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Jordan Spieth: Move to SEC is good for all Texas sports

Tim Schmitt

The move by Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 for the greener — but certainly more difficult, in terms of football — pastures of the Southeastern Conference has rightfully had sports fans buzzing.

Jordan Spieth, a former Texas Longhorn and strong supporter of the athletics programs in Austin, was asked to comment on it during the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. 

Spieth insisted he's all for the move.

“Yeah, I mean, I think it can only better our program, so I’m excited about that,” he said. Note how he still calls it “our” program. Hook ’em, indeed.

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Former Texas star golfer Jordan Spieth watches a Longhorns college football game against Rice in 2015. Spieth is a big advocate for Texas' impending move to the Southeastern Conference.

Spieth was a freshman at Texas in 2012 when he was the Big 12 Golfer of the Year and led the Longhorns to their first national title in 40 years. He turned pro halfway through his sophomore season.

Spieth went on to say that he knows the move to the nation’s elite football conference won’t be easy.

“I don’t think that our record is going to improve as we move to the SEC from the Big 12 right away, but I think Austin should be an easy place to recruit,” he said. “It was for me, and I feel that now that you have the SEC chip, as well as far as football goes, that means it should be even easier. I look forward to the future there.”

Spieth, like many others, sees that the college sports landscape continues to evolve.

“I think we’re just jumping out ahead of the curve. I think the Texas and Oklahoma move might shift a lot of things, but I think it was inevitable with somebody, it was going to happen in the next few years.”

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Losing powerful Oklahoma State as a conference golf foe will certainly smart, but SEC schools like Alabama, LSU and Georgia have all finished as either champion or runner-up at the NCAA Tournament since 2010. And, of course, the move means welcoming longtime rival Texas A&M back into the fold.

By the way, Spieth is second in the FedEx Cup standings and is not playing this week at the Wyndham Championship, which is the final regular season event before the playoffs start. He shared a house with Olympic gold medal winner Xander Schauffele in Memphis last week, and said it was “pretty cool” to have his roomie show off the hardware.

“He’s so humble. If it were me or Justin (Thomas) .. we would just be wearing it at dinner, we wouldn’t take it off. Justin had to make him go upstairs and get it when I got here to show me, and it was super cool,” Spieth said.

Will Zalatoris hits his tee shot during the second round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational golf tournament at TPC Southwind this past weekend. Zalatoris starred for Trinity Christian Academy near Dallas.

All or nothing for Will Z

Speaking of the Wyndham, Will Zalatoris is in the field this week, playing on a sponsor exemption, but you won’t find his name on the FedEx Cup Playoffs points list. That’s because he is still playing as a Special Temporary Member on the PGA Tour and therefore, he’s not eligible for the playoffs unless he wins the Wyndham. Zalatoris, who starred for Trinity Christian Academy outside Dallas, has three top-10s in four major championship appearances, including a solo second at the 2021 Masters. He’s made 20 of 24 cuts and has posted eight top-10s.

A week and a half ago, Zalatoris was 50-50 on playing the Wyndham Championship, having injured himself hitting out of the rough during the British Open. He withdrew after the first round that week and didn’t touch a club until finishing tied for 8th at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational this past week. Asked about his plans beyond this tournament, Zalatoris said he’d be listening to his body.

“Obviously this week, it’s win or go home,” he said. “Second means as much as missing a cut, so I’ve got nothing to lose this week, but obviously were I not to win, I’m going to keep listening to my body, but as a backup plan, definitely looking at going to Europe.”

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Birdies and bogeys

• Following a three-year, independent in-depth analysis involving nearly a dozen academics, mathematicians, statisticians and sports analytical experts working with the game’s governing bodies, championships and tours in men’s professional golf, the official world golf ranking (OWGR) added some teeth to its measuring system to more accurately evaluate players. Chief among the changes announced Wednesday by the OWGR governing body were two critical modifications: World ranking points will be given to all players making the cut.

For instance, in last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Cameron Davis finished 60th while Si Woo Kim was five strokes back in 65th; neither received rankings points. Under the OWGR revision, Smith would receive slightly more rankings points than Kim.

• It took a little extra time, but the Texas Golf Hall of Fame’s 2020 class finally got its induction event this week at River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth.

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Among those on hand Monday was Austin High’s Verne Lundquist, who received the hall’s lifetime achievement award. The legendary CBS announcer started his career at what’s now Fox 7, and famously called Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip-in during the 2005 Masters. He was joined by seven-time LPGA winner Angela Stanford, 1998 U.S. Amateur champ Hank Kuehne, and teaching pros Mike Wright and Dow Finsterwald Jr.

Lundquist soaked up the moment, fondly recalling a round with Byron Nelson.

“Ben and Valerie Hogan were so nice and agreeable. This is a great honor to be in the same Hall of Fame with Mr. Hogan. I’m so grateful,” he said, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 

• The local recruiting wars continue as Texas A&M recently snatched up top prospect Aaron Pounds from The Woodlands Christian. In the Golfweek rankings, Pounds is listed as the fourth-best recruit in the class of 2023. Aggie roots run deep in his family — sister Taylor is on the current A&M women’s soccer team and older sister Haley was a star on the pitch in College Station.

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak contributed to this report.

Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek, golf coordinator for the USA Today Network and lives in Round Rock within a driver and subsequent wedge from Dell Diamond.