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Swede dreams for a first-time winner

By BOB HARIG
Published October 31, 2005


PALM HARBOR - The dream scenario was unfolding Sunday afternoon, Carl Pettersson on his way to his first PGA Tour victory. His parents, Lars and Elizabeth, were on the Innisbrook grounds, visiting from Sweden. His wife, DeAnna, and 1 year-old daughter, Carlie, were also here.

All Pettersson had to do was negotiate the final four holes on the Copperhead course with four pars and the celebration could begin.

The journey from Sweden probably seemed easier.

Pettersson got his four pars, but he labored to do so, including the last knee-knocking 3-footer on the 18th green that secured a one-shot victory over Chad Campbell at the Chrysler Championship.

"It was a little easier in the dreams," Pettersson said.

To see the final-round par-71 score by his name might not seem all that impressive, but closer inspection shows a gutty final round played with the pressure of trying to win on tour for the first time.

Pettersson made just one birdie and it didn't come until the 14th hole, where he reached the green in two shots and two-putted.

But it was enough to win the $954,000 first prize from the $5.3-million purse and open a world of possibilities.

"It feels fantastic," said Pettersson, 28, a native of Sweden who lives in Raleigh, N.C. "It hasn't quite sunk in yet. Unbelievable. Just a real special day. I'm thrilled."

Pettersson completed the tournament at 275, 9 under par. It was one of just seven 72-hole events on tour that was won with a winning score that did not reach 10 under.

Campbell tried to make things interesting, shooting a final-round 67 after beginning the day five back of Pettersson and Steve Lowery, whose triple bogey at the par-3 eighth hole led to 75, dropping him into a seven-way tie for third place at 279, four strokes back.

When Campbell birdied the 15th hole, he was briefly tied for the lead at 8 under par. He bogeyed the 16th hole - the third time he did so during the tournament - then rolled in a 12-footer for birdie at the 18th to pull within a stroke of Pettersson.

There at least was a consolation prize for Campbell. By earning $572,400, Campbell jumped from 43rd on the money list to 17th, earning a spot in this week's Tour Championship in Atlanta for the top 30 money winners.

"That was one of my main goals this week," said Campbell, 31, who won the Tour Championship two years ago, one of his two tour titles. "Winning is first, but to get myself in the Tour Championship, I knew I needed to finish top three or so. I'm pretty happy with myself to be able to get that done. It's been kind of an up and down year for me, and to be able to end the year like this and get a reward to go to Atlanta ... I'm pretty happy with my play."

Campbell was four strokes behind Pettersson at the turn, then made birdies at the 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th holes to briefly forge a tie. The difference turned out to be the 475-yard, par-4 16th, which yielded just one birdie Sunday and played as the toughest hole of the day and of the tournament.

A tee shot in the rough for Campbell led to an approach that came up short in a bunker. From there, Campbell was unable to get up and down. Meanwhile, after Pettersson managed to get up and down from a difficult lie to the right of the 15th green, he too faced a dicey chip out of the fringe at the 16th, but he managed to make a par.

"It's a very difficult hole," Pettersson said. "Starting the week, I would have been happy with 1 or 2 over for the week."

With the victory, Pettersson gets a spot in the season-opening Mercedes Championships in January. And he also has given himself a chance to earn an invitation to his first Masters. Pettersson moved up to 43rd on the money list and will play in this week's event in Madison, Miss., where if he could move into the top 40, he'll get the call to Augusta.

"That would be special," he said.

He will remember the final round to be that way, too, even if seemed anything but memorable. After a bogey at the second hole, Pettersson managed to make a 25-footer for par at the eighth, a stroke that kept him in the lead. Then came those final four treacherous holes and the 20-footer he had for birdie at the 18th, knowing he had two putts for victory.

The last one might have been a bit shaky, but using the long, broom putter he switched to several years ago helped calm his nerves. Somewhat.

"I'm glad I had it for that last one," Pettersson said. "But otherwise it would have been a mess."