Spieth's career risk-reward play pays off
Decisions, decisions. Their outcome is the basis by which they’re evaluated, and so it’s safe to say Jordan Spieth made the right one two weeks ago.
Any professional golfer would tell you that he’d prefer the PGA Tour over its secondary circuit, the Web.com Tour, but there were other factors for Spieth to ponder a couple weeks ago.
The 19-year-old finished seventh at the Web.com Tour’s season-opener in Panama after receiving a sponsor exemption. That result earned him a start the following week in Colombia, where he finished fourth. In two starts he had earned $50,150, less than $5,000 from earning status on the tour (non-members earn Web.com Tour status by surpassing the earnings of No. 100 on the previous year’s money list).
Spieth started his pro career this year without status on any tour after failing to advance out of the second stage of the most recent Q-School. That could’ve changed in Chile, site of the Web.com Tour’s third event of 2013. Spieth’s high finish in Colombia had earned him another start. One problem: he already had accepted a sponsor exemption into the same week’s Puerto Rico Open.
He opted for Puerto Rico. Spieth had played two PGA Tour events as a pro before Puerto Rico, which is held opposite the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
“A lot of people told me I made the wrong decision,” Spieth said. He was vindicated by his play. He had a hole-in-one in the third round and eventually tied for second, one shot behind winner Scott Brown.
The top-10 finish got him into the Tampa Bay Championship, where he finished seventh. He holed a chip shot on the 17th hole Sunday and made a 7-footer on the last green to remain in the top 10. He has earned $521,892 in four PGA Tour starts this season – gaining special temporary membership by surpassing the earnings of No. 150 on last year’s money list. That allows him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions this season; non-members are limited to seven sponsor exemptions per season.
“To go four weeks, four different countries and play well, it's a big confidence boost,” Spieth said.
And it provided a big boost to his career. Spieth, a Dallas, Texas, native is next scheduled to play the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open on March 28-31 and Valero Texas Open on April 4-7. He’s scheduled to make another Web.com Tour start in Midland, Texas, during Masters week April 11-14. And he’s also received an invitation to May’s HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, where he finished 16th in 2010.
This is the second consecutive year a player has parlayed a Puerto Rico Open sponsor exemption into a runner-up finish there and, eventually, PGA Tour status. Ryo Ishikawa's second-place finish at last year's Puerto Rico Open helped him earn enough money to gain his 2013 PGA Tour card.
Spieth can earn his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season by finishing in the top 125 on the 2013 money list. Last year, it took $647,510 to finish 125th on the money list. This is a condensed season, though, so it will likely take less money to finish among the top 125. That means Spieth is close to a card. He can thank one good decision, and some fine play, for that.