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Inside The Ropes: Swedish Redneck returns to North Carolina

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When Carl Pettersson captured the RBC Heritage last year, a title he defends this week, it was a popular victory in Sweden and the Carolinas.

After all, this is the guy that Jesper Parnevik nicknamed the "Swedish Redneck," and with his fifth PGA Tour victory Pettersson equaled Parnevik for the most by a Swedish-born player.

Even if he has lived most of his life in North Carolina.

"I haven't lived (in Sweden) since 1987," said Pettersson, who came to the United States as a teenager because his father was an executive for Volvo and was transferred. "Yea, I know I'm Swedish. I've spent the majority of my life (in the U.S). I lived in ... Sweden 10 years, my first 10 years, and then England for five years, and then in America ever since.

"I honestly feel more American than Swedish. I became an American citizen (in 2012); I've got dual citizenship. Sweden is a golf-crazed country. I know I'm from Sweden, but I've lived here so long I'm very American."

The Pettersson family relocated to North Carolina, where Carl spent his last two years of high school at Grimsley High in Greensboro, and after attending junior college in Alabama, he received a golf scholarship at North Carolina State.

That's where he met his wife, DeAnna, and they live in Raleigh with their two children.

"Carl and I met while out with mutual friends one night just before graduation from N.C. State," DeAnna wrote in a book released by the PGA Tour Wives Association. "When we first met, I thought Carl had already graduated, but he was actually going through q-school in Europe.

"I asked, 'So, what do you do?' He replied, 'I play golf,' and I said, 'Yes, but what do you do for money?' Oops. It took me a few dates to live that down. I had just never known anyone who was actually a professional athlete. Everyone I knew played their sport in college then went on to get regular 9-to-5 jobs and play on recreational leagues."

The 35-year-old Pettersson has made it in the highest league for his sport.

After playing on the European Tour in 2001 and 2002, claiming his first professional victory in the 2002 Algarve Open de Portugal, he earned his PGA Tour card by finishing in a tie for 21st at Qualifying school in 2002.

Pettersson has been on the circuit ever since.

In his second tournament in his first full season in 2003, he finished second in the Buick Invitational, now the Farmers Insurance Open, four strokes behind Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines.

Two years later, he broke through for his first victory on the PGA Tour, holding off Chad Campbell to win the Chrysler Championship, now the Tampa Bay Championship, by one shot on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

That made him the third Swede to win on the PGA Tour, joining Parnevik and Gabriel Hjertstedt. They have since been joined by Henrik Stenson, Freddie Jacobson, Richard S. Johnson, Daniel Chopra and Jonas Blixt.

"Every win is real special," Pettersson said after winning by five strokes over Zach Johnson at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island last year. "It's getting harder and harder to win out here with the players. I feel like in the last two or three years it's really become really competitive.

"It was competitive before, don't get me wrong, but it seems like there's a lot more younger guys playing really good, hitting it a mile, and all of a sudden I'll be 35 this year, I'm one of the old guys, trying to get around the golf course.

"But five wins is great. I'm hoping to add to that. I know it's going to take a lot of effort and hard work and dedication, but I hope I can add to it."

Pettersson might have to do it without his trusty long putter, which he anchors to his chest, if the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association go through with their proposed ban of anchored putters.

To him, the powers that be in golf are over-reacting after Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els became the first players to claim major titles using anchored putters in a span of five Grand Slam tournaments.

"It feels a bit like a witch hunt to me," said the normally laid-back Pettersson, who began using the long putter 16 years ago after his sophomore year at N.C. State. "It was a pure reaction to Keegan and Ernie and Webb. They keep harping on the younger generation using them, but I think they're going to ban it because it looks bad. But you have strong arguments from other players, too.

"There's no argument that it's a better way to putt because then everybody would be using it. If it was easy, everybody on the PGA Tour would be using it. So I don't know where they got that from. It's just a different way of putting.

" ... It seems silly to ban something that's been around for 40 years."

That's the redneck coming out in the normally-placid Swede.

COMING UP

PGA TOUR: RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 3-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EDT on CBS.

LAST YEAR: Carl Pettersson of Sweden took the lead with five consecutive birdies on the front nine in the third round and went on to a five-stroke victory over Zach Johnson. Pettersson claimed the fifth victory of his PGA Tour career, and the first since the 2010 RBC Canadian Open, to equal Jesper Parnevik for the most titles on the U.S. circuit by a Swedish-born player. Petterson, who moved to North Carolina with his family as a teenager and attended North Carolina State, took a one-stroke lead into the final round, but quickly increased it to four with birdies on three of the first five holes. He never was challenged while finish with 12 pars and his only bogey at No. 15 in closing with a 3-under-par 69 after playing the middle rounds in 65-66, following an opening-round 70.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga., Friday through Sunday.

TV: Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Inaugural event.

LPGA TOUR: LPGA Lotte Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, Wednesday through Saturday.

TV: Wednesday, 6:30-11 p.m. EDT, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Ai Miyazato of Japan captured the inaugural event last year by shooting 7-under-par 65 in the second round on her way to a four-stroke victory over Azahara Munoz of Spain and Meena Lee of South Korea. The 27-year-old Miyazato claimed her eighth title on the LPGA Tour after winning 15 times on the Japan Ladies PGA Tour and added the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship later in the year, giving her 25 career victories. Miyazato took a three-stroke lead into the final round, but Lee caught her with a birdie on the 15th hole. Playing in the final group, Miyazato regained the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe at No. 15, saved par from 15 feet on No. 16 and rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 17 while closing with a one-under-par 70. Lee hit her approach shot on the final hole into a greenside bunker, three-putted from 30 feet for a double-bogey 6 and also shot 70.
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