in 2010 and 2011, I thought he might have just found a way around Harbour Town. After breaking par in only one round of the four this week and finishing T52, I am starting to wonder if young Simpson is hitting a bit of a mid-season wall. In his last three events, he’s trended T36, T44 and T52 this week. In his last 12 rounds, Simpson has only had one in the 60’s.
Bo Van Pelt: Well, it was a fun ride! There were signs of cracks forming last week at Augusta but his final round 64 papered over those cracks awfully well. This week Van Pelt had no answers for Harbour Town as he carded 15 bogeys on Thursday and Friday to miss the cut for the first time in seven events stretching back to FIO in January. What it run it was though as Van Pelt finished T8, T8, T8, T9, T17 and CUT in his last six stroke-play events. I hope you enjoyed the ride!