Irving, Texas — Jordan Spieth is back home, at the tournament he and his father have hopped a fence to watch and at the TPC course where as a 16-year-old he played his first PGA Tour event.
Now 22 and the No. 2 player in the world, Spieth has the same ranking he had going into the AT&T Byron Nelson last year — though he has since reached No. 1 and then fallen back to second behind Jason Day, who has won seven of his past 17 tournaments.
“I’m looking to get that back … definitely there’s some motivation there. He’s playing his game. He believes his game is better than anybody else’s and he’s on his game,” Spieth said.
“What he’s doing right now, I think I can win the next two events and I’m still not going to surpass him in the World Rankings. He’s separated himself and that bothers me and it motivates me.”
Day went wire-to-wire for a four-shot victory at The Players Championship last week. But Day, who got his first PGA Tour victory at TPC Four Seasons in 2010, won’t play the Nelson for the third year in a row.
Spieth played the first two rounds at The Players with Day, who was 15 under during that span and won with the same score.
But Spieth missed the cut in his first tournament since squandering a five-shot lead on the back nine at Augusta in April and missed the chance to win consecutive Masters titles.
What Spieth revealed after making a 15-foot birdie putt on his last hole at The Players was that he felt as if he was beating himself up on the course too much, and needed to do a better job being positive and having more fun.
Being at home seemingly provides the perfect opportunity for that to happen, but Spieth admitted it might not be that simple.
“I can hit either extreme this week, trying so hard to play so well in front of so many friends and family and if you’re not quite doing it, which I hadn’t, I haven’t in the past four years, it can be really tough to kind of hold it together,” he said.
“At the same time, if I can engage with my friends and family maybe, and kind of smile more, it’s only going to help me on the course if I’m approaching it like it’s just another round with friends.”
This will be Spieth’s sixth start at the Nelson, his fourth since turning pro.
He tied for 16th in 2010, still by far his best finish there, and then missed his high school graduation ceremony the following year after making the cut again and tying for 32nd.
He was playing in the NCAA tournament with Texas during the 2012 Nelson, but hasn’t missed his hometown event since turning pro, finishing no better than 30th.
“To be coming to my sixth event, it’s bizarre,” he said. “It really is kind of an odd feeling.”
North Texas is also home to defending Nelson champion Steven Bowditch, the Australian who this season has missed five consecutive cuts and seven of the past nine.
“Hopefully I can turn it around this week,” Bowditch said. “I’ve got great vibes back here, again playing in front of friends and family … and bring back some great memories.”
Bowditch led all four rounds last May when he had 27 birdies and won by four strokes during a rainy weekend.
“It’s too dry for me this year,” Bowditch said with a grin.
AT&T Byron Nelson
Site: Irving, Texas; TPC Four Seasons Resort
Purse: $7.3 million (First: $1.314 million)
TV: CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.). Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m.)
Defending champion: Steven Bowditch
Site: Kingsmill, Va.; Kingsmill Resort (River Course).
Purse: $1.3 million (First: $195,000)
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 9-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 3-5 p.m.)
Defending champion: Minjee Lee
Site: Birmingham, Ala.; Greystone Golf and CC
Purse: $2.3 million (First: $345,000)
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 1-3:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 5-7 p.m.)
Defending champion: Jeff Maggert