Catching Up with Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth looks to dominate at this year's Byron Nelson Tournament. Photo Courtesy: Will Martin
Jordan Spieth looks to dominate at this year’s Byron Nelson Tournament. Photo Courtesy: Will Martin

By Will Martin

Back in 2010 a relative newcomer would make his debut at the Byron Nelson Classic. All of 16 years of age he made the cut leading toward the weekend. That Sunday afternoon as Adam Scott would be your tournament winner, the world was about to learn about Jordan Spieth. That Dallas Jesuit following was pretty impressive.

Less than a week removed from nearly getting a win at the TPC in Florida Jordan Spieth, now all of 20 and favored by some to perhaps lead a charge at this years Byron Nelson. His tee time was early in the morning at 7:20am. Early or not Spieth had quite the crowd following him.

After shooting a 1st round 70 (even) he addressed the media upon completion of the 18th hole. Here’s how that went down.

Jordan, you scuffled a bit out there today but were able to bounce back, and birdie two of the last three. What were you able to take away from today?
I kept myself in it, I think. It was a difficult day. The pins were almost the hardest pins you can have on Thursday that’s rare. With the way the wind is playing, the southwest wind, it’s tough to get at a lot of them, and on top of that, I didn’t hit many fairways, but I putted well and hung in there and had a couple of key up and downs in the middle of the round to keep it going and ultimately there may be a low score from this afternoon, but I don’t think there will be too many of them so I should still be in it.

A little erratic with the driver today after a long week at the PLAYERS. Was there any fatigue or was it just one of those days where your timing was off?
Well, no, I don’t think it was fatigue. The last couple of days I’ve been trying to get it up in the air a little more and I’ve been mishitting it a little bit. so I lost control over the the curvature on it. I like to move it both ways, and out here you maybe just need to pick one shot and go with it. So I’m going to go to the range and figure it out. It was getting off a little bit in the wind Monday and Tuesday, and the tough weather here, I need to get it back to where I’ve got a spot I can go to.

This is basically a home game for you, fourth time playing in the Byron Nelson, first time as a guy who is in the Top Ten in the world, and you’re one of the headliners or “the guy” this week. What are the expectations like as the guy who has this massive gallery?
I don’t think of it–I don’t think of myself as up there as far as ranking. I always want to play well at this event. I put a lot of stress –not stress, I put a lot of expectations on myself  for this week because I’ve played well here in the past, and it’s a tournament close to my heart, and I would love to make a run at it.

I don’t look at that negatively. I think  it’s a positive thing and that fact that there will be big crowds tomorrow and hopefully Saturday and Sunday and I can feed on that. Everyone is just so awesome out here. To see old friends that have come out today to support me, I can take a lot of positives from that.

You finished well. Talk about your round.
Yeah, it was a nice finish. All in all, I wasn’t putting myself in great posotions off the tee but actually had some good looks, and I hit a lot of really good putts today that didn’t quite go in, and there were two swings that were a little too aggressive.

I was in a tough position on 14 and hit a shot that was border line perfect but ended up in the water, led to a bogey. And the drive on 3, I think I lined up a little too far right and put too much curve on it instead of hitting a straight one out there, and if it goes in the sand it goes in the sand. That’s a tough hole.

Ultimately I’m really happy with the way I’m keeping myself in it around the greens. I feel very confident and comfortable around the greens and once I hit a few fairways, my iron play will be there and hopefully get back on track and make a run.

How different is it now from when you played here three, four years ago?
It’s night and day. Its completely different. I’ve played I don’t know how many Tour events now. almost 40 now going back to when I played as an amateur. Yeah, that makes it a different feeling on the first tee. So there were no nerves today, just got out there, a little adrenaline on the first, knowing that I’m here, and after that, got off to a good start on 10, first hole, thought that I had a couple of other good looks that didn’t quite go in, but turned around in the middle of the round.

I think given how many tournaments I’ve played to this point, it would have been really hard for me to bounce back from the double on 3, way back when, with all the emotion running through. I was upset today. I get upset out here when things aren’t going my way because I want them to so bad. Michael did a great job of calming me down, putting things in perspective, and we got a couple to finish to get back in it.

Is it harder to play here than it would be somewhere else with so many friends and family around?
I don’t know if its harder. It’s a home game. I really want to play well here. That’s not going to affect me, I don’t think, in any way on the course. Off the course it’s a lot of fun because my friends are back from school now, and I’m able to go hang with them and get away from the game and talk about the experience that I missed out on at college. Good stories there. It’s not affecting me in any way. I don’t think it’s harder necessarily to play here, I just want to play better.

What do you remember from the morning before the tournament, getting ready to play here as an amateur?
I remember my first year when I was 16 I stayed at home–my parents’ house the night before and there was a big storm and I was already woke iup, couldn’t sleep, and I started to come out here and found out that they were on a delay. I got out here, was sitting around and I ended up teeing off at 5:30 instead of 2, and it was the worst thing that could have happened.

I had to sit around for quite a while and get out to No. 10, and I knew I wasn’t going to play a full round. That was tough. Tough on me to just, you know, stay loose but not too loose. You want to get out there and play your game, but I remember how much the blood was running and I wanted to close my eyes on the first tee shot, but its funny looking back at that now.

Talk about the conditions of the wind. It does change how this course plays, doesn’t it?
Yeah, this is the wind we probably expect this time of year, this south, southeast, southwest today. The pins were extremely difficult for a Thursday. They were on some of the hardest locations on most of the holes so they were hard to get to. I really feel like I played solid golf today, other than those two swings, maybe hit the fairway on 3 , maybe I post a 2-under, which would be right in it. But the conditions are difficult. We’ll see what happens this afternoon, a little gusty wind. Even on a course that’s softer right now because of the conditions, I still feel like even par is in the game.

Jordan, you called this your “home game”. Do you notice the crowds are different here than anywhere else?
Yeah, a little bit. I see a lot of shirts from my high school even back to grade school, and a lot of Longhorn stuff. It’s cool. I see a lot of people I recognize, so that’s obviously a lot different. Yeah, the crowds–it was significantly different when we got to No. 1 green-Our tenth hole today. I guess people wanted to sleep in until 10 instead of getting up at 740. No, it was cool, we had a great following on the back nine, and when things weren’t going well it was nice to hear them cheer me on to keep it going, so tomorrow (Friday) afternoon I’m sure will be crazy, which will be a lot of fun.

As of 3:00 p.m. May 15 there was a 29 way tie for even par on the leaderboard. Leading at 5 under was Peter Hansen. Marc Leishman sat one stroke back at 4 under. Five players were tied at 3 under including 2013 Colonial champion Boo Weekley.

18 holes down for the local kid. Here’s to the next 54.