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May 18, 2021

Jordan Spieth

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

We are very pleased to be joined by three-time major champion Jordan Spieth. Welcome to what is your ninth career PGA Championship.

I believe you have just been alerted as to your pairing for tomorrow. You'll be with Webb Simpson and Will Zalatoris. Thoughts on playing with those two and I'm curious when you became aware of Will and I know you're from around the same area in Dallas.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I was paired with Will last week and we play at least a couple times a week together at home and in games and stuff like that. Good pairing. If you asked me what's the best pairing you can get, for me I'd say Webb Simpson. I love playing with Webb; always have. It's been a while, so yeah, very excited about that.

I've known Will since he was probably nine or ten, played junior tournaments and then into high school and stuff like that. He and Scottie Scheffler being the two around that age in Dallas kind of figured eventually whenever that would be would be out here and successful.

To no surprise we're seeing that out of both of them, which is awesome. It's fun to watch. It's always cool, like I've mentioned a lot of times in these interview rooms when I've talked about our class of 2011 in high school. It's really cool to grow up with somebody and kind of watch our everyone's path is a little bit different and then they get out here and watch the confidence grow and grow, and you can obviously see that with Will and Scottie and a number of the young guys.

Q. Realizing that you never get to where you want to go in the game, if you look back over the last, say, six months, what do you consider the single biggest turning point in getting your game turned around?

JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure if there was a single turning point. I think it was kind of a progression of finding some feels that allowed me to stand comfortably over the ball and hit a shot under pressure, and then doing that for multiple days in a row and then having that happen a couple tournaments in a row.

So it was back to that Phoenix-Pebble time frame where I kind of thought, Man, I know it's not where I want it to be, but it doesn't need to be for me to at least tap in to how to contend out here.

I think it was kind of that two-week time frame that was really big for me.

Q. I'm curious what it's been like getting ready for a major a month after the Masters, and also what the challenges are knowing you have two more in succession. How has been different or challenging for you?

JORDAN SPIETH: I mean, I like it. I like the idea of them playing each month. I've done a very poor job of getting ready for this one. I got COVID and was out 20, 21 days without practicing, and then came back for a week kind of slowly and then played last week.

I feel better about where I am now than I was a month ago sitting on a couch, but to answer your question about the timing, the quick timing of it, I personally like it, because if you're working to peak for Augusta and you're in form there, you're just trying to fine tune things through the rest of that major season, and a lot of times it stays that way.

If you're betting on yourself, you like them closer together, and then you just go out and perform. They all obviously play very different from each other, all four majors, with this one and the U.S. Open being probably most similar, but can still be massively different depending on which course -- like this year they'll be so different, the way they play. But a lot of times they're just big, long golf courses with heavy rough.

So yeah, I like it the way it is with the major schedule now for sure.

Q. Your colleagues, would most of them have the same opinion as you?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, and I think maybe because it just opens up a lot of different golf courses if you're playing this in May versus August. You kind of have to stay up north. I think we'll see as we move on the next 10, 15 years where this tournament is going to go. I think you're able to come to -- I mean, this place in August, I know they did it in 2012, but I just feel like you get a different variety of a golf course.

You could have opposite direction winds. You see almost multiple different golf courses within one, and you could also have the ability to go to Texas like they're going to, which for me that's awesome.

If you poll all the players, I would think they would be happy about the way it is and the idea that we then can finish our season in August, not compete with football, and then create a little bit of an off-season for ourselves.

Q. In general what do you think of this golf course, as well as Pete Dye golf courses?

JORDAN SPIETH: I haven't played a hole yet, so yeah, I'll let you know. We had some weather issues in Dallas and then got in a little later than expected.

From what I've heard you've kind of got to get some good lines off the tees. The areas to hit them aren't extremely narrow, but controlling your tee shots in the wind with kind of some awkward-looking tee shots like hitting towards a tree when the fairway looks like it's somewhere else. That's kind of the gist of what I've heard off the tee.

And then a lot of it being a second-shot golf course, having to really control your distances from 160 to 220 in the wind and being able to hit as many greens as possible with this paspalum. I think getting on to those greens in regulation is going to be very important this week, and inevitably windy conditions being on the water.

Q. Do you like Pete Dye courses?

JORDAN SPIETH: I do. I really like Pete Dye golf courses. I don't think I've fared extremely well on them because they have to be played with such patience. When it's a major, I feel like I do a better job of that in general, just kind of getting into the tournament at a more patient level.

You don't really see guys start out shooting 63 like last week. I think I just find a better way of being patient. That's been kind of my -- just the imagination you have to have around the greens, the tough spots you can get to and the variety of shots that need to be played from there. Yeah, I think, again, you just have to really -- on Pete Dye golf courses you've just got to wait for your distances.

You think something is a good look, but then if you miss it by a couple yards the wrong side you're really in trouble. He does a good job of kind of making you kind of think you're in the A spot and then all of a sudden you just barely miss it and you end up in a tough location and make par.

This week I think it'll be more about hitting middle of greens and then taking advantage of par-5s.

Q. You say you haven't played it yet, but you hear coming in how difficult this place is going to play, the winds here, the longest track in major championship history. How do you prepare for that mentally? Do you think players can kind of psych themselves out before they ever get going on a Thursday?

JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure. I can't speak to other players, but for myself, length -- I haven't looked at the length of a golf course since junior golf. For us -- things change. The wind will make 515-yard holes play driver, 9-iron, just if it's downwind and it gets firm.

I've heard the back nine stretches to almost 4,000 yards, and then today Matt Jones came to the range and he said -- he just kind of let out a sigh. He was like, Man, 14 through 18 was all you want today. So I know obviously taking advantage of the downwind holes and hanging on for dear life into the wind out here, the holes will play obviously much longer when you turn into the breeze and then much shorter downwind, more so than other golf courses when they can get firm and fast and the ball is going to chase out.

I think picking clubs off tees, picking lines off tees, are going to be important, and I would have liked to have seen the golf course a few times. It just wasn't a possibility this year for me. Going to need to do a lot of good work the next two days.

Q. You mentioned about trying to peak at majors. How much is the Career Grand Slam on your mind this week?

JORDAN SPIETH: It's not. It's not. I think as we get into the weekend, if I'm able to work my way into contention, I think it's something that'll obviously be asked and come up, and it's something that I certainly want. You go to a major, and for me at this point, I want to win the Masters as badly as I ever have this year. Didn't happen.

I want to win this one as badly as I ever have. Once you move on to the U.S. Open, the same.

Majors are -- yeah, again, like you mentioned, that's what we're trying to peak for those. I feel like I'll have a lot of chances at this tournament, and if I just focus on trying to take advantage of this golf course, play it the best I can and kind of stay in the same form tree to green I've been in, all I can ask for is a chance.

Q. You mentioned not playing for a little bit while you recovered. How much did stamina play into the weekend that you had or the Sunday that you had and then how much do you think it'll play in this week with such a long golf course?

JORDAN SPIETH: I think it was the sideways driving rain and 20 mile-an-hour winds that played into my Sunday. I just didn't take advantage of the first eight holes like K.H. did, but in those last few groups there weren't a lot of extremely low scores other than his.

So I think that was more of it than anything else. But it was a long week for sure, especially first week back. I was a bit tired, but yesterday came out and just had an hour and a half, two-hour light session just to kind of get the body moving, and I feel good today, so it shouldn't be any issue.

Q. I would assume you don't read a lot of stories about yourself; is that correct?

JORDAN SPIETH: That's correct.

Q. In the last couple years can you get an idea of what's being said about you based on the questions you get asked?

JORDAN SPIETH: No. An idea of what's being said about me? Oh, based on being in an interview? Sure, but unless anyone has been in a similar position, I don't really take it to mean a whole lot, because obviously if you study the game, you study players, but the people that I ask and rely on and talk to and vent to are the people that have at least had relatable situations and therefore can -- instead of being so high on the highs and so low on the lows, it's just a steady voice has kind of been helpful for me.

Q. I'm not sure I understood the highs and the lows.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I feel like in general, media --

Q. Exaggerated?

JORDAN SPIETH: It's very exaggerated on both ends that I've seen. For me I've seen personally on both sides when it's just so temporary. It's like, what have you done the last couple weeks. It's -- I have one good Saturday in Phoenix and they're like, Oh, so you're back. It's like, I shot one good round. This is a thing I want to do for 20 years is play consistent golf, and in that, yeah, I've had some pretty high ups and some pretty low lows for my age, but it's just part of the learning curve, I think.

So I imagine it's just been exaggerated on both ends, so there's no use in getting caught up in it.

Q. Secondly, during some of the struggle stretches, if you will, how much unsolicited advice did you get?

JORDAN SPIETH: I mean, I'm not very good at responding to texts. I'm not very good -- I've kind of not exposed myself to reading anything that would come up about myself, so very little. I think the weirdest part is just when you're out and about at a golf course or even at like a restaurant and someone is like, Hey, you know, hope you figure it out or something like that.

I'm like, Okay. It's golf. So you've just got to kind of brush and laugh it off and stick to your game plan and believe in yourself, bet on yourself. I've always done that, and I feel like that's paid off pretty well to this point, and if any next eight years are like my last eight years, I'd certainly sign up for that.

Q. Speaking of that, how much do you feel like the player you were when you were at your best, and is that even a fair measure? Is that what you measure yourself by, or is it something different?

JORDAN SPIETH: I'm kind of at this point measuring myself off feels and freedom, playing golf from a position of where I feel comfortable stepping over this shot. I'm embracing this long iron into a green under pressure versus, oh, shoot, where is this thing going to go.

I think that's more, versus like actually drawing back on results from previous years, because to be honest people always look at 2015. I was actually a better player in 2017, but everyone just looks at results. I had a lower scoring average. I was better tee to green. I was a better player. I just happened to -- DJ wins in a playoff or I'd have had another win there.

Just the timing of when it happened didn't lead to the amount of results like a couple more wins and another major in '15. So it's just it's more like playing with freedom for me regardless of results because I know if I'm playing with freedom that I have the confidence level and the skill set to be able to compete in the biggest tournaments. That's where I can drawback on previous times.

Q. I think in Greensboro last year you talked about making yourself hit shots you weren't comfortable with. Have you gotten to the point now where you're more comfortable doing that? Was that part of what you had to do?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, certainly holes here or there where I played them poorly there's scar tissue, and stepping up and embracing those, whether it works out or not, is a big -- that's part of Doug's first question on where's the moment where it's like -- it's really those moments where you step up, you're like, All right, this shot I hit out of bounds last year and I'm uncomfortable and nervous over it, but I know what to do to make sure that doesn't happen, and then you stripe a couple of them and you almost forget about the bad ones, you just drawback on the previous ones.

Q. I know you haven't played the golf course yet, but are you showing up this week with 14 clubs, or do you have a bunch of options that you might put in depending on the day and the wind direction and how certain tees are set up?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I'm showing up with 14. I got on the range and actually asked J.J. from Titleist if he could build a 3- or 2-iron that we could look at this afternoon.

And then after hitting my hybrid and talking to a couple of guys, you know, we're straight into the wind, and the question would be can I keep my hybrid down, compressed and low enough, and I got comfortable with that shot there, and so I don't think that's going to change, because I think the hybrid can be very beneficial out of the rough, from what I hear.

I'm likely not changing anything in the back. The only thing I ever do change is a driving iron versus a hybrid, and it's typically when you're using it off of tees like at the Open Championship quite a bit.

I don't think it's going to change, but I'll get out there and check it out, I guess.

Q. You talked about scar tissue. How much scar tissue did you have up until 2015 and how much did you gain after 2015 to now?

JORDAN SPIETH: Again, 2017 was a better year than 2015, so I think that would be the point after that when it started to potentially have -- where I kind of got off.

I would say none. Every year I got better than the previous one until -- '16 wasn't quite as good as '15, but it was still a really good year. Should have won the Masters and won a couple times and had a good Ryder Cup, that kind of stuff.

And then '17 was, again, even better -- probably the best overall golf that I ever played for a year.

Yeah, so there was really not, and then there was quite a bit. I think if anything it can only make me a better player going forward.

I know what I did well and what were weapons for me in the past that I didn't know. I just kind of just played. But when I got under pressure I got into tendencies and didn't really know why, and it's hard to explain to like your coach because you're just seeing the reaction and the ball flight, but you don't know why it maybe felt different during the swing.

Now I kind of am starting to figure out that situation. I'm still quite a bit a ways away from where I want to be in my golf swing and in the performance and in the feels, but it's getting closer, and the closer it gets, the more I'm able to trust those shots I'm talking about and the more it not only gets rid of the scar tissue, but can actually kind of prove advantageous under pressure.

I hit -- for how I kind of felt over the ball under pressure in San Antonio, I hit some of the better tee shots under pressure that I've ever hit just by knowing my game a little better and being able to compensate for those kind of tendencies that I have.

Ideally that just gets better and better.

Q. Is the ultimate goal eventually to not have any of that scar tissue remaining?

JORDAN SPIETH: No, I mean, I think it shapes kind of who I am. I've proven to be very human. It's kind of fun. When I'm on, when I've been on in the past, I've won tournaments by eight shots out here, and that's obviously the goal.

But kind of the ability to kind of shun off a bad shot and come back the next hole and make a long putt or something like that, just the grind, is enjoyable when you're kind of on the positive momentum side of it.

I don't think it's getting rid of it. I think in general you're -- if anything, I step up confidently and appreciate kind of where I've been, and it just makes me even more excited to kind of embrace those shots and pull them off, and that's an even bigger confidence boost than if I just didn't have it at all, I guess.

I haven't really thought about it that way.

Q. Where would you have been the last time this was at Kiawah? Were you in school?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I was in college.

Q. It was August.

JORDAN SPIETH: It would have been right before the U.S. Amateur, and I thought I was going to turn pro right after and then I ended up going back to school for another semester.

Q. Does that feel like a long time ago?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it does. I remember watching a little bit of it, but I don't remember much about the golf course because Rory -- it wasn't like great television to watch at the end, right, which is the best case for the player, but it was pretty easy for him on the last hole, I'm sure.

Yeah, I don't remember much of the golf course, but I remember it being played and Rory winning and I remember the last putt and his reaction.

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