Often times in golf, familiarity breeds confidence, not contempt, for players, and especially if that player is a past winner of a tournament.
But to do so, Pettersson, 33, must win on a different course. A year ago, Pettersson won at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto, Canada. This year it will have to be at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, across the country in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“It’s nice to be back as the defending champion,” Pettersson said. “It’s a little bit different because it’s not the same golf course, but any time you’ve won a tournament and come back, you always get a good vibe.”
The Swede could certainly use some good vibes this week. In his 27 PGA Tour starts since winning a year ago, he has just three top 10 finishes. His best was a tie for fourth at the 2011 season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, though he did tie for eighth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic three starts ago in mid-June.
Somewhat surprising is that Pettersson won a year ago. On the final hole of his second round, Pettersson needed to make a 9-foot putt just to make the cut. In the third round, Pettersson shot 60 to put him in Sunday’s final pairing. He missed shooting the magical 59 when his putt on the 18th lipped out. Pettersson won by a stroke.
“It was a cool weekend, shooting 60, playing well on Sunday,” he said. “Similar thing could happen this week. The way the golf course is set up, you could have somebody make the cut on the number and have a hot weekend and shoot up the leaderboard.
Pettersson said he is in a bit of a transition stage. Late last year he switched instructors, opting to work with Jeff Leishman. Also, he has regained some of the weight he had previously lost and he believes his swing—and play—is beginning to resemble his success of nearly five years ago.
In a three-year stretch from 2006-08, Pettersson, who played collegiately at North Carolina State University, won twice and finished among the top 10 in nearly 20 percent of his 88 starts.
“I still haven’t played as well as I wanted to this year, but I’m getting back to how I played in 2006, 2007, 2008, when I played pretty solid out here,” he said. “Just very minor things … but it’s getting there.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.