Bill Nichols

Friday, May 27, 2011

Teen Jordan Spieth enters weekend tied for 9th at HP Byron Nelson Championship

IRVING _ Sergio Garcia knows a prodigy when he sees one because he was one himself. And he can see Jordan Spieth.

The 17-year-old is right behind Garcia and Colleyville’s Ryan Palmer, co-leaders entering the weekend at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Spieth shot 2-under 68 on Friday at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas. He’s tied for ninth, five strokes back.

``It’s great to see,’’ Garcia said. ``We try our hardest to keep doing things to help the game of golf, but we need young guys to come up behind us, because they’re going to be the future of the game.’’

Spieth has a big weekend in store. In addition to being the star attraction at his hometown’s PGA T our event for the second straight year, his Dallas Jesuit graduation ceremony is on Saturday at SMU.

A couple of things are working his favor on both accounts. He’s in better shape than this point last year, when he finished tied for 16th. And his last name starts with `S.’

``Depending on how the day goes … I’m going to shoot over there as quickly as possible,’’ Spieth said. ``I don’t know how long it usually lasts. We’ll see what happens.’’

In 2010, Spieth became the sixth-youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event at 16 years, 9 months, 24 days. Although he shot the same scores _ 68-69 _ in reverse order in 2010, Spieth was tied for 22nd, seven strokes off the lead.

Through 36 holes, Spieth has thrived in the spotlight. He knows the TPC well, and has spent the past month preparing for this event. He seemed more at ease on Friday, and his scorecard bore that out.

Starting on the back nine, he made impressive par saves on the first two holes with putts of five and six feet. Then he birdied No. 12 with a putt of about 25 feet from off the green, and hit to three feet for birdie on 14.

That was a drastic contrast to his first-round start, when he struggled with nerves while bogeying two of the first three.

``There just wasn’t as many people on the first tee this morning, no one wanted to get up, so I think that helped,’’ Spieth said. ``Maybe just having already gone through one round. I’ve been waiting for this tournament for the last month, been preparing for it, so definitely some nerves to start, and now that I’m kinda into it, I think I’ll be good.’’

Spieth was 4 under on the day but bogeyed Nos. 5 and 9 coming in.

It’s one thing to do this once. But for a local teenager to contend in an event two years running is extremely rare.

The pros are certainly impressed with Spieth’s resiliency on a course that is playing difficult. Winds were gusting more than 25 mph in the afternoon.

``Here is a senior in high school who lives here, he’s playing here and not a care in the world _ playing golf, and he’s probably played this course a thousand times,’’ said Palmer, who played at Texas A&M. -``All he’s having to do is have fun. He’s got nothing to lose. But still, to be on this stage as a senior in high school, at 17, it’s impressive. I’m starting to wonder if he’s thinking about four years of college or just one year.’’

Spieth is not thinking about having nothing to lose. He wants to be the only one who didn’t lose on Sunday.

``If it gets windy, if I can play a little better, get a couple more breaks, then I think I can legit have a good run, being in the last couple of groups,’’ he said. ``I don’t know what that kind of pressure is going to feel like but that’s what I’m shooting for.’’

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