You don't have to spend a lot of time around Carl Pettersson to realize he's comfortable in his own skin. Don't forget, this is the guy who famously packed on the pounds a few years ago after concluding that fitness and dieting nearly ruined his game. Just as the Swede couldn't care less about having six-pack abs, he shuns textbook swing mechanics. He's proud to call his swing his own. "It looks a little different, but it's worked for me very well," says Pettersson, who has won five times on the PGA Tour and racked up nearly $20 million in earnings.
When you try to evaluate Pettersson's golf swing, never confuse style with purpose, says Golf Digest Teaching Professional Rob Akins. "Your belt might not match your shoes, but it can still hold up your pants," he says. "Carl's swing might not look picture perfect, but its functionality is a beautiful thing." Specifically, Akins loves the timing and balance of the swing: "Carl has the rhythm of a fly fisherman." Although it might look segmented in these photos, his motion is one of the smoothest on tour. Good tempo, Pettersson says, is something he works on.
"My swing relies on a fairly slow but constant tempo," he says. "I don't think too much about the mechanics. I just want to shift to my right side on the backswing and then shift back to my left side as I start down. That's really all I try to do."
Akins says Pettersson's natural motion produces three things seen in so many good swings: (1) a clubhead that lags behind the hands for a long time in the downswing; (2) an in-to-out swing path through the ball; and (3) a square clubface at impact.
His move might look unusual because his backswing is fairly upright, Akins says, but once Pettersson starts down, his right elbow and shoulder move toward the ball and he slots the club to the inside to set up a nice, shallow delivery into impact.
"What I like most is how long he keeps his right heel planted through the shot," Akins says. "It rolls toward the target but doesn't really lift. I think it's his secret to distance and accuracy."