16-year-old Spieth makes remarkable debut

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HP Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas – Most 16-year-olds find themselves stressing over a high school exam, making the varsity team, or buying their first car. Jordan Spieth, a 16-year-old high school student was concerned with winning a PGA Tour event. For many the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship will go down for the remarkable PGA Tour debut by Spieth.

Spieth was within three shots of the lead on the final nine holes, but dropped back into a tie for 16th. He shot a 2-over 72 in the final round, his highest score of the tournament. His 4-under 276 was six strokes behind champion Jason Day.

“I was walking to the fourth hole and it looked like there was a thousand people following him,” Day said. “It took a little bit of pressure off my shoulders knowing that the good majority of the fans that were following me were close friends and family.”

Spieth, meanwhile, became the sixth-youngest player to make the cut on the PGA Tour, then said he was serious about wanting to win. When he shot 3-under Saturday, it wasn’t so farfetched.

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth pumps his fist following a birdie putt on the 16th hole. (Getty Images)

He hit back-to-back bogeys early in the final round and a shot out of a fairway bunker that angered Spieth so much, he pulled back with his iron, ready to throw it at his bag. But a deft chip led to a par putt and he turned everything around.

Three birdies and three near-misses left him standing on the 11th tee at 7-under while the leaders were at 10-under.

A few holes later, he started backing up again – a bogey, then a double-bogey. Yet he bounced back once more, too, with a birdie on the next hole and knocking his tee shot to the par-3 17th just 14 feet from the cut.

Alas, Spieth (pronounced SPEE-th) missed that putt and a par putt of about the same distance on No. 18 for a closing bogey. He walked off to a loud ovation, a handshake from playing partner Corey Pavin and a hug from Peggy Nelson, widow of the tournament’s namesake.

“It was awesome … the entire round, the entire week,” Spieth said. “Starting the week, I definitely would’ve taken a top-20, in a heartbeat. Obviously now, looking back, being a competitor, I look back at the mistakes I made that didn’t give me an opportunity to win.”

Spieth, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, would’ve made $91,185.71 had he turned pro this week. But he’s planning to wait through another year of high school, then attend the University of Texas.

“I wouldn’t say (this week) changed me fundamentally,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back out there and do it again.”

He’s already gotten a sponsor’s exemption to play in Memphis next month. First, he’ll play an American Junior Golf Association event in Arizona next week. Then he has finals.

Contributed by the Associated Press