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May 8, 2018

Jordan Spieth

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'd like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Jordan, how's your game going into this week?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I'm not sure. (Laughter.)

I've had three out of four weeks off after the Masters, put a lot of time into the Masters, and then took a bit of time off afterwards, kind of geared up last minute into New Orleans, and actually was playing pretty well there, just had a tough finish to Friday that threw us off. I was frustrated with that and took that as means to really start to work hard last week. We didn't have great weather in Dallas last week. It stormed like three or four of the days of the week, so got kind of a bit of rest and work.

But coming in here, I kind of feel like I'm free-wheeling. I don't have a great history the last few years here, but I also have played the course really well before and had a chance to win. I love this place. I love the golf course. But if you're not on -- there's a lot of small areas, small areas to hit your tee shots, small areas to hit your second shots, and you've really got to think through the place and let it come to you. This is not a place to go out and try and force birdies, and I think that's kind of where I've gone the last few years that's got me in trouble. Kind of approach it from a more patient viewpoint this year.

Q. Given Rory's comments last week, I just wondered, do you rank the majors in importance? Do you see one a notch above the others? And also, where does THE PLAYERS come into the equation as far as the majors discussion is concerned?
JORDAN SPIETH: I have no idea what Rory said, so I'll just answer the question, I guess, separately. Do the majors rank above another? I think it kind of depends on the individual. I've always thought of the Masters as my favorite tournament in the world, and if you told me five years ago you can win one tournament for the rest of your life, what is it, and I would have chosen the Masters.

At this point in my career, I obviously have the PGA circled. I think it just kind of depends who it is and what's happened. At the beginning of each year, the Masters is still kind of the No. 1 to peak at with, obviously, in a Ryder Cup year, the PGA, the Ryder Cup, and then I have not won THE PLAYERS, and we look at this tournament up there in about equal value with the major championships. The only thing that holds it away from being a major is simply people jotting down how many majors people won. I mean, it is one of the toughest tests in golf with potentially the best field in golf. I think it is the best golf in all of golf. If you win here, you can win anywhere else. There is no added thing that any other tournament brings that this tournament doesn't have. Therefore, guys like Rickie, who kind of catches some slack for having not won a major yet, essentially he's won what's harder to win than a major: THE PLAYERS.

I think we look at it that way as a whole. I mean, I'm not speaking for everybody, but I think just based on conversations I've had, it seems to be the case.

Q. Next year when the tournament goes to March, it's going to be different grass, it's going to be bentgrass, and the wind is going to be a little bit different, more northeast than north wind. Are those conditions that you look forward to playing this course in since you've never seen it in that --
JORDAN SPIETH: At this point any change is probably a good thing for me.

Q. Or will it matter to you the time of year?
JORDAN SPIETH: Personally, I like this grass type better. I grew up on this, Bermuda, not the overseed, having to judge firmer, faster greens, and then the biggest change will be within the rough. Obviously around the greens, overseed becomes an easier grass to chip off of than this grainy Bermuda. But out of the rough, judging fliers and shots around the green, explosion shots, having that kind of feel, that goes away a little bit when overseed comes in. It becomes a little bit easier. I think the scores will potentially go lower with a change in grass type. Now, that's obviously dependent on condition outside, but given the same conditions, I think the scores will be a little bit lower with the tournament being moved up.

Whether that's good, bad for the tournament, that's for somebody else to decide, but for me personally, I like this grass type. Having said that, I haven't played the weekend the last few years. I'm okay with change, but I do love the course the way it is right now.

Q. We often talk about whether players are under the radar when Tiger Woods is in the field. It would be probably remiss to ask you that given the group you're in, but generally have the players felt when Tiger is there that the pressure is a little bit off them and they're not in the spotlight as much?
JORDAN SPIETH: Again, can't speak for the players, but I can speak for myself in saying, yeah, I noticed it significantly at the Masters this year. I felt like I was under the radar at the Masters for the first time in my career -- well, since 2014, my first one, and I think that was in large part due to Tiger being there, absolutely, and kind of the lead-up that he had into it, contending in tournaments and being in what looked like form, compared to the previous few years.

Yeah, I thought that that kind of maybe made it a little bit easier to just kind of go about my business.

Other tournaments, you know, there's only been a few that I've played in that he's been in this year, and it certainly adds a factor, but I could feel it big-time around the Masters.

Q. Because of your stature in the game, you're always going to be paired with great players, major championship winners. Do you get into who you're playing with this week in Justin and Rory? Does it matter to you? Do you have to be careful you're not getting into a case where you're just playing against the guys in your group and not paying attention to what else is going on in the tournament?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think sometimes that's the case. I don't feel like that'll be the way here at all. This tournament, again, if the scores -- if it's a tournament that yields a lot of low scores, sometimes you're pretty caught up in the guys in your group. But on a course where the scores can change so quickly, good or bad, you're very much -- I found myself very much focused on the golf course and not so much with the people around me until you get into Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and then you start to kind of feel around you and obviously make decisions based on where you stand.

But the first couple days, I don't think that'll be a factor here, especially given my recent history here. It's going to be pick a game plan and stick to it, and number one goal is to give ourselves -- get ourselves playing the weekend and then give ourselves a chance to win.

Q. You touched on it a few times there, but this seems to be a place where anything can happen both ways. We've had yourself who's been in the 60s and then scores in the 70s, Jason Day has a couple rounds in the 80s but he's won here, Justin Thomas had a 79 or whatever the other week but he's gone close. What is it about here that that volatility can happen?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think you have the work the ball both directions of the tee and into the greens in different wind conditions. You have to have true control of the golf ball tee to green into very small windows. So you have to stand up and you have to kind of pick these shots with full confidence and trust them. There's trouble on both sides of most every single hole. There's certain pins you have to miss them -- you just really have to think through this place. If you do miss it, you have to be in the right spots, otherwise you don't really have much of a chance of getting a par putt inside of 10 feet.

I just think, yeah, the areas are just smaller. The room for error is just smaller, and that makes it more difficult if you get off a little bit and you try and force anything. You just have to stick to, okay, I'm on No. 10, this is how this hole plays to this pin. I don't care if I'm 2-over and I need two birdies or if I'm 2-under and I need to play it safe, you still play the hole the same way to give yourself the best opportunity.

Sometimes -- obviously if you're on and you're rolling your putter well, then it won't make that much of a difference, but if you get a little bit off, you really need to stick to that game plan to keep yourself in it.

Q. With regard to Rickie, obviously you guys are buddies. Your paths have been a little bit different in that you picked off a major pretty early in your career. He's come so close in a number of them. For lack of a better word, do you root for him to kind of get that first one and get that off his back, so to speak?
JORDAN SPIETH: Absolutely. I feel like if we look back on these questions that are asked to myself and others of Rickie's peers, I think some day we'll laugh at them. That's how I feel. I think he's going to notch off -- he's ready to. He's certainly got the caliber. Again, he's won here. If you've won here, there's no other hurdle other than just getting over the constant questioning and that kind of burden.

But as far as you, the individual, your mentality on the golf course and ability to close, if you've done it here, you can do it anywhere, and he knows that, I have no doubt that we'll be chuckling at these conversations in the near future. And yes, I am obviously rooting for him if I'm not there myself.

Q. You referenced your record here obviously the last few years. Anything you chalk that up to? Is there anything you've maybe changed in approach from one year to the next or so forth?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think just being a little forceful. I think I get in -- a good example would be like on No. 1 out here, pin is front left. If you're not in the fairway you can't get anywhere near the hole. I'll miss it in the left rough and try and land it on that tier right next to the hole. I'll either short side myself in that bunker, and just kind of situations like that where, say the patience side I seemed to display at Augusta is, okay, I'm out of position, what's the plan to make my par and move on, and out here I just -- the last couple years, I just haven't had that patience. I haven't approached it like I approach the major championship caliber golf and this golf course and this tournament are major championship caliber, and therefore I kind of need to go in with a different game plan and mindset and stick to it when I'm on the golf course.

Q. How come?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure. I think the first year I played here, I almost won it, and so I just kind of assumed that it would come easy to me, and then each year I've just -- I went the first three rounds without making a bogey that year, and that's not necessarily realistic. I kind of looked at the last few years and just kind of came in thinking, oh, if I miss it in a tough spot I'll get up-and-down. Historically that's happened, but historically now that hasn't happened. I'm ready to kind of get back on that first-year path but doing it the right way. If I remember right, it was softer that year. It was rainier, so you could get away with more than you can. In the last few years it's gotten really baked out here, and it's going to continue to this week.

Q. You've always seemed to me to be very level-headed. Would your parents describe you as level-headed, and if not, what would they say you were?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably not. They'd probably call me -- what's the opposite of level-headed?

Q. Not level-headed.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, not level-headed. I think they'd say that I have improved in that category, but I can exaggerate here and there. That's kind of a personality trait of mine. Can be a little dramatic at times. But on the golf course, I've done a lot better job -- and it didn't always used to be that way, but I've done a better job into professional golf of displaying that, and I would owe that a lot to watching the first couple years intently at the guys I was playing against and seeing how they rebounded from mistakes and seeing what went wrong sometimes and seeing what went right and then trying to kind of create my own, okay, I obviously need to be fired up, I need to be upset when I make a mistake but not let it linger into another mistake.

You shouldn't be, oh, I hit that in the bunker, no big deal. I mean, you need to be upset at that for the competitiveness, and that's something I don't have to teach myself. I'll always be like that. But the rebound before the next shot I've gotten a lot better at.

Q. What was striking was you at the Open, the 13th and so on. That's an example of what you're talking about, and that's an example of what I say when I say you do seem in moments of crisis to be very level-headed, and that is what you're saying, too, is it?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes. I would say if I were in that position in 2013, '14, I think it would have been a different outcome. I think experiences have led me to be very -- remain level-headed and very thoughtful in that situation to make the best decision possible.

Q. You've spoken the second half of last year about playing with house money after you won the Open Championship, everything else was going to be a bonus because you had done that. Did you have to make a conscious effort to snap out of that mindset at the start of this year, and when you did, what became kind of key aspirations for 2018?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's kind of -- it's a good question. It's kind of something that I struggle with a little bit because I haven't won this year, and I've really -- haven't had a chance to win -- the Masters was the closest where I was obviously tied for the lead with Patrick having more holes, but that was the closest chance I've had and only real opportunity on a Sunday near the lead this year, which makes it kind of the toughest start that I've had in my career to a season, but also I was not at full strength for a lot of the season. So I'm struggling a little with how should I actually rate it and when do I reset goals and what should they be the rest of the season now, because from the beginning of the year, the idea is peak at the Masters. Everything leads into the Masters, get yourself in contention, try and get a win before Augusta. I didn't really do that. Sunday at Houston was a good opportunity that certainly helped the weekend at Augusta. But now it's -- I've kind of got to -- I don't feel like I'm playing with house money like I did after the Open. I feel like I have -- I want to prove to myself that 2018 can be a really good season, and I've got a lot of time to do so.

I've struggled a little this year with kind of rushing my thoughts into why aren't I playing -- if I look and just give myself a little bit of time and some leeway, that's been the best route in the past, so I'm trying to do that now. I've got a four-week stretch here now that I really enjoy. This is the only time I play four in a row in a season, and I like doing that. It's fun. I love being on the road and practicing and grinding and having a chance to play on the PGA TOUR, and to have these events, go home -- I've got an opportunity in these four weeks to have a lot of fun playing golf and potentially give myself a chance to win. That's what I'm looking forward to here.

Q. In Mexico you mentioned the lead-up to this year, the expectation. Looking back at the WGC in Mexico, what was your overall feel of your play and everything that was going on, and especially those two holes that you played with Lorena Ochoa?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, that was a tremendous honor, to play with her. She's such a credit to the game, and obviously a representation of somebody who's always done it right and has really represented her country incredibly well. I know everyone is extremely proud.

I've enjoyed going down to Mexico. It's been fun. I haven't gotten a hold of the poa annua greens there. They've been the reason to kind of inhibit any lower scores, but I've also shot some good rounds. It's a fun course to play. You're at altitude. The ball goes forever. It's a unique kind of tournament that we have.

Q. You were seven years old, I think, when Tiger won here the first time in 2001. It was obviously during his hot stretch. Phil was in here earlier saying, unless you played against him, you can't fully appreciate how good Tiger was back then. A, would you agree with that; and B, have you ever asked any of the veterans like Phil, what was Tiger like to play against back then?
JORDAN SPIETH: I agree with Bubba. Can't fully appreciate it. Have I asked -- I haven't even had to ask. People, in conversation with other people, players, with other players, it's come out dozens of times about how dominant he was, how good he was. I don't think I've ever posed the question. It's just come into conversation on a pretty regular basis, especially when you get into kind of the team events or dinners leading into it or whatever. Normally it's when Tiger is not there. Yeah.

Q. You got your home game next week; what's the scouting report on Trinity?
JORDAN SPIETH: It looks as good as I've seen it since -- and I've been going out there since before the greens were even sprigged. It looks really good. It's grown on me a lot over the past six months, and in the springtime, I think it's at its best. It's in his best condition that it can be now or the next month or two. I think the weather looks like it's going to really cooperate to give it a good first showing.

A lot of big grandstands. It's like an American links. You've kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course. So it's weird, it's unique. It's actually -- Birkdale was kind of the closest comparison I've found to a links course that you kind of have to attack from the air. You get maybe four or five, six holes where you can bounce the ball up, but the way to get balls close is to come in with a higher shot. That's not necessarily true links. I don't want to say that about Birkdale because of the history and everything, but it's just the way I've found to play it well is that route.

Q. What do you think Jim Furyk's strengths are going to be as a Ryder Cup captain, and how will he be different from Davis?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think Jim, his strengths are an amazing amount of composure, and I think he'll captain the way that he practices. It's very thorough, thoughtful, very deliberate, nothing forced or rushed, no time spent -- no time wasted. Everything really, really thought out.

How will he be different from Davis? I'm not sure. I'm not sure yet. We have a lot of similar people that are going to be around, and we had a great time in the last one. We're going to have a great time in this one.

They've both been actually playing quite a bit with us. Jim has been playing more on the PGA TOUR than Davis has. He's been around more of the tournaments with the players that will be on the team. So maybe -- but I think they'll both be -- Davis was fantastic. I think Jim will be, as well. But I think those will be the characteristics that he'll have as a captain that you'll see.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: Jordan, thanks for the time. Good luck this week.

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