Remembering 16-year-old Jordan Spieth's Debut at Byron Nelson
Reigning Open champion, Jordan Spieth has already secured his place in history, previously winning the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open. Yet to turn 25, the formidable Texan has proven himself to be arguably the greatest individual competitor in golf since Tiger Woods, possessing an admirable ability to produce magical moments at just the right time.
Emerging onto the PGA Tour in 2013 and securing his first title that season at the John Deere Classic, the young American first came to prominence on the professional circuit three years earlier, aged 16. Then a prolific junior golfer - winning the U.S. Junior Amateur the previous year - Spieth wrote to tournament officials at the HP Byron Nelson Championship looking to secure an invitation. He was clearly persuasive and claimed that spot in the field.
Spieth wrote: “As a Dallas native, I have always dreamed of playing in this event ever since my dad took me when I was 8. I can remember Phil Mickelson hitting a ball right at us on (No. 2) just left of the green. The ball landed about 10 feet in front of us in the left rough. Phil approached us and asked me if the ball he spotted was his. I told him yes and he pitched it right next to the cup for an easy tap in save. Phil turned and smiled at us and said “thanks for being so still.” That was the closest I’d ever been to see a PGA Tour pro hit a shot, and it has stuck with me ever since. Now I want to create similar memories for other kids who may one day love the game like I do."
It was an event that he had grown up watching - attending as a child - and he made his PGA Tour debut to much fanfare within the local area, including being followed around the course by hundreds of friends and supporters. That would have been an ominous prospect for most, but the teenage Spieth displayed the strength of character that has defined his career to date.
Shooting 68 to position himself high on the leaderboard, the amateur commented after that first round: "It was a lot of fun. Everyone that I walked by told me just to enjoy it, and we had a lot of fun out there today. The crowd was awesome, all our friends that came out were -- you know, it takes the pressure off when they're out there supporting you."
On the Friday, he added a 69 to become the sixth youngest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour, and he relished the chance to be interviewed on TV, something he would get used to in subsequent years. "It was awesome. I cannot wait to watch it later tonight if I get the chance. But I watch the Golf Channel all the time. I like watching when the players -- through tournament week and watching them on TV, so to get to meet Sir Nick Faldo, it's an honour to be able to meet him."
Making the cut was one thing, but he moved into contention entering the final round after a Saturday 67. Reflecting on his performance to that point, the high-schooler noted which aspect of his game impressed the most: "Controlling my emotions. I'm getting a little jumpy in between shots, I'm walking really fast, and I realise that. I just can't help it. But when I'm getting to the ball I'm remaining calm, which is important, and I made one or two bad decisions today, and I've only made a couple this whole week, which is normal for a 16-year-old like me. But, you know, I think controlling my emotions has been my strength, and I've just got to get out there and kinda let it sink in tomorrow."
On Sunday, Spieth was at one stage within three strokes of the lead, but ultimately fell back into a tie for 16th after a 72, finishing six shots behind winner Jason Day. It was the 22-year-old Australian's first victory on the PGA Tour. Just five years later, Day and Spieth would contest the last pairing of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
The future world number one was asked to comment on the performance of the 16-year-old kid. "He looks like he's got all the game in the world, you know? Being 16 and making a cut in a PGA Tour event is unreal. If I was 16 -- I wouldn't have been where he is right now. The advice I would give him is keep at it, keep learning, keep playing a lot of tournaments and try and win as many as you can and make it a habit, make it a habit and keep pushing through, no matter what happens. As long as you push through those hard experiences and work hard, you'll come out on top. It will all work itself out."
It certainly did. 11 PGA Tour victories later - including those three majors - Jordan Spieth has surpassed the promise he displayed at the Byron Nelson in 2010. In many respects, the legend began that week eight years ago.
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