Monday, May 24, 2010
Teen Spieth displays veteran poise
By Josh Davis
IRVING, Texas -- Sixteen-year-old Jordan Spieth from Dallas was coming off a bogey on the 15th hole of the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Friday when he sent his second shot on the 16th fairway directly into a sand trap, potentially risking what would become a historic achievement.
"I was talking to my caddy, and we were talking about the best miss being to the right side, and if it happens to roll on the green, it happens to roll on the green," Spieth said. "I didn't want it to go in to that bunker. I wanted it just short, just past or just left of that sand trap, and I went right in the middle of it."
Spieth stepped in to the bunker and took his swing, lifting the ball cleanly out of the sand and dropping it within three feet of the pin like an old pro. He had no trouble sinking the birdie putt, reigniting the crowd and his round.
In fact, Spieth didn't look his age all day on his way to a 69, leaving him 3-under for the tournament and making him the sixth-youngest player in history to make a PGA Tour cut.
Even among Spieth's family and friends, there was little doubt that he would make the cut before the tournament began.
"We saw a sapling blossom today among the oak trees," said Cameron McCormick, Spieth's coach at Brook Hollow Country Club in Dallas.
Spieth was calm the entire day Friday, joking with the pros around him and focusing on the course ahead of him, despite a crowd of his classmates and friends surrounding him and growing throughout the day.
Early Friday morning, Spieth birdied the seventh and ninth holes of his first round to leave him at 2-under entering the second.
As more fans gathered to see the story of the day, his friends became Spieth's own public relations team, filling in onlookers with stats and stories about the high school senior-to-be.
Spieth's girlfriend, Emily Hoffend, watched every shot intently but her focus wasn't on her beau's game.
"I haven't ever seen him smile as much as today," Hoffend said.
After his round Friday, Spieth continued to look and sound like a veteran before the media.
"I'm really kind of in shock right now," Spieth said. "Looking back, I'm obviously extremely pleased with how the week's gone so far, and hopefully we can make a run at the leaderboard in the next few days, but we'll see."
His mother, Chris Spieth, said her son's behavior was nothing new.
"I'm not surprised," she said. "He doesn't seem like he's 16 years old. I, a lot of times, don't think he's 16 years old."
However, Jordan did show his youth a couple times throughout the day.
On the second hole of his second round, Spieth hit out of turn as he was confused from playing seven of his first-round holes Friday morning. Tour veteran David Lutterus gave him a pass.
"He was pretty chill about it, but I went over and apologized of course," said Spieth, who birdied the hole. "I forgot we started a new round because we only had a 30-minute break, and he was like, 'Don't worry about it.'"
But Spieth found his stride by the 17th hole, where he asked his caddy, former Jesuit teammate Kyle "Bags" Baginski, if they could "really make this crowd roar."
Spieth succeeded on the 18th, and the crowd gave the youngster a standing ovation as he left the course with Baginski and his blue and yellow Jesuit team golf bag in tow.
His achievement garnered national attention; the PGA Tour was flooded with media requests. Hours after his round, Spieth appeared on SportsCenter and ESPNEWS and also got a chance to chat in the booth with the Golf Channel commentators.
"I can't wait to go home and watch it later tonight [Friday] if I get the chance," Spieth said. "To get to meet Sir Nick Faldo; it's an honor to be able to meet him."
During the tournament, Spieth didn't seem distracted at all by the pros playing next to him. That was particularly impressive, as he was grouped with tournament leader Blake Adams, who shot a 6-under 64 Friday.
"I kind of almost felt bad for Blake, because everyone was screaming my name out there, while he's tied for the lead," Spieth said.
Additionally, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo stopped by to see Spieth play.
"There's never going to be a course that's too much for him," said Romo, who met Spieth at a tournament in South Carolina earlier this year. "He's fine as long as he keeps his emotions under control. He's got the game for it, no question."
Spieth, who has committed to the University of Texas, is 16 years, nine months and 24 days old, which makes him the sixth-youngest player to make a cut at a Tour event. But he said he didn't really talk about the cut until he was safely on the green at No. 18.
His mother said he didn't come to the tournament to simply make the cut.
"He played in this tournament to see his name at the top of that leader board," she said. "That's why he plays every tournament. He's got a lot of confidence and when he's got momentum and he's playing well, it's really fun to watch."
His coach enjoyed the day as well.
"I'm on top of the world, how else do you say it?" McCormick said. "I'm probably just as proud as his parents, if that's at all possible. I'm thrilled to be a part of it and there's more to come, as you can imagine."
Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.