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May 28 2011

9:51 PM

Spieth shoots 72 but misses graduation

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Jordan Spieth had a rollercoaster round on Saturday but he's still tied for eighth going into Sunday's final round.

By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

IRVING, Texas -- He birdied the first hole. Then the second hole. Then Jordan Spieth started thinking.

As he stood on the tee box at the third hole Saturday, having climbed to third place on the leaderboard, he turned to his caddie and asked: "Why can't we just birdie every single hole today?"

Reality soon kicked in for the 17-year-old amateur from Dallas. He gave away those two strokes with a double bogey at the par-4 fourth when he got a bad break off the tee, then made a poor decision out of the fairway bunker. A bogey at the ninth dropped him under par for his round.

But give the kid credit. He battled his way to a 2-over 72 in tough third-round conditions of the HP Byron Nelson Championship and will go into Sunday's final round at 1 under for the tournament, which at least gives him a long-shot chance to make a run at the leaders. He’s tied for eighth, four shots off the lead held by Ryan Palmer.

Spieth experienced a little bit of everything Saturday. Five birdies. Three bogeys. Two double bogeys. A 25-foot putt for birdie. Several "amateur decisions" (in his words). A great start. And a nice finish that included a birdie at the par-3 17th to keep him under par.

"I'm happy with the way it started and the way it finished," Spieth said.

About the only thing he failed to do was attend his high school graduation ceremony at Jesuit College Preparatory School, which started right about the time he finished his round.

He seemed OK with that.

"I'm happy to be officially graduated," said Spieth, who will be a freshman at the University of Texas this fall. "It's time to move on to college."

He still has work to do Sunday, though. Last year in this event, when he was 16 and became the sixth-youngest player to make a PGA TOUR cut, he finished tied for 16th. He's looking for a better result this year, although he knows he'll be several shots off the lead.

"We'll see what happens if I can get out there and post a few under," he said. "I just want to post a solid number."

There were several times on Saturday that Spieth's round could have really gone south. But he kept fighting back.

After the double bogey at the fourth hole, he produced four straight pars. After the bogey at 9, he bounced back with a birdie at the 10th. After his double bogey at 11 when he found the water with his tee shot, he came back with two pars, then a birdie at the 15th.

After a bogey at the par-5 16th left him steaming as he walked off the green -- "I'm sititng OK in the fairway and somehow turned it into a 6," he said -- Spieth had a chance to cool down as he waited to hit his tee shot at the 17th.

He put the ball inside 10 feet. And as he stood over the birdie putt, a huge gallery staring at him, he wondered one thing.

How long is it going to be if this goes in?

"I really wanted to make it just to hear the roar," he said.

He did. Another impressive day for the 17-year-old.

“I only really had 4 or 5 bad swings,” he said. “That resulted in playing five holes in 7 over par. … But my putter’s keeping me in it.”

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