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March 20, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the media room. Give us some thoughts on being back in Austin and what it means to have this tournament in your college hometown.
JORDAN SPIETH: I love making this trip. I wish I came down to Austin more than I do. Obviously good memories from around this track from qualifying and just practicing with the team.
The Tour and ACC have done a fantastic job together of making it a tremendous event and a golf course that's been in just phenomenal shape this year. I don't think there's a blade of grass out of place. It's the best shape I've ever seen it in.
So we have some really good weather forecasted which is going to make for a pretty exciting week.
Q. You got to play a practice round with former teammate Dylan Frittelli yesterday. What was it like being back inside the ropes with him?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it was fun, we kind of relived the memories of qualifying out here, just talking about how challenging it was and just talking a little bit about that season with him, which was such a special year for us here at the University of Texas. So it's been awesome seeing Dylan's success overseas, and obviously working his way into the top 60, 50 in the world and continuing to improve. And he's just the same person he's always been. He hasn't changed a bit in the last five, six years.
I haven't seen a whole lot of him. But it's awesome to see because that work ethic he put in in college that was a big part of the reason why I worked so hard in college was to try and beat him within our own team. That competitive nature has carried over into kind of creating a work ethic for both of us. As professionals, it has bred success for us.
Q. Have you ever been called a match play ninja, and do you know what one is?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, and I don't (laughter).
Q. Second question, when you play somebody or when you look at a field of somebody, how do you balance between how somebody's playing and any reputation they have in match play? In other words, does someone's reputation carry more weight, no matter how they're playing?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't know about more weight. I think it's maybe like a 50/50 form and -- anybody in this field is capable of going from missing a cut the week prior to shooting 65 on a random day, anybody that's here. So you have to be prepared for anything.
I remember last year, I think there would be somebody who would be called a match play ninja in Ryan Moore, somebody with a lot of past success in match play. We both had lost one, so we needed to win, and we needed Tanihara to tie or lose, I don't remember the exact scenario. But I remember stepping on the tee thinking he's half in form, half he's got this reputation of being such a phenomenal match play player. And it certainly weighed a little bit into how I was thinking going into it.
Q. So far this year you haven't gotten a victory here, you're looking for it. In two weeks you're going to a place you've had unbelievable success. When you haven't had the first place you're looking for and going to a place you've had so much success, does that make you more excited to go to Augusta or do you feel good about achieving what you're looking for, and going to a place you've had so much success?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think going into Augusta, if you can generate momentum, whether it's a win or just strong finishes, you certainly step on the first tee there feeling a little bit better about it. I've always played leading into the Masters, too, so it's kind of a nice flow for me. Even if I've missed the cut, I've had recent competitive rounds where I've been out and playing in competition.
Houston is not exactly the best golf course for me, I haven't had a lot of success there, but I think it has been a stepping-stone in creating success at Augusta for me.
So I'm looking to these two weeks -- I'm looking forward, I'm not looking back. I've got an opportunity this week and next week to generate that momentum. I also know I've gone into Augusta off, not being in form and still had a chance to win come Sunday. So neither one makes a difference. It certainly helps that first tee getting into a rhythm if you feel good about your previous few rounds.
Q. Another Augusta question. Your 2014 yardage book, how useful is it? Will it be this year? Are the changes subtle enough from year to year that you can still derive a lot from it or especially on the greens is it not very useful?
JORDAN SPIETH: It is useful. I like to combine -- you know, the yardage books we have for Augusta National are not as in depth as the ones we get week to week. And we don't have the greens books that we have available pretty much every week available as well. So you're left with less information than you're used to, to start. And so it's very important to use previous years books, and especially on the greens, fall lines, and where you have access to certain pins.
At this point I've played the course enough and I've been a lot of different places on each hole to know where to and where not to go. But it is a nice reference point at times, especially as you get to the weekend and maybe you're in contention. And you're just trying to gain a little bit of an advantage. Maybe you have a read on there that is a little different from what you see. And it's just that much easier to trust if you know you've had it before.
So the course hasn't changed much at all from 2014. There's very subtle changes.
Q. I know you didn't have the success of Valspar that you wanted. How would you describe where your game is now as far as how you played this year?
JORDAN SPIETH: Still progressing. I feel like I put in a lot of good work. I think it was almost good for me looking back over the last now week and a half. I got a lot of really good work in in Dallas, a lot more than I've done this entire year. So I feel good about my game.
This match play could free me up a bit to play more aggressive and putt more aggressively and it could be a trigger for a successful rest of the year, that's what I'm looking forward to.
Q. Five years since the National Championship at Texas. Does it seem like just yesterday or a lifetime ago?
JORDAN SPIETH: It feels more like a lifetime ago than yesterday. But it's still clear as day to me that day and a lot of different moments in that season, but especially kind of that week and that final round. I could tell you pretty much every shot I hit that day, when which is unique.
Q. Apologies if you've already addressed it, but what was your reaction when you saw that Patrick was in your same group? And has the trash talk already started?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I do think -- I think there's -- I didn't see the drawing, and I think I've been a part of it once where you pick it out, but it seems to be there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness (laughter).
And it's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List, Hatton and Justin in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.
I'm looking forward to the opportunity. He has a great match play record. I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match play scenario. And so it will be an exciting Friday afternoon. I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us (laughter).
Yes, it will be fun. No, trash talk, I don't think, has started. Typically he's on my team trash talking, not the other side.
Q. We've been speaking to you the last few weeks about who is going to get to the Grand Slam Club first. What Rory did on Sunday, does that make him a favorite or do you think --
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, when I was asked that question before, I said Rory was obviously the favorite, because he gets the first chance. So he would be in the driver's seat. But, yeah, whether he won last week or not he's always a force. He just needs to be healthy. And I think most of last season, it was a struggle for him because he knew that he couldn't have the ball count that he wanted to be at his best, and yet he was still playing because it wasn't like he had to sit out.
So just being rested, healthy and on the right path meant this year and going forward Rory is Rory. And so he should always be a favorite at any event.
Q. Have you noticed when you see golfers who are specifically good match play golfers, are there common personality traits that you've seen in your experience?
JORDAN SPIETH: Not necessarily. I would say there's -- no, because Ryan Moore and Patrick Reed are not the same person. And those are the two I've mentioned today. But I would say there are some similarities to their game, the consistency, the -- I would say the bogey avoidance is a big advantage for their games. I believe it's one that's an advantage in mine, as well.
It's interesting, I could shoot 2-over every single round and win a WGC this week. There's a luck of the draw to it. There are some players that are phenomenal match play players that have gotten bad draw after bad draw after bad draw. That happens, too. So it's a little hard to tell, but certainly consistency plays a major factor in trying to win that many matches in a row.
Q. What do you know about Hao Tong, and have you had an opportunity to play with him at all?
JORDAN SPIETH: I played with him in China, actually, in late 2016 -- '15 or '16. And that was pretty interesting being over there and him being the young star from China. I saw a little bit of when he won in the desert against Rory and his celebration, kind of the fire that he had. It was cool to see. And obviously his continued success is, I think, very influential for the game of golf, especially over there across the pond.
So it's awesome to see him have that at such a young age. I think he's a couple years younger than I am, which is rare out here on Tour. So I think it's great to see. I don't know much of his game. I don't remember the specifics of when we played. But just then and what I've seen recently and here now on the European Tour.
Q. I would like to know if during all your wins you experienced something like you take in your own information within yourself without using outside, like caddie or book?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I wouldn't say there's anything glaringly different in when I've won versus any other event on information. Some of my best putting rounds -- or best putting tournaments have been when I haven't had access to a greens book, which is funny. And sometimes I think about that, that you can overanalyze some of the information you're given. But other than that, I've still used greens books and had them been important in wins, as well. I wouldn't say there's anything glaringly different.
Q. Over your career of junior golf up to now, have you ever encountered any gamesmanship in match play that maybe you kind of snicker at now and laugh about or just general kind of antics in matches?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, there's been -- there's been a couple of different instances both in the Ryder Cup. And other than that I haven't had any. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry (laughter).
Q. Did they impact you in a positive way or negative way in the course of the match?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think they were indifferent to me and helped Patrick (laughter).
Q. Now we're getting somewhere.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. But, yeah, it's -- I mean, I think everybody involved or everybody that's playing thinks -- don't take yourself too seriously. It's part of it. It should be fun. There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary -- that's why it would seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be an unusual question.
Q. One of your peers told me that the person who comes closest to Tiger in terms of having that indomitable will is you. I'm wondering what your reaction to that is, and is that something you can develop or is that how you're wired; do you think?
JORDAN SPIETH: That would be the first I've heard that. It certainly is a tremendous compliment. But I'm not sure. I'm not sure exactly how to answer it.
Q. Do you understand what the person is saying that when others give up, you have some ability to find something within you to keep going?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think it's the old clichÃ© that everyone's parents tell them when they start playing soccer at age six is you never give up. You see crazy things in sports. And I don't know, I just -- there's certainly times where I know on Sunday that I cannot win this golf tournament and accepting that is very difficult for me. But at the same time there's always an advantage to finishing strong.
There's always an advantage to playing better golf than what you're playing to finish off a tournament, whether it's you get paid better or get more FedExCup points, or there could be a difference in World Ranking points that makes a difference somewhere. There's always some advantage to finishing off strong, and I think that's kind of the way that -- because I think that maybe generates -- maybe just helps a little bit in momentum at the end of any tournament.
Q. Back on the gamesmanship for a minute, when you go into a match is there anything you change, whether it's your personality or your game, dependent on an opponent? Like Friday, would you give Patrick the silent treatment?
JORDAN SPIETH: I wish they'd mic us both up, to be honest. I think all you all would wish they would mic us both up.
No, you do anything out of the ordinary, you're in a different situation than you've been practicing or that you're used to. I'm sure there will be something just because we know each other so well.
I played Justin a couple years back and it was certainly different than other matches I've played. Other than that I wouldn't say there's going to be any kind of silent treatment or trash talk. We both are going to go out and try to play our best golf this whole week.
Q. Is there anything in your game when you face any opponent that you change?
JORDAN SPIETH: No.
Q. Speaking of Tiger, seems like he's created a little bit of attention the last few weeks. Does that have any effect or dynamic on other favorites like you and Rory and Dustin, even Sergio, defending champion, take a little bit of the scrutiny off, maybe?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think must have been a month or two ago, I might have been there tied for the favorite with DJ, now I'm not even on the board (laughter).
Man, it's nice being an underdog at Augusta, I haven't been there since 2014. The story lines heading into this year's Masters are as exciting as they've been in a long time. We're not absent to that, we obviously realize that. It's more incentive to want to be a part of that mix Sunday.
Q. I saw you yesterday at 18 signing autographs for a bunch of little kids. Is that fun for you? Do you feel like an ambassador to the game, trying to attract young kids into the game?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it's cool. It must be spring break here in Austin, but it was the middle of the day on a Monday. There's always been a phenomenal turnout here and any of the Texas events for myself personally, and I think that's really cool. I've certainly enjoyed that.
I feel, yeah, there's certainly -- I think there's an obligation when you're in the spotlight to present an example that you want to set. I mean you can judge that however you want. But an example that you want to set for a younger group and for the sport in general. And just try and do it the way that you want to do it.
I remember being one of those kids. And the second you forget that is when you've changed and nobody likes that. Just remembering kind of where you came from, how you worked your way up and how those kids are going to try to do the same thing, whether it's in golf or business or whatever it may be. They're out there trying to have fun and just have a personal touch. That's what golf gives you that other sports don't is how up close and personal you can get to the athletes and it can be really cool in that sense.
Q. Was there one autograph you really, really wanted as a kid, and did you ever get stiffed?
JORDAN SPIETH: There was a time that I was out, I think at the Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. And I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled -- and they were talking and then they said, one second.
And when they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while (laughter) because of that.
And it's funny, looking back now, because of the times you're pulled -- and he could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kids area where there was a hundred of them. And I was the one -- but the time management is so different out here that you obviously have no idea and there's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.
Q. Let's go back to Phil for a minute. When did you overcome this?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think I've told him this story since then. And of course, he probably responded with a Phil-like, yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it (laughter), something like that.
But I think it would have been in college or early on Tour when I got to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.
Q. Secondly, you said earlier that match play could free you up, serve as some kind of a trigger. How? In what way?
JORDAN SPIETH: Playing more aggressively and playing off a field. I think this game plan -- getting in some conditions, some wind. We've played a lot of golf this year in some domes. It's been just great weather the tournaments I've played. And getting some wind and having the opportunity to say, okay, he's on the middle of the green, I'm going to fire this one at the flag stick and try and go 1-up here. Versus I'm at even par, I'm going to play the golf course the way it's supposed to be played. Sometimes you take your chances in match play instead of paying attention to the score.
I'm more than happy to win this tournament shooting 2-over, 6-under, 1-under, just random scores playing my opponent, even though it wouldn't have won a real golf tournament. I think at Harding Park, I think I was 12-under the first three days and didn't make it out of group stage. I know anything can happen, you may as well take your chances.
Q. Just curious about having been teamed with Patrick so often now, have you learned anything about match play approach or adjusted anything in your match play because of him? Do you feel like you've learned anything, I guess, from him?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, yeah, don't piss up him off, he plays a lot better. And two, yeah, the way that he kind of walks into his putts at match play. Like I always had this feeling on the side of the green that it was going in. No matter what the length was, you kind of had that. And you sometimes -- it was just going to be really aggressive with it, with his putts, and he didn't care about the one coming back, whether I had to putt it or it was because that was going to be the best way for him to make it, which was probably the real reason. But he knew I was putting aggressively so he did, and that's been a big trigger for success for us, too.
But I think that, on the greens and chipping and putting and just kind of the eye that he has for the hole, the aggressiveness there, I can take and I've used afterwards.
Q. You have a connectivity to this city here in Austin. Have you been monitoring what's been happening with the explosions, and what's been your reaction?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, a bit. I saw, it was two nights ago, it was -- they think a trip wire. And then I think there was -- at the FedEx facility last night or this morning. Yeah, it's just -- it stinks. It stinks equally anywhere that it would happen. But obviously for such a fantastic city full of great people it stinks for the city of Austin.
You just hope that whatever is happening is obviously dealt with as quickly as possible. It's tricky because it's such a difficult thing to try and figure out. But that's why there's specialists and people that have taken care of these kind of situations in the past all over the world. So trust for them to get the job done as soon as possible.
Q. You've played this course a number of times, is there a certain aspect of the Austin Country Club course that you consider still a challenge, whether it's a certain hole, a certain aspect of a hole? What do you find that you enjoy as the challenge of playing at Austin Country Club?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, you have two completely different golf courses within the two nines: nine holes in the hills and nine holes down in the lake. So you get different winds. The front nine plays a lot of crosswinds, and the back plays a lot of into and down. It adjusts distances the way you play. It has a big effect there.
And I think the most pivotal holes are 13, 14, 15. That's where the difference in the match happens. Those are holes that all play -- 13 actually played par. 14 being the hardest or second hardest behind 8. And 15, I think being over par, as well. And recognizing that when you're playing those three holes and playing them accordingly should put you at an advantage if you were to play them at par or better over your opponent. But those are pivotal holes that are certainly a focal point this week.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in. Best of luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports