Adam Wood has been waiting a year for this.
After firing an 8-over 80 in the final round of last year’s AJGA HP Boys Championship, a number that dropped him to T-37, Wood will get another crack at the Club at Carlton Woods’ Fazio Championship Course.
“I like that golf course, but you have to hit it pretty well off the tee and I didn’t do that as much last year, which resulted in a high score,” said Wood, who will be part of the 70-player field for the tournament, which takes place Feb. 16-18 in The Woodlands, Texas.
“When you get a bad tournament in you it can kind of drag you down. I feel like I’ve prepared myself better this time.”
Wood has come a long way since last year’s disappointment at Carlton Woods. The Zionsville (Ind.) High junior won the Western Junior last June; was T-4 at the Memorial Junior, made match play at the U.S. Junior and finished third at the Junior PGA in July; and had a stellar fall with top-15s at the Junior Players and Ping Invitational, a victory at the Polo Golf Junior Classic, and a T-8 showing at the Junior Orange Bowl.
“Last year was a pretty big leap for me with two victories on the national stage,” Wood said. “I feel like I’ve progressed well. I’m probably playing my best golf. That doesn’t mean there’s a ceiling, though.”
“I’ve always been pretty good off the tee. That’s been the strong part ever since I was young. The weakness has been my short game. Everybody always talk about how you can improve and I’d like to do that. If I can, I feel like I can start shooting some really low scores.”
While Wood is playing as good as any junior player in the country right now, getting his second AJGA invitational victory won’t come easy.
Also in the field is Robby Shelton, the top-ranked player in both the Polo Golf and Golfweek/Sagarin junior rankings. If there’s anyone playing better than Wood right now, it’s Shelton, who won the Junior Players and Junior PGA last year.
Other participants include 2010 U.S. Junior champion and Stanford signee Jim Liu, and Dallas native Scott Scheffler, who lost to Wood in the match play final at Polo and opened last year’s HP Boys with a tournament-best, 6-under 66 to take the first-round lead before closing with 77-80 to finish T-24.
“Those guys are so experienced and such great golfers, you know they aren’t going to make mistakes when it gets down to crunch time,” Wood said. “You have to be on your game. Definitely under par is going to win.”
Past winners of this event include PGA Tour players Jim Furyk (1987), Tiger Woods (1992), Kyle Stanley (2005) and Rickie Fowler (2006), as well as current Alabama player Bobby Wyatt (2010) and former Texas player Jordan Spieth (2011). Current Georgia Tech freshman Shun Yat Hak was last year’s champion.
Here are some other notables to keep an eye on in The Woodlands:
• Doug Ghim is the highest finisher from a year ago in the field. Ghim finished T-2, three shots back of winner Shun Yat Hak.
• Connor Black and Arizona State signee Nicolo Galletti each finished T-7 last year, shooting 1-over 217.
• Matt Gilchrest tied an AJGA record with three consecutive victories last year. The Auburn signee is coming off a top-10 finish at the AJGA Puerto Rico Junior Open and finished T-50 at this event last year.
• Also finishing T-50 at Carlton Woods a year ago is Brad Dalke. The Oklahoma commit who doesn’t graduate high school until 2016 has already played in two big events this year, the Winn Junior Cup and the Jones Cup, and is poised for a big season in 2013.
• Jorge Garcia is looking for back-to-back AJGA victories after winning the Puerto Rico Junior Open last month.
• Of the players who made it to the Round of 32 at the 2012 U.S. Junior, 14 are entered in the field for the HP Boys: Liu, Shelton, Scheffler, Ghim, Black, Galletti, Cameron Champ, Vincent Whaley, Dylan Wu, Tae Wan Lee, Joo-Young Lee, Rigel Fernandes, Branson Davis and Zach Bauchou.