Jordan Spieth’s letter as a kid paved his path to AT&T Byron Nelson

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Over the weekend at The Players Championship, Tiger Woods played some of his best golf in years.
USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth knows what to do with golf clubs.

He’s pretty good with words, too.

As a teen-ager, Spieth tackled a heady assignment by following the same blueprint he employed to develop his golf skills. With unrelenting focus, he gathered information, sought help from others, relied on experience and grinded on a letter seeking a sponsor exemption into the AT&T Byron Nelson.

With the help of his father and assistance from a few people involved with the tournament, the 16-year-old junior at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas highlighted in the letter a memorable moment with Phil Mickelson, listed his achievements on the golf course, and paid tribute to Byron Nelson, the Texas icon who is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“I have always hoped my first PGA tour event would be the Byron Nelson Championship. Mr. Nelson stands for all that is great about the game of golf, and it would be an enormous honor to play in the championship named for him as my first,” Spieth wrote.

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“I didn’t think I was going that year,” said Spieth, 24, who was going to try and qualify for the tournament if he wasn’t awarded the exemption. There was no need for Plan B. Spieth was sitting in class when he got a text message from a tournament official. He went into the courtyard at Jesuit, phoned the tournament and found out he received the exemption.

“It became the greatest rest of the day. Obviously not a very productive rest of the day,” Spieth said. “I spent that whole night practicing, past dark. I wanted to be ready.”

Oh, he was ready. Three months later, Spieth captivated the golf world and finished in a tie for 16th, six shots behind Jason Day, who won his first PGA Tour title that week.

This week Spieth will make his eighth appearance in the Byron Nelson and he has yet to better his tie for 16th in his debut.

“This tournament is one that I would love to win some day,” said Spieth, ranked No. 3 in the world. “At this point that’s kind of what I’m focused on here. It’s been a tournament I’ve had some of the best memories I’ve ever had, whether going to or playing in.”

For the first time, the tournament will be held at Trinity Forest Golf Club, a windswept, links-style course that Spieth likened to Royal Birkdale, where he won the British Open last year. The course is near Spieth’s Dallas home and he’s played the course roughly 35 times.

“I like the vibe of the course while I’m out there,” said Spieth, who is winless this year in search of his 12th PGA Tour title.

He likes his current form, too. After starting the year slowly because of a December battle with mononucleosis, and after struggling with his putter, Spieth is in fine form. In his last three starts, he finished in a tie for third in the Houston Open, rushed home with a 64 in the final round to finish third in the Masters, and tied for 41st last week in The Players, where a quadruple-bogey 8 on the final hole marred an otherwise solid performance.

“I feel as good about my game right now as I have this entire year and even a lot of last year,” said Spieth, who won three titles in 2017. “I feel like good things are coming. I’ve stayed the course. Had a lot of patience recently.

“Everything is starting to fall in place.”

Much like the letter he wrote eight years ago.

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