IRVING, Texas – Jordan Spieth did something Tiger Woods couldn’t do. And his pal Tony Romo showed up to watch.
Who the heck is this guy?
Spieth is a high school junior from Dallas who cut class this week to play in the Byron Nelson Championship, becoming the first prep to take on the pros in this event since Woods in 1993. He’s handled his nerves and the TPC Four Seasons course quite nicely, shooting a 3-under 137 through two rounds to become the sixth-youngest player to make the cut at a PGA Tour event.
“There’s never going to be a golf course that’s too much for him,” said Romo, the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys and a solid amateur golfer himself, having qualified for a U.S. Open sectional event on Thursday. He befriended Spieth while playing a tournament in South Carolina this year and have remained pals.
“He’s fine, as long as he keeps his emotions under control. He’s got the game for it, no question. He’s just playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
Spieth’s debut on Thursday was delayed nearly four hours by threatening skies, and he got in only 11 holes at even par. He spent the night at the resort attached to the course because he finished so late, then teed off at 7:15 a.m. He made a pair of birdies over seven holes for a 68, took about a half-hour break, then shot 69 in the second round.
“I’m in shock right now,” he said. “I’m extremely pleased with how the week has gone so far. Hopefully I can make a run at the top of the leaderboard the next two days.”
As the day went on, temperatures rose – and so did the size of his gallery. (Much to the chagrin of his school’s teachers; “They’re not happy with me,” he said.)
Spieth saw hundreds of classmates and thousands of fans around the 18th green, and told his caddie he wanted to really give them something to cheer about with his approach.
Sure enough, he went right at the pin, putting it 12 feet past the cup. He missed the birdie putt, then tapped in for a par that drew another raucous celebration. He tipped his cap, then flipped the ball toward some of his teenage pals. Several of them tumbled onto the green fighting for the souvenir.
“I didn’t really expect the loudness of the cheers,” said Spieth, who just last week won a state high school title, and last summer won the U.S. Junior Amateur title. “It’s a new experience for me. I could get used to it.”
Spieth (pronounced SPEEth) has been so pumped up that he’s adjusted his club selection, going one notch lighter than usual. He also goofed on the second hole of the second round, teeing off when it was David Lutterus’ turn. When his caddie pointed out the faux pas, Spieth apologized and Lutterus told him to forget about it.
Through it all, Spieth’s strength was his consistency – lots and lots of pars. His 1-under second round came from three birdies and a pair of bogeys.
His defining shot came on the par-5 16th. He was coming off his second bogey and had put his approach into a sand trap he’d been trying to avoid. His chip rolled to about two feet from the hole for an easy birdie.
“I feel like I played better than my score showed today,” he said. “When something like that happens, and you’re still somewhat in it, you kind of realize that if putts start to drop, you can make a run at it.
“I don’t want to think of myself as the amateur out here. I want to think of myself as a contender.”
Besides his youthful face – let’s just say he probably wears out a golf glove quicker than he does a razorc– Spieth’s amateur status was obvious by his lack of sponsor branding. He wore a Texas Longhorns hat, even though he’s more than a year away from college.
Spieth is 16 years, nine months and 24 days. He’s the second 16-year-old to make a cut this season, joining Italy’s Matteo Manassero at the Masters.
Manassero also has the best-ever finish by someone this young, having tied for 13th at the 2009 British Open.
Woods isn’t on that list. But he does have an interesting history at this event.
Recruited by Nelson when he was only 17, Woods shot 77-72 then went home for the weekend. He returned four years later and won it, making him still the youngest winner.
That, of course, could change this weekend.