Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At 19, Spieth Rises from Hinterlands to the Pga Tour

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At 19, Spieth Rises from Hinterlands to the Pga Tour

Article excerpt

BETHESDA, Md. --

Jordan Spieth appeared well on his way to stardom when he won his second U.S. Junior Amateur championship in 2011. He became the second golfer to win the tournament multiple times, joining some guy named Tiger Woods. But if expectations weighed on Spieth, it did not show, at least not during his freshman season at the University of Texas, where he promptly led the Longhorns to a national championship.

So when Spieth, 19, decided to turn professional in December, it might have seemed like the next logical step, except that Spieth said the decision was a difficult one. He had come up short in his bid to earn an automatic spot on the PGA Tour at qualifying school, which meant he would probably face a long haul toward legitimacy on the Web.com Tour. Spieth being Spieth, he was willing to take the risk.

Sure enough, he found himself scrambling in the first round of the Panama Claro Championship in late February. Forget the PGA Tour. Spieth was fighting for survival in golf's swampy hinterlands. He was 4 over par through his first seven holes, and he needed to drain a 12-foot putt to save par. In a few short weeks, he had gone from teenage virtuoso to, in his words, "busting my butt on the Web.com Tour." It was, if nothing else, an education.

Spieth exhaled, sank the putt and went on to finish the tournament in a tie for seventh.

"Who knows how I would've bounced back had the bogey streak continued," he said.

It was a turning point for Spieth, whose performance in Panama fueled a rapid rise toward golf's upper echelon. He earned temporary member status on the PGA Tour thanks to a series of solid efforts, and now is playing the AT&T National. His assets -- long and accurate off the tee, with an improving short game -- seem suited to the Congressional Country Club, which checks in at a knee-buckling 7,569 yards.

"When I tee off now in these events, I don't have the same nerves," Spieth said. "I feel a lot more comfortable."

Now armed with four top-10 finishes in 13 starts this season (and $919,079 in prize money), Spieth spent hours Tuesday working through the clubs in his bag at the driving range, his swing smooth and compact in 95-degree heat. …

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