PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – John Peterson’s heart wants to take off Saturday for the LSU-Georgia college football showdown.
The former LSU golfer, however, also has a strong chance to finish No. 1 on the Web.com Tour Finals money list. And that is what keeps him at TPC Sawgrass instead of getting ready to tailgate at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
“That’s the only reason I came,” said Peterson, whose 4-under 66 Thursday left him tied for sixth after the opening round of the Web.com Tour Championship.
Ashley Hall leads after firing a 63.
“I was going to go to Georgia-LSU, but I figured it would make my caddie and my parents and myself happy if I got No. 1. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Whoever tops the Finals money list is rewarded with a fully exempt PGA TOUR card, along with a guaranteed berth in THE PLAYERS Championship. After top-5 finishes in each of the first three Finals stops, Peterson came to TPC Sawgrass at No. 4 in earnings.
But leader Seung-Yul Noh isn’t playing this week, leaving just two men to leapfrog. Thursday’s performance moved him to a projected No. 3, with Noh still in front and Andrew Svoboda next.
“I can kind of be more aggressive than most,” Peterson said. “If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I still have my card; I’m just playing for a higher seed.”
It could interfere with his football viewing, though. The LSU-Georgia kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET – about midway through the front nine if Peterson is among Saturday’s final pairings.
“I should shoot about a 74 tomorrow, then I’d be able to watch the whole game,” he joked. “I could make it up on Saturday and Sunday. Now that’s pressure.”
CHASE FOR NO. 1: Noh, who went home to South Korea after winning in Columbus, essentially needs someone from outside the top 30 to win the tournament and someone from outside the top nine to finish runner-up. … Svoboda opened with a 67, ending the day four shots off the pace in a tie for 15th. … Trevor Immelman will be battling to make the cut after his opening 71. If the former Masters champion can’t reel it back, it would be his third missed cut after winning the opening Hotel Fitness Championship.
BIGGEST MOVERS: Hall is attempting something of a Hail Mary – he came to Dye’s Valley with $0 in Finals earnings after missing all three previous cuts. After Thursday’s round, though, projections show a win would vault him all the way to No. 5. … Shane Bertsch, who has missed two Finals cuts, opened with a 65 that left him in a tie for fourth at Dye’s Valley. That resulted in a projected move from No.97 to No.22. … Sweden’s Robert Karlsson (64) held a share of the lead for most of the day until Hall birdied his final hole. Even so, a tie for second moved Karlsson from 72nd to a projected No. 11.
BUBBLE BOYS: Steve Wheatcroft, in position for the 25th card from the Finals, may have irretrievably lost his grip. The Jacksonville pro opened with a 74 and needs a huge day to simply make the cut. … Camilo Benedetti (71) also is on the brink of a missed but, which would be the second consecutive year he’s fallen out of a card position on the final weekend. … In slightly less jeopardy are Spencer Levin and Alistair Presnell, who fell out of projected cards after 69s but still have time to make up ground.