Spieth shining again in Texas, despite late stumble

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Jordan Spieth, a freshman at the University of Texas, is currently tied for 28th and hoping to make a Sunday move.
April 21, 2012
Tim Price, Special to PGATOUR.COM

SAN ANTONIO -- It was just four years ago that Kevin Durant was the hottest name in the University of Texas athletics department, knocking down jump shots and driving the lane for the "Runnin' Horns" to the extent that he further patented one of the catch phrases in the sports lexicon.


If Durant didn't make it stick and we needed things further drilled into our heads, take a look at the entire starting five of the NCAA champ Kentucky Wildcats basketball team this year.

One and done.

"I don't know when the time is going to be for me to turn pro," said Jordan Spieth, the 18-year-old University of Texas freshman who keeps making cuts -- and leaderboards -- whenever the PGA TOUR rolls through the Lone Star State like it has this week at the Valero Texas Open. "I've got quite a few people helping me out with that (decision) right now, especially my dad first and foremost. I'm just going to keep playing well and everything else will take care of itself. Golf is different."

The question, like the winds blowing on the already tough Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course, won't go away. Spieth got on the first page of the leaderboard when he ripped through a six-hole stretch in 5 under in Saturday's third round. He broke into the top 10 and jumped more than 30 spots before, with four holes left, he struggled through two bogeys and finished with a double.

He shot an even-par 72 and is 1 over for the tournament in 28th place and 10 strokes out of the lead of 2003 British Open champ Ben Curtis.

Spieth didn't make the mistake, rookie or otherwise, of letting his emotions and expectations get ahead of himself, he said.

"I looked at the scoreboard; I knew where I was," Spieth said. "(Emotions) really, I don't think, had an effect at all. It was more just was really difficult holes. I hit good shots."

He's done this before. Though he already had won a Texas state high school championship at the highest enrollment classification (Class 5A, and he'd win two more before he left Dallas' Jesuit High School) and won the U.S. Junior Amateur, Spieth really caught the golf community's eye when he finished 16th in the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Classic near his hometown. He entered the final round of the HP Byron Nelson last year in the top 10, but his 76 pushed him back to 32nd place.

He was also quarterfinalist at the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in Wisconsin last summer, and he missed cuts in his two other TOUR starts (the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic and this year's Northern Trust Open).

Projected points
The race for spots in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup continues this week. Click to see who's making moves. Projections

Spieth is a Texas-sized 6-foot-1, and the growth of his body since the 2010 Nelson is agreeing with a logical spot of his golf game.

"My longer irons are a lot better," he said. "I have more control with my iron play. That's made a big difference from when I'm hitting fairways and I'm able to work the ball different ways into the greens and have it stop the right distance. I'm hitting a little farther and I'm a little more patient out there."

Indeed, Spieth has been one of the more accurate players with his irons this week. In severely windy conditions, he's hit 35 of 54 greens in regulation, ranking seventh in the field for the week.

Spieth thought his iron play wasn't that bad during his final four holes when he dropped four strokes and fell out of contention, however. On one shot into the par-5 eighth hole (his 17th) he wasn't able to hold the green and was left with a downhill chip. He tried to bump it into the bank of the green and hoped that it rolled close. Instead, he caught the downslope and watched the ball roll down a shelf to the front, where the only realistic score was a two-putt bogey.

"I was kind of appalled at a few of (the approach shots) on how they went over the green," Spieth said. "Shots into the wind, I'm playing punch shots and its looking like they're going to be right at the hole and then they end up over the green.

"I look back and I don't feel like I ended up finishing the way I did. It's disappointing cause I really didn't hit the ball that bad."

That sort of thing comes with being a pro golfer, which is what Spieth might be in the not-too-distant future.