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April 26, 2017

Jordan Spieth

Ryan Palmer

Avondale, Louisiana

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome the team of Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer to the interview room here at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. First of all, talk a little bit about how this team came together. Ryan, start with you. Talk about your teammate here and how this team was put together.

RYAN PALMER: I've gotten to know Jordan pretty good over the past few years. We've played a lot more practice rounds together and gotten to know he and his family. But we had the intention of playing together, I think. I was definitely going to ask him way back when when the format came out. But we had a friendly game at Trinity Forest with James, my caddie, and Harrison Frazar and Beau Hossler, and James opened up to Jordan about playing and threw a bet at him, and James played good that day. That turned into being the winning formula for this team, I guess.

JOHN BUSH: Jordan?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, we were planning on it anyways. I wasn't sure if I was personally going to play. If I did, it was going to be with Ryan. We had talked about it, and then, yeah, it was a fun round. I think James ended up clipping me and we had a -- I don't know, there was a bigger game going on, too, and --

RYAN PALMER: He won the money.

JORDAN SPIETH: We ended up finalizing it right on that 18th green.

JOHN BUSH: Jordan, you enter the week No. 6 in the FedExCup standings. Talk about your season up to this point.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, so got off to a nice start, and then the last few tournaments just been lacking something here or there. I had a big number here or there in a couple events. Just looking to get back on track. I feel like this will be a really fun week. I feel like this change of pace, what Zurich has done with the PGA TOUR, is really cool. I think everybody is looking forward to starting tomorrow, fans, spectators. We are, as well as those at home and yourselves, I'm sure you're pretty excited for this week, this change of pace, and then starting at THE PLAYERS into a really stretch of golf after that, kind of looking into really regroup and gather some momentum as we get into the rest of the majors this year.

It's been a good season. It's been a season where I really only had one event where I've actually kept myself in the tournament after the first round, and that was Pebble, and pretty much every other event, the first round set me back, and I've been fighting back just to claw my way into a back-door top 10 or top 5. So I'm looking forward to some hotter starts so I can gather some momentum on that.

JOHN BUSH: Ryan, this is your ninth start at the Zurich Classic. You finished tied for fourth here in 2012. What do you like about this event so much?

RYAN PALMER: I like coming to the city. When you come to the city, you enjoy the time downtown, the food you get to eat, and the people you get to meet. It makes for a fun week. I've always enjoyed the golf course. It's kind of a semi-bomber's course I guess you could call it. You've got to be able to hit the driver out there a pretty good days, and you've got to drive it well here, and it's always suited my game, from off the tee for sure, and you've got to have some pretty precise iron play, as well. I think we come in here with a pretty good combination of good iron play and with the putters, and fortunately my putter is starting to roll again. I'm making more now, so I think we're going to feed off each other pretty well this week.

Q. Last time we saw you Sunday at Augusta didn't really go the way you wanted, obviously. What did you do after that? What was your takeaway sort of post-analysis --
JORDAN SPIETH: I thought it was pretty public where I was at that. Yeah, my analysis was exactly what I had said to y'all off the 18th green there. I thought it was a very positive week after kind of a letdown first day. Once again, we fought hard just to have a chance to win, and then I was a couple yards off on some pretty good shots on that Sunday on the front nine, and on that course, if you're -- obviously you have some room, but those shots that are kind of borderline, if they bounce forward next to the hole versus funneling off the green, you're left with an under-par nine versus an over-par nine, and that's kind of the difference it was. It was just a few yards here or there.

But I was very pleased with the way we fought back. It wasn't the same feeling or situation that I had the three previous years of holding a lead, feeling like I was in control from the beginning. I was very much out of it from the start and worked our way back in. So what a tremendous finish it was, too, with two great champions going at it, and now two major champions. It was an exciting Masters, and then since then, took the week of vacation and then started to get back and kind of looking at last week, and then now implementing a couple things this week and working on them next week leading into a busy stretch of a few changes -- not changes, but a few things in the swing we've been wanting to do for the past month or so and didn't really want to do it into Augusta and now I'm going to certainly trust them out here.

Q. Last year it felt like after the Masters it was a big kind of learning experience for you, some things you really took away. Sensing maybe there's a little bit less of that this time.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think I've been fortunate to be in contention in numerous major championships now, and each time they're totally different, the experiences. Even the wins are very different. The losses are very different, and therefore you certainly have takeaways, and I definitely did take away a few things. But yeah, it wasn't exactly the same, because again, it was just a come from behind, see what you can do firing at stuff because you have to when you're coming from behind at Augusta. Yeah, it was just a -- in my opinion, it was -- the way I look back, it was another tournament that I was -- I had a chance on Sunday, didn't quite go my way, and I've had a ton of those, and I've had a ton go the other way.

It's nothing like last year in my opinion.

Q. For Ryan and Jordan, there was a lot of talk with the guys who were in here yesterday about the ball, adjusting to each other's ball. How similar is the ball that you guys play, and how much of that is an issue, if it's not?
RYAN PALMER: Well, fortunately for us, he played the ball that I play right now. He played it a couple years ago. He's in the new Titleist Pro V1x, but I've hit it, too. It's the same ball we hit on the range. There's not really anything different that I'm going to have to hit or he's going to hit I don't think. We're going to utilize his ball when he's hitting iron shots into the greens, and I'll use my ball when I'm probably going to hit off the par-5s, the two I play, or tee off on. That way we're both kind of using our ball around the green when needed. But like I said, the balls are pretty close, so we're going to have too much of an issue with the ball.

Q. Jordan, is that any kind of edge compared to guys who play very different kind of balls?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, I play a completely different golf ball from Patrick Reed, and we've been able to adjust. You figure out how to adjust. I guess, yeah, it helps a bit. Like Ryan said, we're going to use any type of approach shots we're hitting will be with our own golf ball, and fortunately teeing off, there's not a ton of difference. The difference in the 17 versus the 13 x is a bit of a softer core, so when you get to hitting wedge shots or short iron shots, when the ball is not compressed as much, it'll spin a bit more in the ball that I use, and Ryan will most likely not have any of those shots with my golf ball. Even if he did, again, it's a Titleist Pro V1x where they made adjustments for certain players and certain players kept the other ball. We won't notice much of a difference.

Q. I have two questions specifically related to the format. When you look at the depth of the field, to what extent do you think players like yourself are attracted because the format is new, or to what extent is the format something that players, maybe the younger generation of players, think could be sustainable and needs to be explored?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it can be sustainable, and I think it needs to be, and I think that's the attraction. I don't think it's because it's new, I think it's because of the actual format itself, being able to have a chance to play team sport golf. I think the majority of players are fans of team sports, and we don't get an opportunity to do so but once a year if we're fortunate enough to be on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. So to have this opportunity at a PGA TOUR event is unique, and it's something that I think we've all been very excited to get out there and do. I think the fact that there's not World Ranking points, the fact that there's still a full purse and full FedExCup points, that whole combination is going to lead to a lot more fun out here. Guys that are playing free, guys that are expressing themselves, you'll see more personality than you would maybe see, and I think we're all looking forward to that, and I think that this would be a really fun format to have -- I think this would be really -- we were talking about it on the range with a couple other guys. I think this would be fun if we had a couple of these events a year. I think that would be -- you'd still see a deeper field. I think this field is much stronger than this tournament has had going back a ways. I think that's known knowledge, and it's one that guys have not only marked down on their calendar but have been as excited as any other event the rest of the year. That's what it seems to be.

Q. And for Ryan, when you look at how all the various teams came together in this field, to what extent do you think it's golfers identifying partners whose games they respect and feel complements their own, and to what extent do you think it's just golfers who really wanted to know what it was like to team up with a guy they like personally as a friend?
RYAN PALMER: I think the majority of them are all pretty close friends. I think the majority of them are. You've got a few out there that came together. Cody Gribble and Jim Harman, they played one round this year together and kind of hit it off, and they decided to play together this week because they enjoyed each other's company, I guess. I think the majority of the teams are probably buddies, I think. And there's some teams out there you look at, like how are these guys connected, how did they get paired together. But overall I think most of the guys are close friends, played a lot of practice rounds together, and just became -- when the format came out, I think every player will tell you they started really reaching out trying to find a partner they wanted.

You know, I was fortunate enough to grab this guy here. I don't get to go to many media centers, so I'm glad I got to come here with him?

JORDAN SPIETH: To his point, I think there was very little research and homework done compared to what you might think in creating these teams. Hard to speak for everybody, but that's what it seems like, and that may change after the first -- after this goes through the inaugural event. I think guys may figure, hey, let's -- but at the same time, again, like I just said, it's going to be -- you're going to see personalities come out. Like Ryan was saying, a lot of friends. And that's going to be enticing, too, to almost kind of feel like it's a little bit of a break. You can be competitive with your friend, but it's kind of a little bit of a break from what we normally feel in a TOUR event. But I doubt there was -- looking through the teams, I don't think many guys went on strokes gained and figured out let's match up with this person, let's try and match up with this person because of their strengths and weaknesses.

But you get like Henrik and Justin Rose, they fit so well together. They're friends and they have that side of things, and they've been successful in alternate-shot and best ball in the Ryder Cup. I think Ryan hit it on the nail.

Q. Guys wanting to --
JORDAN SPIETH: In a sense. Obviously we're certainly -- we're certainly here with a common goal, but at the same time, I think it's a bit more of a fun week than other times.

Q. Jordan, you're sort of stealing my question, but you brought up the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. Can guys like Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk and maybe Thomas Björn, can they learn things from this week?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think so. I think so. You don't see a ton of teams where it's potential pairings. Ryan and I are, but it's -- you see some guys -- you see Rickie and Jason playing. Well, there's two sides of what you'll see later this year. But they can definitely learn something, I think, based on I think watching the alternate-shot format. That's something that Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker certainly will put -- and especially Jim Furyk will put an emphasis on, given historically how the alternate-shot format has gone in the Ryder Cup for the U.S., so seeing how guys kind of play, the camaraderie that they have, whether their partner is going to be on the team or not, best ball is just go out there and make some birdies. I think more in the alternate-shot format.

Q. Jordan, you also mentioned Sergio Garcia winning the Masters, just what you thought about him winning the Masters and what that's going to do for his career.
JORDAN SPIETH: It's a -- judging by his reaction, I think that kind of says it all. He is such a great champion. Always has been. A lot of close calls in majors, and that's been his thing. We played a Ryder Cup match with him, and you've got fans yelling out stuff about having not won a major, and you could see kind of it gets under his skin, and you can't do that anymore to him. He won the Masters, which is -- I think if you had to pick one, he may choose that one, or the Claret Jug. So it's massive. I mean, it's potentially moving him into Hall of Fame. I'm not sure exactly what the criteria is there. But it's something that everybody was a bit surprised that he hadn't in his career, but you just never know. You have to get the right breaks at the right times, and he knocked off a gold medalist and U.S. Open winner and somebody who's already been in that position in the Masters before, so the way in which he won, the way in which he finished was something special, too.

Q. Jordan, you mentioned that it might be fun to see a couple more of these events on the PGA TOUR schedule. Not to put you on the spot, but if you're the commissioner of the PGA TOUR, what other outside-the-box formats would you like to see that are official events?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure what other formats you could see. You can't really do any sort of shamble or scramble because then you've got where is your ball positioned, how do you make -- you're not going to play out of the person's divot, do you get a club length. It would be -- and it would take even longer. But something of similar format, or even doing alternate-shot four rounds. I'm interested to see what pace of play looks like on Friday and Sunday here with four balls in play, especially Friday when you have a full field, so that's interesting. But I think this is a tremendous way to do the format. You can flip-flop and do alternate-shot on Friday and Sunday, and that could make things pretty exciting at the very end of the round. I mean, that would -- I thought that's how it was until I called and asked a couple weeks ago. Ryan and I were wondering which day was what, and that would be the only way I could see it switching.

Also, match play. I mean, a TOUR event that's match play, another match play event. Guys really embrace that, too. Stuff that's just a bit different. You can kind of play different. You can kind of plan different. You know, it's just -- I think it adds some excitement to events.

Q. Obviously James is a terrific player; was that a straight-up match? Were you giving him shots?
JORDAN SPIETH: I can't really remember. I'm not sure.

RYAN PALMER: It was a fun wolf game, and James cleaned up on the last hole.

JORDAN SPIETH: There was putts given and putts taken and putts not given. I can't remember. I wish I could.

Q. How much thought was put into what holes to tee off on alternate-shot? Was there any grinding over numbers or pretty easy with the way the par-3s and par-5s are?
JORDAN SPIETH: James made that decision ahead of time.

RYAN PALMER: He actually looked at stats and figured why not give Jordan three of the par-3s on the odds because obviously when you're No. 1 in greens in regulation, and then two of the par-5s, 2 and 18, are even, which suits my tee shot.

JORDAN SPIETH: 18 is a good -- the finishing holes were emphasized, too, and RP hitting that drive, that power cut on 18 is nice. I like par-3s where I can draw it into there and we've got 9 and 17, a couple of the tougher holes. Yeah, there was thought -- once your teams are decided, it makes sense to do your research and figure it out, but I don't think there was a lot of research done well ahead of time.

Q. Best ball, do you play how you normally would or do you just do your own thing?
RYAN PALMER: I think you're just going to go out and play your game. You'll be there to help each other when needed, but the key is to kind of do what I've been doing the last few weeks and not get in my own way. That way I know my game will be there. Of course his will be there, as well. It'll be different for me. He's obviously been in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, so that's going to be new for me to kind of learn from it. But it's going to be quite a bit of fun. I know that.

JORDAN SPIETH: I think in order to win this event, you've got to have two guys that are both playing aggressive, especially in the best ball format. We're both good enough drivers of the ball and strikers of the ball that on these holes where you can lay back and hit 9-irons but you can get it up there close to the green, out of the two of us, at least one is going to be up there you'd think. So I think we'll play pretty aggressive as a team.

RYAN PALMER: I'm hitting driver every hole.

JORDAN SPIETH: I probably will, too.

Q. Jordan, unlike Ryan, I think you only played here once. What did you take away from the course and what did you like about it?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, it was a bit unfortunate when I came here last. I played nine holes on Tuesday and then the pro-am was rained out, so I hadn't seen nine of the holes. It's a bit tricky. It doesn't seem that tricky, but around the greens here, what seems like easy little pitches and chips, you've really got to nail down what decisions you're going to make; are you going to putt it from off the greens, are you going to use a 52, are you going to try and nip it, or are you going to use a hybrid, and you've really got to stick with one of those so you start nailing it in. I just got off trying to fast pace learn the course, and that's not -- that's kind of a bad excuse because I grew up playing junior golf, amateur golf where a lot of times you didn't see the course until you played it in the tournament, but I missed the cut, and so I didn't get a ton of rounds. I only played two. And so -- and honestly, to be honest with you, it was an easy week for me in a busy schedule that -- I play the Texas events leading in to the Masters, I've played Hilton Head in the past, and then I'd go in and play the Dallas and Fort Worth events, with THE PLAYERS. It's a good time -- it's been a good time in the schedule for me as a week off, and the schedule changed the last couple years, and this year with the change in format, too, that excitement led me to really want to play in this event.

So I've gotten to learn the golf course a bit more. Just playing some holes yesterday. We'll play a full round today, and Ryan knows it very well, so I'll certainly rely on Ryan and James in situations where they've seen pins where we may not recall what's around it.

Q. Ryan, how low do you think the scores will go on best ball? Do you think we'll see a 59?
RYAN PALMER: We were talking about it yesterday. Nobody really knows what to expect in the alternate-shot format as far as a score. You look at -- I think a ground round tomorrow is going to be around 5-under will probably be low round tomorrow, and then on Friday for low ball, you're going to see 7- or 8-under, I think, depending on what the winds do because you can get two guys playing well making five or six birdies during the round, as long as they're on separate holes. But I think that's kind of what we talked about leading into it, what to expect from a score-wise.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think given the forecast, it looks like Friday morning is going to be a little breezy and the afternoon is going to get windy. So I would imagine the lower scores come out of the morning on Friday for best ball, and I doubt given Friday and Sunday's forecast you see a 59 if that was your question. I think it's -- we're planning on something around 18 to 20-under for the week, something like that, like 2 to 3-under in the alternate-shot and somewhere around 8 in the best ball. 8-under is very difficult to shoot in best ball. On a course like this, you've got par-5s you can take advantage of. Well, there's a good chance you both birdie the par-5s, and then you've got a lot of difficult par-4s and 3s. Getting eight separate birdies and covering any bogeys up is still tough to do, especially in windy conditions. I wouldn't expect anything -- any ridiculous numbers out there. A guy could probably shoot 6 or 7 or his own and the team still only shoots 8 or 9. That's what we're planning on on the winning score. But the forecast says the toughest days are Friday and Sunday, and there's the four-ball.

Q. If you were to put percentages on it, what part of this week feels like showing up into a town and the normal workweek, and what part of it kind of feels like the club member-member?
JORDAN SPIETH: Both. Yeah, there is a feeling of both. We were playing a match yesterday against Matt Jones and Ricky Barnes, and it was just, let's figure out who's hitting what shots on what holes, and it was just fun figuring it out, or at least just playing it in practice. Again, this isn't just a fun event. You know, Ryan has been on a nice run. He's been trending the right direction. He's been making putts, hitting his driver awesome. He's going to try and pick me up this week, and we're going to -- we have a common goal. We want to work our way into contention. We want to win this golf tournament. This is a full purse, and this is full FedExCup. This does a lot for you for both of us, and we can share that together, which is even cooler, that we can both move up in the FedExCup and really do significant things for the rest of the year. This can be a springboard for us, and we know that.

We're not out here taking things lightly. I mean, we put in full days yesterday. I didn't leave the course until 5:30. This was a full-fledged practice, grind. This is a workweek, but we are going to have a bit more fun on the course because we can feed off of each other and do what we do in practice rounds as far as the banter and whatnot.

Q. I was curious as a follow-up, you touched on it earlier how the year has been kind of outside of Pebble fighting back to get your way back into tournaments. I'm sure you analyzed it. What do you take away? Why has that happened?
JORDAN SPIETH: Not sure. I might be just trying to do a little too much in the first rounds, trying to get out there up into the 6-under range instead of letting kind of the week kind of take shape and just playing to what the course gives you, gives me early and where my game is at. My putting and chipping stats haven't been to the level, even though my ball-striking stats have been even better than the past previous couple years, so it's been just trying to pinpoint exactly what that is, how am I getting more comfortable, and it's been just little things. It's always the basics. It's always setup, posture, alignment, even in the short game that gets off for me. I'm starting to work my way the right direction. I thought I made progress even in a poor week in Houston. I made progress from Austin on the greens, and then Augusta was progress from Houston on the greens, and I feel like I've made progress since then.

So getting the short game back will take care of the rest of it, but I just haven't been getting those par saves. I've been making a couple more bogeys in those first rounds, and that's just kind of quite a bit tougher to come back from when someone is at 6-under and you started even versus only being a couple behind and letting the course come to you.

Q. I was curious about swing changes and things you're working on that you mentioned before. What are they, and kind of how do you arrive at that decision, sort of when to work on them, what to work on, that sort of thing?
JORDAN SPIETH: I haven't made a swing change since I was 13 years old, so it's just all adjustments. It's all trying to get into a very comfortable kind of pocket where I feel like I can work the ball flights from there, and how do you consistently stay in that pocket, and for me it's just getting into the right position in the backswing. My downswing comes from the right position in the backswing, which that's the way most golfers play. Right now looking back at where was I striking the ball the best, looking at the second half of 2015, where were things positioned, and it's just slight adjustments that were a little off that feel kind of major to me. The slightest little move is very difficult to go out there and trust on course. It's a lot easier on the range. It's that -- it's not only figuring out exactly what it is and now taking it to the next level and trusting it on the course, and it's getting close.

Q. What kind of prompts you to make those sort of adjustments?
JORDAN SPIETH: Comfort level, just saying I want to feel more comfortable, how do we make that happen. Standing over the ball, saying I know this is going to draw 10 yards, I know I'm aligned here, that kind of comfort level that when it depletes a little bit -- and I've had it this year for the first six, seven events, I had it as good as I've had it. I knew where the ball was going, and here or there it just gets a little bit off, and that's very normal for everybody, and it's just about adjusting back as quickly as possible.

JOHN BUSH: Jordan Spieth, Ryan Palmer, best of luck this week.

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