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May 6, 2015

Jordan Spieth


THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room. Jordan, thank you for joining us today. Last year you were playing in the final group here, finished T4 and in your PLAYERS debut. So tell us a little bit about being back here this time not as a first-timer but as a Major champion.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I feel great being back here. I always look forward to THE PLAYERS Championship. We all approach it as if it's a Major Championship. It's our championship. It's really cool and on such an incredible golf course, one of the best in the world, one of my favorite in the world. Last year, what a great experience, watching Martin hit some just unbelievable shots and putts, to finish out a huge win. Then, obviously, it led him to winning the U.S. Open. Had a great time in that final round. I learned a lot from Martin, I learned a lot about how kind of players on the TOUR are, because I was getting down on myself and when it started to kind of turn his way, he came up, put an arm around me and said, come on, man, you got this, let's make this a fight. And just having somebody say that in the heat of the moment just speaks to the PGA TOUR and the players, and it's a moment that I don't think I'll ever forget. It was something that was very special to me and certainly a role model, and that was something I can learn maybe going forward. He wanted a battle; he didn't care, he didn't want it given to him. The battle didn't really come from me at the end of that back nine, it came from Jim and others, but ultimately I'm really excited to be back here. This is such a fun week. Everyone has a great time. The crowds are spectacular, the people are great, and then obviously the setting on the last three holes make it special, even more special.

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with some questions, please.

Q. If there were one part of Rory's game that you could have, what would it be?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would like to hit it as far as he does.

Q. Anything else?
JORDAN SPIETH: I mean, shoot, he's got an incredible golf game, but if you asked me to pick one I would certainly say that I wanted to hit the ball as far as he does.

Q. There's been a lot of buzz the last week about Chambers Bay, and you've played it a few times. I was curious what you think of the course, and do you think you have an advantage having played it and having a caddie go out with you who knows it so well?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think having Michael know it so well is an advantage. I think when I played, I played it in the U.S. Amateur, I played a couple practice rounds, and I only played one stroke play round. The course was extremely difficult. I shot like 39-45 on it or 44 on it. The back nine was borderline unplayable for me at the time given the length and lack of spin and height that I hit the ball. But that's a U.S. Open venue. I went back and played it during Michael's wedding a year and a half ago. The changes had already been made to a few of the holes. I thought they were well done. I thought they were necessary and well done. I'm excited. It's such a beautiful place. Everyone's really going to enjoy the scenery. I'm not sure how the course is going to play, because I saw it when it was about as firm and as it could be and then they threw some water on the greens for match play and there were some more birdies made. But there were only maybe one or two birdies that were possible when I played it that second day. But I think -- I don't know exactly what to expect, but Michael has been out there walking it. He's been walking with caddies, he's been walking with a lot of people that know the course very well. He's already got a yardage book and marked some numbers down. So that's about as experienced as we can be over the field, I think. So I'm excited about it.

Q. Rory said the other day after he won that he felt like your win at Augusta motivated him a little bit. I wonder if you heard about that, what your reaction was to that, and can you, even though you're in the midst of it, appreciate any kind of budding rivalry, for lack of a better word, that you guys might have going forward here?
JORDAN SPIETH: I did hear about that. I just, I think I saw it on Twitter or something when I was scrolling through. I thought it was really cool. That's very, very cool that he thinks that. I think there's -- I think it's still early, especially with what he just did. What an incredible win and way to win when his back was against the wall on so many matches, to come through clutch and pull it out. That was awesome. I watched a good amount of the match play, too. As far as a rivalry goes, I mean he moved even further away from it really being what I would consider a budding rivalry right now. I could certainly appreciate if I could get to where he's at, but right now I don't see myself there. There's a lot of hard work that needs to be had to get there, and once I am there it's certainly a huge goal of mine to make it interesting with him and possibly take over No. 1, but I know that he is as far ahead of me as I am with the next nine guys, so I mean -- or the next eight guys. So with that being said, it's kind of anybody's game to get up there and make it interesting with him. I just happen to be the one that occupies No. 2 right now, but it's very close behind that, so I would like to spread myself out a little bit.

Q. Just interested over the last few weeks specifically on the golf course how you felt different as a Masters champion, has it affected the way you feel, the way you think, if you've noticed a change?
JORDAN SPIETH: On course and inside the ropes, it hasn't felt much different from any other week, which I think is really cool. Obviously off the course it's quite a bit different. The being pulled into different directions and learning to say no and you just can't please everybody. The sooner I realized that, the easier it's going to be for me to stick to my work. Obviously, the signings here and the people that want autographs, it just grows and grows, I think it's really cool. It's awesome to be able to sign stuff for kids. I did it when I was a kid, and that kind of helps grow the game. It helps -- I remember getting Adam Scott's signature when I was at the Byron Nelson. I still have it in the room at my parents' house. It's still hung up there. I thought it was so cool. He was my favorite player at the time. To be able to maybe give that opportunity to another kid and inspire them a little bit, I think that's awesome. But it is time demanding a lot and I'm trying to learn a new level of time management. So off the course, sure. In the ropes and when I'm practicing, it all feels about the same. So, if anything, I just feel a little more relaxed putting in tournament play because I saw putts go in that Sunday under high-pressure situations. So whenever little the nerves kick in a little bit, it's easier to draw on more and more makes than it is misses, so that certainly helps.

Q. Speaking of Rory, you talked a few years ago about he feels like he wouldn't have won that U.S. Open had he not gone through what he experienced at Augusta that year when he shot 80. I'm curious if you've had any similar experience, whether it was here last year, what you maybe took out of it or any experience elsewhere that maybe sort of helped you along a similar vein.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think the near win in 2014 at the Masters and here both. This year at the Masters when I was in the lead after two rounds, I was able to look back and say, I got a little bit, just the slightest bit ahead of myself, towards the top of the leaderboard at the Masters the year before and even at THE PLAYERS. And you need to almost just completely regroup, pretend it's a new tournament and beat the field from here on in, try and have the lowest round each day. And it was so slight, because I did a really good job in 2014 of not getting ahead of myself, but there was still that slightest bit of I didn't have enough experience to really not let my mind wander, if that makes sense, during that round. It was just the slightest bit, but it was enough to where a great champion like Bubba will take advantage of it. This year I had two Major champions, one who's won -- how much has Phil won? Six Majors? Right there behind. And I couldn't let the slightest bit, even with the four-shot lead, couldn't let that creep in, or else they were going to pounce on it. They were going to take advantage of it. That's what they do. So I did a really, really good job of trying to shoot the lowest round that day, setting a new goal, keeping my head down, not thinking about anything that's happened in the past couple days. And that certainly was a difference maker. So I don't think without the experience in 2014 I would have been able to close the tournament out the way that it was closed out this year. Same way as Rory did, I guess, but his was a little more of a fall and even a bigger win. Mine was somewhere halfway in between.

Q. Following up on that, can you draw some parallels between contending at the Masters last year and then coming back this year and then contending here last year and what you can do this week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I certainly hope so. Yeah, having -- I don't know if I could, I don't know if it's going to be the same type of scenario, because it -- last year at THE PLAYERS I was probably more upset than I was after 2014 at the Masters. I felt like I had some experience and still got a little down on myself, a little negative and wasn't able to pick myself up. So this one hurt more, I think. I can now look at the way that the Masters went last year, I can certainly come into this week looking back on last year's PLAYERS, but to be honest, it's easier for me just to look back on this year's Masters for this week and take that kind of confidence, versus revenge off of last year. It worked at Augusta looking back at the near misses, but at Augusta I was also looking back at the recent wins, more so probably than anything, to bring confidence on to the greens there. Here, it's very much a ball-striking-type golf course. It's a shot-maker's course. It's actually similar to Augusta. The lies aren't as uneven, but the rough's certainly more challenging here, because there isn't any at Augusta. I think I'll be looking back at this year's Masters to try and draw confidence from than I will trying to get anything back at this point from last year. That's what winning that tournament kind of has done for me.

Q. A two-part trophy question: As an amateur, was there a trophy that you really wanted to win, maybe not because of the prestige but because of what it looked like? And are there trophies, have you ever tried to get a trophy home as a carry-on or in your checked luggage and had any disasters? I'm thinking that Tiger trophy must not have been easy to transport.
JORDAN SPIETH: No. When I was a junior golfer I always wanted to win the U.S. Junior. It was the biggest, it was the baddest, it was a huge bowl. It was massive. Plus it was what we all would consider the biggest junior event, but also -- whoops. (Phone ringing.) AT&T service is too good. (Laughter.)

Q. Nicely played, Jordan. (Laughter.)
JORDAN SPIETH: It was also the one that was most recognized outside of just the junior golf community, because it then gave you U.S. Amateur exemption, it gave you -- the U.S. Junior is the reason I also got my first exemption into the Byron Nelson when I was 16, my first U.S. Junior. So that was the one then. I haven't really had any tricky scenarios. Most of the trophies have come later on. I haven't really traveled with any of them. They have all been shipped. And I haven't -- other than obviously the Green Jacket. So, that one came with me and didn't leave my side until this little stretch of a couple weeks. It's at home right now.

Q. The initial thing as a parent, this is AT&T related, texting and driving has become an epidemic out there, and anybody who knows this, as the parent of a daughter, one of the coolest things I saw you immediately did a commercial and I hope that you can make it cool to put your phone away when you drive. I think that's a very important thing and I want to thank you for doing that.

Q. Your game reminds me of, as you would approach driving, in other words, you're always looking forward; it's got conditions, you hit shots instead of playing swing. A course like this would seem to suit that very well. Do you think that you would have a very good chance coming this year because kind of that's how the way you play golf? Does that make sense?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think this course is interesting because the way the holes shape, you normally need one shape off the tee and then the next shot calls for the other shape. And sometimes off of the slope that wants you to hit it the opposite way. So it certainly there is some imagination involved. I think that's advantageous for me, yes. I think that there's a lot of great feel players, I'm a feel player, I'm not a range rat-type player. But at the same time I'll spend plenty of time on the range if I need to work on something, which I do right now, which I'll do today, but I think it's definitely an advantage. I love this grass, too. I love this Bermuda, grainy Bermuda. It's what I grew up on. I think it's also an advantage for me. But at the same time, having said all that, it doesn't matter until you get out there. You get started, and you try and get into a rhythm. You could -- I think that the course plays well for me if I'm on my game, but if I go out there and I'm struggling with a certain ball flight, then it's going to eat you up out here. You really do have to have control of both of them.

Q. Kind of similar question, you obviously like the course, not everyone's a fan of it because of some of the looks you get here. But what do you really like about it, and are there any courses that really don't fit your eye that you don't like?
JORDAN SPIETH: What I really like about it, what I like most about it, is that the finishing holes are a stadium. You think about them, the last three holes, throughout the round, and it requires you to hit really good golf shots. If you do, you can easily play them under par. I think that's really cool, because there's so much trouble around it if you're not mentally strong at that time. But if you are, you can take advantage of those opportunities. I mean you got a reachable par-5 that you can still get up-and-down from a lot of places around that green for birdie. And then have you a wedge or short iron into 17 where if you judge the wind correctly, you should be able to have a decent look at birdie. And then 18 you just want to make par. But I love that kind of finish to a golf tournament where it requires you to stand up there and pick a tight line and completely focus on it and not let your mind wander anywhere else. I think that's really interesting. I think that not a lot of courses have that. I wouldn't speak to any courses that I don't like. For the most part I enjoy certain characteristics of every course we play. Some I -- most golf courses I like and some I think are great, and I think this one's one of the great ones.

Q. Are there any that you -- you don't have to name them, but are there any that you don't like? It seems like you'll play anywhere. I guess that's what I'm trying to get at.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, not that I can think of right now. I think if you made something 8,000 yards I might not like it, but other than that, I enjoy courses where you need an imagination.

Q. You were saying you were disappointed you weren't able to give Martin the battle he wanted. I just wonder if you get a sense of how excited people are to see you and Rory going head to head here and how much more prepared are you to give Rory that battle?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm very excited about the pairing for Rory and Jason. I've really, really enjoyed my time playing with both of them. I've been paired with them first couple rounds quite a few times, and in other rounds, too. I really haven't battled it out on the weekend with either one of them. Two obviously extremely accomplished players and guys I look up to, couple of the nicest guys out here. Yeah, I mean it's going to be a really, really cool scene out there with -- I think Tiger and Phil are in the other wave. I may be wrong. So, I think that maybe some of the crowds they attract are going to come then and watch us in the other wave. So it's going to be pretty wild out there. I think we're all going to embrace it and have a good time with it. This is the first two rounds of a golf tournament. Obviously every shot is as important as the next and as important as the ones that are late on Sunday. But at the same time the first two rounds is about getting yourself in position. So, I wouldn't look much into any kind of rivalry that we may be trying to have in the first few rounds with all three of us, because we're trying to get ourselves just into position to win. And I really hope that all three of us can be there on the weekend and make it a really, really fun battle and then require some great shots closing in on those last three holes.

Q. If you are able to separate yourself like you hope, do you think rivalries are good for the game? You mentioned Tiger and Phil.

Q. Do you think that's something that could be really good for the game and does the Ryder Cup element, the fact that you guys could be doing that for years, too, do you think that even plays into it a little bit intensity-wise?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think they are good for the game. I think -- I think that healthy, respectful rivalries, which is all that I see possibly going forward, no matter who the rivalry is between, that's how it was with Tiger and Phil and it was interesting because they were same Ryder Cup team and I don't think they were really paired together much. But I think, yeah, I mean hypothetically if I were to have worked my way up to where closer to where he's at in the world rankings and maybe create separation, I think that would be really, really cool. Doesn't mean that it's going to be me or him at each event, because the way this game goes and how many great players there are, anybody in this field can easily come out and win this week. But hypothetically I think it would be good for the game and I think it would be pretty interesting for the Ryder Cup, as well, because there's a lot of really, really good young Americans and a lot of really good young Europeans. So it's in good hands going pretty far down the road right now. I think that there's no emphasis on it being top heavy. I think it's going to be really special throughout the entire team on both teams.

Q. Can you comment on what it means to be in beast mode and what it feels like to you to be in beast mode?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would call that maybe the zone. And in a non-NFL term, I would call it the zone. When you get into the zone, everything feels right; you may not be striking every shot on the middle of the face, but it doesn't matter because it's coming out straight. You're hitting your lines, the hole keeps looking bigger on the green, and mainly for me when it's a zone, it's more putting than anything. I was in the zone the second round last week against Matt Every. I wasn't striking the ball great, but every putt was finding the middle of the hole. You just kind of -- everything seems simpler. You don't really see anything else around you. All you see is that line, you see your high point, you see where it's going to roll over en route to going in. It's something that we all try and get it to each round, but it can only happen every once in a while and it's fun when it happens, because you don't really know what score you're at in the round. I think the first round at Augusta this year was certainly a zone moment until I woke up there on 15 and made a bogey. But that was one where I was really just in a good rhythm, hitting the right shots, the smart shots, and making a lot of putts.

Q. So what is your favorite hole at the TPC Sawgrass, the reason why, and tactics, please.
JORDAN SPIETH: My favorite hole at TPC Sawgrass. Probably 16. Yeah. I mean cliché to say 17, but I would say probably 16. I enjoy 16. I think it's cool because the more you gamble, the more it can pay off. There's a speed slot down the left side of the fairway where you can get up and hit an iron in. But even if you don't, if you play kind of a smarter shot to the right center, normally you have a hybrid in, but the ball's above your feet with water right, and obviously left isn't great. You just have to hit a great shot on to that green. But because of the way the fairway is sloped, I think it's a really good hole for an approach shot. I think it's really cool. The green is receptive enough and big enough to where it will hold a really good solid long iron or hybrid, and you can make eagle and you can make bogey there, and I think I really enjoy those types of holes.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Jordan, thank you so much for your time and good luck.

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