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Spieth the Star of Byron Nelson


For a tournament that was bemoaning the lack of big-name players in its field, the Byron Nelson Championship turned out to be very much worth watching thanks to a 16-year-old high school kid from Dallas.

Jordan Spieth, a junior at Jesuit College Prep School, turned in four spectacular rounds in the $6.5 million event at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. The reigning U.S. Junior Amateur and two-time Class 5A Texas state high school champion carded rounds of 68, 69, 67 and 72 to finish in a tie for 16th at 4-under 276, only four strokes back of winner Jason Day.

Spieth's first two rounds were good enough for him to become the sixth-youngest player to ever make the cut in a PGA Tour event. And his performance was so good that he's received another sponsor's exemption. Spieth, who turns 17 in July, has received - and accepted - an invitation to play in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, June 10-13, at the Tournament Players Club at Southwind.

''We've had an offer extended for a couple of months,'' said tournament director Phil Cannon. ''We heard he was going to accept it in the past few weeks and we were going to hold off until next week to make the announcement, but he made the cut in Dallas and we decided to take advantage of his (sudden) popularity.''

Spieth will join a field that includes Retief Goosen, Lee Westwood, Justin Leonard, Padraig Harrington, David Toms, John Daly, Zach Johnson and 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.

Observers had a field day making wisecracks about the youngster. "You know," wrote David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after the third round of the Nelson, "when most high-school juniors come home and show their parents scores of 68-68-67, they get grounded."

And as 49-year-old Tour veteran Kenny Perry told The Dallas Morning News: "I've got underwear older than him."

On late Sunday afternoon, after Spieth finished the 18th hole to rousing applause from the huge gallery at TPC Las Colinas, he sat down with reporters and discussed his heady week. Here's what the youngster said.

MODERATOR: I would like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room. Jordan, great week in your first PGA Tour event. If you would comment about your round today and the crowd that was out there today following you.

JORDAN SPIETH: I stressed yesterday that I needed to get off to a good start, and not even close to a decent start, so I never really got to feed off of the crowd to get into it. Once I got through No. 6, I was like, all right, I'm 2-over through 6, and let's start to enjoy it, start to get the crowd into it, easy hole, par 5 coming up, and got one to fall there, and once one falls there there will be a lot more to fall and that's what happened. Birdied 9 and 10, and I was at 7-under and probably in sixth or something for a little while, and then unfortunately ran into a couple more speed bumps, but the last three holes I just stepped on 16 tee box, and I was extremely disappointed after making a double bogey, but I told myself these are the three holes you've been dreamin' to play on a Sunday, so let's just enjoy it and definitely did.

Q. I know it's still fresh in your mind but can you pick out a favorite moment of this tournament?

JORDAN SPIETH: I would say 17, after I hit my tee shot on 17 today, the par 3, I kinda chickened out the last three days on 17, and finally I said all right, enough with this, you're going to look back and say that you wish you'd fired at this pin, even if it goes in the water. You've got to try to make a hole in one here. I think I got some people excited when I hit that shot and everyone started to crazy, and it was really cool.

Q. In listening to the conversations of the professionals that you played with, they were very impressed with your scores, but they also said they were more impressed, and others have said they were impressed, with how you handled the week. How did you keep things in balance this week?

JORDAN SPIETH: I just tried to learn from them, look at what they were doing. I tried to emulate them, and it was really cool to play about a couple of veterans, Tom yesterday and Corey today. It's all business out there. They remain neutral, they know that they can't get too excited or too down on themselves, and I did today, I got way too down on myself early, and then I got way too excited at some point in the round, too, and it messed me up a little bit. But that's how I went about the week. I tried to do exactly what they were doing and tried to be one of them for the week, and to be able to play with a couple of guys like I did on the weekend, it was cool.

Q. You talk about "neutral." How do you channel the neutral energy? I know you have a lot of emotion out there but how do you get back in that gear?

JORDAN SPIETH: You've got to realize that you're out there having fun, even if you're over par. You're not the -- you are the one inside the ropes; you're the one that got in the tournament and made the cut, and that keeps you neutral, and I didn't do that, and looking back that's what made me the most disappointed. But on 16 I stood over that putt, and I was like, all right, you can will this one in, even if you don't put a good stroke on it, you'll will it in, and it went in and everyone went crazy; it was cool walking to 17.

Q. You thought you could win three months ago. What did you think this morning when you woke up and were still in contention? What were your expectations?

JORDAN SPIETH: Just like I said yesterday, get out to a good start. You have to get off to a good start if you're going to make up 6 shots. You can't sit there and go par, bogey, bogey to start. So after that I just told myself, all right let's get it back to even and go from there, and I was able to, and then I hit a close one on 10 and got to 1-under and missed opportunities on 11, and I guess that's about it. I just didn't put the ball in the fairway today. I hit three fairways today. When you hit three fairways at a PGA Tour venue, you're not going to be able to get any good looks, so I scrambled it around for 2-over today, and looking back, to be able to do that and only shoot 2-over is pretty reassuring.

Q. On 13 you scuffed up pretty good, then you hit the ball left on 14, and that was like the first time you got -- I saw frustration and emotion. Did that have anything to do with the double bogey on the next hole, or were you able to center yourself after that hook left?

JORDAN SPIETH: No, the reason it didn't channel into 15 is because I almost chipped in and tapped in for par on 14, so I was happy going to 15 tee box, and the wind was howling left to right, and I figured draw and the wind will hold it up. I don't know exactly what happened, I thought I hit a good drive when I hit it, and then it kept on diving left, and from there I had 90 yards in the first cut to try and get up and down for par, and that was the worst decision I made this entire week was to hit a lob wedge there, thinking that I could hit a lob wedge into the wind. So I forced it, put it in the thickest rough on the course, and from there it was just bad! Just messy. But 13 I laughed after I hit my shot. I don't know what happened, I can't explain it. I would have to see it to realize what happened, and maybe get Faldo's commentary on it, that would be nice. But just -- I wasn't nervous, I wasn't nervous, it was just a flat-out miss. I guess I teed it up in the wrong spot or something, I don't know.

Q. That's what you said.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I don't know, but it didn't lead to 15 -- going left -- 14 is an unbelievably difficult hole the last two days. It's into 40 mile-an-hour wind, water on the left, pins are tucked by the water, you know, it's a very tough tee shot, so to get up and down and get out of there with a par, I was happy.

Q. Jordan, recognizing this is just a golf tournament, do you feel like this week changed you fundamentally in any way?

JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn't say it changed me fundamentally. I definitely loved being able to learn from the guys I was playing with, and just on and off the course, seeing how they were approaching their pre-round routine and stuff, just speaking with a couple of them in the locker room. That was pretty neat to get that kind of experience, but I wouldn't say fundamentally I've changed. I'm just -- I can't wait to get back out there and do it again.

Q. The putt at 11, the birdie putt, that would have put you only 2 back, did you know that? Can you run me through your thoughts on that? At that point everybody probably would have gone crazy had that gone in.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, that would have. I had no idea. The last scoreboard was No. 9, and I didn't even pay attention to the one on 9, but I was kinda in the zone at that point. I birdied 7, almost made it on 8 and birdied 9 and 10 and I had a good opportunity on 11, and it happened to be dead straight and cut somewhat of a read. I wish I didn't look at Corey's putt, because I saw his dive left after the hole, so I figured from my angle it would be right edge or whatever, and it just hung out there, it just would not turn. It was a good stroke, it was right where I was aiming, and it was just a misread, you know, nothing I could do about that. But I had no idea that it would have been 2 shots there; it wouldn't have really affected the way I approached the rest of the round, though.

Q. Jordan there were a couple of times on 15 and 16 where it looked like and you Corey Pavin had time to talk. What was he asking you? Seemed like there was conversation there.

JORDAN SPIETH: I congratulated him on -- I hadn't congratulated him on being selected as the Ryder Cup Captain, because that's one of the greatest honors you can have in the entire sport, so I was congratulating him, we were talking about how I'll be out there with him for the Junior Ryder Cup and just talking about stuff like that.

Q. Hitting 3-wood off the first tee can you talk about the decision to do that? Obviously you've hit driver most of the week, and also your expectations going into St. Jude in a couple weeks?

JORDAN SPIETH: Well, 3-wood on 1 was because driver won't go in the fairway. There is no way for me to hit the driver in the fairway. The day before I hit it just left of the sand trap, and it went 330 through the fairway. I just -- downwind I can hit a 3-wood out there 300 when my blood is pumping and my heart is beating a billion beats per second, so that was the only way for me to hit the fairway was 3-wood, so it wasn't like I was trying to be conservative or smart, it was just however you can get it in the fairway. And the driver -- it's 315 carry over the right bunker, and you can't even see that from the tee box, so it's not like I'm going to try that. St. Jude, I've got preparation to do for that, and I think this will help going into that. The only difference is I've never seen the course out there, but I think the experience that I've had this week is only going to help me when I'm playing with the pros again.

Q. Jordan, a lot of people have said your appearance, your showing has saved this year's tournament, no world top-10, no recognizable names, then all of the sudden you show up and did what you did. What do you think when people say you saved this year's tournament?

JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn't say that. I would hate to say that. The tournament has always -- bearing Byron Nelson's name is extremely special, and everyone that's in this event knows that. For that many people to come out to watch me out there and support me, I know it only helped the tournament and I think -- I would love to do it again.

Q. Jordan, what did you hit on 17, and then after you hit that shot and were walking down, did you see the Jesuit banner on the house?

JORDAN SPIETH: I did.

Q. Can you describe that scene?

JORDAN SPIETH: I think it was 175 yards exactly today downhill into that wind, and my 7-iron is normally my 175-yard club, and if it were a normal round, if it were any other round besides the last round of the Byron Nelson or any PGA Tour event, I would have definitely hit a hard 6-iron, and I took a 7-iron out and I hit an easy cut, just because I trusted that my adrenaline would take over and that I could knock it in there. It took some kahunas, I would say, to hit that shot, and it went short right of the hole, which is not exactly the smartest play. I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight if I would have chickened out and pulled that left and just tried to scramble for a par. So I stood up there and I said, let's hit a punch cut and see what happens, and mid-air it looked like it could go in, and I heard some people saying, "Get in, be the right club," so I was happy to see it land on dry land and stay on the green.

Q. Jordan, this is not a normal setup for a 16-year-old in high school to be dealing with the media. What has it been like for you, being asked to go to the tower at CBS? Go through that for us.

JORDAN SPIETH: It's been cool, and all I'm doing is just pretending there is no cameras, I guess, I'm just trying to talk to y'all, like I'm just talking to you, just trying to be myself. It definitely is not normal for a 16 year old, I would agree with that, but I wouldn't have it any other way, I guess, at this point.

Q. Jordan, how does this affect you going forward as far as junior tournaments, U.S. Amateur, this kind of stuff? When you get this type of heady feeling for a 16 year old, do you think it's going to be easy for you to go back and have that grounded feeling that you've always had to be able to even play this week that you played?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think it will change at all. I think everything will stay real similar; the only difference will be at the U.S. Amateur or any of the big junior events or amateur events, there is not going to be that many people out there, but when you get a crowd out there it will be more natural for me. I will have had this experience, and it will only help. I don't think anything else is really going to change.

Q. Do your expectations change at all because of this? You're the No. 1 ranked Junior in the United States anyway, but now that people have seen you and seen what you're capable of, do the expectations -- does the pressure rise in your mind because of that?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think so, because I didn't win or get a top-5 here; I ended up in 17th or something. So when I think about that, yeah, at the beginning of the week it would have -- the Byron Nelson, everyone is like this 16 year old amateur, no experience, 17th; he would die for 17th. I didn't even contend. I didn't really give it a good chance. So I don't think I'll feel anymore pressure just because I wasn't -- I may have been on TV a lot but I didn't quite have the round today that I expected.

Q. What would you consider possibly the best advice you received going into this week and who gave you that advice?

JORDAN SPIETH: Best advice was probably from my parents right there, and they just told me, "You need to enjoy it, no matter how you play. Everyone is out here to support you; you don't have any expectations going in, you know, you're just playing your game and taking it shot by shot. Just enjoy the experience," and that's what I did. That's what I really tried to do on 16, 17 and 18. I was obviously hot coming off 15 green, but we had plenty of time to wait on 16 so I settled myself down and tried to enjoy the last three holes.

MODERATOR: Great week, Jordan. Good luck next week in Scottsdale.

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