As 16-year-old Jordan Spieth was escorted across the 1st tee on Sunday to meet with reporters after saving (but not winning) the HP Byron Nelson Championship, he spotted a couple of friends outside the ropes.
"Hey, check this out," said Spieth, who jogged over and handed his buddy a lime-green piece of paper with "$87,000" written on it. That's an estimate of how much Spieth, a Dallas Jesuit High sensation, would've won if he had been a professional. Spieth, who drew huge crowds to the TPC Four Seasons Resort, finished 16th in an unforgettable PGA Tour debut.
Yet while Spieth's Cinderella story thrilled Dallas fans, history will remember this Nelson as the breakthrough moment for Jason Day, a 22-year-old Australian marked for greatness four years ago but whose career was slowed by assorted back and wrist problems.
Day provided a more exciting finish than he would've liked. He took a one-shot lead over Blake Adams to the 72nd hole, then both players dunked approach shots into the water hazard guarding the left side of the par-4 18th green. Amazingly, Adams said he was unaware that Day's approach was wet when he played his risky second out of the trees. Adams made a double bogey, while Day ran in a 15-footer to save bogey and win by two. "It doesn't matter how you get it done," Day said of the shaky finish, "it only matters that you got it done."
Spieth got within three of the lead on Sunday after a birdie at the 10th and closed with a two-over 72 while being paired with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. "Gosh, when I was 16, I couldn't have come close to doing what he did," said Pavin. "He's a good putter, he played aggressive golf, and he didn't seem as if he was afraid of anything. To play that free out here at that age was impressive."
Thanks to a sponsor's exemption, Spieth, who won the U.S. Junior Am last year and took home his second straight high school state championship the week before the Nelson, will get another taste of the Tour at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, which starts on June 10. As for the Nelson, he said, "The best advice was from my parents. They told me, 'Everyone is here to support you; enjoy the experience no matter how you play.' And that's what I did."
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SUNDAY BEST Day (above) averted a 72nd-hole disaster, while Spieth got within three shots of the lead in the final round before finishing 16th.