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Spieth Looks Like He Belongs on PGA Tour


After a sensational - though ultimately brief - amateur career, Jordan Spieth shocked many observers by deciding not to complete his four years at the University of Texas and turn pro.

That big move came in December, and the 19-year-old from Dallas is now turning heads after he finished tied for second in last week's Puerto Rico Open. The two-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion who led Texas to the NCAA championship as a freshman, posted rounds of 69, 66, 67 and 67 at Trump International Golf Club - Puerto Rico to finish at 19-under 269, a mere stroke behind winner Scott Brown.

His runner-up finish was worth $300,000, leaving Spieth just over $101,000 short of earning temporary Tour membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor's exemptions for the rest of the year and put him in position to earn enough money to end up in the top-125 at season's end and earn his 2014 Tour card.

On Wednesday, Spieth received another of those sponsor's exemptions for the HP Byron Nelson Championship, to be held May 16-19 at the TPC Four Seasons at Los Colinas in Irving, Texas. He played in that tournament as an amateur, finishing tied for 32nd in 2010 and T-16 a year later (he didn't play in 2012 as he was competing for Texas in the NCAA regionals).

Spieth is playing in this week's $5.5 million Tampa Bay Championship, which starts Thursday on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. He's paired in the first round with South Korean Jin Park and American David Bradshaw; the trio starts at 2:20 p.m. (ET) on the 10th tee.

On Wednesday, Spieth sat down with reporters and talked about what it was like to battle down the stretch in a PGA Tour event. Here's what the youngster had to tell the media.

MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us for a few minutes, coming off a great week, T 2 last week in Puerto Rico and you're here this week at the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, making your fourth start of the season, and I believe 12th career start on the PGA Tour. And with all that being said, maybe just start off with a few comments on last week and how it feels to be here in Tampa Bay.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, last week was a new experience for me. When I was a teenager at the Byron, I was kind of in contention a little bit, but I definitely felt the nerves back then. But last week, being able to look at the leaderboard and be on the top with a couple other guys, it was a new experience and I enjoyed it and felt like I played really well, felt like I controlled my emotions and hit good shots. Played smart golf, which was an improvement from previous times I've been in a position similar to that. Felt great. I knew that coming into that week, that I had been striking the ball really well and just needed a few more putts to go coming off good weeks on the Web.com Tour.

So yeah, I wouldn't say I surprised myself last week, I would have obviously taken second going in and I'm going to take a lot of confidence going forward. I still have a lot of work to do to have a permanent place to play.

MODERATOR: And have you had much of a chance to see the course here this week?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I played yesterday afternoon. I played this course in an AJGA junior all star championship back when I was 14, 15 years old, and it was a monster for me back then. And it's nice to, some of these holes, I'm able to hit irons instead of driver, 3 wood into the par 4s stuff like that. The course is pure. It was nice to play it last night with nobody else on the course. And you know, I'm excited. It's the kind of golf course that I think is a great fit for me, similar to Texas Bermuda, it's overseed on the greens there, and I felt comfortable on it yesterday.

MODERATOR: My last question before we take questions is, just touch on your schedule coming up a little bit, kind of where you're planning to go from here.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I'm excited. Fortunately I've had kind of a set schedule for the next month or so, so after this week, I'll have a week off. Then I'm going to go to the Shell in Houston and then the Valero, back to back there. Both courses I'm familiar with, and then most likely the Midland, Web.com Tour event, the week after that. Then I also got word that I'm in the Byron Nelson so that will be a great time to go back to where I got my PGA Tour debut. Yeah, the Texas swing coming up, I'm really excited for that.

Q. You mentioned the schedule. How did last week's finish sort of change what you're looking at for schedule purposes for the rest of the year?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it did change in a positive way obviously. Right now I'm looking at needing whatever it is, around $100,000 in earnings the rest of the year in order to get special temporary a status and be able to have unlimited exemptions. It changed, because now I'm more looking to use my exemptions and use my starts sooner rather than later to try and earn that and still have a full year left to hopefully be able to play on the PGA Tour and use a lot of starts this year.

It's been great. I've had a lot of interest even in future tournaments now for rest of the summer, and not able to make any decisions yet, which is a good thing. So it's changed some. Going into last week, I talked with a lot of - Jay and my dad and focusing on the Web.com Tour, now it's more focusing on the PGA Tour, so that's a good problem.

Q. How many exemptions do you have left at this level?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, well, I didn't use one this week, so I've used three exemptions this year. This will be my fourth PGA start this year, so I'll still have four sponsor's exemptions left and three of those are the Texas swing.

Q. There's so many young players who are playing really well right now, from Henley to Langley to Uihlein to Guthrie, I can keep going through the list; does that help you, knowing that there are other guys going through that and the spotlight is not directly on you all the time?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I wouldn't - I don't really focus on where the spotlight is or anything. But it is nice to see everybody else playing well, because not only does it fuel me to want to get out there, but these are guys that I've played junior and amateur golf with. Russell, winning on the PGA Tour this year, we were on the same Walker Cup Team a couple years ago, and same with Peter and Pat Cantlay and Harry English and all of these guys that we were playing amateur golf with, it seems like yesterday, are now really great players on the Tour. It's a big confidence boost to see guys, I know that I was able to compete with before, step their game up to this level and hopefully I can get some status out here and soon join them full time.

Q. How differently do you approach tournaments now as opposed to when you were just going out to the Byron as a teenager?

JORDAN SPIETH: You know, I'm still approaching it all the same way. I mean, back then, I wasn't kidding when I said that I approached it to try and win. I still believe that you don't ever enter a tournament unless you're trying to win the tournament. It seemed crazy, may have been, I had some hype around saying I was trying to win as a 16 year old amateur. Just in my mindset, the way I'm playing my best golf is if I'm looking at the leaderboard and seeing who is leading, trying to surpass their name.

It's different because now I never even play two weeks in a row and this is now my fourth week in a row. You don't exactly have - back when the first Byron Nelson or when I was playing as an would, amateur I get to a tournament the Saturday before and play three or four rounds on the course before. And now, like today, or this week, I've got one round in here, Puerto Rico I got one round in before, golf courses that - Puerto Rico I had never seen, so preparation is a little different. As long as I'm learning each week, playing with more veterans and learning how they play practice rounds, I feel more confident when Thursday starts.

MODERATOR: Jordan, we appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.