Rodgers, Thomas join Spieth

Jordan Spieth took the PGA Tour by storm when he left the University of Texas two years ago at the age of 19, and there are more like him on the way.

In fact, some of them already arrived.

Spieth will tee it up this week along with his pals Justin Thomas and Patrick Rodgers in the AT&T Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.

“All three of us go way back,” Spieth told Golfweek a while back. “(They are) very, very good players. I don’t think they’ll have any problem getting out here on their talent. They’ve shown that in the starts that they’ve had on the PGA (Tour). … Obviously, the stage doesn’t bother them.

“Once you set certain goals and you accomplish them and you get to play out on Tour as an amateur, you’re able to compete and kind of finish it off even when you feel the heat, I think that’s when you know you’re ready.

“That’s when I knew I was ready. Obviously, Justin’s doing that now. Patrick has done that. It’s just up to them.”

Spieth had no status on any tour when he left the Longhorns in the middle of his sophomore year in 2013, but he played well enough early on sponsors’ exemptions to hang around and then broke through by winning the John Deere Classic on his way to making the U.S. Presidents Cup team that year.

Thomas, 22, was an All-American before leaving Alabama after his sophomore season in 2013. He won the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on his way to earning his PGA Tour card by finishing fifth on the Tour money list.

As a rookie this year on the big tour, he has five top-10 finishes, the best a tie for fourth in the Sanderson Farms Championship and a tie for sixth in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

“Yeah, I’m confident,” said Thomas, who set a Players Championship record by carding 10 birdies on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in a 7-under-par 65 but closed with a 75 and tied for 24th. “I’m a little, I don’t really know what word to use, but I’m really excited, hopefully to have little better finishes than I’ve had.

“I’ve had some great chances, but I also understand that kind of comes with it. Just my first year, although I didn’t just come out here my first year to get a bunch of top-10s.

“I came out here to win, felt like I’ve put myself in good places, but I’ve really, really learned a lot.”

Rodgers, 22, left Stanford after his junior year last spring with 11 college victories, tying the school record set by Tiger Woods. He capped his All-America career by winning the Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award — which Thomas earned in 2012.

After earning his 2015 Tour card with some strong play late last season, Rodgers broke through for his first professional victory in the Colombia Championship in February and figured to earn his PGA Tour card for next season the way Thomas did, via the money list.

However, playing in the Wells Fargo Championship on a sponsors’ exemption two weeks ago, Rodgers tied for second behind Rory McIlroy. He would have earned special temporary membership for the rest of the year on the PGA Tour had he not finished double bogey-bogey at Quail Hollow to fall out of solo second.

Still, he is in the midst of a four-week run on the big tour and figures to make it a full-time gig sooner rather than later.

“I’m really happy with the way I played, really happy with the way I handled the situation,” said Rodgers, who shares a condominium with Thomas in Jupiter, Fla., and played alongside his roommate at Quail Hollow. “I felt really comfortable out there. Obviously disappointed with the finish. It’s something I’ll definitely learn from and be better for the next time in that position.

“It was huge (playing with Thomas). All of a sudden, it doesn’t feel like a tournament. Feel we’re out at the Bear’s Club having some fun. He’s a guy I grew up playing golf against. Pretty cool for us to be in this position and living our dream out here on the PGA Tour.”

And trying to catch up to Spieth.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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