Slow-Starting John Peterson Makes Progress at Every Level

March 17, 2015
john peterson.jpg

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) John Peterson never had to worry about a sophomore slump. At just about every level, his struggles started much sooner.

”Some guys get it right away,” Peterson said. ”Others don’t.”

His rookie season on the PGA Tour was so bad that Peterson made only seven cuts and finished No. 179 on the FedEx Cup.

Just like that, he was back to the Tour Finals and four tournaments away from heading back to the minors.

The 25-year-old from LSU saw it more as a second chance than a reminder of his failures. He breezed through the finals for the second straight year to get his card back, and this time is off to a stronger start.

Or at least a more consistent one.

”I made seven cuts all of last year,” he said. ”I made my first seven this year.”

Peterson has missed only one cut in 11 starts, and while he still doesn’t feel as if he’s playing to a level he should, he at least got into the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has twice been on the fringe of contention in the final two hours at the Humana Challenge and Farmers Insurance Open.

”I’m making steps toward doing better,” he said. ”But I’m still mediocre, and it’s aggravating me. I’m sick of being just another name on the list. It took me a couple of years in college to win, and once I did I was a really good player. This is my second year out here. I believe I can win out here now. I didn’t believe it last year.”

Peterson believes there are exceptions to the rule. He mentioned Jordan Spieth, who won as a 19-year-old rookie and was the youngest American to play in the Presidents Cup. He mentioned the fast start by Justin Thomas, and Harris English winning twice in one year.

Peterson said he was never comfortable last year.

”I was changing everything – clubs, balls, caddies, instructors, houses, states. I never kept anything the same,” he said. ”I kept searching for instant gratification.”

If he had not made it through Tour Finals, Peterson wonders if he would still be in golf. He was only half-kidding. In his bag were wedges with military themes, such as ”Rangers” and ”Frogmen.” It was a tribute to his heroes, and it was a personal.

Peterson said he would have contemplated joining the military. His is the first generation to not have someone in the military.

”My uncle was 20 years in the Navy. Both my granddads were in the Army, and their parents as well,” he said. ”If I wasn’t playing golf, I’d be in the military. I don’t want to read spread sheets like my accountant friends. I’d be in the Middle East by choice.”

But then he looked around and his environment and smile.

”I’m here,” he said. ”And the PGA Tour is a decent job.”

BAY HILL GREENS: This isn’t as bad as when Quail Hollow lost its greens two years ago, or the time East Lake’s greens were so stressed in 2009 for the Tour Championship that officials had only about 4 square feet for pin positions.

But the putting surfaces are rough for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Bay Hill plans to do something about it.

The club said an upgrade just six years ago ”did not meet an anticipated level of excellence,” and they will be switched to TifEagle Bermuda during a summer project.

They might not look good on television, but tour officials and some players said they wouldn’t be that bad.

The new grass will be installed with the ”no till method,” meaning that the features and contours will be preserved. The project is to start in May and is expected to be completed by early August.

TOP 50 DEADLINE: Harris English and others have two weeks to get into the top 50 and play in the Masters.

The cutoff for the top 50 is after the Valero Texas Open next week. English made a big move last week with a 65 in the final round to tie for 10th, and he went up eight spots to No. 52. But it’s still a long road – maybe longer to get those final two spots.

The gap between English (52) and Jason Dufner (50) is equal to the gap between English and Francesco Molinari (No. 64). A lot can happen.

Marc Warren of Scotland is at No. 51. Others not yet eligible for the Masters are Alexander Levy of France (53), Andy Sullivan of England (58), Tommy Fleetwood of England (62), Graham DeLaet of Canada (63) and Molinari.

BUBBA AND THE KIDS: Bubba Watson was at Augusta National last year for the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship on Sunday before the Masters, and seven days later he won the green jacket. Now, the Masters champion is headed to New York to help promote the event for children ages 7 through 15.

Watson and will join Kelly Xu, who won the 7-9 Girls Division last year, in promoting the finals on April 5 and local qualifying for the 2016 event.

Watson will appear on ”The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, and then Watson and Xu will be guests on ”CBS This Morning”, ”SportsCenter” and Golf Channel next Tuesday before ending their media tour at The New York Stock Exchange.

”I’m a big, big believer in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship,” Watson said. ”I can’t think of a better way for a youngster to learn and get better at the game of golf and do it while having fun and building relationships. That’s what golf is ultimately all about for me, and it’s why I’m going to New York City next week with Kelly.”

DIVOTS: Jupiter Hills Club in south Florida has been selected to host the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The champion makes its debut this year at Olympic Club the first week in May. Billy Mayfair won the 1987 U.S. Amateur at Jupiter Hills. … Masters champion Bubba Watson is returning to China next month to play the inaugural Shenzhen International. The European Tour event is a week after Watson tries to defend his title at Augusta National. Watson won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last November. … As expected, the Open is returning to Silverado Resort for the start of the 2015-16 season. Bae Sang-Moon won at Silverado last year. Rory McIlroy, and Tiger Woods depending on his status, are expected to play the Open this year.

STAT OF THE WEEK: PGA Tour events have gone to a playoff four consecutive weeks, including the Puerto Rico Open. The last time the tour had five straight weeks of playoffs was in 1946.

FINAL WORD: ”I know in the past people thought that I was kind of cocky and arrogant. How about the people who retweeted nice things about themselves? What is that?” – Matt Every, on one reason he found Twitter to be a waste of time.