PGA Tour Confidential: Carl Pettersson wins in Harbour Town

Monday April 16th, 2012
Carl Pettersson sailed to a five-shot win in Harbour Town for his fifth career PGA Tour title.
Carlos M. Saavedra / SI

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in our all-new live Readers' Confidential or in the comments section below.

PETTERSSON EARNS FIFTH CAREER PGA TOUR WIN
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Carl Pettersson was second in Hawaii and Houston and has now won the RBC Heritage in a rout, though a lot of big names sat out this week. He's won five times on Tour and has career earnings of nearly $18 million. Is he a guy who could contend in a major this year, and if so, which one?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Possibly, but he doesn't have a strong track record in the majors. He might have a strong enough fairways-and-greens game to contend in a U.S. Open or a PGA.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's just another very-good-but-not-great player. If his putter is hot, he could definitely win the U.S. Open. If he misses the cut, no one will notice.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The PGA seems to produce an eye-opening winner every now and then. If Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem can win a major, why not Pettersson?

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I could see Carl squeezing a major onto his resume somewhere. He looks comfortable in the heat.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: He's a good frontrunner, for sure. I didn't see him losing his cool today, but Colt Knost, Kevin Stadler, Billy Mayfair and Matt Bettencourt don't exactly strike the fear of God into you when you see them climbing the leaderboard. Maybe Zach Johnson, who made a run, but Pettersson was on cruise control.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's a very good ballstriker who gets into contention when he starts holing putts with that long putter. A major? Probably not, but you can never rule anybody out. How many other guys have five career wins?

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David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: On any given week, a ton of guys could get hot and contend on almost any golf course, including Carl, Sean O'Hair, Brian Gay and many other similar players. But for Pettersson to win a major in 2012, he'd need a lot of other players to bring their B+ games instead of their A games. I don't see it happening.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Five Tour victories is a heck of a lot. He could win any week, anywhere.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: With five wins, you can't say he would be a fluke major winner. Maybe his best shot would be this year's PGA Championship, which will be held at another windswept track in South Carolina -- the Ocean Course.

Mick Rouse, editorial assistant, SI Golf Group: I can't picture Pettersson claiming a major this year. I know all it takes is to get hot at the right moment, but he's never won more than once in the same year on the PGA Tour. That's telling to me.

Wei: With all due respect to Pettersson, unless he has a really, really hot week, I don't think he's winning a major. But if I had to pick one? The U.S. Open. He's a fantastic putter. One of the only guys who uses the long putter and consistently finishes in the top 25 in putting.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Could Pettersson contend in a major this year? Which one?

PLUS-SIZED FINISH
Hanger: The final group at Hilton Head featured Pettersson and Colt Knost, a couple of relaxed-fit-sized players, as Gary Van Sickle put it in his Saturday night story for Golf.com. (As Pettersson put on the Heritage plaid jacket, he channeled Chris Farley and said: "Fat guy in a little coat.") As a whole, Tour players are far fitter and more athletic than ever, but not all the bellies are flat. Do big guys like Pettersson and Knost hurt golf's image by bringing up the old "are golfers really athletes" question, or do they broaden its appeal by showing that you don't have to be a physical specimen to excel?

Herre: I think being overweight is a handicap, and the big guys would be better players if they shaped up.

Godich: I think fans just want to see good golf shots. It would help if they had nicknames, a la Tim (Lumpy) Herron.

Herre: Herron was/is embarrassed by his physique, and you could make a case that his body has held him back.

Lipsey: They certainly stand out big-time on a Tour now filled with slim jims.

Godich: Some of those slim jims should spend less time in the gym and more time on the putting green. Petterrson was awfully impressive with the broomstick.

Van Sickle: Good point. The most putts Carl had in a round was 27 the first day.

Ritter: Early in the afternoon, when the broadcast cut from Pettersson to Knost and then back to Pettersson, my fiancée turned to me and said, in all seriousness, "Is this a professional golf tournament?" I'm not sure the big guys bring in a new audience, but it doesn't help the whole "golfers are athletes" argument.

Van Sickle: I think it's better for golf to have some normal humans win tournaments instead of indistinguishable robo-swingers. Fans can relate to a non-svelte guy. Especially if he's buying the beers.

Hanger: I agree that these guys bring everyman appeal to the Tour and the game. I also think Jim's right, though -- now more than ever, fitness is a big part of competing in professional golf.

Van Sickle: Just because you're heavy doesn't mean you're not strong.

Wei: Pettersson may be strong, but if he's in a major in serious heat, he's probably going to lose more steam than, say, Gary Woodland.

Dusek: Carl and Colt are both really good guys, and as someone who used to make his bathroom scale wince, I'm the last person to throw stones, but neither player helps the argument that golfers are athletes. My wife's reaction to seeing them on TV Sunday evening was, "Who are the fat guys?" Golf is still one of the few sports I can think of where heavy people can, and often do, compete well against slimmer, trimmer folks. Curling, anyone?

Hack: They're probably not the best advertisement for the Tour in this era of hyper fitness, but the golf ball knows neither age nor waist size.

Shipnuck: It doesn't help. They might as well be smoking and carrying a brandy. But I'm sure the average American can identify with these guys, which is a good thing.

Herre: Several players still smoke on the course, but you seldom see smoking on TV. Wonder why?

Wei: Most of them have switched to dip.

Van Sickle: Pettersson dropped 30 pounds and had his worst year ever, so he put the weight back on and said, never again. Shades of Roger Maltbie.

Dusek: Craig Stadler had the same problem. He lost weight and his game fell apart. Needless to say, he quickly found what he'd lost.

Hanger: These guys also show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Look at NFL linemen and some of the pitchers out there. You can be a great athlete without being in tip-top shape.

Rouse: True. You can be a big guy (or gal) and still be a great athlete. Look at power lifters. But the thing is, they pretty much are in tip-top shape, even if their body shapes make you think differently. Is Pettersson one of those athletes? Ehhh...

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is the big guys' success good or bad for the Tour?

HAIL TO HARBOUR TOWN
Hanger: Hilton Head is popular with players and fans and the golf media because of the course, the location, and the laid-back vibe that dominates the week after the pressure of the Masters. Where does Hilton Head rank on your personal list of non-major Tour stops?

Van Sickle: It's my favorite place to park my yacht. The S.S. Van Sinkable.

Wei: Were you parked two boats down from Allenby's "C'mon Aussie"? That looked like a hybrid of a rave-frat party. Hilton Head is in my top five, not necessarily because of the course, which I find a little goofy, but because it's a great atmosphere and feels like it marks the start of spring on Tour.

Hack: It's in my upper half, but behind behemoths like Quail Hollow and Memorial.

Herre: I love Hilton Head. Lots of great golf besides Harbour Town, which is always a treat. There are certain places that are special at certain times of the year, and Hilton Head in the springtime is one of them.

Godich: It's right up there because it rewards shotmakers and shot-shapers. I don't remember who said it, but I loved the comment that if you can find the middle of the green, you'll be looking at 15-footers all day.

Herre: Right, Mark. Smallest greens on Tour.

Van Sickle: This is one of Pete Dye's best courses. Lot of shotmaking values, and it's fun to play because, like Augusta, you usually still have a swing when you're in the trees ... which is often. Small greens are surprisingly strategic. Too bad that never caught on as a design trend. I'd enjoy a steady diet of Harbour Town as a golfer. It's excellent.

Shipnuck: Hilton Head is very close to the top, right up there with Pebble and Kapalua. Everything about the week is a delight.

Dusek: I love how you have to work the ball around the trees and the sand to reach those tiny greens. I put it in the same class as Colonial and a few other venerable tracks. Every pro who goes loves it, but a lot of stars just aren't going to play there because it's the week after the Masters. Case in point: Phil Mickelson. Jim Mackay told me it's one of Phil's favorite courses, but he's always spent after playing Augusta and knows he won't be mentally ready to play Harbour Town.

Hack: The pictures are always pretty, but I need a little more oomph in the strength of field.

Rouse: It's hard for me to get too excited about the actual event. Just not enough of the players I wanted to watch were there this year.

Wei: It was a pretty good field -- Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk. All big draws, but Harrington and Els both missed the cut.

Hanger: As popular as this stop is, some players were complaining this week about greens that were faster than years past and the lengthening of several holes at Harbour Town. Still, the winner shot 14 under. Did they make it too tough this week?

Wei: I think it had more to do with conditions and the weather than the setup. It was a lot colder and windier earlier this week. And there are only so many pin placements because the greens are tiny.

Herre: There's usually wind at Harbour Town, but you don't feel it much until the exposed closing holes, where it can be a shock. I don't think adding a few yards makes much of a difference.

Godich: Too hard? Just go out and play.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Where does Harbour Town rank among non-major Tour stops?

BUBBA MEETS THE WORLD
Hanger: Bubba Watson made his media tour last week, appearing on Letterman and Piers Morgan and in Tim Tebow's charity tournament, among other places. He was generally charming and well-received in what was his introduction to most of the American public. How would you grade his performance, and how big can Bubba become off the course as an endorser, personality, etc.?

Godich: Bubba will always be a draw, because Bubba will always tell you what's on his mind. And that's refreshing.

Herre: Bubba could be huge. He's one of a kind, and everyone can see it. TV needs to do a better job of showing the differences between his shots and everyone else's. Even on the brilliant recovery that won the Masters, no one could see his ball curving an astonishing 40 yards. Hard assignment for the networks, but also a big opportunity.

Shipnuck: He gets an A+ for being charming, candid and always his ownself. He's gonna be huge; the guy is John Daly minus the vices.

Dusek: Bubba gets an A for sure. The name alone is worth 20 Q-rating points. Add spontaneous tears, candor, willingness to openly talk about his faith and family, and the ability to hit the ball a mile using a pink driver (for charity), and you've got a winner. He'll keep winning and could be a big star.

Hack: Bubba aced the Letterman spot. I think he can rival Daly because of his length and non-traditional game, but he has to keep winning.

Lipsey: Unless he wins more majors, Bubba's time in the klieg lights will fade, at least outside the golf world. Remember, Tiger and Phil are the only golfers who have had crossover appeal in recent years.

Rouse: His personality and general attitude could make him someone the public latches onto. And no one is going to forget that name.

Wei: He loves the limelight. He'll do well just as long as he doesn't outgrow his visor size by too many inches.

Van Sickle: Bubba absolutely killed it last week, which was a little surprising given his sometimes iffy regular meetings with the media. He brought his A game to Letterman and Morgan -- A+, actually. Hats off to him.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Can Bubba became a mainstream star off the course?

OOSTHUIZEN WINS IN MALAYSIA
Hanger: Louis Oosthuizen bounced back from his playoff loss at the Masters with a win in Malaysia, where he faced a decent field that included Charl Schwartzel, Matteo Manassero and Martin Kaymer. Last week we were high on his swing and his demeanor after the Masters close call. Now we see he's resilient, too. With this win, should he be one of the favorites for the Players and the U.S. Open?

Shipnuck: He should be a favorite any time he's interested. The guy is pure talent and suddenly seems motivated. But will it last?

Wei: I expect to see him in contention often. Not much can go wrong with his swing because it's so technically sound. I'm most impressed with how well he played and maintained his focus in his third straight week in contention. Plus, he flew halfway around the world. A 30-hour journey right after losing in a playoff at Augusta?

Godich: Why not? The guy can get it out there, and his putting stroke is as smooth as silk. That's a lethal combination.

Herre: It's not unusual for a pro to get on a roll and play well for several weeks, so I'm not surprised by Oostie's performance this week. The big question is what happens once he cools off. There's been a lot of talk about his desire to be the best.

Dusek: Louis is hot, but there are a ton of guys who have talent out there. When people are knocking his work ethic, that's a warning flag that gets my attention. If Louis starts to fade into mediocrity again, will we be surprised? No. If he wins again, will we be surprised? No.

Wei: Louis was injured for a while after winning the 2010 Open. Then, his wife said it was a bit of a struggle last year to play the PGA Tour and move to the U.S. It takes some time to get used to such a massive change.

Lipsey: He's a beautiful player and seems to be genuinely nice. Barring some bizarre problem, he should be contending for a long time.

Hack: I want Louis in contention because I love watching him swing. He has a magical move, and it would be a shame if he wasted it on lack of hustle and hunger. One short conversation with Gary Player ought to fix him.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is Oosthuizen someone to watch at the Players and U.S. Open?

UCLA OR A BIG PAYDAY?
Hanger: UCLA's Patrick Cantlay is just a sophomore, but he's the top-ranked amateur in the world and was the low amateur at the Masters. He recently told the Orange County Register that he hasn't yet decided on going pro or finishing school. What would be your sage advice for this promising young player? Stay in school or go for the Tour gold?

Herre: Stay in school. Have fun. Get a degree. The Tour will still be there in a couple years.

Shipnuck: As a fellow Bruin, I say he'd be crazy to leave Westwood. There is no better undergrad experience, and the hard, lonely grind of Tour life will always be there. But Cantlay is a 40-year-old in a 20-year-old's body, and golf is his life, so I won't be surprised if he turns pro shortly.

Hack: Bingo, fellow Bruin. I wouldn't trade my four years in Westwood for anything, and neither should young Patrick. The real world will be waiting for him in time.

Rouse: Playing golf is obviously what he wants to do for a living, and he's proven he can compete with the big boys. Why stick around when you can be making boatloads of money with mediocre finishes?

Godich: He showed last summer that he has the game to compete at the highest level, and he has nowhere to go but down in the amateur ranks. What is he waiting for?

Lipsey: He should finish school. Tour life will last eons, and even winning majors on Tour will never be nearly as fun or enriching (in real ways, not financially) as an amazing university like UCLA.

Wei: For Cantlay, I don't think it matters much because he's obviously got what it takes to be out here. Whenever he's ready, he can get his seven starts on sponsors' exemptions and likely earn enough money to finish in the top 125 and secure his card. So I say, stay in school and get a degree. That's not true for everyone, however. Kelly Kraft told me at Bay Hill that he knows a lot of guys who are quitting school and going pro this summer because of the Q-school changes.

Van Sickle: Cantlay will probably do what a lot of collegians will do -- turn pro this year because it's the last Q-school that will award PGA Tour spots. What should he do? Whatever he wants.

Ritter: Normally I'd say stay in school, but the new Q-school plan makes me wonder if he shouldn't take a crack at earning a PGA Tour card for next year. If he waits, he'll probably have to play a season on the Nationwide Tour. The simplest path to the big money might be to leave Westwood now.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Would you advise Cantlay to go for the money now or finish school?

 

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