By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Jordan Spieth is making his debut at Liberty National this week but he's certainly familiar with the northern New Jersey area.
After all, Spieth's 2009 U.S. Junior title came at Trump National, which is about 45 minutes to the west of this scenic course on the New York harbor that would host The Barclays for the first time just a month later.
Spieth was two days shy of his 16th birthday when he beat Jay Hwang of San Diego, Calif., that Sunday. He returns to the area this week already a PGA TOUR champion at the age of 20 -- and with a very real shot at winning the FedExCup as the Playoffs begin on Thursday at Liberty National.
"It's pretty wild," Spieth acknowledged on Tuesday. "Each year there's been a different step that at the beginning of the year, I've had a goal to achieve -- to reach that new, higher level, and so far each year, I've been on track, and this year, maybe skipped a few steps.
"So like I've said before, I don't really think of my age as my age. When you're out here, everyone's your peer. New goals come up each day that I'm trying to reach out and accomplish, and you know, you can't ever really rest out here. Everybody else passes you up.
"I've worked really, really hard since even before that, but since the '09 U.S. Junior to be in this position and I'm excited to get out there and work today and tomorrow in preparation for an unbelievable golf tournament."
Spieth played his way onto the PGA TOUR as a special temporary member after tying for second at the Puerto Rico Open and seventh at the Tampa Bay Championship in just his third and fourth starts as a pro. Twelve tournaments later Spieth locked up his TOUR card for the next two years when he won a playoff at the John Deere Classic -- at age 19 years, 11 months, 18 days becoming the youngest winner on the PGA TOUR since Ralph Guldahl in 1931.
Spieth nearly became the youngest two-time TOUR champ, too, at the Wyndham Championship when he closed with a 65 but lost in a playoff to Patrick Reed on Sunday. He comes to The Barclays ranked eighth in the FedExCup, just 69 points out of the all-important top five who will control their own destiny at East Lake during the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Not bad for a guy who had no status on TOUR entering the 2013 season.
"Last week was a big confidence boost," said Spieth, who now has seven top-10 finishes in 19 starts this season. "Felt really comfortable, felt confident. I got here this week and it's an incredible place, one of the most amazing golf courses I've ever been to. ... Just being in the area is really special, seeing the Statue of Liberty on the golf course and the course in general, there's not a blade of grass out of place.
"I'm just extremely kind of honored to be here. Starting the year, I had no idea that this would be a potential opportunity for me, and happy to be in the Top 10 starting the FedExCup Playoffs and control my own destiny from here."