Teenager Spieth to play Nelson before graduation

Teenager Spieth to play Nelson before graduation

Jordan Spieth made five birdies and three bogeys on Friday.
Darren Carroll/Getty Images

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Dallas teenager Jordan Spieth has another round to play on the PGA Tour before going to his high school graduation ceremony Saturday.

The area amateur made the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship for the second year in a row after a 2-under 68 Friday. He was 3 under for the tournament, tied for eighth place and five strokes behind co-leaders Sergio Garcia and Ryan Palmer.

“To be on this stage as a senior in high school, at 17, it’s impressive,” Palmer said.

After tying for 16th at the Nelson last year, and still within three strokes of the lead after 10 holes in the final round, Spieth received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament again this week.

A U.S. Junior Amateur champion who plans to attend the University of Texas, Spieth had one of the larger galleries following him during the second round Friday. There surely will be another big crowd on the course before the 17-year-old Spieth tries to get to his graduation ceremony with the other 245 seniors at Dallas Jesuit Prep.

Spieth tees off at 11:21 a.m. local time. Graduation starts at 4 p.m. on the SMU campus about 20 miles from the TPC Four Seasons.

“Right after the round …. I’m going to shoot over there as quickly as possible,” Spieth said. “I don’t know how long (graduation) usually lasts.”

Because diplomas are handed out in alphabetical order, Spieth figures that will at least buy him some extra time.

“Exactly,” he said, smiling. “Should be at least an hour into it, be toward the end.”

While the young Spieth is again grabbing headlines, Palmer is doing everything his caddie tells him at the Nelson and Garcia is playing just fine without a practice round this week.

Tim Petrovic (66) and Scott Piercy (69) were three strokes back at 5 under. Nick Watney (68), Joe Ogilvie (70) and Chad Collins (69) followed at 4 under. Spieth was among a group of six players at 3-under 137.

First-round leader Jeff Overton followed his opening 64 with a 74 that included consecutive bogeys to end his round on a sun-soaked day when the wind was gusting up to 36 mph.

Seventy-four players made the cut at 3 over. Right on that mark was defending champion Jason Day (71).

Garcia posted his second consecutive 4-under 66, after withdrawing earlier this week five holes into a British Open qualifier and passing up a practice round at TPC Four Seasons because of an infected fingernail on his left hand.

After a bogey at the 523-yard par-4 third hole when his approach flew over the green, Garcia birdied three of the next four holes and was bogey-free the rest of his round. Despite the windy conditions, he hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens.

“You would be happy with those stats on a day with not much wind,” said Garcia, the 2004 Nelson champion who hasn’t won a tournament since 2008.

There also were some impressive shots for the 31-year-old Spaniard. He blasted out of a greenside bunker to 7 feet to save par at No. 14, then had a 45-foot chip-in birdie at the 15th hole when he couldn’t putt because of three sprinkler heads in the way. Walking into the stiff wind the rest of the way, he had pars on the last three holes.

“When I’m feeling good, even in windy conditions like today, I feel like I can control the ball flight and I can hit some good, solid shots,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be tough out there. I just need to make sure that I stay positive and just try to trust myself as much as I can.”

Palmer had made the cut only once in his seven previous appearances at the Nelson with nine consecutive rounds over par before this week. With caddie James Edmondson calling his shots, he opened with 65 before the 67 that might have been even more impressive with one bogey in much more difficult conditions.

With input from instructor Randy Smith, Edmondson is telling Palmer where to hit off the tee and what to do with his approach shots. That arrangement has paid off so far.

Palmer had his only bogey at the 503-yard, par-4 15th hole when he missed the green with his approach and then two-putted from 17 feet. With the wind really starting to pick up, he parred out, using a 5-wood for the second consecutive day at No. 18, where he had a 25-foot birdie attempt just slide by the cup.

“I keep surprising myself how calm I am when it’s that way. … This is a golf course that I’ve struggled on so it’s nice to not to think about it, just get up and hit the shot, and if I don’t hit the shots it’s on me,” Palmer said. “So it’s nice to be free-swinging like that.”

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