Before the rain, Spieth and Castro shine at Congressional

Before the rain, Spieth and Castro shine at Congressional
June 28, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Jordan Spieth competing despite youth

Roberto Castro managed to maintain his spot atop the leaderboard.

But now he has company.

On Friday, Jordan Spieth, a month shy of his 20th birthday, fired a bogey-free, 5-under par 66 to move into a two-way tie with Castro at the rain-interrupted AT&T National in Bethesda.

Spieth and Castro are 7-under entering Saturday's third round at Congressional Country Club. The pair finished before thunderstorms forced play to be suspended until 7 a.m.

“It would be huge, but I can’t really think about that at this point,” Spieth said, asked about possibly winning his first PGA Tour event. “It’s only halfway through the tournament. There’s a long way to go.”

Spieth opened the round by sinking a tricky 25-foot putt on No. 1 for birdie. A few holes later, he made his move, carding four birdies on Nos. 5-9.

Although putting is his strength, Spieth also hit all 18 greens in regulation. On the front, he capitalized on his chances. On the back, he gritted his teeth as he missed a handful of birdie opportunities by mere inches. The closest call came on No. 12, where his 13-foot putt for birdie just lipped out.

“Obviously I felt the nerves just like anybody does trying to win for the first time,” he said. “I hit good putts. I thought they were going in on most of them. I just barely misread them.”

If Spieth does manage to claim his first professional victory this weekend, it would complete one of the most compelling stories of the season.

After leading Texas to the NCAA championship as a freshman last year, the Dallas native turned pro in December and began the season with no status on the Tour. But after scoring four top-10 finishes and earning $919,000 in prize money so far, Spieth has been granted special temporary Tour membership because he has surpassed the 150th finisher on the 2012 money list. It means he’s now eligible to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the season; without the special status, he would have been limited to seven exemptions.

“Even after earning special temporary status, it’s not a given,” Spieth said. “I can’t explain how much I appreciate the tournaments giving me exemptions. I just got one for next week now, too, so I can play a few in a row now while I’m playing good.”

Although Spieth won’t allow himself to look too far ahead, he did acknowledge how special it would be to get handed the trophy Sunday evening by Tiger Woods, his childhood idol. Woods, the tournament’s host and two-time winner, skipped the event because of an elbow injury, but is expected to return for the trophy presentation.

Spieth and Woods, in fact, already share a special distinction: they are the only two golfers to win multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles.

“It would be special,” Spieth said. “I grew up looking up to Tiger obviously. I don’t remember him winning his first major [in 1997], but I’ve idolized his game since I started playing. To receive the trophy from him would be a dream come true.”

The day ahead

One golfer to watch Saturday is Cameron Tringale. The 25-year-old Californian fired a four-under-par 67 and finished the day in tied for fifth place, three strokes behind Castro and Spieth.

“Four under through two days out here is some good golf,” said Tringale, who shot a bogey-free round that was highlighted by four birdies.

Making Round 3 even more interesting for Tringale will be the fact that one of the guys he’s pursuing is an old friend. Tringale was a freshman on the Georgia Tech golf team when Castro was a junior.

“We played two years together,” Tringale said. “He’s a good friend. I learned a lot from him. He’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. So he was a good teammate to have. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to battle it out on Sunday.”

Both Tringale and Castro are going for their first win on the PGA Tour.

Chip shots

Charlie Beljan was initially DQ’d for missing his tee-time Friday, but maintained that he had attempted to reach Tour officials to withdraw but was unsuccessful. His status was later changed to a WD. Beljan, who is battling an elbow injury, shot a tournament-worst 84 on Thursday. …Vaughn Taylor, Davis Love III and Rory Sabbatini also withdrew Thursday. …Play was suspended at 2:44 p.m. Friday for thunderstorms. Two hours later, a second round to storms washed out play for the day. Play will resume at 7 a.m. Saturday, with the third round leaders teeing off at 12:50.