John Peterson picked the right time to get his game in order.
After a rough two-month stretch on the PGA Tour, Peterson shot a 7-under-par 65 to sit near the top of the leader board after Thursday’s opening round at the Chiquita Classic.
Peterson, who finished third in last year’s Web.com Tour event at River Run Country Club, made three birdies and a pair of eagles – on No. 18 and No. 2, both par 5s – to end the day two shots behind leader Adam Hadwin of Canada, who had a tournament-record 9-under 63.
“I really didn’t make any long putts – I was just hitting the ball great,” Peterson said. “I just played really solid. I hit the ball great, and drove it really good. Conditions were really good for that this morning, and I took advantage of it.”
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Thursday’s round – delayed more than 70 minutes in the afternoon because of a thunderstorm – was called because of darkness, with five players remaining on the course. They will complete their round beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, , then tee off for the second round.
Peterson had struggled in his first full year on the PGA Tour, missing the cut in 18 of 25 tournaments, including a run of six straight. That prompted him to go back to what worked before.
“After Greensboro (at the Wyndham Championships), I said ‘I’m done changing everything,’ ” Peterson said. “It was bad – I switched up caddies, instructors, clubs, everything. It really was getting out of hand.
“I went back to what I had last year, and it’s been working for me. I got back to what I was comfortable with, instead of trying new things all the time.”
However, that wasn’t enough to catch Hadwin. He made nine birdies – including a run of six straight on the back nine – to better 2013 winner Andrew Svoboda’s 7-under 65.
Hadwin – whose first Web.com Tour win came in March in Santiago, Chile – had a chance push that record even lower. But he left a birdie putt short on No. 16, then put his second shot into the woods bordering the 18th green and had to save par.
“I striped it today – I think I missed one fairway all day,” said Hadwin, who earned his PGA Tour card for next season by finishing third in earnings on the Web.com Tour. “I pulled the shots off when I needed to, my putter got hot and things rolled from there.”
While some players quickly figured out the course, others struggled to find birdies. Clemson’s Jonathan Byrd, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, finished at 3-over 75; and Trevor Immelman of South Africa, the 2008 Masters champion, shot 6-over 78.
Scott Pinckney, Derek Fathauer and Hudson Swafford were one stroke behind Peterson at 6-under 66. Charlotte resident Kyle Reifers was among seven players at 5-under 67, while Gastonia native Harold Varner III was among four players at 4-under 68.