LSU men’s golf coach Chuck Winstead always told John Peterson the major championship that best suits his game is the U.S. Open.
Peterson is about to find out if he’s right.
The former LSU All-American and 2011 NCAA champion tees off Thursday afternoon in the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at the iconic Olympic Club in San Francisco.
For Peterson, trying to scratch out a living in his first full year as a professional golfer, it will be his first major.
“He always said the best event you’ll every play in is the U.S. Open,” Peterson said. “I hit it straight and don’t make a ton of mistakes.
“I think he’s right. It’s just a matter of being comfortable out there and seeing your shot before you hit it. You can’t rush yourself in the U.S. Open and expect to get good results.”
Peterson is one of three Louisiana golfers in the field this week along with former LSU All-American and 2001 PGA champion David Toms of Shreveport and Lafayette’s Brian Rowell, a regular on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series.
Peterson will tee off at 2:30 p.m. CDT Thursday with Morgan Hoffman and Aaron Watkins on No. 9 (because of the course configuration, players will start on No. 9 during one of the first two rounds instead of No. 10). Friday, Peterson’s group will be the first one off No. 1 at 9:15 a.m.
Toms tees off No. 9 at 9:55 a.m. Thursday along with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland. They’ll start off No. 1 at 3:40 p.m. Friday.
Rowell is in the last group off No. 1 at 4:57 p.m. Thursday with Brian Gaffney and amateur Alberto Sanchez. They tee off No. 9 at 11:12 a.m. Friday.
Though his first major is likely to be a huge learning experience, Peterson got in a practice round Tuesday with some pretty good tutors: Toms, 2003 U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April.
“They helped me out with the lines and my thoughts,” Peterson said.
Patience will be Peterson’s watchword for what he hopes will be the next four days.
“If you think you can come here and play a bogey free round, you’re outside your mind,” Peterson said. “You’ve got to know going to the first tee you’re going to make bad shots. The key is making sure you don’t turn a bogey into a double. If you start making hard bogeys you’ll really get your round off track.”
And around Olympic, it won’t be hard to get off track. Peterson said he expects the winning score on the par-70 Lakes Course to be 2 or 3 over par.
“You might not make any birdies,” Peterson said, ‘but two bogeys and 16 pars would be a good round. You’ve just got to grind it out.
“A good four-round score would be 3 over out here. Really solid. Because you’re going to have one afternoon when you’ve got a 25 mph crosswind.”
Peterson got into last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., and the U.S. Open with a fit of qualifying rounds that took him from Tennessee to Ohio and back.
Peterson snagged one of the four available qualifying spots June 3 for the St. Jude, then hopped a plane for a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday in Springfield, Ohio, where he earned one of two available spots.
Peterson then returned to Memphis, where he tied for 61st and earned $11,984. For the season, Peterson has earned $32,570 in four PGA Tour starts.
“It was nuts,” said Peterson, a Fort Worth, Texas, native who recently bought a house in Baton Rouge near LSU. “For a few days it was really nuts. I still haven’t caught up on my sleep. (Wednesday) night was the first time I’ve slept in a long time. Luckily, I have a late tee time (Thursday).”
Rowell got into the Open by finishing second in the sectional at Lakeside Country Club in Houston, where three spots were available.
Toms didn’t have to qualify because of his world ranking (currently 42nd).
Much of the first and second rounds will be televised on ESPN and NBC, with Saturday and Sunday’s action on NBC. USOpen.com will provide additional coverage.