By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Considering what his goal was as the start of the year -- just to secure a PGA TOUR card for next season -- and where he came from -- zero status on any tour -- Jordan Spieth could be just happy to be here.
Finishing in the top 30 in the FedExCup standings has its priveleges: In Spieth's case guaranteed spots in the U.S. Open and British Open, and a guaranteed paycheck.
But Spieth doesn't play for the paychecks or moral victories.
"I've said it since I was 16 back in Dallas," he said. "You're in a tournament, if you're not playing to win, what are you playing for?"
This week, a lot.
Spieth, 13th in the FedExCup standings coming into the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, opened with a 2-under 68 and is just four strokes off the lead in his first trip to East Lake.
Only three players have ever won in their first appearance here. Who's to say the 20-year-old can't be the fourth?
He made a half-dozen birdies in the opening round, most of them the result of some impressive ball-striking.
All that held him back were four bogeys, including a couple of sloppy ones on the first and ninth holes.
"I'd like to be a little smarter into the greens," he said. "Part of it was a few tee balls that were not in the right position, but overall I had good looks into the greens."
And the rest of us are getting a good look at the future of American golf.
Eight times this season Spieth has finished in the top 10 with half of those finishes in the top 5, including a playoff win.
In the Playoffs, he has yet to finish outside the top 20, which included a fourth-place at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he shot a final-round 62.
He'll also play in his first Presidents Cup in two weeks after being picked by captain Fred Couples.
"What (the experience) did is I felt how much pressure there was when competing on Sunday," Speith said of the experience. "I also saw that I was able to make birdies when I felt the pressure.
"It was the first step in the direction where maybe a shorter path to get on TOUR than I had envisioned."
And it's only the beginning.