Jordan Spieth offers long-term star power for DFW events

05/17/2013 9:59 PM

05/19/2013 12:15 AM

For years, golf fans in Dallas-Fort Worth have fretted about the presence of gate magnets Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in gauging the quality of fields at their local PGA Tour stops.

More often than not, they wind up disappointed because Tiger and Phil, a pair of California natives with no meaningful Texas connections in their lives, usually bypass the Metroplex Majors.

They did so again Friday, meaning the only player in the top 10 of the world golf rankings who will play this season in DFW is Louis Oosthuizen (No. 7). He is tied for 30th after 36 holes at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and will compete next week in Fort Worth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Obviously, the local events deserve better. But the absence of Tiger and Phil should surprise no one.

In the world of elite touring pros, Woods and Mickelson build their schedules in the same manner as most peers: pencil in the major championships, followed by the high-dollar WGC events and The Players Championship. Add in the event(s) closest to where you live and the event(s) closest to where you went to college. Finish off with trips to honor living legends who host tour stops (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer). That pretty much fills up the season. That is life on today’s PGA Tour.

But tap the brakes on the long faces. Friday also marked the day that one of the game’s rising stars, a player capable of lifting the Q factor of fields at both DFW events for years to come, had this to say:

“That’s something I plan on doing as long as I’m out here, playing all the Texas events [each year],” said Dallas teen phenom Jordan Spieth, detailing his long-range plans as a PGA Tour participant. “I like every one of the golf courses that hosts them, and this is the first time I’ve gotten to play in all four. Any time you can stay in the state, I feel like I have an advantage. And it’s always nice to have hometown crowds.”

It is no secret that Spieth, 19, is phenomenally talented. He showed that again Friday, firing a second-round 68 to reach 3-under-par and join Oosthuizen among golfers who are eight strokes behind leader Keegan Bradley at the Four Seasons Resort. Spieth is guaranteed to cash a professional paycheck Sunday at his hometown PGA Tour stop for the first time.

Spieth, who has cracked the top 10 in three tour events since March 10, will make his Colonial debut next week in Fort Worth, where he considers the layout “a great course for me” and a chance to improve a stellar rookie season that has seen him collect $662,398 in his first seven PGA Tour events.

Why is this important? Because Spieth, who helped lead the Texas Longhorns to the 2012 NCAA championship in his lone season as a college golfer, is the type of player you want in your field on a recurring basis if you are a PGA Tour tournament director. He’s a potential Tiger or Phil for the next generation of golf fans.

But he’s one with Texas connections, a trait decidedly lacking among active golfers with major championships and global gate appeal. A lack of homegrown superstars inclined to say “yes” to a two-week stopover in DFW is one reason why Oosthuizen, a South African, is the top-ranked player in both the Nelson and Colonial fields.

Spieth and other young Texans in today’s high school and college ranks are capable of changing that. Probably sooner than you think. Especially Spieth, who finished 16th at the 2010 Nelson while competing as a 16-year-old amateur and, three years later, has been collecting top-10 finishes with regularity against the game’s top players.

After Friday’s round, Spieth said: “I’d like to win one now.”

Yet despite his young age, he showed a veteran’s savvy about making it happen. Not a sense of entitlement.

“I don’t think ‘expect’ is a word that I’ll ever use in terms of winning,” Spieth said. “It’s more, you do the preparation that you need for the golf course, and take it hole by hole. When you get into contention, you see what you need to do in that final round.”

At the Nelson, Spieth sees a tournament where he’s made the cut three times in three tries and feels relaxed. At Colonial, he sees a course similar to Harbour Town, where he finished ninth at last month’s RBC Heritage.

“I think it’s a great course for me,” Spieth said of Colonial. “All of those type of [traditional] courses, I seem to be very comfortable on. So I’m looking forward to having a great weekend here and getting in contention.… We’ll worry about [Colonial] next week.”

His confidence level, said Spieth, has taken a “huge” jump since December, when he made his professional debut. He said he has learned how to “cap off a round” when in contention at a PGA Tour event and is anxious to apply that skill at the Metroplex Majors.

Best of all: Even if that does not happen to lead to a victory this May, you can expect Spieth to be back to try again for years to come. Unlike Phil and Tiger.

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