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PGA rookies keep growing in confidence

HONOLULU — John Peterson was in the 11th grade and thought no one his age could beat him. That changed when he was at a junior event in Texas, where he heard so much chatter about an eighth-grader from Dallas that he went to watch him.

That was his introduction to Jordan Spieth, now one of his good friends.

"I heard he was good," Peterson said at the Sony Open, which begins today. "I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. I'm a junior in high school, thinking no one could beat me, and here's this eighth-grader killing everybody, already as tall as me. We battled in junior golf. I got him in a playoff at the Jones Cup, and he's been beating me ever since."

Over the years, rookies have grown less intimidated about playing alongside the best in the game. The latest crop gathered for the first full-field PGA Tour of 2014 raises one question.

Who's next?

"It really helps when you see your peers compete, and win," Spieth, 20, said Wednesday. "I watched Russell Henley last year. I was on the Walker Cup team with him, and he wins the first event of the year (the Sony Open). When you see that, it gives you a mental edge."

Spieth was among four rookies who won PGA events last year, joining Henley, Derek Ernst and Patrick Reed. It was one of the strongest rookie classes in years.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again," Spieth said.

Peterson, 24, was still an amateur when he lost to Harris English — now a two-time PGA Tour winner — on the final hole of a Nationwide Tour event. He told Golf World magazine that day, "I knew I could beat all those guys," and that the top 20 or 30 college players could hang with the top 20 or 30 on the PGA Tour.

"Jordan, Peter Uihlein, Harris English, Russell Henley … all those guys we've played with the last six years, they're all doing big things," Peterson said. "Peter is playing himself into the World Golf Championships. He's killing it. Guys are really starting to believe they can play with guys who have been here for 15 years."

NEW LPGA FORMAT: The LPGA Tour is going to a points race, offering $1 million to the winner of the new "Race to the CME Globe." Players will earn points for 31 events going into the CME Group Tour Championship from Nov. 20-23 in Naples. The points will be reset for the final event to give an advantage to whoever had the best year, and the winner will receive a $1 million bonus.

PGA rookies keep growing in confidence 01/08/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 8:04pm]
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