IRVING, Texas – Making the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship never was the goal for Jordan Spieth. The 16-year-old insists he’s here to win.
The high school junior shot a 3-under 67 Saturday, his best round yet. That dropped him to 6-under 204 for the tournament, giving him a legitimate chance to win his PGA Tour debut. He is tied for seventh, sixth shots behind leader Jason Day.
“I know the pins are going to be the toughest pins I’ve ever experienced in my life, but if I’m confident,” Spieth said. “I’m going to start firing because I got nothing to lose, nothing to hold back, might as well try and make a run.”
Spieth on Friday became 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.
Spieth (pronounced SPEE-th) is from Dallas and won a state high school title last week. On Saturday, he was playing before his largest gallery yet – after all, school was out, so more of his pals could be there.
Playing partner Tom Pernice Jr. shot a 66 to move to 203. When the round ended, they shook hands and the 50-year-old Pernice offered some words of wisdom.
“He’s a wonderful young man,” said Pernice, who has two daughters Spieth’s age. “He’s got a lot of exuberance and excitement in him.”
Spieth opened with a birdie. He then had a rare wild stretch on the third through sixth holes: bogey, birdie, birdie, bogey. He got back to making pars with the occasional birdie mixed in – such as No. 16, where he made a great sand save Friday.
Spieth gave back a stroke with a bogey on the par-3 17th. His tee shot went past the green and his chip didn’t roll as far as he’d hoped. He missed the par putt, tapped it in and walked off the green muttering, “So unnecessary!”
The frustration might have lingered on the final tee – his shot went into the rough on the first fairway. The ball had to clear a bunch of trees to a hole surrounded by sand, with water in the vicinity, too. The shot was so perfectly on line that Spieth spun his club and stifled a smile.
The ball actually landed in one of those bunkers, but he softly rolled it within 8 feet. He made the par-saving putt, gave a few fist pumps and walked off thinking about what could happen Sunday.
“It was nice to finish getting a putt to drop,” he said. “Hopefully I can make a run at it tomorrow.”
Pernice noted that the excitement Spieth is generating proves “you don’t need Tiger and Phil always to have a great event.”
Woods just happens to be the last high school player in this tournament, back in 1993. He shot 77-72 and missed the cut as a 17-year-old, then came back four years later and became the event’s youngest winner.
Even if he doesn’t, Spieth has plenty of other events to look forward to – a sponsor’s exemption into the Memphis PGA Tour stop in June, and in July he’s got a title to defend at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.