PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Forget about securing special temporary status.
Jordan Spieth is once again focused on becoming the second-youngest PGA Tour winner ever.
Though his 4-foot par putt on the final hole hit a spike mark and drifted away, Spieth’s third-round 69 put him in a tie for eighth and only two shots off the lead at the Tampa Bay Championship.
This is merely the continuation of the good form that Spieth showed last week in the opposite-field event in Puerto Rico, where he bogeyed the 70th hole and finished one shot back of winner Scott Brown.
Spieth, 19, needs to finish in a two-way tie for 14th or better at Innisbrook to earn special temporary status, making him eligible to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.
Asked if that number was on his mind, Spieth said Saturday, “It is, but as long as I focus on the top of the leaderboard it doesn’t bother me. I’m in a great position for where I need to be. As long as I’m focused on making up ground from where I’m at now and not settling for a certain number, I won’t have any trouble doing that.”
This is the fourth consecutive professional start for Spieth, who turned pro in December after spending a year and a half at the University of Texas, where he helped the Longhorns win the 2012 NCAA Championship.
Beginning the year with no status and having to rely on only sponsor exemptions, Spieth tied for 22nd at Pebble Beach, then headed to South America for a pair of Web.com Tour starts, in which he finished seventh (Panama) and fourth (Colombia).
That left Spieth with a conundrum: Should he continue to play the Web.com circuit – he was some $4,000 from earning fully exempt status – or play the Puerto Rico Open, where he had been given a sponsor exemption? He spent 30 minutes in a Bogota grillroom trying to figure it out.
Ultimately, he settled on Puerto Rico, where he shot all four rounds in the 60s and finished T-2.
Under the assumption that he would spend the year scraping for spots in Web.com events, Spieth now has decided to focus on securing his PGA Tour card for the 2014 season.
“That’s a nice change,” he said.