IRVING, Texas (AP) - Jordan Spieth finally felt like a kid
teeing it up against the big boys on the PGA Tour.
The golf part wasn't what troubled the 16-year-old high school
His dilemma was whether to call Tom Pernice Jr., his 50-year-old
playing partner, "Mr. Pernice" or "Tom."
While Spieth never actually figured that out - alternating
between the two, then avoiding it - he continued to defy the
expectations of everyone but himself, shooting a 3-under 67
Saturday to move solidly into contention going into the final round
of the Byron Nelson Championship.
Spieth's best round yet left him tied for seventh, six shots
behind leader Jason Day, and injects all kinds of intrigue into an
event that was thought to be missing an attention-grabbing
"I know the pins are going to be the toughest pins I've ever
experienced in my life, but I'm confident," said Spieth, who just
last week was competing in a high school state tournament (which he
won). "I'm going to start firing because I got nothing to lose,
nothing to hold back."
Day shot a 3-under 67 Saturday to pull into the lead by himself.
He was part of a seven-way tie after the first round, then was a
stroke behind after the second round.
A win would be the first of his promising career. Considering
he's 22, that would normally be a big deal; this week, it almost
Day actually is a fitting foil to Spieth-mania. Three years ago,
he won a Nationwide Tour title, making him the youngest winner of a
PGA Tour-sanctioned event. His best finish in a PGA event is second
in 65 events.
"Certainly it's playing on my mind a little bit, my first
big-time chance," said Day, an Australian who lives in Fort Worth.
Second round co-leader Blake Adams shot even-par 70 and is two
strokes back. The other co-leader coming in, Cameron Beckman, shot
1-under 69 and is tied for 13th.
Spieth (pronounced SPEE-th) is certain to have a huge following
As if his play, his poise and the fact he's from Dallas haven't
won over enough fans, tournament organizers came up with a
promotion in his honor: Anyone 16 and under will be let in free for
the final round.
The juiced-up environment can only help the kid. He's been
feeding off it all week.
"After you hit each shot, you're walking to your next shot or
in between holes and everyone is cheering you on," Spieth said.
"It gives me goose bumps. I've just got to get out there and
settle myself down and try and get them excited and give them
something to cheer about."
He did Saturday, holing out a bunker shot for a birdie on No. 1.
He called the ensuing roar the loudest he's ever heard.
After a par, he went through a bit of a wild stretch: bogey,
birdie, birdie, bogey. Then he got back to making pars with the
occasional birdie mixed in, such as sinking a 38-footer on No. 12.
"I'm getting a little jumpy in between shots, I'm walking
really fast, and I realize that; I just can't help it," said
"But when I'm getting to the ball I'm remaining calm. ... I've
only made a couple (bad decision) this whole week, which is normal
for a 16-year-old like me. But, you know, I think controlling my
emotions has been my strength."
He proved that again at the end of his round.
After making a bogey on the par-3 17th, he came away muttering,
"So unnecessary!" Then he put his tee shot on 18 into the rough
on the first fairway.
His approach had to clear a bunch of trees to a hole surrounded
by sand, with water nearby, too. Spieth hit it so perfectly that he
gave his iron a twist and stifled a smile as he walked to the
He wound up in a bunker, but was able to get the ball within 8
feet. He made the par-saving putt, gave a few fist pumps and walked
off thinking about what could happen Sunday.
"I think I can make a run," he said. "Starting the entire
week, y'all gave me odds like 1,000 to 1 or a million to 1,
something like that. No one expected me to make the cut, and I
guess I have an outside chance. If I get the right conditions out
there, the wind starts to pick up and I start just dropping bombs
from all over the place, it could happen."
When the round ended, Pernice shook Spieth's hand and offered
some advice. Or maybe he was getting Spieth's phone number to pass
along to his own daughters, who are 15 and 16.
"I said, 'Great playing, proud of how you hung in there, have
fun and good luck tomorrow,"' Pernice said. "He's a wonderful
young guy and he's got a lot of exuberance, a lot of excitement in
him, which is great. He thrived off the crowd, and the crowd
continued to edge him on. ... It's great for the tournament. He's
going to bring thousands and thousands of people out here see the
event. You don't need Tiger and Phil always to have a great
The first time Spieth said "Mr. Pernice," his playing partner
said to call him Tom. Only, Spieth didn't hear it.
"So I went back and forth," Spieth said. "I don't call my
friends' parents by their first name ... and I ended up just
skipping it altogether. I was just like, 'Good shot.' I wouldn't
say anything after that, or be like, 'Nice putt."'
Spieth's manners will be put to the test again Sunday. His
playing partner: 50-year-old Corey Pavin.
Pavin also is the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, but let's not get too
Spieth already has become the sixth-youngest player to make a
cut. The best finish for someone so young was Italy's Matteo
Manassero, tying for 13th at the 2009 British Open last year, when
he was 16.
Regardless of how things turn out, Spieth has plenty of other
big events to look forward to, like a sponsor's exemption into the
Memphis PGA Tour stop in June, and defending his title at the U.S.
Junior Amateur Championship in July.
But, first, he's got homework to catch up on and a junior
amateur event next weekend.
"It will be different," he said, "but, you know, it will
almost feel more natural."
Surely he'll call those playing partners by their first names.
If anything, they might call him Mr. Spieth.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)