Spieth sizzles as Longhorns move to No. 1 in rankings

Nick Cremona

The collegiate golf season is only about a month old, but the Longhorns are already playing at mid-season form. Behind two straight tournament victories and exceptional rounds from freshman Jordan Spieth, Texas is now the nation’s top-ranked team.

Spieth, a Dallas native, is not your average college freshman. He has already claimed two U.S. Amateur Championship titles, one in 2009 when he was 16 and the other just this year. The only other golfer ever to achieve this feat is Tiger Woods. Spieth hasn’t reached Tiger’s level of play just yet, but if he keeps playing the way he has this year, he’s not too far off. Spieth has also participated in the last two HP Byron Nelson Championships held in Dallas. He tied for 16th in 2010 and even missed his high school prom to tie for 32nd in this year’s event. Now that’s dedication. Amateurs are not allowed to collect any earnings in tournaments, so Spieth gained only experience by playing with PGA Tour professionals.

In the Longhorns’ most recent tournament, the Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Spieth paced the Longhorns with rounds of 73-66-72 and finished tied for second on the individual leaderboard. Spieth has been getting out to fast starts in each of the club’s first three tournaments this year. His first-round average of 69 ranks No. 20 in the nation and is a big reason Texas has won consecutive tournaments for the first time since 2006.

There’s no doubt that he’s a special player, but he is still growing. That’s evidenced by how he finished the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. He was not able to capitalize on his low round of 66 and close out the rest of the field. His last round average of 74 ranks much lower in the nation at 1,183rd.

“Jordan’s finish was bittersweet,” said head coach John Fields. “These last two tournaments have been contested at championship-caliber courses that are set up for tough finishes. There have been some tremendously difficult finishing holes. But Jordan is a team player and is focused on the same goal as his teammates — winning tournaments.”

Spieth is currently ranked 12th in the nation individually and is one of three Longhorns ranked in the top-50 nationally. Senior Dylan Frittelli has not finished lower than seventh in an event this year and sits at No. 3 in the nation while redshirt junior Julio Vegas is ranked 39th.

We could be witnessing the best golfer to come through Austin since the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Justin Leonard, who have both gone on to make a pretty comfortable living on the PGA Tour. Spieth still has a lot to learn, but he’s well on his way to becoming one of the nation’s top golfers.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Spieth helps Horns earn top ranking after strong start