May 23, 2010

Despite slip, Spieth still steals headlines

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Despite Jason Day's trophy-raising moment, the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship will go down for the remarkable PGA Tour debut by Jordan Spieth, a 16-year-old junior at a local high school.

Spieth was within three shots of the lead on the final nine holes, but dropped back into a tie for 16th. He shot a 2-over 72 in the final round, his highest score of the tournament.

His 4-under 276 was six strokes behind Day - who admitted that Spieth's success made his final round a bit easier.

"I was walking to the fourth hole and it looked like there was a thousand people following him," Day said of Spieth. "It took a little bit of pressure off my shoulders knowing that the good majority of the fans that were following me were close friends and family."

The maturity and moxie Spieth showed was a surprise for someone who spent last week playing in the state high school tournament.

He showed it again Sunday, bouncing back from trouble early and late, such as posting a birdie right after his first double-bogey of the tournament.

Spieth, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, is a junior at Dallas (Texas) Jesuit College Preparatory more interested in playing for the University of Texas than turning pro - at least, he was coming into the week.

"It was awesome ... the entire round, the entire week," Spieth said. "Starting the week, I definitely would've taken a top-20, in a heartbeat. Obviously now, looking back, being a competitor, I look back at the mistakes I made that didn't give me an opportunity to win."

Had he turned pro this week, though, Spieth would have brought home a hefty paycheck - $91,185.71 to be exact. But instead, Spieth left without the money to maintain his amateur status but gained a whole bunch of fame.

On Friday, Spieth became the sixth-youngest golfer to make the cut in a PGA event. He began attracting serious attention on Saturday when he shot 3-under to pull into contention, in a six-way tie for seventh heading into Sunday's final round.

He's already gotten a sponsor's exemption to play in Memphis next month. First, though, he'll play an American Junior Golf Association event in Arizona next week.

Then he has finals.

Day, meanwhile, isn't exactly an old-timer himself, at just 22 years old.

In fact, when he was 19, he won a Nationwide Tour event, making him the youngest winner of a PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament.

Sunday's win was the first on the PGA Tour for the Australian, who nearly pulled out of the tournament on Thursday morning after feeling queasy.

Day's advice for Spieth?

"Keep at it, keep learning, keep playing a lot of tournaments and try and win as many as you can," he said. "Make (winning) a habit and keep pushing through, no matter what happens. As long as you push through those hard experiences and work hard, you'll come out on top. It will all work itself out."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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