Peterson, Ellis share lead at Chitimacha Louisiana Open (with Friday's pairings)
BROUSSARD, La. -- One is the young buck, the former LSU Tiger and NCAA national champion who finished top-five at last year's U.S. Open at age 23, and looking to establish himself on pro golf's top circuits.
The other has been around the block many times on both the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour, has the battle scars to prove it, and is looking to make his way back to golf's biggest stage.
With almost 20 years between them, John Peterson and Danny Ellis share the first-round lead at the $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Both fired six-under-par 65's Thursday over the 7,067-yard, par-71 Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club layout, and lead a tightly-bunched pack in the Web.com Tour's opening U.S. event.
Peterson, who won the 2011 NCAA title while at LSU and turned pro following that collegiate season, heated up over his final eight holes and carded a five-under 31 on Le Triomphe's front side after starting at the 10th hole.
"I've been playing good," he said. "I played well in Santiago (the Chile Classic, the Tour's most recent stop) and didn't score. I didn't make anything there. Today, it was a little more clean."
The 42-year-old Ellis matched Peterson's seven birdies and one bogey, making the first step toward matching or bettering his 2005 Louisiana Open outing when he tied for third. Ellis, with 113 PGA Tour outings and 81 Web.com Tour events on his resume', has been bouncing around mini-tour circuits since his last full Web.com season in 2007.
"I'm finally healthy," said Ellis, whose medical chart includes three back surgeries, a bad elbow and a surgically-reconstructed left toe that still had him limping noticeably on Thursday. "I hit it good all day. Out here, you just try to hit fairways because they're so fast, hit greens and make putts."
The two stand one stroke up on the threesome of third-year Tour pro Ben Martin, rookie Ryan Spears and Tour veteran and four-time Web.com Tour champion Nick Flanagan at five-under 66. Behind them, a huge logjam of 15 players stands at four-under 67, meaning that 20 players are within two strokes of the lead entering Friday's second round.
"It's too early to be looking at a leaderboard," said Ellis, an Orlando native and Heathrow, Fla., resident who spent all or part of six seasons on the PGA Tour. "Everybody's still right there, and you can really get it going because the greens are so good out here."
Peterson disagreed about the scoreboard viewing.
"I watched the boards all day," said the Fort Worth, Texas, native and current Baton Rouge resident. "If I'm in contention, I love to watch them. I like knowing what I need to do."
For Peterson, it's a matter of continuing solid play from the first three Web.com events. He made the cut in all three Latin America tourneys, including a tie for 16th in Chile two weeks ago. On Thursday, he hit 14 of 18 greens and had only 27 putts – one of them a monster 70-footer for birdie on the par-three third hole.
"Me and Andrew (fellow former LSU player Andrew Loupe, who is also in the Open field) have a joke going on," he said. "I made a bomb to beat him a few weeks ago at Baton Rouge Country Club, so he dubbed this year the 'Year of the Bomb.'"
That bmb came during a birdie streak on the par-four second, par-fives at five and seven and a closing eight-footer on the par-four ninth that gave him the outright lead at the time. He made the turn at one-under that included his only bogey of the day at the par-five 12th.
"I hit a lot of close iron shots," Peterson said, "and I didn't put myself in any places where I had a bogey threat except for 12. I laid up there and still almost hit it in the lake. That was aggravating."
Ellis' only aggravations on Thursday were that bothersome toe and a mis-clubbed bogey on the par-four fourth hole. He birdied the par-four "Gator's Jaw" – the toughest hole on the course in the opening round – with a 20-foot putt and added birdies at the 16th and 17th to make the turn at three-under. He then took advantage of the front-side par-fives, birdieing all three along with a 20-footer for two on the par-three third.
"I just really like this course," said Ellis, who is making his seventh Open appearance (but his first since 2007) and made the cut in 2006 one year after his third-place finish. "I played good here in '05. It plays fast all the time and you can take advantage. Even in the fairways, the ball can roll 100 yards, and the greens are just perfect."
Ellis, who missed the cut at both the Panama and Colombia Tour stops, also had a runner-up Tour finish at the Boise Open in 2005 and finished 27th on the money list that year. But his last five years have been spent on the Hooters, E-Golf and other mini-tours, before he earned Web.com Tour status at Q-school last December.
Martin, a member of the PGA Tour in 2011 and the Web.com Tour last year, had top-30 finishes at both Panama and Chile and continued his hot play early, getting to five-under after 12 holes before parring in with a no-bogey round. "I had two rounds in Chile with no bogeys," the Greenwood, S.C., product said. "I hit 17 greens today and I missed on the eighth by a foot. It was a very good ball striking day."
Spears made all three Latin America-swing cuts, including a solo 11th-place in Chile, after earning Tour status in Q-school. His seven-birdie round included four straight between the eighth and 11th holes. "I was hitting it well on the mini-tours last year and couldn't get putts to drop," he said. "It feels good to have some falling in, and to get off to a good start."
Flanagan is one of eight four-time (or more) winners on the Web.com Tour in the field, having won last year's BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina and three times in 2007. The Newcastle, Australia, product was tied for the lead before a bogey at the par-four 17th, near the end of a seven-birdie, two-bogey round.
In all, 47 players shot in the 60's and 59 in the field of 144 broke par in Thursday's opening round. Seventy-eight were at par or better heading into Friday, when the field will be cut to the low 60 and ties for the final rounds Saturday and Sunday.
Chitimacha Louisiana Open – Friday’s second-round pairings
Off No. 1 Tee
7:40 a.m. – Adam Crawford, Brisbane, Australia; Roland Thatcher, The Woodlands, Texas; Alex Cejka, Munich, Germany
7:50 a.m. – Randall Hutchison, Traverse City, Mich.; Philip Pettitt, Jr., Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Phillip Mollica, Greenville, S.C.
8 a.m. – Mark Anderson, Beaufort, S.C.; Danny Ellis, Heathrow, Fla.; Heath Slocum, Alpharetta, Ga.
8:10 a.m. – Joseph Bramlett, Saratoga, Calif.; Troy Merritt, Meridian, Idaho; Nathan Green, Newcastle, Australia
8:20 a.m. – Brett Wetterich, Jupiter, Fla.; Ariel Canete, Argentina; Derek Ernst, Las Vegas, Nev.
8:30 a.m. – Paul Haley II, Dallas, Texas; Edward Loar, Dallas, Texas; Scott Parel, Augusta, Ga.
8:40 a.m. – Tyrone Van Aswegen, Johannesburg, South Africa; Dusty Fielding, St. George, Utah; Jason Gore, Valencia, Calif.
8:50 a.m. – Patrick Cantlay, Long Beach, Calif.; Gavin Coles, Bathurst, Australia; Steve LeBrun, West Palm Beach, Fla.
9 a.m. – Rafael Echenique, San Luis, Argentina; Andrew Loupe, Baton Rouge, La.; Scott Harrington, Scottsdale, Ariz.
9:10 a.m. – John Hurley, Spring, Texas; Corey Nagy, Charlotte, N.C.; Bronson La'Cassie, Brisbane, Australia
9:20 a.m. – Niklas Lemke, Gothenberg, Sweden; Ryan Hietala, Boise, Idaho; Benjamin Alvarado, Santiago, Chile
9:30 a.m. – Joshua Brock, Wilmington, N.C.; Mark Walker, Hurst, Texas; Jake Narro, Ponchatoula, La.
12:30 p.m. – Sam Saunders, Fort Collins, Colo.; Joe Affrunti, Crystal Lake, Ill.; Joe Durant, Gulf Breeze, Fla.
12:40 p.m. – Ron Whittaker, Little Rock, Ark.; Byron Smith, Palm Desert, Calif.; Roger Tambellini, Scottsdale, Ariz.
12:50 p.m. – Brice Garnett, Gallatin, Mo.; B. J. Staten, Cottonwood Heights, Utah; Kyle Reifers, Atlanta, Ga.
1 p.m. – Sung Kang, Jeju Island, Korea; David Berganio, Jr., Granada Hills, Calif.; Billy Mayfair, Scottsdale, Ariz.
1:10 p.m. – Ben Martin, Greenwood, S.C.; Steven Bowditch, Australia; Jim Herman, Palm City, Fla.
1:20 p.m. – Vince Covello, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; Hank Kuehne, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Peter Tomasulo, Long Beach, Calif.
1:30 p.m. – John Riegger, Las Vegas, Nev.; Patrick Sheehan, Warwick, R.I.; Morgan Hoffmann, Jupiter, Fla.
1:40 p.m. – Alex Aragon, Cardiff, Calif.; Guy Boros, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Gary Christian, Carshalton, England
1:50 p.m. – Hudson Swafford, Tallahassee, Fla.; Hunter Haas, Fort Worth, Texas; John Daly, Dardanelle, Ark.
2 p.m. – Billy Hurley III, Annapolis, Md.; Andrew Svoboda, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Tim Petrovic, Austin, Texas
2:10 p.m. – John Peterson, Baton Rouge, La.; Tom Hoge, Fargo, N.D.; Will Wilcox, Ashville, Ala.
2:20 p.m. – Todd Baek, San Diego, Calif.; Blayne Barber, Auburn, Ala.; Andrew Noto, Luling, La.
Off No. 10 Tee
7:40 a.m. – Skip Kendall, Windermere, Fla.; Mathew Goggin, Charlotte, N.C.; Chris DiMarco, Heathrow, Fla.
7:50 a.m. – Nick Flanagan, New Castle, Australia; Chesson Hadley, Raleigh, N.C.; Arjun Atwal, Calcutta, India
8 a.m. – Jeff Gove, San Diego, Calif.; Brenden Pappas, McKinney, Texas; Shane Bertsch, Denver, Colo.
8:10 a.m. – Kevin Kisner, Aiken, S.C.; Dawie van der Walt, Kingwood, Texas; Richard Scott, St. Simons Island, Ga.
8:20 a.m. – Chris Wilson, Dublin, Ohio; Cameron Beckman, San Antonio, Texas; Scott Sterling, Baton Rouge, La.
8:30 a.m. – Adam Hadwin, Abbotsford, B.C.; Aaron Goldberg, Encinitas, Calif.; Jonathan Hodge, Chattanooga, Tenn.
8:40 a.m. – Danny Lee, Rotorua, New Zealand; Brian Duncan, Mount Pleasant, S.C.; J. J. Killeen, Fort Worth, Texas
8:50 a.m. – Andrew Putnam, University Place, Wash.; Tim Wilkinson, Palmerston North, New Zealand; Chad Collins, Cloverdale, Ind.
9 a.m. – Andres Gonzales, Olympia, Wash.; Rob Oppenheim, Andover, Mass.; Miguel Angel Carballo, Bahia Blanca, Argentina
9:10 a.m. – Michael Putnam, Tacoma, Wash.; Richard S. Johnson, Stockholm, Sweden; Joe Ogilvie, Austin, Texas
9:20 a.m. – Matt Hendrix, Greenville, S.C.; Franklin Corpening, Fort Worth, Texas; Matt Davidson, Greenville, S.C.
9:30 a.m. – Matt Berry, Lafayette, La.; Brian Rowell, Lafayette La.; Michael Smith, Lafayette, La.
12:30 p.m. – Camilo Benedetti, Medellin, Colombia; D. J. Trahan, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Wes Short Jr., Austin, Texas
12:40 p.m. – Chris Tidland, Stillwater, Okla.; Matt Weibring, Dallas, Texas; Russell Knox, Inverness, Scotland
12:50 p.m. – Paul Claxton, Sea Island, Ga.; Bill Lunde, Las Vegas, Nev.; Roger Sloan, Houston, Texas
1 p.m. – Cliff Kresge, Heathrow, Fla.; Matt Bettencourt, Spartanburg, S.C.; Bhavik Patel, Bakersfield, Calif.
1:10 p.m. – Michael Letzig, Kansas City, Mo.; Mathias Gronberg, Sweden; Nick O'Hern, Perth, Australia
1:20 p.m. – Jim Renner, Orlando, Fla.; Ryan Spears, Wichita, Kan.; Brendon Todd, Atlanta, Ga.
1:30 p.m. – Kevin Foley, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Woody Austin, Derby, Kan.; Ashley Hall, Melbourne, Australia
1:40 p.m. – Bubba Dickerson, Hilliard, Fla.; Alexandre Rocha, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Brett Stegmaier, Vero Beach, Fla.
1:50 p.m. – Darron Stiles, Pinehurst, N.C.; Marco Dawson, Lakeland, Fla.; Scott Gutschewski, Omaha, Neb.
2 p.m. – Whee Kim, South Korea; Lee Bedford, Cary, N.C.; Mike Standly, Houston, Texas
2:10 p.m. – Derek Fathauer, Jupiter, Fla.; Christopher DeForest, Stuart, Fla.; I. J. Jang, Fullerton, Calif.
2:20 p.m. – Chris B. Brown, Garland, Texas; Will Strickler, Dallas, Texas; Jake Daniels, Metairie, La.