IRVING – It might not have the prestige of The Masters or the allure of Pebble Beach, but the Byron Nelson Championship will always be home for Jordan Spieth.
It was where he played his first PGA Tour event in 2010, when he was still a junior at Jesuit, and it’s where he has almost achieved rock-star status among the galleries in the years since then, especially now that he’s in the top 10 in the tour’s FedEx Cup standings at just 20 years old.
Despite a mediocre result as one of the favorites at this year’s tournament at TPC Las Colinas, Spieth’s enthusiasm for his hometown event remains as high as ever.
“Although I would like to win this tournament playing in front of family and friends, specifically, it didn’t happen this week,” Spieth said after the final round on Sunday. “But I’ve got a lot of years to go at this place, and I’m looking forward to them.”
The Preston Hollow native tied for 37th place in his fourth Byron Nelson appearance, finishing at 2-under par. He comfortably made the cut after following an opening-round 70 by carding a 67 in the second round, when he scattered four birdies and only made one bogey.
However, any chances of contending for the title faded away in the third round, when Spieth made three straight bogeys on the front nine, then double-bogeyed the par-4 No. 14 when he drove into the rough and hit a tree.
Spieth has made the cut in all four of his Nelson appearances, but still hasn’t been able to surpass his tie for 16th place in 2010, when he was an amateur.
“I always want to play well at this event. 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,” he said. “I don’t think it’s harder, necessarily, to play here. I just want to play better.”
During the past year, Spieth has emerged as one of the brightest young stars on the Tour. He won the John Deere Classic last July and tied for the runner-up spot in his first appearance at The Masters in April. He signed lucrative endorsement deals with Under Armour and, just recently, AT&T.
Spieth said he appreciated the support of the large galleries that followed him during the week just as in years past, which allowed him a chance to reconnect with some old friends and teammates.
“It’s a home game. 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,” Spieth said. “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. We had a great following, and when things weren’t going well, it was nice to hear them cheer me on to keep it going.”
He admits that coming home for the Nelson each year allows him the chance to reflect on getting his start in the professional ranks, and the gratitude he has for his opportunities.
“I owe a lot in my career to this golf tournament and those first couple of starts that I was given to gain the confidence of knowing that I can come out and make cuts and really compete, even at a young age, at a Tour event,” Spieth said. “I wasn’t ready at the time, obviously, to travel and play week-to-week, but I at least knew I was on the right track. I thought that this is what I wanted to do for a living and that I could do it, and then after really the week when I was 16 and 17 here, kind of put an exclamation point on it that this is possible.”