By Mark Lamport-Stokes
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - A bizarre rules infraction effectively cost Carl Pettersson second place at the PGA Championship on Sunday, though he still would have finished a distant seven shots behind runaway winner Rory McIlroy.
The Swede was slapped with a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on the first hole and he ended up tying for third, a closing two-over-par 72 leaving him nine strokes off the lead.
It was the best of his three top-10 finishes in career majors, but left him with a bitter taste in his mouth.
"Yeah, it sucks for me, I would have finished second on my own," Pettersson, who ended up one stroke behind runner-up Briton David Lynn, told reporters of his costly experience at the par-four first.
"I played good enough on the front nine, though. Who knows what would have happened; but Rory played great.
"Obviously I broke a rule there. I didn't realize it myself and I don't think it affected the outcome of the shot, but it's just one of those things."
Pettersson incurred the penalty after his clubhead touched a dry leaf during his backswing inside a hazard line on the opening hole.
He was warned by a rule official that an infraction may have incurred but it was only confirmed to him after he had teed off at the par-four fourth.
Remarkably, the Swede responded well with three birdies in five holes before coming unstuck like so many others on the more difficult back nine at Kiawah Island.
"It made me more motivated," said Pettersson, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour. "I got a little fired up and made some birdies in a row there. I came back. But there was only one winner today, really."
Asked to explain what had happened with his second shot on the opening hole, Pettersson replied: "I knew I could touch the grass. I just didn't think about the leaves. I didn't think twice about it when I hit the shot.
"A rules official came to me and it's just one of those bad rules in golf, because I didn't rest the club down. If you're in a hazard, you can actually touch the grass. You just can't put any weight on it.
"I've got to take it on the chin, obviously, but it's one of those stupid rules. I didn't even realize I moved it, because I'm trying to hit the ball."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by John O'Brien)