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New World Order: It's a phat time to be a Swede in game of golf

by | CBSSports.com Senior Golf Columnist

After trimming down, Pettersson struggled in '09 with how the weight loss affected his swing. (Getty Images)  
After trimming down, Pettersson struggled in '09 with how the weight loss affected his swing. (Getty Images)  

ORLANDO -- Not surprisingly, easygoing Carl Pettersson spent a goodly portion of his post-round interviews on Sunday night talking about his diet.

Admittedly on the pudgy side, he doesn't resemble the majority of the Swedish players we've seen winning tournaments over the years, including beanpoles like Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson or Jesper Parnevik.

Mind you, Karlsson and Parnevik are guys who famously once ate volcanic dust to clean out their innards.

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Lanky or not, it's a great time to be a Swede and dining from the buffet table that is global golf.

The forever underrated and unassuming Pettersson won for the fifth time on the PGA Tour last weekend in Hilton Head, tying Parnevik for most wins for a Swedish player in the States. A week earlier, countryman Peter Hanson played in the last group at the Masters after holding the 54-hole lead.

This week, at the Texas Open, one of the favorites is colorful Freddie Jacobson, who has pieced together three straight top-five finishes at the event.

Here's an off-the-wall fact for you, too: The bloodlines in Phil Mickelson's family, on his father's side, trace back to Sweden as well. Maybe that's why Phil plays so hot-and-cold.

In our weekly attempt to be nothing if not timely, the New World Order list this week is a subjective ranking of the most successful Swedish trophy collectors in golf history, in both genders. For a country with 10 million residents, that's frozen for two-thirds of the year, and has reindeer roaming in the north, this is impressive fare.

While the men are still searching for their first major -- Stenson and Hanson had real cracks at the Masters title -- the Swedish femmes have had four different major champions, led by incomparable Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who had 10.

No other Swede has more than one major trophy on the mantle, unless, as one of my Golf Channel pals recently noted, you count Elin Nordegren, who has seven.

Think about it.

1. Annika Sorenstam
Born: Bro
LPGA victories (majors): 72 (10)
Age: 41

She's No. 1 on the Sweet Swedes list by such a wide margin, it's hard to be succinct about the resume highlights. Sweden's only Hall of Famer, Sorenstam came to the United States to play in college, plinking it around with a 3-wood off the tee. Two decades later, she retired with arguably the most impressive résumé ever compiled in the women's game. She won 72 times and claimed 10 major titles, adding 17 more on the European circuit. She won the player of the year trophy a record eight times on the LPGA and posted the lowest seasonal stroke average six times. Like Stenson and Hanson, she lives at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., which has become quite the Swedish enclave.

2. Helen Alfredsson
Born: Gothenburg
European wins (majors): 17 (1)
Age: 47

For those who follow the LPGA, Alfie is something of a treasure -- a glib, funny and articulate observer who usually calls it like she sees it. Her career has had a fantastic arc, especially in the women's game, where most modern players start hitting the wall at around age 30. Alfredsson's seven victories on the LPGA span 15 years and include a major title at the Nabisco event in Palm Springs. In fact, that win in 1993 was so long ago, it was still then called the Dinah Shore. She also won the 1990 Women's British Open before it was deemed a major, and three times at the Evian Masters, which will soon be anointed the fifth women's major. That's some staying power.

3. Jesper Parnevik
Born: Stockholm
PGA Tour wins: 5
Age: 47

Parnevik was the flagship Swede for many years on the PGA Tour, known for his eccentric sense of humor, divots the size of beaver pelts, crazy diet and the flip-up brim on his cap. At the peak of his powers, he was an elite player who nearly won the British Open, finishing second in both 1994 and 1997. He spent 38 weeks in the world top 10 in 2000-01, climbed as high as No. 7 and played on three Ryder Cup teams. How can you not love a guy who named his son Phoenix, after the city in which he claimed his first PGA Tour title? Also has pretty good taste in nannies.

4. Robert Karlsson
Born: Katrineholm
European Tour wins: 11
Age: 42

Karlsson has been a top-50 fixture for roughly a decade and in 2008 won the European Tour money title. Two years ago, he won the Race to Dubai season finale, then jumped ship and became the oldest rookie on the PGA Tour in 2010. At 6-5, Karlsson is usually the tallest player in the field, has a sneaky sense of humor and occasionally answers to the nickname Bobby K. Has played on two Ryder Cup teams. Karlsson has amassed 11 European Tour wins, which ties for 21st all-time and represents the most by any male Swede.

5. Henrik Stenson
Born: Gothenburg
European Tour wins: 6
Age: 36

Capable of hitting tee shots that leave vapor trails, Stenson holds the distinction of being the highest-ranked Swedish player in the annals of the men's official world ranking, having climbed to No. 4 in mid-2009. He has had some ups and down since then, fighting both a case of the yips with his driver and an occasionally debilitating snap hook that cost him a shot at the Masters, but he is a two-time Ryder Cupper and a former winner of both a WGC title and the Players Championship in the States. He's also a genuinely funny guy.

6. Sophie Gustafson
Born: Varberg
European wins: 14
Age: 38

Gustafson has played both the LPGA and Ladies European tours heavily over the years, rolling up five wins on the former and 14 on the latter, including a Women's British Open title. With over $6 million in LPGA earnings, she ranks 25th all-time in that category. She's also one of the longest hitters in the women's game, routinely averaging more than 260 yards off the tee. Gustafson has played on eight Solheim Cup teams, same as Alfredsson and Sorenstam.

7. Liselotte Neumann
Born: Finspang
LPGA Tour wins (majors): 13 (1)
Age: 45

One of the most elegant and classy players of the past two decades, she started the Swedish invasion of the States with her win at the 1988 U.S. Women's Open, which became a monumental catalyst for impressionable kids back home, including Sorenstam. As testament to her career, she is one of only seven Swedish players, male or female, to have amassed more than eight career wins on either the PGA, European, LET or LPGA circuits. Indeed, she reached that number on both the LET and LPGA tours, joining only Sorenstam in that regard. Neumann, who was named the Solheim Cup captain last month, played on the European team six times.

8. Carl Pettersson
Born: Gothenburg
PGA Tour wins: 5
Age: 34

No male Swede has more wins under his belt. Or more bulk above it. Pettersson cut weight and dropped under 200 pounds a few years ago, then lost his swing, and decided to build up his center of gravity, so to speak. "You drink 10 beers and [eat] a tub of ice cream before bed. That puts it on quickly," Pettersson laughed. One of the most underrated players in the game, Pettersson is a U.S. citizen and an N.C. State graduate who talks with a slight Carolina drawl. Forget the wins -- just being that unique gets him on this list. His biggest title came at the 2006 Memorial Tournament, which has a truly impressive list of past champions. It would be interesting to note how many times Pettersson might have won on the European Tour had he not played his entire career in the States.


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