by Sean Martin
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – John Peterson didn’t get much time to celebrate his Jones Cup victory. After beating Jordan Spieth in a playoff Sunday and giving a brief acceptance speech, the LSU senior sprinted toward Ocean Forest’s clubhouse.
His flight was scheduled to leave in approximately an hour, and he still had a 30-minute drive to Brunswick Golden Isles Airport ahead of him. He missed that flight, then drove about 90 minutes to Jacksonville to catch a later flight.
Peterson probably hadn’t planned on sticking around Ocean Forest so long. He started the Jones Cup’s final round in a tie for 12th, six shots off the lead. He teed off 40 minutes ahead of the final group.Peterson shot 68 Sunday, the tournament’s low score, to tie Jordan Spieth at 1-over 217.
Peterson made a 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole for his first victory in nearly two years.Spieth and Peterson had nearly identical birdie putts on the first playoff hole. Their balls were both 10 feet from the hole and within 1 foot of each other. Spieth left his putt short. Peterson poured his in the middle of the hole, then calmly lifted his putter in the air.
Peterson made birdies on Nos. 2, 6,7, 8 and 17.His only bogey was a three-putt on the 18th hole. He hit 3-iron to 15 feet, but thought he needed to make his birdie putt to win. He ran the 15-foot birdie putt well past the hole, then missed the 4-foot comebacker. Peterson birdied the 216-yard, par-3 17th after hitting 4-iron to 10 feet.
His ball-striking improved after a lengthy practice session earlier this week with LSU coach Chuck Winstead. Peterson was unhappy with an excessive right-to-left ball-flight. He hit 33 of 36 greens in the final two rounds.
“My ball’s just flying dead straight,” Peterson said. “When you know where it’s going and how far it’s going, you can aim right at it. I was taking 3-irons right at it. I had complete control of my ball all week.”
Peterson’s Jones Cup victory doesn’t guarantee him a spot in LSU’s starting lineup for the Gator Invitational Feb. 12-13. The team will play its final 27 holes of qualifying Monday and Tuesday. The top five will travel to Gainesville, Fla. Peterson’s currently in sixth place.
“I have to earn my spot,” Peterson said. “I think it’s cool. If I get beat, I have a great team and they beat me. I want them to beat me.”
Spieth also three-putted the final hole to fall into the playoff. He hit his hybrid approach to 40 feet on Ocean Forest’s 480-yard, par-4 finishing hole, but missed a 4-foot par putt.
“I thought I got past this kind of stage, where if I just needed to two-putt the last hole I could two-putt the last hole,” said Spieth, the 2009 U.S. Junior champion and AJGA player of the year. “I just got a little muscle tension, and just pulled it.”
It was Peterson’s first victory since the John Hayt Intercollegiate in February 2009. Peterson, of Fort Worth, Texas, was a second-team All-American as a sophomore, and an honorable mention last season. He finished this fall college season ranked 52nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Spieth, playing his first tournament since a nine-shot victory in October’s AJGA Ping Invitational, also three-putted the par-3 15th from about 50 feet.
Spieth looked to have control of the tournament after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 gave him a two-shot lead. He reached the par-5 10th in two shots with a fairway wood, then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 419-yard, par-4 11th. Spieth shot 36 on the final nine despite hitting eight of the final nine greens in regulation.
Patrick Rodgers (74) and Bud Cauley (75), who played with Spieth in the final group, tied for third, one shot out of the playoff. Cauley and Spieth started the final round tied for the lead at 1-under 143.
Andrew Putnam (73), who won the Arizona Intercollegiate on Feb. 1, finished fifth at 4-over 220. NCAA champion Scott Langley (74) and 2010 Jones Cup champion Patrick Reed (75) tied for sixth at 221.
Reed was leading the tournament at 1 under par when he stepped on the 17th tee. He blocked his tee shot on the 216-yard, par-3 into the hazard, then tried to play his ball from the marsh. It took him three shots to get his ball out of the hazard. He two-putted for triple bogey, then triple-bogeyed the final hole.
Both Rodgers and Cauley had opportunities to earn a spot in the playoff.
Rodgers hit 4-iron into Ocean Forest’s 480-yard finishing hole. A fan standing greenside yelled “Get in the hole” as the ball rolled past the hole. It came to rest about 10 feet from the hole, but Rodgers missed the birdie putt. Rodgers also lipped out a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th and three-putted the par-4 16th for bogey. Rodgers, a high-school senior bound for Stanford, made 16 pars and two bogeys Sunday.Cauley, who was 1 over par for the tournament when he stepped to the 18th tee, also took aim at the back-left hole location that was tucked behind a bunker.
“I hit it where I was aiming, but the wind never pushed it,” Cauley said.
His ball rolled down a steep slope left of the green. His first bump-and-run chip failed to climb the hill and rolled back toward him. His next chip came to rest 5 feet from the hole. He made the bogey putt. Cauley hit every green on the final nine except for the 18th. He missed birdie putts of 10, 3 and 12 feet on Nos. 13-15.