Jordan Spieth hears it on the PGA Tour, so might as well get the yucks out of the way: When Tiger Woods won the first of his 14 major championships, Spieth was 3 years old; he doesn’t recall it. The first PGA Tour event he can remember watching is the 2000 U.S. Open, which Woods won by 15 strokes. The year Spieth was born, Ken Duke, last week’s winner on the PGA Tour, was a year out of college, trying to make his way in pro golf.
So insert your how-old-were-you-when one-liners here. Careful, though, not to make Spieth the butt of them. He’s simply too good. He contended for a pro title at 16. At 19, he may well win one.
Spieth injected life into a soggy AT&T National with a flawless 66 Friday at Congressional Country Club, a round that left him at 7-under-par 135 through two rounds. There, he sat tied with first-round leader Roberto Castro, who followed his own 66 with a solid 69, when play was suspended Friday night after play was stopped at 2:44 p.m. — and never resumed because of persistent rain, with 63 players still on the course.
“It kind of went by fast, to be honest,” Spieth said.
He was speaking about his round, in which he hit 18 greens and didn’t make a bogey. He might have been talking about his life, or maybe just his first year on the PGA Tour. A year ago, Spieth left the University of Texas after helping to lead the Longhorns to the 2012 NCAA championship as a freshman.
He did so with trepidation — not because of his confidence in his game, but because he figured he would have to rely on the kindness of tournament sponsors to give him exemptions, and from there he might have to scramble for spots on the minor league Web.com Tour.
“Starting out, I didn’t think I’d know where I was going to be,” Spieth said. “I didn’t know where I was going to go each week for the year.”
But in his third tournament of the year, he tied for second in Puerto Rico. The next week, he tied for seventh in Tampa. Those two performances earned him enough money that he could accept unlimited sponsor’s exemptions into tournaments the rest of the season. So in a way, even though he can’t qualify for the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs unless he wins, he’s in a perfect spot.
“I’m just free-swinging,” he said. “I can’t be in the playoffs unless I win, and that makes winning the number one goal.”
Should that happen, Spieth would become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since 1931, when Ralph Guldahl won the Santa Monica Open at 19 years 8 months 3 days — three months younger than Spieth will be Sunday.
Among those in the way of that quest is Castro, who from the outside would appear to fit the mold of PGA Tour automaton: sponsor on his hat, blank stare on his face, $484,895 in earnings this year even though he’s missed eight cuts and failed to finish in the top 10.
Castro, though, is anything but. He didn’t go to Georgia Tech just to play golf. He went to earn his engineering degree. He is so interested in music, he finds record stores near each tour stop, and he buys almost exclusively vinyl.
“They’re all in the same type of neighborhood no matter what city you’re in,” he said. “You know when you’re close: There’s a bike shop; there’s a Belgian craft beer bar.”
His interests are so eclectic that a few years ago, at the urging of some buddies, he started a blog entitled “All Things That Are Good.” Golf barely comes up. There is music (a review of a recent late-night show by Titus Andronicus), movies, culture, whatever. The idea for the blog was pretty simple: “We were just sitting around one summer and one of my friends was like, ‘Our conversations are so interesting, people need to hear them.” And he quickly added, “In jest.”
He could interest a few people in his golf here. Each of the past two days, he made an early bogey but left it as the only blemish on his card. And that is something at Congressional, which Friday players continued to compare to a U.S. Open course — which, of course, it is.
“It’s a handful,” said Stewart Cink, who sits four shots back after a 69 Friday.
Among the others who handled it well: D.H. Lee of South Korea, the winner of the PGA Tour’s qualifying school who matched Spieth’s 66 Friday and stands at 5 under. James Driscoll, a University of Virginia product and tour veteran, shot his second straight 69 to sit tied with Cameron Tringale at 4 under. Sweden’s David Lingmerth posted the tournament’s low round, a six-birdie, no-bogey 65 that put him in the group at 3 under, joining Cink, Gary Woodland and others.
But with the second round to be completed Saturday morning, the most intriguing story lines on the leader board are the two at the top: the kid who has barely lived life and the young man who loves living it. Neither has won on the PGA Tour. By Sunday night, one of them might.