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May 11, 2016

Jordan Spieth

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jordan Spieth, welcome back to THE PLAYERS Championship 2016. This is your third PLAYERS Championship. You finished tied for fourth two years ago. You've had a couple opportunities to play the course now. If we can get some opening comments and your thoughts going into the week.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's very pure. This is one of my favorite courses in the world. Pete Dye did a great job here, and I enjoy playing his courses in general. You've got to strike the ball extremely well. It plays narrower than it seems, just given if it sits down a little in the rough, it just creates havoc with flier lies and balls bouncing over the greens into tough spots.

It's kind of a spot-to-spot type of golf course that requires working the ball both directions and controlling it in the wind, and obviously the closing stretch takes some nerve.

Q. A lot of people really hate this golf course; I'm interested to hear why you like it. I know you did well the very first time you played here. You finished second or third.

Q. Okay, close. So what is it about that that you like?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, it is exactly what I was just saying. I like the fact that you have to work the ball both directions. The finishing holes require a lot of nerve. It's in phenomenal shape right now. You have to be able to hit every different kind of shot with every different kind of wind. So yeah, I mean, it's a great test, I think. It's one that, if the breeze picks up a little, around 12-under wins, which means it's a difficult track, but not the toughest that we play all year, but one of the tougher tracks of the year. I enjoy that.

Q. Is Augusta something you'll have to put out of your mind as quickly as possible, or is it the kind of thing you have to look at and say, you have to make sure that doesn't happen again?
JORDAN SPIETH: You can do both. Yeah, certainly already, I would say, I have put it behind me. It'll be maybe -- not sure how it'll feel if I work into contention again. I imagine thoughts won't come up, because it was just one bad hole with bad timing on my miss. I played the golf course the rest of that day extremely well.

Sure, I can be more focused on picking conservative spots and aggressive swings to conservative spots and just trying to show an extra level of patience that maybe just slipped my mind that day. But yeah, I mean, it's behind me. I'm ready to move on and work back into contention.

After a month off, it felt like a bit of a off-season, so it's almost like a new year starting this week.

Q. Along those lines, when you and Cameron and everyone else did kind of take a look at what happened there, what did you take out of it specifically? And secondly, what needs to kind of get better, in your mind, going into Oakmont? You talk a lot about constantly improving. What do you think you need to sort of sharpen going into the next major?
JORDAN SPIETH: They go together. What happened? Well, I had mentioned to you guys throughout the week that I was not striking the ball very well. I mean, I didn't say that after Sunday's round, this was something I was mentioning throughout Thursday on. I was just getting around that golf course the right way.

My miss, given where my club was positioned, was short and right, and that's okay at Augusta on almost every other hole. 12 and 13 it doesn't really work well. But just about everywhere else, it's fine.

So I was picking the right shot. I just hit it a little thin off the heel, maybe lifted up a little early, and I happened to have my miss that week at the wrong time, which also happened to be when I was in the lead on Sunday.

That kind of mistake could have very well happened any other day. It wasn't like the moment was what caused it because I had been in that moment many times already and succeeded, and I've had failures, and both are going to come. It was the wrong miss, and so what do we do, we go to the drawing board and figure out how to get my swing to the consistent level it was at during really the second half of the year was when I struck the ball the best. When I say, second half of last year, not necessarily the Playoffs, but from the U.S. Open, John Deere, Open Championship, and through into the PGA my swing was exactly where we wanted it. So we've been working hard to try and get to that position.

It got off whenever and haven't really been able to trust it at that level since then. But I put in a lot of good hard work. On the driving range it's there right now. It's just a matter of being able to trust it on the golf course with trouble around. Which may not happen right away, but it's getting closer.

Q. This is kind of a two-part. Obviously your schedule was made that you were going to take that time off regardless. Given what happened at Augusta, would you have kept it the same way, or would you have maybe liked to have gotten right back out there, maybe not the next week, but maybe in two weeks, just to get that feeling again, get back into contention and see how you do react?
JORDAN SPIETH: No. I think it was necessary no matter what would have happened, had I finished 35th, missed the cut, won, or finished second place. At that time I needed those four weeks. We had a crazy schedule going back to the Presidents Cup, through there. A lot of time zones, a lot of golf. I just needed, no matter what, it was going to be good for me to just get my legs back under me. And my speeds came back up in these past couple weeks, they were down a little bit, just kind of everything seemed to get back on track that was maybe off as far as my fatigue the first half of the year. It wasn't anything that was, I don't think, truly affecting my play by any means, but it was just mentally good for me to be away for four weeks.

And given what happened at Augusta, no, I don't think it would have been -- if it would have been better for me to get back, I would have just played.

Q. Just as a follow, you addressed it a little bit there, but do you have a certain anticipation, anxiousness or whatever, might not be the right word, for when you are back in contention, whether it's this week or whatever, just to kind of push through that?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think I have anything to prove. I think I've already proven what we're capable of doing when the pressure is on. We've succeeded and been able to succeed in close matches, close finishes, and we've succeeded to stretch leads out and win by four to eight shots against some of the best fields in the world, so I don't think there's anything that'll come up where I feel like I need to get revenge.

No, again, it's hard for me to speak for the future; I'm not there. But as of right now, I'm just -- I'm ready to be out on the golf course, trying to work my way up the leaderboard, and try and win THE PLAYERS Championship against, I think it's the best field in golf, isn't it, World Ranking wise? I might be off, but I'm pretty sure it is. This might technically be the hardest tournament to win in the world, so I've got a tall task ahead this week.

Q. How painful was it to be in that position of having to hand over the jacket, because it was a pretty unique circumstance, in that, obviously, the former winner hands over the jacket, but it's very rare to --
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't wish it upon any of y'all. I know the feelings that Danny was experiencing. You know, I was obviously very happy for him, and he 100 percent earned his Masters win. It really bugs me when people are trying to take that maybe away from him or shoot it down, and the questions have been asked to him, do you think this will go down as you winning or him losing, and that's absolute bull, because he won and he earned it. I knew the shots he played down the stretch. He heard the roars. I knew the clutch putts that he made. But for me personally, it was certainly difficult to go through that experience right afterwards, feeling like I should have -- I had control of it and could have very well put it on myself or however it works, the Chairman put it on. I don't really know how it works. I was hoping to find out.

But yeah, the hour and a half that followed the finish, I obviously knew that that was going to happen when I was teeing off on 18 tee box, so I had that entire hole to play and the time after to kind of figure out my emotions. It was tough, but we went about it the right way, and just like three years ago, when I watched Bubba get the jacket on the 18th green, it's motivation for next year.

Q. What have you done the last four weeks except for the week where Rickie took your picture a bunch of times, and what was the most valuable thing you did during that time off?
JORDAN SPIETH: I spent the first week, didn't see my clubs, didn't unpack them. Went on the trip the second week. Did some corporate shoots and did a Coca-Cola shoot and an Under Armour, did stuff for AT&T. And the third week while I was starting to get back into it -- I was in the gym by the end of the first week off, trying to almost create an off-season program to get some strength back, and that automatically goes away for everyone in a season.

And then I was kind of on the grind the last week and a half with Cameron, seeing him every other day. Didn't wear myself out. Didn't hit too many balls. I started to play more golf in the last half week leading up to when we came here, get on the course, hit shots off different lies with the swings that we were working on.

But I wasn't putting in 9:00 to 5:00 on the driving range kind of hours, but I was getting good practice, really focusing on each shot and making sure that I'm doing it the right way. So it was still kind of rest with work.

And then this week, I've put in a lot of hours here trying to get adjusted to the golf course and the speeds of the greens and the runoff areas. A lot is required this week.

Q. Why was it important to get out here so early this week, and how much of it is still getting a familiarity with this course?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, I mean, we believe this is -- we approach this as if it's a fifth major. We believe it is. You know, again, like I mentioned before, I know if it's not the top -- I think it is the best field in golf, and that gets us going, at least for me. I would love to win this tournament, this championship, given it means you've beaten the best field in golf on a very gutsy track.

I also liked getting here early just because, first off, the weather earlier this week was poor in Dallas, so Sunday, Monday wasn't good. I saw that ahead of time. I also -- it's nice to be here, kind of just -- I'm talking with Michael. We're getting ready, not just for this golf course, but just to be back into it. That's a longer off-season than I had any of last fall and winter, so it was a break that I felt like we needed make an extra day to start getting ready for.

Q. What in a player's makeup makes him a good closer, and how early on in your progression did you get the belief that you could be one?
JORDAN SPIETH: Someone who really -- someone who starts to feel the pressure and then actually really enjoys it. It doesn't mean that they produce the shots right away, because they can hit shots that they think are great shots that don't end up turning out the right way or they hit a good putt that misses from six feet, and it looks like they don't like to close. But if someone deep down really -- when they get into that position, they love it, they embrace it, they love the adrenaline rush, I guess that to me would make a good closer.

So, for me personally, that's always been why I love the game. I love trying to practice in order to get into that position because I just love the -- I love the adrenaline. It makes it feel like it's a contact sport almost. You just kind of -- you don't know what's going to happen next. You've got to try and slow down, slow down your mind and your body into the tiniest little details, because a degree off from 150 yards is going to put the ball pretty far off line. I've had my fair share of both sides of it when in contention, but I think around the Australian Open professionally is when I started seeing the success in closing, just an extra level of these guys are capable of doing anything. These professionals are capable of shooting 63 in some of the most difficult conditions. Luckily it was me that day. But I've seen many players pull it off. I hope that answers it.

Q. You mentioned last week that a lot of athletes from other sports have reached out to you over the past month. What advice has stuck with you the most?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I received some messages that -- even that night, the Sunday night after the Masters, that were really special ones that I wasn't expecting to receive. People that didn't even have my phone number that reached out to try and get it to shoot a message over and just say, hey, this happens in sports. If you're at the top enough, it happens. Just keep yourself motivated and stay on top. The next time it goes your way, it's going to feel even better.

Q. Golfers are always bouncing back from something. Can you recall the biggest bounce-back of your career to date? Not necessarily just a hole, but where you came back from a tournament that didn't quite go right?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure. I would say early in 2015, Riviera I really had a great chance to win that tournament. I made a couple crucial mistakes on Sunday that cost me the event, even though that maybe didn't make big news because it ended up being, I think, Dustin and Sergio both maybe bogeyed 17 or one bogeyed 17, one bogeyed 18. I ended up bogeying 18 thinking I needed a birdie to be into a playoff, and I ended up only needing par for a playoff.

But that kind of -- you never know what's going to happen, just play the golf course to play the golf course, I learned a bit of that that led into Tampa, to Valspar, that year. It was a struggle down the stretch for me. I mean, I made a big putt, big long putt on 14, but then I was all over the place and just made up-and-down after up-and-down thinking you never know, you get yourself into a playoff, and you're going to hit one of these greens and make a birdie putt, and sure enough, that's what happened.

I had my chance on 18, I missed a short one, then came back to 17 and made it.

That is the closest I can think about to a comeback tournament.

Q. How big a factor do you think the cracked driver was, and have you found one that you feel more comfortable with?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think it was much of a factor. It's not ideal when you're playing the same driver for a year and a half and then Wednesday of Augusta it cracks and you have to change heads. It's not ideal.

But I hit quite a few drivers. I felt comfortable with the one I was using there, and I think it performed the same way it would have been if I was using my gamer from before. I'm still using the same driver that I was throughout the Masters. I found a backup. At some point -- I hit a couple drivers in this off-season. I took a backup with me on TrackMan with Cameron, and this one, the one I'm using, was the hottest. I feel really good with it, so although it wasn't ideal, I found a backup pretty quickly. That's why we all bring -- almost everybody brings a backup driver with them, because that kind of stuff can happen.

Q. I know you've already said you don't want people feeling sorry for you and it's been happening. Do you think it'll take another win before people will stop feeling that way?
JORDAN SPIETH: At this point I don't think people feel sorry for me. It's the nature of the game. There's a lot of people who were very happy the way it turned out, people that are fans of Danny, close to him. Again, he earned it. No, I'm not -- I think in the first couple weeks after, but now that golf has been going on for a while, and we'll have big events coming up, they're very difficult to win. It's not like winning is easy. I don't have another win coming my way in my career necessarily. You have to earn it. That'll certainly be nice for me, to close one down the stretch, just like any time -- 2014 was a rough year. I came -- I was close in a lot of events, and I didn't finish them off. It wasn't maybe to the extent that -- it wasn't the Masters. But they were PGA TOUR events that took me until that off-season to start the train.

But I think people have moved on already, at least I thought so until I came in here today. (Laughter.)

Q. You talked about the need for nerve in the closing holes here, and there's a lot of water around there. Does this week give you the perfect opportunity really to show that you haven't been affected by Augusta and that you're not going to be spooked by the nearest stretch of water?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'll just tell you that I'm not affected by it. Again, it was the wrong miss at the wrong time. Yeah, I mean, if I hit a good shot and it catches a gust and goes in the water, it's not because of the Masters. It's not something that was in my head, or if I put a bad swing on it. It takes a lot of nerve to hit the right shots down the stretch here. You have the second shot on 16, tee shot on 17, tee shot on 18, and even the second shot on 18, depending on where that pin is. It's very difficult to stay committed and hit three very solid shots exactly where you're looking on those three holes, whether it's Thursday or Sunday. It takes a lot of nerve.

Yeah, sure, if I can get into contention and really stay committed and put the right swings on the shots on these three holes, you know, coming down the stretch, I feel comfortable with the way that I hit the shots, then I will take confidence away from that. I don't really, to be honest, care what anybody else will take away from it. If I feel like I put the right swing on it and I hit the shot I wanted to hit, then I'll be pleased and I'll feel like we're back to getting the right shots under pressure.

I felt a lot of pressure from 13 on at the Masters. I still had a chance to win. My position just changed, but I started 13 tee box having a chance to win the Masters coming from behind. There was a lot of pressure there with a lot of tough shots, and we pulled them off.

You know, again, it's behind me, and what comes on now is kind of what I'm doing for myself.

Q. Yesterday Jason Day talked about this course makes him use a club he doesn't like, that's uncomfortable. He was talking about his 3-wood. Do you have a club that you have to use here that you really don't like to use or that makes you a little uncomfortable?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think so. I think if you're going for two into these par-5s they're uncomfortable shots on just about all of them. Yeah, No. 2 would be the only hole where you can get away with a miss and still have an easy birdie. But that's what's uncomfortable out here is having to hit these long irons to -- hybrids or driving irons into these really small greens, knowing that if it misses one way or the other, it's in big trouble. Second shots into par-5s if you're playing aggressive can make you uncomfortable.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jordan Spieth, thank you.

JORDAN SPIETH: Thanks, guys.

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