PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Before his second round on Friday at the Northern Trust Open, Jordan Spieth was hitting his driver on the range at the Riviera Country Club. With his father, Shawn, and his caddie, Ryan Murphy, one of his coaches at Texas, looking on, the 18-year-old college freshman tried to hit fades. Murphy, whose brother Sean played on the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour, told Spieth to try to keep his posture throughout the swing. Spieth looks like a pro. You can’t tell that he’s a teenager until you see him close up.
But in his first round on Thursday, Spieth struggled with a 5-over 76 that included two double-bogeys.
“I didn’t feel like I played that bad, but then I look up at the scoreboard and I’m at 5-over par, which doesn’t make me very happy no matter what the tournament or the course,” Spieth said before his Friday afternoon tee time. “I feel like I should be doing better.”
But as much as this tournament is another chance for Spieth to prove himself against the best players in the world, it’s also an opportunity for he and Murphy to study Riviera, which will be the site of the men’s NCAA Championships in late May. Spieth’s Texas teammates will play in an event in Puerto Rico this weekend without him.
“I think the course might be even set up more difficult for the NCAAs. But I think I’m definitely going to have an advantage having seen the course in tournament conditions and having Coach Murphy caddying for me,” Spieth said. “It’s definitely going to be an advantage for my team and myself.”
Growing up in Dallas, Spieth is very unfamiliar with Riviera’s poa annua greens.
“This is all new to me,” the Jesuit College Prep graduate said. “But I’ve been able to practice on them for the last few days and slowly I’m getting the hang of it.”
But Spieth, who was at 4-over through 16 holes before play was suspended Friday, shouldn’t feel bad. As the week goes on, these greens will get more bumpy and difficult with every round for all the players.
Spieth is not the only college player at Riviera this week. His good friend, Patrick Cantlay, who is a sophomore at UCLA, had a 7-over-par 78 on Thursday. The two teenagers could meet here again in May. Their respective college teams are two of the top programs in the country. Yet their days as amateurs might be short-lived, especially since both have already had success on the PGA Tour as amateurs. There is increasing pressure for teenagers to turn pro, especially when there are so many good professional players now in their early 20s.
Both Spieth and his father concede that it’s hard to get to a world-class level when you’re not playing full-time. Yet they want to make sure the time is right to take that next step.
“My goal is to be out here. But I’ll go when I’m ready mentally. I feel like my game is ready,” Spieth said. “I don’t know as a teenager that I’m ready to be out in the real world. But we’ll see. I think that it will just kind of hit me. But I’m in no rush. I’m loving every minute of school.”