HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Carl Pettersson had another fast start and finished with a 2-under 69 for a five-shot victory over Zach Johnson on Sunday in the RBC Heritage.
Pettersson had a run of five straight birdies on the front nine during the third round Saturday to move in front. This time, Pettersson birdied three of the first five holes and built a five-shot lead by the turn that he never relinquished. He finished at 14 under.
It was Pettersson’s fifth career PGA Tour title and first since the 2010 Canadian Open.
“It was great,” Pettersson said. “I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, so I kind of downplayed the whole thing. But getting off to a birdie on one was great.”
Pettersson, second in thel Houston Open two weeks ago, earned $1,026,000.
Top-ranked Luke Donald needed to finish eighth or better to retain his ranking, but tied for 37th and will fall behind Rory McIlroy.
Johnson shot a 70 to finish second at 9 under, while Colt Knost’s chances for his first PGA Tour title fell apart with a 74. He was third, another shot further back.
Kevin Stadler and Billy Mayfair tied for fourth at 6 under.
Masters winner Bubba Watson and most of the world’s best took the week off to recover from 2012’s first major.
Pettersson rolled in a 24-footer on No. 1 to get things started with a birdie. He added another birdie, from 16 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, then two-putted from 40 feet on the par-5 fifth to go up by four shots. When Johnson took bogey at No. 10, Pettersson was five strokes in front and cruising.
Knost was on top after Thursday and Friday and felt good as part of the final pairing. But those nerves Knost acknowledged on Saturday were apparantly back again in the final round.
He missed an 8-foot putt for par and made bogey on No. 1 for a second straight round to drop three shots behind Pettersson. And just like Saturday, Knost fought back with a birdie on the second hole – he made eagle there in the third round – to close in on Pettersson.
However, Knost’s chances ended, though, a hole later with a horrible drive out of bounds left on No. 3 that led to a triple-bogey seven and left him five shots behind and out of contention.
When Knost flew his approach to the 12th green way left, he simply stood in the fairway and stared straight ahead, hands on hips, in disbelief.
Pettersson didn’t let Knost’s troubles affect his focus.
“He had a tough time out there,” Pettersson said. “But there were still other guys with a chance.”
Johnson, four strokes behind Pettersson at the start, tried to make a charge with birdies on the second, fourth and fifth holes. Johnson closed to three shots when he birdied No. 15 and Pettersson had his first bogey of the day moments later.
But Johnson ran out of steam on the 16th hole when he drove into a waste bunker and took bogey. Still, it was Johnson’s best showing of the year and first top-10 finish since January.
Donald was largely resigned to surrendering No. 1 when he woke up early for his 9:46 a.m. start time, more than four hours before the final group of Pettersson and Knost teed off.
Donald’s round began badly with a double bogey at No. 1. He came back with birdies on the fifth and sixth hole, but Donald ended a four-week run at No. 1 that began after he won the Transitions Championship last month.