Final forecast: Anything but a breeze

Steve Lowery and Carl Pettersson minimized their slip-ups on a day of warm winds and slick grass.

Published October 30, 2005

PALM HARBOR - You could hardly ask for a better day to play golf. Nary a cloud in the sky. Warm sunshine. Low humidity. Nice, cool breeze.

But when Steve Lowery stood on the first tee of the Copperhead course Saturday afternoon, he knew different. While the temperature was balmy, the scoring conditions at the Westin Innisbrook Resort were nowhere near as pleasant.

The wind that made it feel so nice did funny things to the golf ball. The greens that have been cut short for tournament play dried out even more. The grass in the rough did not get any shorter.

"The wind was blowing and you are walking to that putting green, you hit a couple of putts, you watch how those balls roll on that putting green and you pretty much know it's going to be a challenge," Lowery said. "It's going to be a tough day out there for sure.

"This is one of the hardest golf courses that we play all year. It's going to be windy again (today). The wind is out of the north and the greens are dried out, there is no moisture, so they are rolling really fast and they're firm."

Lowery's two-shot advantage had evaporated when the day ended after 1-under-par 70, but he still completed 54 holes of the Chrysler Championship tied for the top spot with Carl Pettersson at 204, 9 under par.

Pettersson, from Sweden by way of North Carolina, shot the day's second-best score, 4-under 67 that tied him with Lowery, three strokes ahead of Davis Love, Tom Pernice and Daniel Chopra.

First-round leader Jeff Brehaut managed 69, one of just 13 scores in the 60s, to finish at 208, 5 under par. Chad Campbell (69), Tim Herron (71) and Bo Van Pelt (73) finished at 209, tied for seventh, five strokes back.

"It was tough, real windy," said Love, an 18-time winner who will be in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour in more than two years. "We couldn't get enough birdie putts. It was hard to hit it in the fairway, hard to hit it close."

But Love's 70 left him where he started, just three off the lead.

"That's the best way to look at it," he said. "Only three back on a tough golf course. You can have a two-shot swing out there real quick. We saw it. On a golf course like this, anything can happen."

Pettersson, 28, has been pegged by Jesper Parnevik as the Swede nobody knows about. Although he is from Sweden and played for national teams as an amateur, he has not lived there since his teenage years. His father was transferred to England, then later to North Carolina, where he ended up playing golf at N.C. State. Pettersson now makes his home in Raleigh.

For a brief time before joining the PGA Tour two years ago, Pettersson played and won on the European PGA Tour, capturing the Algarve Open in Portugal in 2002. Winning is winning, but Pettersson said a victory on the PGA Tour would be different.

"Definitely, to me it is anyway," Pettersson said. "As a kid you always dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour and dreamed about winning. This is the best tour in the world, and this would be a dream come true."

Pettersson got closer to it with a solid effort Saturday. He made five birdies and just one bogey. After knocking a pitching wedge to 8 feet for birdie at the 10th hole, Pettersson parred his way in, saving his solid round by getting up and down from a bunker 30 yards short of the 18th green.

If he is so inclined, Pettersson can try to engage Chopra in a bit of Swedish as they walk the fairways in the final threesome, perhaps looking to brush up on the language. Like Pettersson, Chopra, 31, doesn't spent much time in his native land. His family moved to India when he was a child, and he has lived in Australia. Now living in Orlando, Chopra is playing in his 34th event this year, which is tied for the most on tour.

Compared to the Swedes, Lowery, 45, is from another world. Alabama. He's an 18-year tour veteran who has two victories and this year wondered if he'd make another cut, let alone contend for a title.

Lowery missed the first eight cuts of the season and 11 of the first 12 but got his game together in the last six weeks to secure his PGA Tour card and managed to hang on to a share of the lead with 18 holes to play.

"It would be very satisfying to win after the start that I had," he said. "To be able to turn this year around and win, I think that would be a huge accomplishment for me."