Former NC State golfer Pettersson out of semi-retirement, into money at Memorial

The Swedish-born golfer is mostly playing for fun these days

Carl Pettersson lines his putt on the 18th green during Sunday's final round of the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio. (Darron Cummings / AP Photo)

DUBLIN, Ohio — Muirfield Village was the toughest test Carl Pettersson has seen in nearly two years, so he was more than satisfied by closing with a 2-under 70. Keep in mind, it was the only PGA Tour test he’s faced in nearly two years.

“Pretty good for a retired guy,” Pettersson said.

He was only half-kidding when he finished the Memorial in a tie for 38th, earning his first paycheck ($43,245) since the Canadian Open three years ago.

He is not hurting financially. Pettersson was a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the Memorial in 2006, and has just over $22 million in career earnings. That’s why the Swedish-born former NC State golfer can consider himself retired at age 42 with enough love for the game that he plays four times a week at home in North Carolina.

“I’d had enough,” Pettersson said. “I was playing so poorly two years ago, it was no fun. I decided I wanted to watch the kids grow up — 16 and 13. You play this game, you have to be selfish. You travel seven months a year, when you’re home you’re practicing and playing. It’s all about you.

“If my game hadn’t gone south, I’d probably still be doing it,” he said. “But I decided I didn’t want to be miserable in my 40s. And luckily, I played good enough where I could do it. If I hadn’t played good enough, I’d still be doing it.”

He plans to return to a full schedule when he turns 50 and is eligible for the PGA Tour Champions.

Pettersson’s best year was 2006, when he finished 18th on the money list. His best chance at a major was in 2012 at Kiawah Island, when he played in the final group with Rory McIlroy in the PGA Championship. McIlroy blew everyone away to win by eight. Pettersson tied for third.

What contributed to Pettersson’s poor play was the decision to ban the anchored stroke for his long putter. He made the cut in only four of the 24 events he played in 2016 as he struggled to find a replacement for the only putting stroke he had as a pro.

That’s what made his appearance at the Memorial so remarkable. It was the toughest test of the year, the strongest field of the year. Pettersson only plays at home. He doesn’t grind on the range. Yet he was hardly dead weight. He made the cut, and then had one of only five rounds under par on Sunday.

“Can I buy that from you?” Carlos Ortiz joked as he headed to the first tee for the final round.

That boosts Pettersson’s priority ranking enough that he should be eligible for a few opposite-field events. For him, that’s just enough.

“Golf’s a weird game,” he said. “I’m playing better now than I did three years ago. I still play at home. I don’t practice. I play with members, the assistant pro. And I do a lot of boat riding.”

He doesn’t miss the grind of playing the tour. But he does miss seeing players — Pettersson said he didn’t recognize half of them — caddies and other acquaintances.

“I looked at it this way,” Pettersson said. “I’m never going to be as good as I was. Why grind it out and be miserable?”

Pettersson is anything but miserable. That much hasn’t changed. It was evident by what appeared to be the logo he had on the bill of his visor: LdM5.

A corporate sponsor?

“That’s the name of my boat,” he said. “Long drive, make 5.”