x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

At 20 years old, Jordan Spieth grabbing spotlight on golf's centre stage

After his incredible rise which has already seen one PGA Tour victory, Jordan Spieth is now eyeing FedEx Cup Series, writes Steve Elling.

Jordan Spieth, 20, turned professional nine months ago and already has seven top-10 finishes and ranks eighth in FedEx points. Tyler Lecka / AFP
Jordan Spieth, 20, turned professional nine months ago and already has seven top-10 finishes and ranks eighth in FedEx points. Tyler Lecka / AFP

In the shadow of New York City, a kid who turned pro nine months ago will attempt the unthinkable, even in a town where imagination runs wilder than most cab drivers.

Five weeks after winning on the US PGA Tour at age 19, as the lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs unfold, the Texas tornado Jordan Spieth is set to pull off a brazen heist that would make the infamous Lufthansa job look like small change.

"I'm just extremely kind of honoured to be here," the Dallas native said this week at the series opener, The Barclays. "Starting the year, I had no idea that this would be a potential opportunity for me, and I'm happy to be controlling my own destiny."

That destiny, surreal as it sounds, could include a US$10 million (Dh36.7m) bonus for winning the FedEx series, which starts this week in New Jersey, within view of the Statue of Liberty.

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses? Spieth (pronounced Speeth) is none of the above. Indeed, it has been years since a freshly minted pro passport was so gilded in gold in the States.

His public ascent began at 16 in the spring of 2010, in his hometown event, the Byron Nelson, where he was tied for seventh heading into the final round. After finishing high school and leading the Texas Longhorns to a national college title, he turned pro last December, yet had no tour status.

He began piecing together sponsor exemptions and using a string of early top-10 finishes to springboard into the following week's event.

Last month, he won the John Deere Classic in a play-off, becoming the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years. Sunday, he lost in a play-off at the Wyndham Championship to Patrick Reed, all of 23.

Spieth, who turned 20 on July 27, has seven top-10 finishes and ranks eighth in FedEx points. The top 30 in points advance through all four stages of the FedEx series, so he is already near the front of the bonus line, looking anything but intimidated.

With youth organisations like the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and the college ranks as strong as ever, each teen success breeds confidence for the next player to be given an opportunity.

Thus, the FedEx bonus pool has become a kiddie pool.

"The game's getting younger," Spieth said. "You see teenagers now consistently making cuts on the PGA Tour when they get starts. The AJGA now is playing golf courses that are set up like PGA Tour events.

"The guys that are turning pro and the young guys out on tour, it's not that different, including myself, from the way I was playing college golf."

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