Written by Brad Townsend
Jordan Spieth, 16, becomes sixth-youngest golfer to make cut in PGA Tour event
IRVING - Jordan Spieth exited the No. 16 green with a birdie, acknowledged the cheering throng and marched toward the No. 17 tee box.
For a millisecond, his 16-year-old eyes widened.
There he was Friday afternoon, a high school junior, about to become the sixth-youngest kid, really, to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. Now Spieth was standing on the 17th tee box, a par-3, amphitheater-like setting, surrounded by about 3,000 fans.
"It felt like being in a dome, with everyone screaming for you," he said.
By day's end, the pride of Jesuit College Preparatory and two-time Junior Byron Nelson champion was 3-under-par and tied for 22nd in his hometown pro tour event, the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
"I wouldn't say I felt like a pro, because I don't know what a pro feels like," Spieth said. "But it was pretty cool."
Cool, indeed, for a golf-crazed teen who has attended this tournament since he was 5. Now he's inside the ropes at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas and, halfway through the tournament, he's posted a better score than more than 120 pros.
"I think we're seeing a sapling blossoming today," said his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, the director of instruction at Brook Hollow Golf Club. "He's here amongst the oak trees, but he's certainly standing out, isn't he?"
Dallas' golf community knows him as the lithe, 2009 Junior Amateur champion who has orally committed to play at the University of Texas.
But now he's a national sensation. After his 1-under 69 in Friday's second round, he was escorted up the TV tower behind the 18th green, where he was interviewed live on The Golf Channel by six-time major champion Nick Faldo.
He also appeared live on ESPN's SportsCenter and ESPN News and did live stand-ups with local channels 8 and 33. And for a few holes Friday, his gallery included his friend, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who rode in a golf cart and tried to stay back from the throng.
"It's just an unreal experience," said his mother, Chris, as Jordan signed autographs next to the 18th green. "At home, he still takes the garbage out and feeds the dog and babysits his sister.
"You come here, and all those people are cheering for him, especially starting on the 16th fairway. That's when I started crying."
Spieth was able to finish only 11 holes Thursday because of a nearly four-hour rain delay. With a 7:15 a.m. Friday resumption of his first round, the Spieths decided that Jordan and his caddie, Kyle Baginski, should stay on site at the Four Seasons Resort.
Jordan wanted to pick out his clothes for Friday, so he dashed home late Thursday with his father, Shawn. Only about 20 fans saw his first tee shot Friday morning, but as the day progressed his gallery swelled into the tournament's largest, including about 200 Jesuit students and faculty.
"He's 16 years old, playing in front of his home crowd," marveled playing partner Blake Adams, who is tied for the tournament lead at 10-under. "There is so much expectation and pressure, and he played solid.
"He's a really, really good kid. I don't care how he hits it. That's what means more to me, that a kid with his success is able to be a good kid, also."
The youngest player to make a PGA Tour cut is Bob Panasik, who was 15 years, eight months old when he did so at the 1957 Canadian Open. But making the cut was well down Spieth's list of objectives.
"No, he wasn't making this tournament to make the cut," Chris Spieth said. "He was playing this tournament to see his name at the top of the leaderboard. That's how he plays every tournament. He's got a lot of confidence."
After birdies on holes 2 and 4 of his second round, Spieth was 4-under-par for the tournament, tied for sixth.
"Standing on the 5 tee box, I really felt like I could make a run at the lead," he said. "So it could still happen."
As an amateur, he isn't eligible to make a cent this week. But say he maintained his current 22nd-place tie. That would be worth $48,446.66, if he were a professional.
"I'll look at it as a joke, and hopefully I can make a run and get it up there to where it would have been pretty high," he said with a laugh. "But it's not like I'm regretting not turning pro before the event.
"Who knows what could happen?"
Who knew what has happened thus far would happen? Spieth seems less awed by the circumstances and surroundings than his adoring gallery is of his performance.
"I don't want to think of myself as an amateur out there," he said. "I want to think of myself as a contender."
YOUNGEST PLAYERS TO MAKE THE CUT ON PGA TOUR
Age Player Tournament Eventual finish 15 years, 8 months, 20 days Bob Panasik 1957 Canadian Open T-66 16 years, 4 days Tadd Fujikawa 2007 Sony Open in Hawaii T-20 16 years, 2 months, 23 days Justin Thomas 2009 Wyndham Championship T-78 16 years, 2 months, 29 days Matteo Manassero 2009 British Open T-13 16 years, 9 months, 7 days Ty Tryon 2001 The Honda Classic T-39 16 years, 11 months, 21 days Matteo Manassero 2010 Masters T-36 17 years, 1 month, 22 days Tommy Jacobs 1952 Masters 60
Spieth is 16 years, 9 months, 24 days old on Friday.