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January 9, 2016

Jordan Spieth

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

JOHN BUSH: Like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room. 8-under par, 65 today, currently has a five shot lead going into the final round tomorrow. Jordan, another excellent round. Great finish there with eagle on 18. Just get some comments.

JORDAN SPIETH: Thank you. Yeah, it was a harder round today. I thought that 4- or 5-under was going to be a really good score starting the day out with that breeze picking it up and it being the Kona winds.

But then I looked at the board and apparently it wasn't. There was some great golf played today. I felt like I -- what I was most proud of today wasn't the birdies as much as it was when it didn't go my way, we managed to make pars on quite a few holes where I could have made worse. 1, 2, even 9, 8. That was a really good 4 on 8.

And then like 16 coming in. That kind of up-and-down on 15 and 16, both of those.

It just keeps momentum going of the if you hit a poor shot and get it up-and-down. I hit 52 degrees on 1 and 2 to get those ones up-and-down on two of the hardest holes today. Then I let the birdies kind of come to us. A lot of tap-ins and a couple longer putts.

JOHN BUSH: Let's go right into questions.

Q. You said looking at the leaderboard, did you see that Brooks had gotten to within one stroke and at that point you kind of answered. Do you sort of have that feeling out on the golf course?
JORDAN SPIETH: I saw that he was within two when I was on No. 9. When I was reading my long birdie putt. I saw that he still had a couple easy holes left so I figured he would go at least one more under. So I figured at that point he would be within one of my score at the time.

I was also aware that he had -- he was five or six holes ahead therefore, I still had that many holes to try and -- that many birdie chances considering each hole you kind of -- once you get to No. 9, you should have a pretty legitimate chance for birdie on the majority of the holes left.

So, Michael did a great job of keeping me patient. I started out the day with just kind of an off range session. I wasn't feeling great. I felt pretty good with my putter before the round. But swinging it, I just wasn't feeling like I was the last two days. I wasn't -- I hit a lot of straight balls the last two days. I was kind of bleeding it out to the right. So I was a little frustrated to start the round.

Then he really turned it around when I got off there on with the bad break on 8. And 8 through 11 was a tough stretch for me striking the ball. But we still played those holes 1-over when it could have been worse, I guess. We made up for it.

Q. We did the math yesterday. As far as I can tell, you're still on pace for Ernie's number. Does that come into play at all tomorrow if you're comfortably ahead, do you start thinking about 30, 31, 32 maybe?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it's a great goal to set to try and set something to shoot for versus trying to look at behind you at who is coming up.

Again, there's going to be a lot of birdies made before I even tee off. And in groups in front they're going to make birdies or eagles before we even get to those holes.

So, luckily between me Brooks and Patrick, we have separated ourselves. I think the next closest is at 14. It comes down to us three, I would say, knock on wood. But I'll have an idea considering we have now had some separation. But I think that shooting to try and get to what am I at, 24? Trying to get to 30 would be a fantastic number to set for tomorrow. That would be a place that I've never been. I want to say Tiger's event I maybe got to 26 two years ago, which is the best golf I've ever played to par. And I think shooting to try and get to 30 would be something that would be a fantastic goal and one that I should win the tournament if that happens. You never know with the way they're playing.

Q. For this quasi break in the season, your short game seemed particularly sharp today and I wonder if you could speak in general terms on that. And specifically why you threw the ball up in the air on 15, and if you can keep all this together, the difficulty of the chip on 16.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. I am a bit surprised at my chipping. Because I have an not put much time into my chipping whatsoever in the last month. So that's -- I put a good amount of time in this week, but typically I need more prep to feel through the ground prior to coming to a tournament. It's all part me, part I wanted to rest, whatever it is. I've been more focused on putting and swing than have I been chipping. It's been spectacular this week. I've been extremely pleased with it.

I've been around a hundred percent minus number 8 and 9 today, which neither one was a legitimate chance at an up-and-down, considering the lies and what I had. Yeah, a bit surprised.

15, I threw the ball up in the air because I got behind the green and if it were down grain and just sitting normal, I could have hit the 60 and landed it halfway on the fringe with a little check and ran it down. But it had sat down, sitting a little down in the grass and into the grain. So if I try and hit that lower one that just trundles down, it's very difficult to actually land that on the correct spot. And for me, I would have had to land it on an area about this wide (Indicating) which it's only eight feet in front of me, so you would think it's not too bad, but short or long of that spot, it's going to send it out of birdie range. If I -- I had the wind favoring me. It was almost a similar shot in a sense in my mind to Saturday at Augusta, thinking I could throw this up, if it carries onto the green there's enough wind to hold it from going too far. And if it lands just short, I've just got more room for error. If it lands just short it's still going to bound down and get, no matter what, within six feet. So I was -- I felt like it was actually the safer shot given the lie.

16 was a huge up-and-down. Poor decision on my third. I tried to force a lob wedge in versus just punching a sand wedge knowing that that is so severe right there. It's a four degree slope maybe, three and a half degree slope. The harder you hit a lob wedge the more it's going to spin. So that was just a bad decision.

It was a great 52 degree pitch up the ridge to leave it not only below the hole but without any stress. I told Michael walking off, that was a huge shot for me and let's go ahead and hit. Let's put four really solid swings on the ball the next two holes so we don't have to do anymore of this chipping. And I was a little -- I had a bit of it, I had -- so that was a really, really nice up-and-down that saved a lot of momentum and a lot of stress in my mind.

Q. Did you catch a break on 8?
JORDAN SPIETH: Did I catch a break? I caught a terrible break.

(Laughter.) I caught a break. It was a terrible break. The ball hit no more than six feet from the green and it hit in the bunker. You never think if it hits in the lip of a bunker it's going to go down through the bunker and out. And I guess there was a chance -- it never crossed my mind that it would be out of the bunker. And I practiced from that sand trap to that pin and it's not too bad. It's steep but you have room to fly it behind it. And when I struck the shot I thought it was all over the flag stick. So, I didn't think it was a poor swing at all. It just failed to hit the wind the way I thought and then it just came through -- it was almost clay up in the lip of that bunker, that's why it hit so firm. And it just bounded through and it sat kind of up against the other collar. I hit a 1 out of 10 shot on that flop shot to get it that close to the hole.

Q. Jordan, getting to No. 1 is one thing, but staying there is something else. Have you had any advice from Tiger or anyone else, even from another sport, on what it takes to stay there for the long haul?
JORDAN SPIETH: Not really. I think it would be wise to ask he or Rory or I mean, you could even ask Phil what it's like to stay at the level he's been at for so many years. I think it would be wise to ask more questions than I do. I haven't done much. I haven't received a whole lot of advice on staying there, other than keep on trying to win tournaments. I mean the more you win, the higher up in the rankings you're going to stay.

So, but if you're talking about how to control a lot of the noise on the outside and really stay disciplined and strive towards something else, I'm trying to figure some of that out on my own because everyone is different. But I do think there is something in asking someone like Tiger a lot of questions on how he's been able to do it.

Q. Is it a little bit like when you're leading a tournament by four you want to make it five or six or seven?
JORDAN SPIETH: Setting a new sort of standard or goal, I don't know, because I haven't kept -- I kept this ranking through I guess what, the TOUR Championship? Through the off season. But I lost it right after I got it in the first place.

So, yeah, I could see it being like that. But I don't know how the whole points system works. I don't know my average points, I don't look at it. So as far as setting an actual number goal on where you want to be in the rankings, I don't know that. But I'm sure there's some way to help try and strive a little bit more for it.

Q. Can you just walk us through that second shot on 18 and then follow up on the mentality, difference between a five shot lead and a three shot lead.
JORDAN SPIETH: It was the exact same shot I had on 17. Same yardage, I think my ball carried 224 adjusted on 17. And went to 232, is what Michael walked off.

And then on 18, I had 226 or something to the front, 236 hole adjusted. So it was the exact same -- I wanted to hit the exact same shot that I had just hit. And the hardest part about that shot is you need to stay aggressive with it, so you don't just way it out to the right. But there's a fine line in that being aggressive and being over aggressive and all of a sudden you've given yourself a tough chance to even make par, if you make the worst mistake. And you wouldn't think that's that hard for us to do, but that slope is so significant in the fairway. You're hitting the ball like this (Indicating) with a 3-iron, which now turns almost into a 1-iron. And that's what's so different. We don't normally see that shot with that kind of iron. It was -- I was fortunate I had the same exact shot on 17 with a very similar lie. I was able to get the one on 17 maybe a little more up in the air.

But on 18, you can work with it just -- I didn't have to hit it hard. I just tried to put a smooth swing and get a decent strike on it, I was more worried about the line. When it came off the club face, I hit it almost solid, I didn't smash it, I hit it maybe a groove low and a groove off the toe, which is perfect for that shot. Then in mid air I told Michael, Mike, that should be perfect. And ended up getting a nice -- at that point you just worry about the roll. It got great bounces.

Q. A follow-up, how different is the mentality on five versus three for you?
JORDAN SPIETH: It makes a very big difference. I asked Michael in the fairway before hitting the second shot, what did Brooks end up getting it to? Did he stay at 18 or get to 19. So I knew I was up three. So, in my mind, three and four is significant. So I didn't even think about eagle. I was thinking we need to really stay down and grind this one out for birdie, give ourselves the easiest chance for birdie we can.

Three and five, tomorrow I was looking at the forecast, it's next to nothing on the wind, so you got to expect Brooks, Patrick to shoot somewhere in the 7-under, 7, 8-under range. That's what I have to expect out of them tomorrow. And if that's the case, I've got to go out there and shoot in the 60s in order to win once again.

And to be honest, with the scoring we have done this week, it frustrates me that I have to shoot 4- to 6-under in order to win this tournament still. But that's just the level of golf that's been played.

The first round -- you compare the first round with today, the level of golf has just gone up significantly. In the first round it was no wind, one eight under, one sever under, the rest six. All of a sudden you bring a bunch of wind in, away from the way the course is designed to play, and you got a 10-under, you got 8-unders, you got 7-unders, I mean it's -- the game's that everyone has been stepped up almost just shutting off a bit of rust and you just got to think it's going to continue tomorrow.

Q. Along those lines, you played both winds this week. Is one more difficult than the other in your mind?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would have said today's would make the course play much harder. I would still stick to that. Yeah, I think that today's wind is the harder wind of the two. I don't think we're going to have much of any tomorrow.

But there's certain holes -- whenever you have a wind that goes away from the way the golf course plays it's just going to be a little awkward for you. You're going to hit -- I was used to almost driving No. 12, and I hit a pretty full 8-iron on the front edge of the green today.

Then you get to 13 and I've hit flip lob wedges in. So, other than a couple holes, I think it plays harder with today's wind than it does with the normal wind.

Q. Much like I guess a four-minute mile and maybe you look at the way the NFL's changed in the passing yards and they're out of control, etcetera, scoring has been coming down on TOUR for 20 or 30 --
JORDAN SPIETH: We're just better than the older guys.

Q. I think you're probably better than the older guys, for one thing. There is better and deeper talent and everything, what statistic or area of golf do you see that still relates to the '50s and '60s, if you were trying to measure?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably iron play is the most significant. I think with how much the balls changed, it's completely, it's made it much easier driving the ball with the way drivers and balls have changed. 3-wood, people hit 3-woods off the tee 300 yards now. And then wedge play you can control -- it's just a more consistent golf ball and more consistent wedges, you can control and pull off shots when you're short sided and stuff that you may not have been able to pull off in the past. I think that smoother, quicker, purer greens, just with improvements in technology to make that the case, it's just going to improve putting. As well as technology in putters. But I would say iron play is probably what stands to be the most similar. I never really thought about it, but in a quick thought, that's what comes to mind. You think of great ball strikers, the ball strikers -- think of like Hogan, Hogan wouldn't be too -- he wouldn't be too shabby in today's technology either. I mean it's -- he would probably be a better putter too.

Q. Are you having fun?
JORDAN SPIETH: I am. Yeah. Are you?

Q. Yeah.

Q. It seems like it's a fun course.
JORDAN SPIETH: It is. Yeah, it's beautiful. It's also fun to kind of watch Michael breathing heavy walking up-and-down these slopes. First one of the year, when he's been kind of sitting down the last few weeks. Yeah, we're having a good time. I mean, as much as a grind as every round is for us, and it's a beautiful place and it's one of the more stress-free environments for us. Yeah.

Q. Brooks today basically in his intro said, with a smile, that, after his 10-under, he knows what it feels like to be you. When guys say stuff like that, how does it kind of hit you? How does it make you feel?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, since Brooks said it, it makes me feel bad, because he was joking and making fun of me.


But I'll tell you what, with an equipment change, it's really impressive, first tournament week, that Brooks is doing what he's doing. It shows the caliber of player he is. It's a good Brooks Koepka golf course here. He hits it long, he hits it straight, he's good on Bermuda, and he's aggressive putting. You need to be that here. He's always been an aggressive putter and when the greens are just, they have sped up a little today, which was nice, and I'm pretty sure it fell right into his hands. To hear that, to answer your question, it's hard for me to answer. Again, I'm pretty sure he was just joking, Brooks has shot plenty of pretty fantastic rounds and kicked my butt plenty of times going back to college days, so he's going to bring it tomorrow, it's going to be fun. Patrick in front, you know Patrick doesn't want to finish third. He wants to move up. So it will be a good battle. I hope it's not, but I hope that everyone plays well. We just keep things going the way they have been.

Q. Obviously you know what a win means to you. But what do you think a win means to your opposition?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think each time you can close one out it's in -- each time someone's beaten me in a head to head in a close match, it's in my head that they have already done that. If I'm in contention with Bubba, I'll think about being the last time I was in contention with Bubba in the 2014 Masters. And part of you, I guess, if I win tomorrow, there's just a little extra on, when you're in contention again, people thinking, okay, he knows how to close, right? He can close the deal. And it just puts a little bit of more pressure to be more aggressive and have to do more than maybe you really have to do. That's -- when Tiger's in contention, why is his record so phenomenal? Well, sure, he played the best golf and he was the strongest mentally, but everyone else knew that he could do it and maybe tried to do a bit too much and then they're out of their own sync, out of their own game, because they don't think their own game has a chance, because it hasn't had a chance against him. I, in no way, shape, or form am I comparing where I'm at to what he's done, but I think that any time someone continues to win or close a deal, it just starts to put it in your head that. If I'm in contention with Rickie now, I know Rickie can close. If I'm in contention with Rickie last year, I think I have a huge advantage, if it's late last year before he's -- or after the Masters, before the PLAYERS, something like that. Guys who you know have pulled off shots and putts to win just seem like mentally they're just a little harder to beat.

Q. Would you be worried if you played Eddie DeVane?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably, if I was on the 18th with -- I would want to be 1-down on 18. So I would hit my driver instead of my hybrid.

Q. Do you have a target tomorrow?
JORDAN SPIETH: I want to get to 30-under. I think it would be really cool.

Q. Target to win. You would set that as your target?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would set that as my target.

Q. What was your target -- did you have a target at Isleworth? I thought you did, didn't you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure.

Q. You've never done something before.
JORDAN SPIETH: I've never gotten past 20 or something. Yeah. So I think I finished 26 at Isleworth. So it would be cool to beat there, but it would be really cool to get a 3 on the board as the first number. And the second. That's fine too. But I know what Ernie's record is, for me if I could get it to 30, that would be pretty awesome.

JOHN BUSH: All right, Jordan, appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

JORDAN SPIETH: Thanks a lot.

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