16 Year Old In Contention At PGA Event - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

16 Year Old In Contention At PGA Event

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

junior.

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

headliner.

"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

seems old.

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

Sunday.

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

 

Spieth

"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

green.

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

event."

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

carried away.

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.)

 

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