At the end of long week, I finally had the opportunity to watch golf. Sure I went out on Thursday and watched a round (Retief Goosen, Camilo Villegas, and Carl Pettersson, though I had no sense of what was to come). On Friday I walked a half-dozen holes with a dejected Mike Weir, as well as watching some of Paul Casey’s round. But finally I had the chance to just wander the course, following Tim Clark for the first few holes before settling in on the group of leaders, Dean Wilson and Carl Pettersson.
Most people would be surprised at how few of my peers actually get outside of the media tent to watch golf. That’s not to say they all sit in the tent watching on TV, but I’m pretty certain that aside from photographers no other reporter walked the first six or seven holes with the leaders. I have no idea why — standing inside the ropes watching golf is as close as one gets at just about any professional sport, and frankly Pettersson may have a slightly ugly swing, but we was playing terrific golf.
On Friday evening, Carl Pettersson was kicking back in the clubhouse of St. George’s Golf and Country Club, trying to figure whether he’d make the cut at the RBC Canadian Open.
Hanging out with fellow PGA Tour pro Jay Williamson, the pair knocked back a few beers – seven by the end – while waiting for a conclusion.
“My caddy had to drive me home,” he said laughing. “I wasn’t in that bad of shape … I can usually handle seven beers.”
It turns out the Swede with the big appetite made the cut on the number. And apparently without a hangover, Pettersson went out the next morning and carded a remarkable 10-under 60 to move him 4-shots back of leader Dean Wilson. And though he had no expectations heading into the weekend, after a final round of 3-under par 67 Pettersson finds himself Canadian Open champion.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said following his round. “You know, if you would have asked my Thursday if I was going to win, I would have laughed at you. I’d have probably thought you’d been drinking seven beers.”
The Spectator’s Garry McKay had this take (though the photo that accompanies his column online is Trevor Immelman, not Pettersson as it says):
So much for fitness.
Portly Carl Pettersson followed up his tournament record 60 on Saturday with a three-under-par 67 yesterday at St. George’s Golf and Country Club to win the RBC Canadian Open by a shot over third round leader Dean Wilson.
His 54-hole total of 266 earned him $918,000 US and a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
The affable Pettersson joked about everything from his weight to his enjoyment of beer to his mixed background in his post-round media conference.
“I’d love to be fitter, but I’m not going down that road again,” said Pettersson, who set out to get fit after his great ’08 season, lost 30 pounds and then saw his game go south in 2009.
The Sun’s Ken Fidlin gets a sense of Pettersson’s mixed pedegree:
The man was born in Sweden, became a teenager in Great Britain and settled in North Carolina.
Listen to him speak for a few moments and you’ll get confusing notes of all three.
“I call myself a mutt, really,” said Carl Pettersson.
Now he can call himself Canadian Open champion. Pettersson, who made a 10-foot putt for par on Friday to make the cut, fired an other-worldly round of 60 on Saturday to put himself in the mix and finished off his unlikely championship with a round of 67 Sunday to beat American Dean Wilson by a solitary shot.
Pettersson stood on the 11th tee Sunday trailing Wilson by four strokes but passed him in the next three holes, partly because Wilson started to falter and partly because he caught fire himself.
It was a remarkable end to a strange week for Pettersson. He came off the course on Friday afternoon uncertain if he would qualify for the weekend. He and fellow pro Jay Williamson sat in the players’ lounge and downed seven beers while waiting to hear the good news.
“I had to get my caddie to drive me home,” he said.
The Star’s Dave Perkins, who got a standing ovation from the newsroom at the Open yesterday in recognition of his pending retirement, focused on Dean Wilson, who dropped a 4-shot lead to come in second:
Wilson got into this event only because Mike Weir, his great friend and former college roommate, leaned on the host sponsor for an exemption. Weir was sending him go-get-’em texts all weekend and Wilson said that as disappointed as he was, “I’m not as disappointed as I was when (Weir) didn’t win in 2004. I had a tear in my eye then.’’
No one need shed a tear for someone who makes a half-million in four days, but still. Big-time golf is a rich-get-richer kind of thing and Wilson, because the other guy got hot for seven holes and he didn’t, is on the outside of the inner circle, still with his face pressed against the glass.
“I wanted this title real bad. It didn’t work out that way, but, in perspective I’m in second place and get some money and some FedEx Cup points and this really helps me in the situation I’m in,’’ said the Hawaii native whose lone PGA Tour win came in the 2006 International, an event discontinued after he won it.
Players like Wilson, who aren’t often in position to win, need to steel their nerves when given the chance. Because he can’t pick and choose where to play, he doesn’t play often enough to avoid the clutch of pressure when he’s in a hunt.
“I really feel good about my emotions. I know how I am when I’m very nervous and I know how I play,’’ he said. “Maybe if I had a few more tournaments.’’
In a short column, Lorne Rubenstein argues that sometimes it isn’t the stars who add the most to the tournament:
The RBC Canadian Open that ended Sunday demonstrated how difficult it is to predict a winner. Not many people would have suggested that the Swedish player Carl Pettersson, as accomplished as he was with three previous PGA Tour wins, would be the champion. Similarly, who would have predicted that Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland would win the U.S. Open or that Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa would walk away with the Open Championship?
Or how about the reverse? Who would have predicted that Paul Casey, who finished third at the Open in St. Andrews, Fred Couples, and Sean O’Hair would miss the cut at the St. George’s Golf and Country Club?
Maybe few people will ever accept it, but the truth of golf is that there are many excellent players. Just as there are, oh, 300 top-100 courses in the world, many golfers are capable of winning any week on the PGA Tour, or, increasingly, even in the majors.
For news on that front, one need only speak with any of the little-known golfers who played the Canadian Open at St. George’s. To Rob Grube, then, a Canadian Tour player who was an All-American at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where he lives. Grube, 26, opened with 66-66 to sit two shots from the halfway lead. He shot 72 Saturday and finished with a 71 that ended with a double-bogey on the last hole.
Hadwin showed something else, too: charisma. By Sunday, the galleries following him had swollen into boisterous throngs, and his brilliant approach at 18 got the well-refreshed patrons of the surrounding skyboxes out of their seats and cheering wildly. If nothing else, he’s got a great sense of occasion.
The throngs lining the fairways included an above-average complement of women. Early in the week, Golf Channel announcer Rich Lerner had likened Hadwin to ladies’ man Vinnie Chase, a character on TV’s Entourage, and two women who followed Hadwin for the entire back nine on Sunday enthusiastically supported the comparison to actor Adrien Grenier. Did that explain why they were following Hadwin’s group? “Yes,” one said, not blushing at all. She watched as Hadwin nipped a perfect wedge to four feet at the 14th green, and added: “See, there’s another reason to follow him.”
The Sun’s Fidlin talks to tournament director Bill Paul, who concluded hosting the event at St. George’s was a huge success, regardless of the low scores the first three days:
That Golf Canada was able to pull it off bodes well for previously ignored classic courses across the country.
“Absolutely,” tournament director Bill Paul said. “I think this was very different than most. It took a lot. Some (sites) you can work on 18 months out, some two years out. This one was three years in the works. I can’t know of anything that would be as challenging as this.”
The mood in the wake of this 2010 Canadian Open, at least at the executive level, is in sharp contrast to where it was three years ago, just after Bell Canada left as title sponsor, leaving the very future of the third-oldest Open championship in the world in question.
“You’ve got go back to 2007 when we were further down than the bottom,” Paul said. “What was the future? We didn’t have a title sponsor. We didn’t know where we were going. At that time, the RCGA made a lot of changes internally.
“Later in the fall, we signed RBC (as title sponsor) and I think their vision, matched with our vision, has made it good. We’re on a high. We both recognize that there’s a lot more to do to make it better. We think we’re in pretty good shape to move forward.”
Paul said the low scores were a result of the weather conditions and in that regard he thought St. George’s was getting a bit of a bum rap as being too easy.
He said there’s no reason they couldn’t come back to St. George’s if the members want it, and if the city would co-operate with the road closures again.
Paul agreed with the assertion that if Golf Canada was able to make it work at St. George’s logistically, and it appears they have, then that brings a number of other great old Canadian courses back into the mix to host the Open.
ScoreGolf’s Bob Weeks has his picks and pans from the tournament, including a note about slight ticket sales (which could lead to a bigger loss for the RCGA), and the writer who took a shot at Mike Weir:
The Bad: Golf Canada officials admitted that ticket sales were off for most of the week. Sunday was the exception. High, humid temperatures as well as rain probably limited the walk-up too. That might have an effect on the overall financial success of the tournament.
The Bad: Writers with no golf experience and therefore little perspective writing stories about Mike Weir being washed up. The guy’s had a bad year, but a poor seven months don’t mean the end of a career.
Score’s Peter Robinson had this interesting note on his blog post from Sunday:
+Canadian players who earn a spot in the tournament are generally appreciative of the opportunity but find some of the ways in which Golf Canada handles its implementation a bit confusing. Most of all, two players privately voiced displeasure at Golf Canada taking credit for their development as pros. “If they want to take credit for how far we’ve gotten,” mused one, “they should be sponsoring me when I first turn pro. (Money) is what we need…the camps I attended (as an amateur) had (little) impact on what I’ve done as a pro.”