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 out 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, his first tournament of the year. “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.”
Spieth inspires him in a different way on the PGA Tour — just like Spieth was inspired by Sony Open defending champion Russell Henley.
Every year brings a new crop of rookies. Each year, the intimidation factor of playing alongside the best in the game deteriorates. To look at the latest group of newcomers gathered at Waialae for the first full-field PGA Tour of 2014 begs one question.
“It really helps when you see your peers compete — and win,” Spieth 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. When you see that, it gives you a mental edge. You’re starting to see young guys on the leaderboard all the time, and these are guys who competed against for years.”
Spieth was among four rookies who won on the PGA Tour last year, joining Henley, Derek Ernst and Patrick Reed. It was one of the strongest rookie classes in years.