Friday Notebook: Peterson Enjoying First U.S. Open Ride
San Francisco – John Peterson’s courtesy car was side-swiped on the eve of this year’s U.S. Open, but his fortunes have been much better since.
Peterson, a first-year pro without status on any tour, is at 1-over 141 after the first two rounds at The Olympic Club, putting him among the top 10 entering the weekend.
“We call it the redneck Lexus,” Peterson said. “The front-left headlight is pointed directly diagonal. It shines in the other lane.”
This is Peterson’s first major. His destination from Olympic Club? The next two stops on the Hooters Tour. He’s unaccustomed to this stage, but that has one benefit.
“I have nothing to lose,” said Peterson, a former Louisiana State University All-American who won the 2011 NCAA Division I individual title and will play with fellow LSU alum David Toms in Saturday’s third round. “I have a whole lot to gain and nothing to lose.”
Two more good rounds could change his career. A top-eight finish gets him into the 2013 Masters, and a win would make him the first local and sectional qualifier to take the U.S. Open title since Orville Moody in 1969.
He wasn’t thinking about that Friday, though. He was happy with the one benefit he’d already gained. “I don’t have to go to first stage anymore,” he said. Peterson turned pro last year as the world’s No. 7 amateur, but he failed to advance out of the PGA Tour Qualifying School’s first stage. Making the U.S. Open cut gives him an exemption into the second stage of this year’s Q-School, the final one that will offer PGA Tour cards.
There are a lot of lessons for young pros to learn, and Peterson has received quite the education over the past few days. He played a U.S. Open practice round with 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner and David Toms, a fellow LSU alum, They are three veterans whose success has come from control and well-executed game plans.
“I couldn’t have had a better pairing,” Peterson said. “You watch those guys play and you realize pro golf isn’t about bombing it. It’s about managing your game. I didn’t have it today, but I shot even par.”
This is the second consecutive week Peterson has been in good position entering the weekend of a PGA Tour event. He was 12th halfway through 36 holes of last week’s St. Jude Classic, but shot 73-75 on the weekend to fall to 61st. Some reckless decisions made him realize the importance of making pars instead of taking unnecessary risks.
“I really understand how good an even-par round can be,” Peterson said. “Instead, I threw it all away. I was way too aggressive. It was dumb, immature, 23-year-old things I should’ve learned in college but I still hadn’t.”
Peterson qualified for the St. Jude on June 3, the day before his U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio. The first qualifier was in Tennessee. The latter was in Ohio. Peterson, who shot a 63 in his U.S. Open local qualifier in May, had to leave the St. Jude's qualifier early – and hope there wasn't a playoff for which he'd be absent – to catch his Ohio flight.
Both decisions turned out to be OK.
Sergio Mike’d Up
Sergio Garcia, the fiery Spaniard who has finished in the top-10 in the U.S. Open three times, including a T-7 last year at Congressional C.C., is in the hunt again after a 1-over-par 71 left him at 4-over 144 for the championship, well within range after 36 holes.
But he didn't take much satisfaction from his solid play through two rounds. "I could have done everything a little bit better," Garcia, 32, said. "I don't know if I'm really in contention or not. It doesn't feel like it."
What he does feel is frustrated, and that came out at the par-3 third hole Friday when his 7-iron came up short and then took out a microphone planted on the teeing ground. Garcia, who once drew the ire of the PGA Tour for spitting into the hole, shrugged it off, noting that he wasn't the first player to take out his ire on a nearby prop.
His only regret? "Yeah, I regret I didn't hit a 6-iron there instead of the 7-iron."
Odds And Ends
Morgan Hoffman certainly has made the most of his second chance. Hoffmann was a first alternate out of local qualifying, but made it into the Columbus, Ohio, sectional as a late replacement. The 2009 USA Walker Cup member followed that by qualifying for his second U.S. Open – and first as a professional – via a playoff. The Wyckoff, N.J., native carded rounds of 72-74 at Olympic this week to make the 36-hole cut…Nicholas Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., was another local-qualifying alternate to get into sectionals this year. The older brother of LPGA Tour player Alexis Thompson also qualified in Columbus and made the U.S. Open cut at 8-over 148 (74-74)…Hunter Hamrick went 10 shots better on Friday to shoot the low round of the day, a 3-under 67. Hamrick, who recently completed his eligibility at Alabama, is making his professional debut this week. The 22-year-old birdied his final hole to better Steve Stricker’s 68. Another Alabama alum, first-round leader Michael Thompson, shot a championship-low 66 on Thursday. “It's crazy,” said Hamrick. “I feel like I'm in a dream or something.” Like Nicholas Thompson and Hoffmann, Hamrick went through both stages of qualifying to get in the field.
USGA senior staff writer David Shefter, Golfweek writer Sean Martin and usopen.com freelance writer Dave Shedloski contributed to this notebook.