2002: Pettersson finds European zone

He doesn’t live in Europe anymore, but Carl Pettersson’s sterling 2002 season had him feeling right at home on the PGA European Tour.

Pettersson, 25, had seven top-10 finishes on the European Tour this season, including a victory in the rain-shortened Portuguese Open. He ended his European campaign 26th on the Order of Merit, an improvement of 35 spots over 2001.

The native Swede’s steady campaign in 2002 helped the former North Carolina State University star move up 287 places in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. He started the year at No. 367 and ended it at No. 80.

Pettersson’s rankings move is not backed up by his statistics. The former four-time All-American says it comes down to finding his comfort zone.

“If you look at my stats, they aren’t that much better than last year,” he said. “There is nothing that jumps out at me that says I have improved in any certain area. I think the key is that I have just been more consistent. I haven’t really shot any high numbers (71.13 scoring average in 2002, down from 71.18 in 2001).”

Pettersson credits much of his improvement to getting used to European Tour life.

“I think the main difference this year is that I am comfortable on tour now,” Pettersson said.

“I grew up in America, and coming back to Europe last year was a big change for me. Your first year out, everything’s new, everything’s different. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know the courses. Second year out, you feel more comfortable. You know the courses, the cities, the guys on tour. You know what to expect and that helps a great deal.”

When pressed on an area of his game that has improved, Pettersson singled out his play around the green.

“I feel that my short game is slightly better this year,” Pettersson said. “I seem to be getting the ball up-and-down better, and I’m holing a few more putts. That has nothing do to with better technique or more practice. I think it just comes down to feeling more comfortable under pressure.”

The stocky Swede still resides in Raleigh, N.C., and commutes across the Atlantic. He says not having a home overseas also has made him more focused.

“I play three, four weeks in a row, and if I miss a cut, then I can’t go home like the other guys,” Pettersson said. “It means that I tend to knuckle down on Friday if I’m on the cut line because I don’t want to be hanging around all weekend.

“I suppose for other guys, they may give up a little easier in that situation because they know they can be home that night.”

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