IRVINE, Scotland – The leaderboard at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open features two Americans near the top. Rickie Fowler, who shot a 5-under 67 on Thursday, is the better-known of the U.S. contenders although both have won on the European Tour.
Paul Peterson also shot 67, two strokes off the lead of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen, and joins the colorful Fowler in sharing second place with Englishmen Callum Shinkwin and Ian Poulter, Australian Andrew Dodt and Irishman Padraig Harrington.
Peterson, 29, a Tucson, Ariz., native, grew up in Oregon and attended college at Oregon State before turning pro in 2012. Being relatively unknown, whether he is playing in the U.S. or in Europe, is familiar territory for the Scottsdale resident.
“That’s fine,” Peterson said after his third 67 in the past five rounds, including the opening two rounds in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last week before a T-48 finish.
In the final round of the 2016 D+D Real Czech Masters, Peterson came from two strokes behind Belgium’s Thomas Pieters to win by one. The victory provided the left-handed Peterson a permanent home tour and a big step toward his boyhood dream after he spent time on the Dakotas, Canadian and Asian tours.
“I wanted to since watching major championships with my grandparents,” Peterson said. “Watching Payne Stewart win [the 1999 U.S. Open] at Pinehurst, and that was always what I wanted to do. I didn't necessarily think that this would be the route that I was on, but I've enjoyed every second of it. New cultures, new people, I think more of a less-American perspective on the world, which I don't think there's anything wrong with that.”
When Peterson won in Prague, he moved from 378th in the Official World Golf Ranking to 180th, his best ranking. Now at 313th, Peterson must improve to earn a spot eventually on the PGA Tour, his goal.
“When you're ready to play on the PGA Tour, you will,” Peterson said.
For the next three rounds, Peterson has a chance to make a difference in his career. A high finish would earn him a spot in next week’s British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.
A victory, because of the quality of the field, not only would move him up in the Order of Merit but also far up in the world rankings, his major vehicle to the PGA Tour.
“I don't know what I'm doing next week, so we'll figure it out,” Peterson said. “Plan A is to keep it up and hopefully make a three-hour drive down to Birkdale next week and, if not, then I don't really know what I'm doing, if I'm staying here for the week off and then going to Germany [for the Porsche European Open in Hamburg] or what. Those are the things that I would like to avoid eventually, just being able to say, if I got a week home, I'm flying home.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli