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July 18, 2017
MIKE WOODCOCK: I'd very much like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room this afternoon.
Jordan, you're coming into the week at the Open after a win recently at the Travelers Championship. That must give you a lot of confidence going into this event, and obviously you came close in 2015 at The Open. What do you think about your chances this week at Royal Birkdale?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm very excited for another major, coming off a win and few week break. Feel fresh. Feel ready to go.
I had a week vacation and then started back into it. Just trying to keep my ball-striking where it's been at, and then fine tune the short game, and play the different shots and adjust to the speed of the greens over here.
I like the golf course, it's very cool. It's a very tough but fair test, one that's demanding off the tee. And if you get that part done, into the greens and on the greens, you can play kind of to the centre of them and putt to the corners. The greens aren't crazy. There's only a couple that have any kind of ridges to them. So it's about controlling your ball off the tee in these crosswinds to give yourself the opportunity to hit the centre of the green.
I think we have a good game plan thus far. And it will be kind of fun to try and test it in some conditions tomorrow that will hopefully prepare us for what we're expecting this weekend.
Q. You said that you took a holiday just to try and rest up. We know that when Rickie goes away, he likes to do some fun things and stunts. Were you just calm and relaxed?
JORDAN SPIETH: Pretty calm and relaxed. Went with some friends on vacation and, yeah, it was just nice to kind of get away and feel like -- I like the beach, and we went to the beach. So it was kind of nice to put your feet in the sand and take a deep breath. I went six out of seven weeks prior, so it was a heavy stretch with a couple of them being home events, which also you think would be more rest, but they're actually pretty crazy.
So it was just kind of nice to breathe deeply for a week straight out there and then come back with a little fire and a little longing to get back to work. I went away not wanting to touch a club. And then after a few days' time of resting, you start to want to bring it back. So it was nice to kind of have that fire and putting some pretty solid work over the last week and the game feels really good right now.
Q. You obviously want to stop this but there are seven first-time major champions in a row coming in here. What does that say or mean? Do you think it's a good or bad thing for the sport?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think there's a lot more guys who haven't won majors than guys who have that are playing, so the chances are it is going to be somebody that hasn't won one. But it's very difficult to do the first time. Just mentally it's that much harder than winning a tournament in general. And those are very difficult to win.
I think it's a really impressive stat and it speaks to the state of the game. A lot of tremendous young players right now. And then you've got guys like Henrik and Dustin who -- in that past seven stretch, who are guys who are still young, but guys who have been around in contention many, many times, and it was sooner or later going to happen, and it did. It was just a matter of time for them.
It could be anybody this week. At this tournament it tends to fall on half the field. You kind of cut half the field, depending on the draw. Sometimes it's more or less 75 percent. But most of the time there's at least a group that gets the worst weather. And it's almost impossible to win in that circumstance at an Open Championship. So nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down, play as well as you can, and see what happens after two days. And then obviously the leaders have to play in the same conditions against each other.
The Open is one that -- this is my fifth one now. And I've seen really dry and favourable conditions, like Muirfield. And then last year was pretty wicked on I think Friday. And I've kind of seen a bit of everything in four years' time. To say that it may be the easiest of the majors to win, if you had to pick a major, just because the draw can take out half a field. But the type of golf you have to play is totally different than what we see in the other three majors. You have to have a lot of imagination and a lot of ball-flight control.
So I'm not saying it's easy based on competition or anything like that, I'm strictly saying that because a lot of the time some of the field is thrown out and you're actually playing against a smaller field, your percentage chances go up.
Again, can't control it. Keep your head down. Be confident in what you're doing. And out here play in the middle of the greens.
Q. Related to that, there's no clear favourite or even favourites here this week, with some of the usual contenders struggling to perform to come in. Do you think it is right, if there ever was, to talk about a big four in the game of golf right now?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I don't think so. I'm not sure who it would be, if you asked me. Because of that it would be I think difficult to put anybody in that role right now. I think you look at a guy like Jon Rahm, how does he deserve not to be in a conversation like that? What he just did at the Irish Open and what he has been able to do this year, he did it two weeks ago at links golf. He destroyed the field. Won by six or seven, right? I don't think he would have been someone that you would put there if you were about to name four guys.
There's a group of -- I'm not sure where the separation is in the World Rankings, maybe there's a full point or point and a half dropoff, somewhere in the middle there. But it really could be anybody at this point. And it's pretty exciting, I think. I don't know what's better for golf, from my opinion it's very exciting when you've got to beat that many great players with that much confidence.
Q. If you get conditions like last year, where there's a clear advantage to one side of the draw, if you're on the wrong end of it, how difficult is it not to have a pity party?
JORDAN SPIETH: I felt like I did a good job of it last year. I don't think I -- it's frustrating. It's very frustrating, especially when you feel like you're in form and it really makes that much of a difference, because it's that much harder.
Last year I was kind of in form. I don't think I made one. I was definitely on the bad end. But, yeah, to yourself it's good to do that, but I don't think anybody wants to hear that, so just keep it to yourself.
Q. Can you get guys who eliminate themselves just by "woe is me" type attitude?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think so. You'll get guys in the middle of that round. If it's an afternoon round and the other side has already played the morning, that's when it's tough. Because you're like, I can't shoot those scores. It's not possible. And that's frustrating when you think you can play your best and it doesn't happen.
But it's the nature of it, and I plan on playing 30 of these, and I guarantee you it will end up being 15 and 15 at the end of the day. I was in the bad end last year. St. Andrews I thought it kind of depended if you were really early or really late on the tee times, I don't really remember. Muirfield I don't think there was a draw. So it fluctuates a bit.
Yeah, it is tough. I think that's the most frustrating part about this tournament is getting through the first couple of days, from my experience. Because if you're on the good end, you almost put that kind of pressure on yourself, hey, I need to jump out ahead. And so it's a mind game that you play with yourself there.
Q. You're one of the many players that have said this is the fairest test of a links. Can you explain why this is such a fair test, and can you talk to me about how tough No. 6 hole is?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think part of it is the graduating rough or trouble off the tee. They've done just a phenomenal job here of -- areas where with the winds that we're going to have, if it's very difficult to hold a fairway, if you hit a really good shot and it creeps into the rough, there's very little rough, you're still fine. You get rewarded for a really good shot. And then it's graduated rough. The further off line you hit it, for the most part out here, the more trouble you're going to be in. And that's tough to do in a major because you've got so many people coming out that trample down areas that are far off the fairways. But they've somehow done it here it seems, that off the tee the closer you are to the fairway, the better chance you have of hitting the green in regulation, and I think that's fair.
A lot of crosswinds, which makes it really tough to hit fairways, but a good shot is still going to reward you. Really well-placed bunkers, ones where on some holes if you want to fly the short ones, instead of hitting iron off the tee, it's going to be very difficult for you to fly them but leave them short of the next set of bunkers. A lot of risk/reward options off the tee out here, and if you choose for the risky, and you still hit a good shot, it really will reward you.
Q. How difficult is 6?
JORDAN SPIETH: 6 is a big challenge. I think we're going to get the wind off the right and into, which makes the tee ball a little easier for a right-hander. I hit driver yesterday and I hit 3-wood today, both good shots and I had 6-iron and 5-iron in in two days. But, yeah, if you hit a good tee ball, you've got a long iron in and around the greens, as long as you're not in those first two pot bunkers, you can make a four. It's really in the tee shot. And I think a lot of this golf course is in the tee ball. You do have quite a few mid-irons. If you're in position off the tee, you're golden out here, because you will have some large opportunities.
Q. 2015 will be your yardstick that you'll be measured against --
JORDAN SPIETH: Right. I'm glad I had it.
Q. Pretty sure you are. I just wonder if you can assess your game now set against that. Are you a better golfer now than you were there?
JORDAN SPIETH: Certain places. I haven't been making as many putts as I did that year this year. I've struck the ball better than I did in '15. I've actually been in better position. If you took hole by hole, I've been in a better position tee to green than I was that year. If I putted the same as 15 I'd be having a better year right now. It's hard to do. I think I was top three, top five in strokes game putting '15 and '16, and this year we're just a little down, but we're close. It's just been set-up stuff that's been messing with me.
So, yeah, certain parts of the game I think I've improved on. And others, you know, it's just fluctuated. And that's how it will go. It will go like this (indicating.)
I recognise that being five years in now, and five years doesn't make me a veteran, but it helps me realise kind of how things go. And last year I was pretty caught in 2015, and this year I'm not. This year I recognise that that kind of year hopefully we can have another one or two like that. But if we keep on trying to improve each part of the game, stick to the process, then we'll have the results that we want.
Q. Where would you rank Birkdale in your list of favourite Open courses?
JORDAN SPIETH: This is my fifth. I really, really enjoyed Muirfield. And that could have been it was my first one, I wasn't expecting to be there. But I just thought the golf course was phenomenal. I had friends and family over and we had a great setup. We were staying in North Berwick, it was a fun week on and off the course, and it was so new. So it's hard to -- but I think Muirfield may have been my best experience thus far.
The Open in St. Andrews was pretty fun, going for three majors and having a good chance, making a long putt on 16 and just not quite finishing it off. But what an amazing experience to contend in an Open at St. Andrews.
And this is right there. This is right up there, Birkdale, the golf course. I think the golf course is certainly a better test than St. Andrews is. So if we're going to rate golf courses, I'd put this right below Muirfield. Hard to speak to the experience yet.
Q. You spoke about how competitive the field is right now, so many great players. How realistic is it for you or anyone else to emerge from that group as a clear No. 1 and a dominant force like Tiger?
JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn't get your hopes up. What Tiger's done, I just -- having experienced a year like he continued to do for years, it just takes a lot out of you. It's very tough to do. And you have to have a lot of things go right right at the right times. Been pretty much the entire career was lucky. No, I'm kidding (laughing).
What I'm saying is, I doubt you'll see a dominance like that maybe ever again in the game. I just think guys are learning, guys are getting stronger. Athletes are going to golf. Guys are winning younger playing more fearless, even in major championships, and I just think that it's so difficult now, not that -- I think it was probably equally as difficult then, I can't speak to it, but I wouldn't get your hopes up for a domination like that whatsoever. I think it's going to be a very exciting time going forward of guys that are going to be playing and battling against each other. You'll see a group of ten to 12 guys over the next 15, 20 years, that are going to have a lot of different competitions that come down the stretch with each other. And it's different than one person being the guy to beat. But I think it's exciting, exciting for us as players. You just never know. And if you play well, you're going to have a chance with these other guys who are equally as capable.
Q. Kind of a follow-up question from the beginning of the interview: We have a several leader/major winner from the last seven major tournaments. As the Japanese media, we're excited to see Hideki Matsuyama. What do you think of his play this season? And do you have any comment on this play?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think he's top three, maybe third off the FedExCup, off a World Golf Championship win, and another one this year in Phoenix. A couple tournaments that are tremendous tournaments to win. Phoenix being -- he won in Phoenix, right, that was the second one? And that tournament being obviously one you have to deal with a lot, a lot of crowds and craziness and a tremendous closing stretch of golf, nerve-wracking stretch of golf.
I think it's a matter of time for Hideki. I have no doubt he'll win a major soon. I've been saying that for a couple of years now, and I don't think anything will change going forward. He's shown us each year he's capable of doing so. And he's played well at Augusta since he was, what, 18. He obviously likes that course, and the rest of them all change around. He very much has a good chance -- as good a chance as any of winning one when he tees it up in a major.
Q. There's a lot of talented golfers in Dallas. You played with one of them yesterday in the practice round, Austin Connelly. Just talk about what impresses you most about his game and what advice have you given to him as he prepares for his first major?
JORDAN SPIETH: I've known Austin quite a while. We've both worked with Cameron for a lot of years. He might have been there ten years ago, as well. So it's cool to see. It's cool to see the success he's had. He had some in Canada and then over here in Europe, and then qualifying for this event. This is the type of golf where he can really, really make a move and prevail. He really works the ball extremely well. He hits his long clubs dead straight. And he's got kind of a killer instinct on the greens, like nothing really fazes him.
I've played with him where we've had good matches and I've gotten beat by four or five shots in Dallas. He can go off. And he's not afraid to go low.
Pretty cool to see him here, awesome for a new experience for him in his journey from leaving school. Obviously wish him the best this week. More just talking over the golf course. It wasn't anything mental related, it was just kind of, this is what I see on the course, and kind of sharing thoughts.
Q. When you're evaluating the success of a season either today or at the end of the year, is it difficult to keep from just using performance in majors as the benchmark?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, I don't think -- no, I don't think so. I think those are events that we say at the beginning of the year that's where we're trying to peak for, that's our focus. So if you don't necessarily have a major year it's disappointing, for sure. That's where your legacy is left. That's where you're really trying to go down in history. And that's what's cool at this point for our team, at least, that's what we're searching for, is major championships.
But it's already been a really good year. With a couple of wins and second, a couple of thirds, we've been up there. And like a lot of things, we haven't been able to do in the past, especially tee to green. I feel like it's an improvement in that sense and that's positive. And so no matter what happens in these last seven events that I'm playing this year -- not this year, but through The TOUR Championship, this was a good season. And I can say that with what I consider to still be half the year left.
Really excited about the next three events here, with two majors and a World Golf Championship. And the three weeks off was really nice to have to get ready for the stretch.
Q. You were out with Phil this morning, and I was just wondering what is his Tuesday game like during a major week. Any different?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, it was fun. We had a good time. It was a really good match. Phil holed a chip. Justin holed a bunker shot. There were a lot of long putts made. There was good banter. It felt like a normal week. Not much different, honestly. I wouldn't say anything -- I've actually -- most of the games I have played with him have been at majors, probably half and half. But, yeah, it feels like a normal week. And I think everyone's approach is like it's a normal week. I think we know it's a major but you go out with the same preparation. You try and knock off the same boxes, check the same boxes before we get out there and also save your legs and try and find that right balance to where you're ready special you're rested.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Thanks for joining us. Best of luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports