For the second year in a row, the local Dallas amateur will make the cut at the Nelson. He was at 3 under for the tournament after a 2-under 68 in the second round Friday.
The ceremony for Dallas’ Jesuit Prep’s graduating class of 246 seniors starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, at an auditorium on the SMU campus about 20 miles from TPC Four Seasons.
“Right after the round …. I’m going to shoot over there as quickly as possible,” Spieth said. “I don’t know how long (graduation) usually lasts.”
Since diplomas are handed out in alphabetical order, the 17-year-old Spieth (pronounced SPEE-th) figures that will at least buy him some extra time.
“Exactly,” he said, smiling. “Should be at least an hour into it, be toward the end.”
After finishing in a tie for 16th at the Nelson last year, and still within three strokes of the lead after 10 holes in the final round, Spieth received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament again this week.
Spieth, a U.S. Junior Amateur champion who plans to attend the University of Texas, had one of the larger galleries following him during the second round Friday.
“I want to win,” Spieth said. “I’m confident. Staying loose and seeing my friends in the crowd and feeding off the crowd helps me.”
When Spieth finished his round early Friday afternoon, with a bogey at the 411-yard No. 9 hole, he was five strokes behind leader Ryan Palmer and tied for 10th place.
“To be on this stage as a senior in high school, at 17, it’s impressive,” Palmer said. “I’m starting to wonder if he’s thinking about four years of college or just one year.”
Spieth’s tee time for Saturday was pending the completion of play by all 153 golfers.
Since his breakthrough in last year’s Nelson, Spieth had played the TPC Four Seasons course three or four more times. He also got to play another round with former President George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas and has worked with Spieth’s instructor.
“If I remember right, he came up to my dad and I right when we got out there and told us what game we were going to play,” Spieth said. “There was no reason to hold back, because he came out calling me names that I shouldn’t mention.
“It was easy to have fun with him out there,” Spieth added. “Hopefully we’ll get to go out there again. It was fun. Didn’t feel like you were playing with anyone extremely important like he is, which is cool.”
Spieth had an opening 1-under 69 at this week’s Nelson that included a double bogey and three bogeys. On those same four holes Friday, he had birdies on each of them. That included a 26-foot birdie putt at the 441-yard 12th hole after a double bogey there Thursday.
He was 5 under before two bogeys in his final five holes Friday, when winds were starting to gust to around 30 mph.
While the pros might have the edge on experience, Spieth has been able to put his entire focus on getting ready for this week.
“For me, I spent the whole entire last month preparing for this, getting out here and preparing my game for this golf course. That’s a huge advantage,” Spieth said. “Whereas these guys are traveling, you know, sometimes four, five weeks at a time, they get worn out, maybe not playing their best golf here. And I prepare just to play my best golf for this event.”