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March 16 2013

8:03 PM

Brilliant shot helps Spieth close on card


A top-13 finish would likely grant Spieth status on the PGA TOUR. (Cohen/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Jordan Spieth didn’t say it was the wisest decision. Just the one he felt most confident with.

From the trees left of the Copperhead’s 16th fairway, the 19-year-old pro somehow squeezed a low 6-iron through a 2-yard window while keeping it beneath another tree’s low-hanging branches.

Then came the bonus. The ball rose and hooked, giving it enough distance to carry onto the green and settle 11 feet away. Spieth finished off the improbable birdie, helping him to a 2-under 69 that lifted him within two shots of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank lead.

“It wasn’t a smart shot,” Spieth admitted. “Out of 10 times, I maybe hit the green once or twice.

“In that position, I felt confident with it. I felt like I could get it up there around the green. Hitting the green and making birdie was definitely a bonus, and that was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in my life.”

Just another example of why Spieth likely won’t need long to stick on the PGA TOUR. A card may be as close as Sunday – a top-13 finish should be enough to earn the $101,295 he needs for special temporary membership.

Not that the two-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion is looking at the money.

“As long as I focus on the top of the leaderboard, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “As long as I’m focused on making up ground from where I’m at right now – and not focused on settling for a certain number – then I won’t have a problem doing that.”

Spieth could accomplish it in just three PGA TOUR starts. He tied for 22nd at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, then was runner-up behind Scott Brown at last week’s Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com. He also had two top-10 finishes on the Web.com Tour.

Not bad for a guy who had no status to begin 2013. Despite falling short in the second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying, he still opted to leave the University of Texas in December.

“I can’t imagine being out here at 19, and to do what he’s done,” said co-leader Justin Leonard, a fellow UT product. “And it isn’t like he’s just driven a couple hundred miles [to tournaments]. He’s been to three or four countries this year already.

“It’s pretty remarkable. It’s beyond the game and what happens on the golf course, but he’s handling himself very, very well.”

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