Texas freshman appears ready for the PGA Tour

Contested in late May and in his hometown, the Byron Nelson Championship used to fit nicely on the schedule of Dallas teenager Jordan Spieth. His classes were wrapping up at Jesuit College Prep, so what better way to kick off a summer of golf?

But this year as a freshman at Texas, Spieth has a previous engagement. The Byron Nelson falls on the same date as the NCAA regionals.

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Texas Open
When » Thursday-Sunday
Where » TPC San Antonio
TV » Golf (Thu.-Fri.),
CBS (Sat.-Sun.)

So to get his PGA Tour fix this year, Spieth tees off Thursday in the Texas Open. TPC San Antonio is an 80-minute drive from Austin, straight down Interstate 35.

"I played it a couple weeks ago, just shot down here for a day," Spieth told reporters Wednesday.

With five Kentucky basketball players, including three freshmen, declaring for the NBA Draft this week, one-and-done is a hot-button issue. In his sport, Spieth has shown his readiness to make the same leap. He is ranked first in the NCAA by Golfweek and third among world amateurs by the Royal & Ancient.

Spieth says the decision is an ever-evolving process.

"If I were to win as an amateur, that makes life a lot easier, makes decisions easier, but you know, the better I play these events, the more everything takes care of itself," Spieth said. "I'm just focused on this week and focused on winning it, and if I can, then we'll kind of assess it from there, and it will be a good problem to have."

Such talk from a college freshman, playing in his fifth tour event, might sound alarming until you consider his resume. He is only the second player to win multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles. The first was Tiger Woods. In both of his appearances in the Byron Nelson, Spieth got within three shots of the lead and entered the final round in contention. Even after fading on both Sundays, Spieth would have collected a combined $130,000 if he were a pro.

"In all these tour events, not only am I just measuring my own game against them, but I'm trying to learn stuff from them," Spieth said. "I feel like I can compete with these guys. I really do, and that's not a reason for me staying amateur. I mean there are tons of factors."

The decision has been a dilemma for many golf prodigies. Phil Mickelson won a PGA Tour event after his junior year at Arizona State but remained in school and graduated. After his junior year at Ohio State, Jack Nicklaus finished second to Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Open but returned to Columbus. Tom Watson graduated from Stanford. Tiger Woods turned pro after two years at the same school.

On Wednesday, Spieth didn't sound anxious to leave Austin, saying his game has grown because of tough competition from his teammates. Longhorns senior Dylan Frittelli ranks second behind Spieth in the NCAA.

"I've been able to improve at Texas with how the team is playing, been able to push each other," Spieth said. "Been a really good deal going down there."

But how long it will last could depend on how he plays this week.