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March 30, 2016

Jordan Spieth

Humble, Texas

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Jordan Spieth into the interview room. He's making his fourth start at the Shell Houston Open. And Jordan, first of all, let's look back at last year and really in between your wins at Valspar and also at Masters was two runner-up finishes to keep that momentum going. Just take us back through 2015.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. It was a fantastic week here. San Antonio I played great golf. I was into nice wave, 7 stroke difference in the wave. I was on the good end of it in San Antonio. Jimmy outplayed me in the end. I thought I played a really strong Sunday as well, at least the back-9, and came into Houston with momentum and on a golf course that's I think very much suited for bombers. Was able to come in and really play well and get to I think 16 under and work my way into a playoff there.

What I remembered most about it was the putt I made to get in a playoff, which I had to be really aggressive with, the putt that slid outside left edge that when it's to get into a playoff it's really a lot of times a hard putt to make than if it's to win a tournament.

That was a nice putt to have to hit going into a Major, too. It was a nice one to see go in on the left to righter, which you know, served me well and kind of staying through on my stroke at Augusta on the left to righters that I had on 15, 16 that were the crucial putts on that Sunday.

Yeah, I drew a lot on this week last year when I was at the Masters and certainly kept the momentum alive, tried to just maintain the practice, save my legs, and it led to coming out on top that week.

I'm looking for something similar this week. I'd like to -- a win here would be obviously the goal to get as much momentum as possible.

Q. Jordan, this is hypothetical but if you had won in that playoff last year here, how would that have changed the next seven days? Would you have been as hungry, would you have been as motivated going into Augusta?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably, just off of 2014 at the Masters and the fact that the Masters is the Masters. I would imagine it wouldn't have changed much. I felt like I hit good shots down the stretch and in the playoff. I hit a really good drive that just kept on drifting and ended up just creeping over that hill to stay on the hill. But it wasn't a scared shot, and I could take that with me even though I wasn't the one with the trophy. I don't think it made a whole lot of difference. Masters week I think I still would have been just as motivated. It's a hypothetical. Who knows?

Q. Jordan, Emmitt Smith is taking credit for your success. He played with you here before you took off, and guys who play with him generally take off and you took off. What do you think about that?
JORDAN SPIETH: There's a lot of people don't realize I played golf before last year (laughter). Emmitt is not one of them. That was two years ago. I ended up missing the cut here I think two years ago but went on to runner up at the Masters, which was a very solid week at a Major.

It's really cool. I mean I had a great day today. We played with Secretary Baker, we played with Mr. Penske, played with Mr. Odum, who is now you say retiring, but brilliant guys like him are going to find a way to make another company or somebody better in the future. He's just a brilliant man and a very, very nice guy who has supported this tournament for a long time.

I was very fortunate today, and obviously we had Emmitt, who I looked up to since I was really young. He's a Dallas hero and really a football hero and a class act and a role model for all of us. It was a great group. We had a fun time.

JOHN BUSH: Talk about Secretary Baker's putting stroke.

JORDAN SPIETH: He's 86, I think, and boy, he was teaching me a few things on the green. It was good stuff (laughter). He played nine holes with us. He said on the ninth tee, he said, "you know, I really enjoy playing with you today." I said, "what do you mean?" He said, "I'm going to finish after nine. I'm 86. I got offered a cart, but I think I'm going rest." I said, "I just thought were you getting warmed up." He wasn't letting up. It was sideways rain at 7:00 a.m. this morning. We were still able to have a great time and guys could have been frustrated.

Q. Jordan, you talked about of course wanting to win this week. How excited are you for the week before the Masters? Anything you notice about going back to Augusta, what would that be?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I'm extremely excited it. The Masters is within ten days away. Just saying that makes you just want to go out and do pushups or something, just like it makes you really, really excited.

The focus right now is on this week because there's a lot I need to do this week to better prepare for the Masters and feel that I have the confidence to win. Or at least kind of take it to another level. I felt like I played great golf last week. I felt like I played better than ninth place golf. It's just Match Play, so I just want to get off to a good start this week, feel like I hit a lot of solid shots on my lines; that I have great control over my short game and speed control on my putting.

But anything that I'm nervous about next week, not that I can think of right now. Game felt like it was in good shape last week. I just need a little more consistency.

Q. What about things about the Champions Dinner?
JORDAN SPIETH: That's what would be the most nerve-racking thing right now, which is a pretty good thing if that's the most nerve-racking next week. There's a lot of great Major champions what I considered yesterday. Angel considered it his favorite. I'm really looking forward to that Tuesday night.

Q. Jordan, kind of piggybacking on what Bernie said, in this press conference last year you, talked about trying to trim the fat before going into Augusta. Do you have a similar game plan this week with the Masters on deck? And also how would you rate your confidence this week versus where you were at this event a year ago?
JORDAN SPIETH: I need to do a little bit more than just trimming the fat. Last year my consistency was there. We had just won and finished runner up, coming in here, you know, off of better finishes than I am this year. I feel like -- I feel like I would be a better player if I were in contention next week than I was last year, and even this week, having the success from last year and also the failures. We had both last year.

Just those experiences I think make me an overall better mental player under tough conditions or nerve-racking conditions. And so I think this week, yeah, it is trimming the fat. Everything is there. I was working with Cameron Monday and Tuesday. Everything is exactly where it was last year. It's right where we want it to be going into the Masters. It's just a matter now of hitting nerve-racking shots and putts before that week, which means I got to get myself into contention this week.

Q. Jordan, you certainly earned the right to celebrate next week prior to the start and during the event. Are there a couple of things you have to guard against going in as the defending champion?
JORDAN SPIETH: I won't be celebrating whatsoever next week. The Champions Dinner will be a great honor. I won't consider it a celebration. That week is solely about 2016 Masters to me.

It's the first of four Majors this year that is our ultimate focus and what we plan to peak around every single year.

We had a correct formula last year. I think that we can just kind of use that again, and I don't think I have to guard against much because I don't think it will feel much different. Might just feel a little bit more comfortable possibly, but who knows. I'll let you know when I'm there.

Q. Jordan, just reflecting on your year as Masters champion, is there one aspect that has surprised you? Which is the aspect that's surprised you the most?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think I took a little bit for granted having the green jacket in my possession. You know, I really took advantage of it to start and then I just kind -- it was in my closet for the longest of times. I really want it again so I can take it more. Not necessarily wear it more. I would always obviously go in and look at it and it was always there, but I feel like I could do more with it. I feel like I could take advantage of it a little bit more. But, yeah, I mean what a year it's been since last year's Masters, and wearing the title as the current Masters champion is something that when it eventually goes away, hopefully it waits a few years, but if it eventually goes away, it's going to be something that won't be as fun.

Q. Does that give you an extra motivation, you know, you want to keep that feeling?
JORDAN SPIETH: Sure, hundred percent. Yeah. I think if nothing else, I think having the jacket with me now because, I had to take it because it has to go back to the grounds and possibly stay there, that's certainly motivation. It seems maybe silly that that would be motivation, but, you know, it's things like that that make a difference. And I don't want -- I want to keep that same now torn garment bag that it's in that says 2015 Masters Champion, I want to keep the jacket inside that and take it away.

Q. You missed the cut here two years ago. You still finished as the runner-up at the Masters. Obviously, last year you're a shot away from winning the tournament. Does that kind of shows as much as you would like to think A leads to B or B leads to A, it's really kind of how you're feeling here and what you're feeling there? Does that make sense?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it takes pressure away from this week. I think it can be very advantageous for me. The reason I say that I would like to get into contention is because that will just -- that will just build a little bit more confidence in me. That can't hurt. A little bit more confidence in my game, not in me personally, but a little more confidence in the state of my game presently.

Q. You were here last year, of course. You came in with a great deal of confidence here, quite a roll. Two years ago -- how were you playing when you missed the cut here two years ago?
JORDAN SPIETH: I played really -- I played some really strong events early in the season. I was leading in San Diego. Where else were we in Match Play, played solid, ended up losing to Ernie in the quarters. No, that was before the Masters. Yeah, there were some really strong finishes, but I just hadn't closed the deal. And so I came in here and I played a bogey-free first round and I just kind of went a little off the second day, just had kind of an off day, maybe shot a couple over and missed the cut.

But I still thought I was playing all right, you know, I wasn't exactly sure -- I had really struggled on Sundays two years ago at this point.

Q. Given how Jason and Adam have played lately, do you feel like that they may share some of the spotlight next week, and is that a good thing for you that it's not just all focused on you?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, Bubba has played extremely well, as a two-time winner. Louis Oosthuizen played well. I think this year's Masters might be the hardest one to win in quite awhile as far as the depth of the field and the quality of golf being played by people who play Augusta National very well. I know you guys know that. You can see these kind of trends.

I hope -- Rory has played Augusta National very well and he's playing strong golf this year. He wants it very, very badly. We all know that. Everybody wants it badly.

Zach Johnson playing great golf last week. Ran into an off day after he dominated his first few matches. There's a bunch of guys who love the tournament and the course next week that are playing great golf. You kind of always see a little bit of that, but I think it's widespread this year and I think -- yeah, I think Adam and Jason, you know, are probably -- yeah, I don't really care about spotlight or not. We go and do our thing that week. Hopefully we're the ones that are in contention and we're the most recent winners of it. We've got it fresh in our mind. Hopefully it's an advantage.

Q. Jordan, you touched on it some, but is it a comfort zone playing before a Major? Some guys don't want to do that. You talked about how you like the set-up on this course.
JORDAN SPIETH: Little more amped up for it. Get a little more amped up for it. It's a Major. You only get four a year. That's kind of where your legacy is left in golf. So no, I don't think I'm any more comfortable than a normal event at all. I think I'm less comfortable, but I think that when you're in contention, you can use that -- that -- you can use those nerves, that adrenaline, to your advantage by just recognizing that those around you are feeling it and maybe you have -- you've seen the success, you've seen the shots, you can kind of visualize success as you're in the process, and I think that that's an advantage.

Q. Jordan, at 16 you took time out to work with a 14-year-old and an eight-year-old. How much do you enjoy that kind of stuff? You really spent a few minutes with them.
JORDAN SPIETH: There's a lot of tournaments that you -- whether it's a First Tee kid or a couple kids from The First Tee of the greater area that you're in or whoever it may be, whether it's a Drive, Chip and Putt event. I think it's really cool. It's a really unique position to be someone that these kids look up to. And, you know, Michael asked Carmen, the eight-year-old girl who was with us, "Who is your favorite player?" Of course I was standing there, she didn't have much of a choice (laughter). She goes, "Jordan Spieth" and looked at me. You know what, that's really awesome.

You got two ways to put this. One, yeah, look at from it that way. Two, what was the other option, was I going to like shoo them off? Of course I'm going to be nice. They're very, very nice young golfers and people. And we have a great time, and I just learned from other Tour players ahead of me by watching, learning through example, and really, really lucky to have great role models on this Tour, and I just kind of try and do what they would do.

Q. Did you ever a a hard time adjusting to becoming a role model, someone people look up to, young or old for that matter? Has -- was that hard for you early on?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think I've changed as a person, but no, I just think it's a cool position to be in. I don't think you necessarily have to adjust anything. I think you just -- you should treat people, you know, the right way. You should treat others how you want to be treated, right? That's certainly how everyone should live, whether you're a role model or not.

JOHN BUSH: We have one of our junior reporters, did you have a question for Jordan?

JORDAN SPIETH: Nice shirt.

Q. How will you prepare for the future, for instance, the Olympics?
JORDAN SPIETH: For the Olympics. It's going to be a crazy part of the year having come from the Open Championship and the PGA, and then right before the Playoffs and the Ryder Cup, I think it's going to feel like a Major. I've talked with Rickie and, you know, some the other potential guys, Dustin and Bubba, and I know Patrick Reed is up there, these other Americans we've talked about going down there, going to the opening ceremony, which is the Friday before, and kind of spending the weekend watching the first events that start, going and supporting U.S A. Kind of make it just a full experience, kind of take advantage of being inside the ropes there at the Olympics, which is just the most incredible, you know, sporting event in the world by far.

So, to just kind of -- when we're there, we'll really realize how much that means to be -- what it means to be an Olympian. I think it's hard to fathom now because it's never -- hasn't been done in however long in golf.

So, preparing for it, yeah, I think we'll prepare like it's a Major, but there will be a lot of other stuff going on that week, too. So, I think a great week coming out of it. It's just going to be really enjoying the experience and obviously we want to play well, but we're going to be down there for awhile.

Q. Jordan, I know you had breakfast with Rory before the round of 16 last week. Could you talk a little about how the bond between you has grown over last couple of years and would you say he's one of your closest friends on Tour now?
JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn't say that he's one of my closest friends on Tour. I just haven't hung out with him a whole lot. Yeah, I mean, I've the highest amount of respect for him. He's -- in my opinion, he's at a different level than I think Phil Mickelson obviously is at even a higher level currently and Rory is right below and then you've got everyone below Rory. I voiced that many times when people talk about rivalries and stuff. Listen, Rory is more accomplished than me and Jason and Rickie and whoever else.

I have the highest most respect for him and his game and the way he handles things. And yeah, I mean we'll have -- I was sitting down, he came over and sat next to me with Sean. Had a good talk. Kind of whatever. It wasn't golf-related. But, no, I haven't -- I can't say that he's one of my closest friends on Tour, but we got a lot of years hopefully together battling it out. It should be fun.

Q. Do you have any practice rounds arranged for next week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't yet, no. I'll play nine holes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, weather permitting, which is kind of my routine. You know, hopefully someone like Rory would like to play, maybe Rickie, Jason, whatever, play with guys who are playing well and know the course really well so you can kind of see different shots and putts from different locations.

Q. How impressive has Jason been these last few weeks?
JORDAN SPIETH: Unbelievable. It's not like we haven't seen it, though, right? He's had what, I think seven wins in the last six months, is that accurate? Maybe it's a little more than that, seven, eight months. It's really, really incredible what he can do when he finds his confidence in his game.

I played with him when he had to withdraw given back pain, and so when he's hurt, he's swinging hard. He doesn't know any other way to play. It's got to be -- got to square him more than anything at least overnight. And so to kind of come back and have that fear in the back of your head it could happen and get through it, really, really is impressive. And yeah, when Jason is on, he's on, and when he's off, he's still on. It is fun to watch. I did get to watch some of the match with him versus Rory and obviously with Louis. There was some good golfing played.

Q. Did you hear from Jason after he went to No. 1 in the world over the weekend? Text you, any banter between you two?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, no. He didn't. He certainly deserves that position right now.

JOHN BUSH: Jordan Spieth, thank you, sir.

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