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January 4, 2017

Jordan Spieth

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

ALEX URBAN: We welcome our defending champion Jordan Spieth to the interview room here at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

Jordan, you won by eight shots here last year, obviously qualified for this year's tournament via that win, but also your win at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational. Talk about being back here at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, we've been successful the two times we've played here, so we love coming back here. It's a beautiful place to be. We always get in about a week early, or at east we did the last couple times. Did the same this year. Just try and have a lot of fun, do our golfing in the morning and our hanging out in the afternoon until today in the tournament.

On the grind from here on in and really excited to try and defend this week and work our way back here. We enjoy this week so much, that how would you not want to take advantage of being here.

Game feels like it's in good shape. I did some ball-striking work leading into Australia and Tiger's event and didn't putt very well at Tiger's, and so I did a little bit more of that work in our most recent break. So the game feels like it's in good shape. Just get out there and start the season strong.

Q. After the unreasonable discussion about you going into last year, is there any part of you that's glad last year is done and time to start anew?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, definitely. Certainly off of this week last year, it didn't necessarily help that 2016, my own and anyone else's expectations, given the performance that we had. But I also knew that that wasn't realistic to continue to do.

It's also a 30-something person event, it's not a full-field event, which makes your chances of winning significantly higher, even though it is a world-class field.

Yeah, I'm pleased that 2016 and its entirety, I was happy when the ball touched down and 2017 started. It was still a great year in 2016, but I learned a lot on both end of things, highs and lows, which I didn't really have many lows in 2015 and after that it was just trying to climb up to the top level. So I learned a lot from the highs and lows, and therefore, I think I can use that to my advantage this year and on.

Q. Are you still feeding off the confidence from the Australian Open playoff victory, and tell me what that did for your confidence.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, the way we played that sudden death hole, I'm certainly going to take that when we get into contention in the future. You know, I hit two really nice shots and a really nice putt, when I kind of struggled getting it in in the tournament in regulation.

Yeah, certainly any time you have a recent win, which is -- you know, there's only one separating from the last time we won, you think about that, and even if it's only a month and a half apart, six weeks apart, it's still a confidence boost. So take it into this season and try to get in the winner's circle as quickly as possible and feed off that.

So yeah, Oz was great to us. It always has been, and this week has been good for us, too. So confidence is riding high.

Q. You talked about all the swing work you put in going into Hero and seemed really enthused in that area. What types of things do you do to get your putting back on track?
JORDAN SPIETH: Just practice. I mean, just bring the reps in. I just haven't done that. Not the normal reps that I'm used to putting in, just given trying to rest and putting a lot of work in the swing. You know, something had to kind of fall a little, unless I was going to putt in 12-hour days and I really wanted to use the time for rest.

Not quite to the rep range that I want to be at but I'm working towards it. I'm on greens I've been familiar with and been successful at, which should help ramp that forward. Still, it's going to need some touch work, for sure.

But it just comes done to repetitions. I just stick to our same game plan of getting the stroke and recognizing my alignment first, kind of the technical side of things, and then moving off and developing that feel back. It certainly helps on these greens. You get a lot of putts that break significant amounts from short range, and so that kind of touch and feel is a lot more challenging here, which if you're ready for it gives a huge advantage to the field. If not, it will mess with you. Trying to grab that feel pretty quickly here.

Q. You mentioned learning a lot. What are sort of the one or two things biggest thing you learned from last year, and was there difficulty managing your own expectations given the way 2015 went?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, and having a big lead at the Masters didn't necessarily help as far as managing expectations. You know, the first major of the year after starting strong: I thought the last five majors I had a chance to win, why won't this continue. And it certainly can and that's the goal.

But it's unrealistic for that to continue every single major consecutively. I was a little frustrated at the U.S. Open, not quite on the best draw in the last three majors as far as scores in the first two rounds. So technically starting a little bit behind in that sense, which is going to happen. But I just kind of let it frustrate me a little bit too much.

A couple of the biggest things, just looking at my career from a career picture, not just a 'now' picture, which is unfortunately kind of the world we live in. For individuals and for the questions that are asked, it's very present.

And so I've been looking more to the future for goals, for kind of just my outlook on practice, overall wellness, work out regimen. Just doing things and thinking about things from a long-term perspective that are I think going to make it a bit easier if things aren't great short term; and even when they are great short term, on managing; and trying to obviously continue that momentum and knowing what it can do and looking at '15, and knowing what a bit of momentum can do for you.

But overall, recognizing that if last year is a down year for us, we're in really good shape long term when you start compiling those numbers. It makes me think a lot more positive about last season and my career going forward, just looking at it from a more elongated perspective.

Q. Unrelated, first of all, when we talked to you briefly last month on the phone, you had mentioned improving on your scoring clubs, I think maybe, 7, 8, 9, in that range. What exactly does that entail when you're trying to improve on a certain portion of the game? Is it merely repetition of hitting balls or is it more calibration of what you're trying to do, distance control? What goes into that?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's definitely repetition, but it's repetition, not just sitting there and hitting shots on the range, stock shots. It's what happens if I knock-down and take a three-quarter swing, exactly how far is that flying and what's my tendency on that ball flight.

Just what I do with my wedge work, and continuing it into really pitching wedge, 9-, 8-iron, we have a lot of those clubs as approach shots. Probably a majority of those shots we hit into holes on the PGA TOUR are with a pitching wedge, 9-iron, 8-iron, somewhere in that 150-yard range, 30- to 70-yard range.

So it's about just developing feel through that part of the bag that I may have lost in a more technical outlook on my swing, and kind of quick-firing them and just feeling it out. Stuff that I've done my whole life that just kind of went a little bit away last year when I was focused on other stuff. So it's just recognizing that I want to work a little more on that, should take care of it.

Q. Talked to Davis Love, and he said you may have been the most exhausted of any player on either side after The Ryder Cup, the energy you expended playing with Patrick, not necessarily as a bad thing, but because he brings so much energy and you reacted to that and so forth. How tired were you after The Ryder Cup, and how long did it take to recover, even though it was a victory?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it was physically and emotionally draining. I think I jumped the highest I've ever jumped when Patrick holed that shot on 6. I got serious vertical there.

Then you know, you're just not used to playing that many matches, and then it's straight off of the biggest, largest prize in golf at THE TOUR Championship where we all certainly grinded, trying to claim that.

And then you go right into where there are really no -- I didn't take a day off that Ryder Cup week. Really spent a lot of time trying to improve on what wasn't there at THE TOUR Championship.

Then you're going into five matches in three days and I was fine walking them and I performed -- a couple times I got lazy with my posture and therefore my swing got a little off and hit some bad shots. Patrick really picked me up that Saturday afternoon and just carried our team to victory, when I was kind of really just not hitting very good shots.

And then came back and played well on Sunday against Henrik and just ran into a buzzsaw in Henrik who was playing extremely well, who probably shot, I don't know, 5- to 7-under on that golf course.

Q. (Did you lose weight from the first event to the last event)?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I was probably down five, ten pounds but that's normal by the end of the season for me. I try and ramp it back up in the off-season.

But it took a solid week or so of just doing nothing to feel like, you get your feet back under you and you're ready to get back to work again. But it didn't take much longer than that, I'd say about a week.

I don't think I trained or touched a club -- I didn't unpack my clubs for three weeks, actually. But I started training after about a week actually to try and get our off-season programming going, because you only have so much time in golf off-season. Really, no time, if you feel like playing those events, the fall events, or even going overseas. Tried to get that back into me.

But I was pretty drained from touching a golf club for a little while.

Q. In regards to this golf course, if you look at statistics during play, you were at the top or near the top of a lot of lists including the leaderboard. What do you do so well on this golf course to have success?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think this course, a lot like Augusta National, a few other ones, with the amount of slope and uneven lies and the amount of imagination you need in approach shots and on and around the greens, it brings out more the feel side of my game. More kind of the quick-twitch, reactionary-type golf, that I just love playing and I feel like is my DNA, my golf DNA.

So that's why I feel like I've had success. When your swing isn't a driving range swing other than tee balls, I tend to, strokes gained, hit the ball better than I do if it's just a dead-flat golf course. I don't know necessarily why. I think it's just the strength of mind to be able to adapt my swing to different lies.

It's not the exact same around -- I don't think about the technicality of it when I'm hitting off my second shot into 18 off that downslope. Because if you do, you're likely going to end up with a fat shot or a left shot. You've got to kind of adapt how you're swinging it, making sure you're getting the right contact on it more than you are worried about the exact distance or the exact flight.

I feel like that's an advantage of my here. Feel very comfortable doing that. Kind of being able to -- if the ball is below my feet, feeling comfortable lining up a good ten, 15 yards left of the target and trusting that the ball is going to work its way back.

The big greens, there's a lot of slope, and allows the ability for me to almost feel like there's more room for error and you can still hit the ball close to the hole, or you can land it next to the hole or you can feed it off ridges. Just helps me commit to shots for whatever reason.

Q. Do you find yourself daydreaming about Augusta already?
JORDAN SPIETH: I went there and played there in December. First time back. I was very nervous when I got on 12 tee, and I hit an 8-iron over the bunker to about 15 feet. Greens were a little slower, and I left a lot of putts short.

In the group, I was like, there was no chance I was leaving this short and I hit this putt to about 15, 18 feet. I was pumped to hit the green, and then I hit my putt and it just about stopped short on the front lip and fell in for two. I probably gave like a big fist pump. I was walking around with my hands up, like demon's gone.

And I went back the next day. We played it the next morning and I hit a 9-iron this time to a left pin, and it landed about three feet beyond the hole and it was really, really soft, and it sucked back and almost went in, right on the lip to about this far. So I got two twos out of No. 12 the first time back. Last two times I played the hole, I made birdie.

Q. Who do you go with?
JORDAN SPIETH: I went with Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jeff Yang, were the two members. I go every year in December with them on a trip. Have normally two groups that consist of friends, colleagues, that they are either trying to introduce to each other or just some of their good buddies that they bring into play.

We fly in, we have an afternoon round, dinner, stay at Butler Cabin and go out and have breakfast, play and eat lunch and leave. So I played the member's tees with them, either than a couple of the holes, 12 being one of them. I had to obviously tee off from where we tee off from. They had a good time.

The course is a lot easier from the member's tees.

Q. What was the chatter --
JORDAN SPIETH: I was vocally expressing that, guys, we have some demons to get rid of here, I'd appreciate if y'all stood to the side of the tee box while I do my work here. That was cool. (Laughter).

Whenever I could use my phone, I called Michael. I was like, "Michael, you're going to want to hear this; that on 12 tee, I birdied, it was cool." And then from the member's tee, I tried to clear the Bubba line on 13. I didn't clear it, but just having fun.

Q. Did you call Michael?
JORDAN SPIETH: I called Michael.

Q. From?
JORDAN SPIETH: From Butler Cabin.

Q. Not the 12th tee?
JORDAN SPIETH: No. (Laughter) But I know certainly there's cameras out there, and I've requested footage from those two birdies. I haven't received it yet. Saw the Chairman and requested some footage, because somebody was watching, I'm sure, when that happened (laughs).

Q. As soon as you flip the calendar, the Masters looms so large the first part of the year. Is it okay to be thinking about it already?
JORDAN SPIETH: Sure. Yeah. Look, like I mentioned the last couple years, the focus when you look at goals for the year is on four weeks of the year, highest goals. First one coming up is in April. So pick a schedule, pick a plan within each part of your game on and off the course that's going to best prepare us to peak for those weeks. And it's been very successful the last couple years.

So certainly right now, our focus is right on the Masters and doing what we can ahead of time in order to prepare for it.

Q. I do have to ask you about the Japanese player, Hideki Matsuyama. What do you think about his recent achievement?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think he's the guy to beat right now. I think with what he's been doing at the end of the year, winning in Japan and winning at Tiger's event, winning in China, as well, he is playing extremely solid golf. He is extremely confident in the way that he's playing. He's got no fear right now and all parts of his game are on.

Like we've all, I'm sure every player in here that's been asked about Hideki going back three or four years, has all said it's a very impressive overall game and it's just a matter of time, because he's won so many times in Asia, now he's won quite a few times on the PGA TOUR; that his game is going to translate really well into majors. He's had a lot of success in majors and especially at the Masters, even as an amateur. That course fits him well.

He's set up to play very difficult golf courses very well. So he's going to be somebody who is going to be very tough to contend with this year.

Q. What have you been working on with Cameron over the off-season and what will you continue to work on in 2017?
JORDAN SPIETH: A lot of things I've just really been trying to implement in the last couple years, even through the 2015 season. Just getting around my body, away from the natural tendency I have to get just a little bit up. Just trying to keep my shoulders rotated around and being a little more patient with my backswing. And when I do that, it frees up everything on the downswing.

When I try and hit the ball harder, is when I get into that old tendency. It's harder to generate more speed when it's not quite a natural move to get around but I've done a really good job in my practice of practicing with a purpose, and feel like it's coming along really, really well.

Q. You talk about peaking for four weeks. There's talk that the flow of the majors being changed, the PGA being moved up and you play your last major in July. Curious on your thoughts on that possible shift?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, there's enough time from the beginning of the year to April, or whenever the PGA -- there's enough time to where I don't think it would make much of a difference to me personally. That might bring in the possibility of a lot of other golf courses that may not have been able to be in the rotation in August, which could be pretty cool.

But it will be interesting to see what it does to golf viewership after The Open Championship, if that were the case. The TOUR has done a great job with the Playoff system and adding significant bonus for us and therefore generates more impact to the final couple events of the Playoffs. There will certainly be a spike back there, but it might take away a lot from July to September.

But I'm unsure. It wouldn't change much for me, though, and I think could be really good for the PGA.

Q. (Would you look at coming back to Sydney towards the end of the year)?
JORDAN SPIETH: Certainly look into it, yeah. It's quite early on and I don't even know what I'm doing past February obviously.

Q. (Especially given it's back at the Australian Golf Club, where you enjoyed playing).
JORDAN SPIETH: I enjoyed Royal Sydney, as well. Anywhere down there; I like the courses in Melbourne, too. Great golf in the Sandbelt. We love going to Oz. We just have to, we normally look at that more kind of April, May area on those decisions for the end of the year.

Q. Third time here, but first time seeing it with this much rain. Just your thoughts and what you think.
JORDAN SPIETH: Different. It's actually -- I would imagine it's drying out quickly, just given the amount of slope that's on the golf course. I think it's from Monday to Tuesday was a significant change in the golf course, and I imagine this afternoon, it will be, too. It will still be softer.

I mean, it's hard to say the scores would be any lower. But I mean, you can fire into pins right now and it looks like we're going to get consistent wind each day. The golf course will play very similar the four days. But with it being a little bit softer, probably brings in the bombers more so, but it's already kind of a bomber golf course.

So I don't know if it's even going to really change it that much honestly.

ALEX URBAN: All right, Jordan, I'd like to thank you for your time. Thank you very much.

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