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February 1, 2017

Jordan Spieth

Scottsdale, Arizona

BRIAN DECKER: We'd like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the Waste Management Phoenix Open media center. Your first start here since 2015, and as I recall, that year turned out pretty good for you.

If you could start out with a few comments about what it's like to be back here this week, we'll open it up for a few questions.

JORDAN SPIETH: We've really been looking forward to this week. We only played it once, like you said, and it was my first event in '15 because I wasn't in the first one in Hawaii. I wanted to start here.

Played well. Had some rust. Finished 7th, I think. So we can take that as some confidence that, hey, you know, if we're at the top of our game we can compete here.

Had a couple good days of practice thus far and a lot of fun today. Looking forward to kind of knocking out the last little knicks this afternoon before getting ready.

BRIAN DECKER: The Pro-Am experience with Michael Phelps, obviously a great Olympic champion. What was that experience like, and what's it like to know Michael?

JORDAN SPIETH: If you think about it, he's the most decorated Olympian ever. He could be argued as the greatest champion in sport, right? I mean, certainly would be in the conversation. It would be hard to think about how you could argue anybody else.

So that's very cool. I mean, it's amazing. We had dinner last night. He invited myself and Michael over, and had some good talks there. Then today we are obviously busy and it's crazy throughout the Pro-Am, but a lot of laughing and throwing knicks and knacks at each other more than in-depth conversation.

But it was a lot of fun. He loves golf. I'm surprised we haven't really crossed paths yet. He came in and spoke to the Ryder Cup team. I'd met him and his wife Nicole and Boomer before, but very briefly.

It was great spending time with them. He's offered to continue to advise or help or just really any time I want to reach out, which is just incredibly kind to have that kind of opportunity. It's humbling for me and I certainly should take advantage of it.

BRIAN DECKER: Questions?

Q. What did you think of Greller's shot on 16, first of all?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, he was so -- I mean, I was there his wedding night, and maybe the Masters, or the US Open Tour Championship, but it was up there maybe his fifth on the happiest I have ever seen him in his life. (Laughter.)

He said it was the greatest shot he's ever hit in his life. He's had a lot of rough moments when it comes to par-3s, famous par-3s, and he stuck one on 17 in Sawgrass and now he hit one to six feet here with Michael Phelps on the MC. And I think he grabbed the ball, and I needed a ball in the next tee box. He was digging in the bag. I'm, like, Michael what happened to the one you just hit? He goes, No, I'm keeping that one and Michael's signing it.

So really cool experience. I was happy for him. A lot of times I'm rooting for a funny story, but that time I was full-fledged, you know, really praying that one hit the green.

Q. Then you have played with Tony Romo, played with big superstars in other sports. How does the reaction to Michael, how does that compare?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I mean, everyone's different in their process, and everyone's different in the way they think slightly. But there is a lot of similarities, too.

Tom Brady, Michael Phelps, you know, just talking a little bit with Steph Curry. There is a lot of similarities in the mantra of these -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, these Legends of their sports.

I feel very, very fortunate to have had these experiences, just as a sports fan growing up. I mean, it's cool that, you know, I could do this and actually spend the time, and these people actually, you know, engaged, and it's not just walking by, signing something, right?

I feel very, very fortunate to have those experiences and don't take them for granted. I mean, I maybe did to start, and then I recognize now that this is -- I mean, growing up, when I was 13, 14 years old playing different sports and looking up to all these amazing athletes, I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to do that.

Now that I'm there, don't take it for granted. Try and listen, learn. There is a lot that I can learn from the mental side of things. These guys have mastered it. You know, you've got to find your own way of doing it, but figure out what kind of is that edge, that similarity that makes them able to push themselves past the greatest, you know.

Q. Who's got the best game out of those guys? Tony?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, you know, Steph and Tony would probably be close. I haven't played golf with Steph yet, but from what I hear, Tony is good when he's on, really good.

Q. The real question, what do you glean from those experiences? I mean, you just touched on it a little bit, but you had a couple opportunities to talk to Michael out there about some things. Sounded like you were picking his brain about some prerace stuff he does, for example. What do you sort of glean?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, so out on the course today, it was more of I'm just interested in the similarity or difference of walking into 16 versus walking into, you know, whether it's a World Championship, or an Olympics may be a little different story, just like how he feels. It's cool for me when, you know, one of these Super Bowl champions or, you know, World Series champions, they step on the tee at a golf course and you get 10 people around watching them and they would be more nervous than throwing for the ACLS. I mean, it's like, how? Why? Because, for me, that's what I do.

And it's actually funny to me, because it's, like, how could these guys get nervous doing this when the whole world watched them and they succeeded? They have nothing to lose. They are supposed to be bad at golf. Like, who cares? But yet, they're still that nervous. It's interesting.

I was just asking him, walking up there, and he said, It's different. He gets so in the zone, he has his hood on and headphones on, he's looking down and he doesn't notice anybody when he goes into the rink, which is similar to what we experience, for the most part, when big crowds come. At this point, it just kind of blends in.

But 16 here is a different animal, too. All of a sudden, now it's stacked up. Now you feel like you're hitting a shot in a football stadium. For me, it's as nerve-wracking a shot as I see during the year, for sure.

I was interested. He said, Yeah, I'll be much more nervous here than I would in an Olympics or something.

So it wasn't as much in-depth mental state. It was just more, Hey, I'm interested, where's your heart get pumping?

Q. How do you approach the 17th hole out here, whether to be conservative or aggressive? Seems like that hole has been more risks than reward for some people the last few years?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I'll play it aggressively. I'll try and knock it on the green. If I get out of position, you can always make par unless you hit it obviously in the water. You can still make par from there.

They get that pin way in the back in that little sliver, and I'll probably still try and hit driver up the green. If it goes offline and I can't get next to the hole, then you hit it to about 20 feet and two-putt and don't do anything more.

I saw quite a few shots in my experience last time, including my own, and I think I made par to that hole by playing conservatively, and that's fine. I think if you play the hole 2-under for the week, you've done a good job.

Q. How is not traveling as much before the season, how do you expect that to help you? And have you seen any of the benefits yet?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, at one point last week I was in Japan, Korea, Alaska, and Dallas in the same day and still less travel than last year. But, no, as far as weeks at a time and feeling like I'm in a PGA TOUR rhythm versus kind of a World Tour rhythm to start the year, I'm not sure yet, because I had two events in Hawaii after a break, and then two weeks off, and then I'm here.

So that will be an easier one to kind of answer how I'm feeling maybe in a few weeks after LA or as we go into Mexico.

Yeah, I mean, I think it's going to help for the entirety of the year, plus each year I have figured out how to save strength and recover better, how to train and take days off, just starting to improve on all that just by knowing when I start to feel fatigue.

Q. How did you and Michael Phelps initiate the Pro-Am pairing? Did that go back a while, or how did that come together?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, we're both Under Armor athletes, so we had the connection through Under Armor. Also, I think they were in contact with the staff here at the Waste Management Open and with Waste Management.

And I think that whole combination of, hey, Michael's going to play, can we get Michael and Jordan together, Under Armor saying that. I'm sure Waste Management wanted Michael, and so they got stuck with me (laughter). We had a great time. Awesome time out there. It was kind of a collaboration.

Q. On a lighter side, would you let him know that I was the guy he took down behind No. 10 with the pitching wedge or something? He caught me on the cheek.
JORDAN SPIETH: He came over and told us the story. He said he came over, was like, I can't apologize enough. I'm so sorry. And y'all looked up and saw it was him. I think you were with your wife, maybe? Someone was with you.

You looked up and saw it was him. He said you lit up. He was like, Well, all right, that helped a little bit, for his feeling. He said you kind of took the ice pack off and he signed a ball or something?

Q. He did.
JORDAN SPIETH: You were one of -- there was a few bullets hit behind greens. Unfortunately, you were the one who took it.

Q. Tell him my knees buckled but I was tough enough to come back.
JORDAN SPIETH: Back to work now.

Q. I was going to ask, apart from Augusta this year, what do you know and what do you like about the other three Major venues? It's not a Ryder Cup year, I know you want to qualify for the Presidents Cup, but how much is it for you this year, the Majors?
JORDAN SPIETH: Just like any other year, the Presidents Cup I want to make as bad as I want to make Ryder Cup. Team golf, those are the weeks I'll probably remember along with the Majors in 50 years, so I want to be a part of every one of those. I want to break Phil's consecutive record. That's a career goal of mine. He needs to stop making them to make that a little easier on me. (Laughter.)

So the other venues, we have Birkdale, I have been there. I was actually there when it was last played there playing the Junior Open next door at a club called Hesketh Golf Club, and we walked over and I watched the Wednesday and Thursday rounds, which were just a beating of a day, if you all remember. I mean, it was just terrible weather.

I know it's one of the hardest venues. Other than that, I don't know much about it, just that it's going to be probably higher scoring. Probably won't see a faceoff like last year in the Open, as epic as it was.

Quail Hollow I have played before. It was one of my favorite tournaments and one of my favorite golf courses in the country. I really, really liked it. They made some changes to it, so I'm interested to see it, and they have changed the greens since I played. But having played there is nice. There are a lot of players, namely Rory, who will be very tough to beat there, given his history.

And then we have Erin Hills. I played the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills and played it well. I got to the quarterfinals before losing, and I want to say my dad was on the bag, which is pretty cool. Yeah, it was a fun golf course.

Logistically, I'm interested to see what will happen. There is just a two-lane road in and out. But I'm sure everything will be set up to make it as easy as possible.

The golf course should play very, very tough and be weather-dependent. We got a lot of -- the U.S. and the Open Championship this year will be very weather-dependent.

Q. Where is your game at right now? You kind of touched on the disjointed nature of your schedule so far, sort of just curious where you think your play is at. You have had some high finishes and so forth.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, let's see, I don't remember what I finished at Tiger's event. A win in Australia and then a top 10 at Tiger's and two thirds. Nice to draw back on but weren't all very recent.

State of the game, pretty good. In Hawaii, struck the ball extremely well. Tee to green, improved on what I was trying to improve on from all of 2016 and really back into '15, same kind of moves I was trying to do.

I'm trying to continue to strike it that same way while putting a little more emphasis on repetitions throughout my short game, which I had lacked a little bit of trying to emphasize my long-game gains.

So it will be a good test this week. These greens are very pure. If you're putting well, you can really putt well out here. It's not Poa annua.

I'm looking forward to putting it to the test. I feel like I have some things I have to adjust a little maybe throughout the week, hopefully minor enough that give me a really good feeling to get off to a good start. Because I didn't get off to great starts the last couple of events in Hawaii and had to back-door my way into the finishes. I'd like to jump out a little more aggressive.

Q. Even though Furyk had the 58 last year, it still seems like 59 is a big deal. Why do you think that is, that 58 hasn't become the new 59?
JORDAN SPIETH: Just 5 before the number. Something under 60, sub 60s. It's not a 6, exactly. The fact that there is two already this season is just unreal. I witnessed one, obviously, and I watched the other. After about 12, 13 holes I flipped on the TV. It's like, no way, par 72, unbelievable with Adam.

It's incredible to be able to -- I mean, you see guys go 6-under through nine holes. That happens a number of times, but to be able to -- you know you're 6-under, or you know you're somewhere around there. And to be able to continue to push yourself and continue to hit the shots necessary and not really be a human for the rest of that round, you know what I mean? Not have the flaws in your brain and stay dead focused on continuing to make that lower and lower and lower and being okay with that and embracing that is so tough.

That's why you don't see it very often. You've got to get normally a couple good breaks or obviously make some putts, but mentally you have to be so strong that round in order to do it. That's why there aren't that many, and it's incredible.

Mr. 58 will be Mr. 58, but 59 will stay just as significant, I imagine.

Q. What's the closest you came to 59?
JORDAN SPIETH: I shot 60 once on my home course. I think I was like 15 or 16, which was still the lowest round I have ever shot.

I think John Deere Saturday in '15, I shot 61. Par 71. I shot 60 on a par 72. I've started 4-under through 4 and finished 4-under in the last 3. So that helped.

So, yeah, but never -- I couldn't breathe the last hole. I couldn't shoot 59. Never had a putt at it.

Q. You talked a little bit about it when you were responding earlier, but I'm interested how you came out with this natural swing that you started with, and did you lose trust in it? Is that why you were trying to tinker with it?
JORDAN SPIETH: Which natural...

Q. When you first came out, you were playing with a very athletic, a swing you trusted, and I was wondering about your tinkering at the edges and what you have done to maintain that same trust in the new...
JORDAN SPIETH: It's no new/old swing. I have never changed or gone through a swing change. I did when I was 13. That's it. If you compared my swing right now to 2014 or '13, first/second year on tour, it will look very similar.

For me, I can dissect it to where I can see a lot of differences, but what I'm just trying to do is to eliminate kind of the contact that's always been my miss, which is a thin heel and a little right, which is okay. If you miss stuff short right, as a right-handed golfer, you'll be fine, as long as that's your miss and you get a one-way miss.

I'm just trying to create a little more consistency just by getting a little around my body more. It's stuff I've been trying to do since I was 15 years old that's just not a natural movement in my body, but I can do it and start to train my mind that that's the new normal. But it doesn't change the characteristics of my swing very much at all. It's just trying to get around my body a little more with a little more full shoulder turn and a little bit more patience in the swing. That allows me to have better contact.

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