PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Former USC golfer Jamie Lovemark is getting a second chance on the PGA Tour this season, and he’s determined to capitalize on it this time around.
Lovemark is currently embarking on what he hopes will be his first full season on the PGA Tour after a few years of bouncing between the two tours and rehabbing a back injury. There’s a little less pressure on him this time around, only because he’s learned to take some of it off of himself.
"I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect," Lovemark said. "I’ve just got to play my game and not worry about being too perfect."
A lot was expected of Lovemark when he left Troy to turn pro in 2009. The year prior he had won the NCAA Championship as only a freshman and spent several weeks as the world’s No. 1 amateur golfer.
The Rancho Santa Fe native had often been compared to Phil Mickelson, the result of being raised on the same golf course, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, that the Tour’s most famous San Diego-area product had honed his game on.
Lovemark’s first stint on the big tour came back in 2011 after he had qualified through the Web.com tour (then known as the Nationwide Tour). But a back injury would cut his first full season short. He underwent a microdiscectomy surgery for a herniated disk and was awarded a major medical exemption.
"It happened the end of 2010. I tried to play through and get over the hump but it just hurt too much," Lovemark said. "I was out for about eight months."
But Lovemark failed to meet the required amount of money to remain on the PGA Tour and lost the exemption, going back down to the Web.com Tour.
He’s often asked if failing taught him how to win again. He would respond by saying that he never really did fail to begin with.
"A lot of guys come out here and there’s no learning curve for them," Lovemark said. "I was hoping I would be the same, but maybe it’s not. I can only be positive about what I’ve done so far and use it to my advantage and maybe learn some things that I didn’t know when I was hurt."
So far this season, he’s made three of five cuts and finished tied for 28th at the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, another course the San Diegan is familiar with. Although he said he’d like to drive it farther, he’s happy with how his game has come along and said he’s ready for a breakout year on the PGA Tour.
"I expect to win," Lovemark said. "I’d like to win and to crack that top 30 in the Fed Ex Cup (standings) would be great. I think it will be a very successful year for me. It’s been an ok start, nothing great yet but I’m looking forward to the rest of the year."