DALLAS -- One of my favorite stats in golf is that Jordan Spieth's best finish in his hometown event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, came when he was a 16-year-old amateur and finished T16 after opening with three rounds under par. Despite winning three majors and becoming a global force since that event, Spieth has yet to truly contend at a tournament that means a lot to him and his fans in the Dallas area.
After shooting a 5-under 66 on Friday in Round 2 of the 2018 edition, he's in position to reverse his fortunes, albeit at a different course than he played in 2010 as a teen. He's inside the top 25 after 36 holes and a few strokes from being in the thick of it (although leader Marc Leishman is eight ahead).
Spieth went out in 1-under 35 on Friday before making birdie at six of his first eight holes on his back nine (front nine on the course), including four straight on holes 5-8. A bogey at the last spoiled a second nine of 30, but he's a few good holes from making a lot of folks very uncomfortable at Trinity Forest this weekend.
"Started playing good golf," Spieth said, who calls this course home. "Used a little course knowledge to my advantage on a couple holes. Kind of hit a couple really nice shots in there closer. I just feel like I played so much better than I scored. That's kind of the frustrating thing when you don't make any ground up on the leader."
Of the top 15 players in the world, everyone else has won more frequently somewhere in the world since Spieth, who last took the 2017 Open Championship, has. The three-time major champion has had some close calls and multiple top-five finishes, but he has yet to string together four straight days that end in a trophy.
After Round 1 on Thursday, it was looking like more of the same, and though it would still be improbable for Spieth to contend at and win this year's event, he's at least in the conversation (which is sometimes all somebody like Spieth needs).
Spieth's issue over the first 36 has been with the putter, which is what his issue has been all year. He's really striking the ball quite well and is top 15 in strokes gained from tee to green this week. But he's lost nearly two strokes to the field on the Trinity Forest greens. That's the most frustrating formula.
"Lot of the round I was sitting there going, 'Man, I'm hitting shots where I want to and hitting putts where I want to, not going in,'" Spieth said. "'I got to do something to make the putt.'"
Even his birdies were short ones. Spieth has only made two putts over 10 feet this entire week. And on Friday, he missed two (!) putts from inside three feet. That 66 could have (should have!) been a 64.
Jordan Spieth missed two putts inside 3 feet today and still shot 66. He is the only player on the PGA Tour this season with a round of 66 or better and multiple missed putts inside three feet.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 18, 2018
The good news for Spieth is that the weather could pick up on the weekend. The wind started to whip and the sun started baking fairways and greens after Spieth finished up. That could create tough afternoon conditions, and Spieth says it's to his advantage over the final two rounds.
"The weekend, you know, if the wind really does pick up, which I really hope it does and the course can show some teeth," Spieth said. "You're looking at a potential winning score at 20 under now even though it took 15 for the first two.
"On the greens it's tough putting in the wind let alone controlling the ball off the tee to get in the right position. I'm hoping and expecting the scores to remain under 20 under par. If the wind blows and that's the case, I've got an opportunity to get back in the golf tournament."
That's all the good people of Dallas want following a 2017 Nelson in which Spieth missed the cut. On a lazy, hot day south of downtown, fairways and greens were free and clear for most players. You can see most of the course from any position, and it's always easy to see where Spieth is. He's the one being followed by half the folks in attendance. Marching toward another shot. Marching toward another weekend of contending for another PGA Tour victory. This one is more improbable than most, but that won't keep the mass of folks from pushing him toward win No. 12 over the next two days.