Carl Pettersson, the victim of what he called a “little stupid rule” at last week’s PGA Championship, came roaring back on Thursday to fire an 8-under 62 in Thursday’s opening round of the Wyndham Championship. Pettersson, determined to leave Sunday’s two-stroke penalty for a hazard infringement behind, held the early clubhouse lead and a yearning to put himself in contention for the FedEx Cup, which is up for grabs starting next week.
“We've got an important stretch of golf now with the playoffs,” Pettersson told reporters Wednesday before going out and scoring eight birdies to come up one shot shy of Sedgefield Country Club’s course record, which he set during the 2008 Wyndham Championship. “This week is one of my favorite events on tour and looking forward to this week and the playoffs coming off.”
He was hardly alone, as a host of golfers -- including John Daly, who would cadge a playoff berth with a finish no worse than 13th this week -- had their eyes on the $10 million bonus that goes to the guy at the top of the leaderboard after four events that begin at The Barclays next Thursday.
Dustin Johnson, who was not in the Wyndham field as he prepared to defend his Barclays title, knew exactly what was at stake.
“I always want to win the FedExCup. For one, it's a nice purse,” he said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “I don't know anyone that could argue that they couldn't use that money, so that's one thing that's really cool about it.”
Pettersson, who shared third place at the PGA Tour’s final major of the season last week, would put himself in prime position to cash that check with a strong finish in Greensboro. Ninth in points coming in, he would play his way into the coveted top five with a win and its accompanying 500 FEC points.
Any of the golfers who starts the Tour Championship in the top five would hit the jackpot with a victory in the final playoff game.
About that two-stroke penalty that Pettersson incurred when his backswing in a hazard moved a nearby leaf? The 34-year-old with a dual U.S./Swedish citizenship conceded that echoes of the ruling spooked him a bit in his first time back on the field since violating Rule 13-4.
“I am a little gun shy now. I was in the hazard on 15. My ball was sitting up. I put the club about up here,” he said with a laugh, indicating a spot high above the ball, “the ball was down here.”