Win or retire at age 29

It's win or retire for the 29-year-old Wells Fargo Championship first-round leader


CHARLOTTE – This is the story of a PGA Tour player who really needs a win … while actually not needing one at all.

To understand the situation is to understand John Peterson, your leader by two strokes at -6 following Thursday’s opening round at the Wells Fargo Championship. And to understand John Peterson is to allow for the idea that maybe – just maybe – playing on Tour isn’t the end all, be all that every golfer who ever held a dream in his head and a driver in his hands believes it to be.

At least not for John Peterson.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it out here (on the Tour),” he said Thursday. “They treat you great every week. You have nothing to worry about. I like it a lot out here. I just kind of want to be a dad and be around my kid and my family more often.”

Without a win this week, Peterson may just get his unique wish.

The former three-time All-American at LSU has only three tournaments remaining in his major medical extension and needs to earn $318,096 or 237 FedEx points to remain exempt this season. His tally through five tournaments: $57,069 and 20 points.

So when Peterson began mentioning to friends, family and fellow pros that he would retire from golf at age 29 and go into real estate development with a couple buddies if he lost his exemption, it made some sense. After all, he’s No. 776 in the Official World Golf Rankings and is yet to win a PGA Tour event. His swing speed hasn’t quite recovered since undergoing hand surgery in January of 2016 and he’s the proud father of a 6-month-old son, Luke William.

Well, it made sense until a pair of “pretty uneventful holeouts” (Peterson’s words) on Nos. 7 and 8 for back-to-back eagles catapulted him atop a deep field at Quail Hollow. Peterson now owns the first lead he’s ever held through a sunset in a Tour event – and he’s indifferent toward the whole thing.

“I’m gonna try to win this golf tournament,” Peterson insisted following his round. “I’m going to try to win. I promise you. I’m going to do everything I can to win. But you know, if it doesn’t happen, whatever.”

One more time for effect: “But you know, if it doesn’t happen, whatever.”

So if you’re worried about nerves getting to the Fort Worth native while 15 players (including favorite and two-time tournament champion Rory McIlroy) are within three shots, rest easy. He’s going to grab some dinner at the same Charlotte restaurant (“Cowfish”), drink his same drinks (“a couple Miller Lites”) and approach the weekend with the sort of attitude only a man playing with house money can.

“I don’t really have a ton to lose,” Peterson said with a shrug. “Kind of just playing golf.”

Now that’s living the dream.