JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Carl Pettersson was runner-up at the Sony Open and Shell Houston Open before he cashed in last week with a victory in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. Three high finishes would be enough to put him at No. 10 in the Ryder Cup standings, except for one small problem.
The Swede is not eligible for Ryder Cup points.
“You have to be a member of the European Tour, which I’m not,” Pettersson said Tuesday.
That was not an oversight. Pettersson has lived in America since he was a teenager, and last year became a U.S. citizen. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two children, who are about to turn 5 and 8. He feels this is a key time to be at home instead of traveling the world to meet the minimum 13 tournaments to be a European Tour member.
“It’s too hard to play two tours at once,” Pettersson said. “It’s hard to compete on one, let alone two. I’ve seen others try to do two. It’s very difficult. Luke Donald did it last year. I know it’s a Ryder Cup year. But if I’m playing well, maybe they’ll take me.”
Donald became the first player to win the money title on both tours last year. For most members of both tours, they have the advantage of eight tournaments that count toward both – four majors and four World Golf Championships. Until he won last week, Pettersson wasn’t eligible for any of them.
“With a wife and two kids … before this win, I wasn’t in any of the majors, maybe the PGA,” he said. “To play 13 over there, I’m quite happy playing the PGA Tour.”
Pettersson, known as the “Swedish Redneck” for his European heritage and Southern home, has played outside the United States just twice in the past two years – both times at the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, an unofficial PGA Tour event. He last played a full European Tour schedule in 2002.
“I understand why the European Tour does make you be a member. It’s a bargaining tool to get top players back to Europe,” Pettersson said.
In the meantime, Pettersson can gear up for the majors. The Masters was the only major that he played last year. His victory at Hilton Head made him eligible for the PGA Championship and the Masters next year. He is No. 35 in the world and must stay in the top 60 for the U.S. Open and top 50 for the British Open over the next five weeks.
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STOCKTON HONORED: Two-time PGA champion Dave Stockton has been selected for the PGA Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor from the PGA of America. And it’s only fitting where he will receive the award – Kiawah Island.
Along with his 10 victories on the PGA Tour, he was U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 1991 at Kiawah Island, a watershed moment for the intensity of the matches. It became known as the “War on the Shore,” and the Americans won back the cup when Bernhard Langer missed a 6-foot putt on the final hole.
Along with his achievements on the course, Stockton has become known as a putting guru, employed by the likes of Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
“I’m very excited about this honor, which is totally unexpected,” Stockton said. “My first thought was, ‘Why me?’ I have been fortunate to have many good things happen to me in golf, with the biggest honor serving as Ryder Cup captain. I believed in giving back through golf. I had a gift as a motivational speaker and used it to help others.
“I have tried helping people gain a better understanding about what golf can do to help them feel better about themselves.”
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WATSON ON BUBBA: That other Watson to win at Augusta National – Tom Watson – heard something on the eve of the Masters that impressed him about Bubba Watson. It was the sound of the ball coming off his wedge.
“I practiced my chipping on Wednesday and he came up. We were 10 feet from each other, and I noticed every chip shot he hit was absolutely, dead solid perfect,” Watson said. “I mean, dead solid. In my ear, you can hear it.”
The eight-time major champion said Bubba Watson had a “swing for the ages,” though he would not call it a classic golf swing.
“The purpose of the golf game is to get results,” Watson said. “My dad always said, ‘Beware of the guy who comes out on the first tee and he’s got a terrible grip and a terrible golf swing. If he’s in that tournament with you, there’s a good chance he knows how to play with that type swing.’
“And Bubba is that type of person.”
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HANSON STATUS: Unless he wins on the PGA Tour, Peter Hanson will have to sit out the FedEx Cup playoffs this year because he is not a member. But he can bank on a full Tour card for next year.
Even though he closed with a 73 and tied for third at the Masters, the Swede earned $384,000. That pushed his earnings for the year to more than $1 million, assuring that he will be at least the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list.
Hanson is at No. 24 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
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CLARKE MARRIES: Darren Clarke found reason to celebrate this year, at least off the golf course.
Three days after the Masters ended, the British Open champion married Alison Campbell in a private ceremony on the beach at Abaco in the Bahamas, where they have a home. Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell introduced them in 2009, and the couple became engaged before Christmas.
The wedding party included Clarke’s two sons, both sets of parents, agent Chubby Chandler and McDowell.
Clarke’s first wife, Heather, died in 2006 of breast cancer.
A short honeymoon was planned for Abaco. Clarke, who has missed the cut in four of his seven tournaments this year, gets back to work next week at the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea. Alison, who was Miss Northern Ireland in 1982, returns to Northern Ireland to run her Belfast-based modeling agency.
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DIVOTS: Hawaii has added another tournament on the Champions Tour. The Pacific Links Hawaii Championship will be played Sept. 13-16 at Kapolei Golf Course on Oahu. That gives the Aloha State five events on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours. … The Presidents Cup raised $4.5 million for charity, which will be distributed to organizations selected by the 30 players, captains and assistant captains. The PGA Tour said more than $27 million has been generated for charity since the event began in 1994. … Ping decided to increase its contribution from the sale of 5,000 pink G20 drivers to $50 per club, ensuring a $250,000 donation toward Bubba Watson’s goal of raising $1 million for charity in 2012. … There already have been 22 aces in 17 events on the PGA Tour. A year ago, there were 23 all season.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Since winning the U.S. Open last year by eight shots, Rory McIlroy has finished a combined 46 shots out of the lead at his next three majors.
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FINAL WORD: “His golf game and his golf swing looks pretty similar to what I’ve been looking at. And he hits a lot of great shots. But you never know what’s going on in somebody’s head.” — Jack Nicklaus on Tiger Woods.