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July 16, 2018

Jordan Spieth

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom

MIKE WOODCOCK: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm delighted to welcome the 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year to the interview room, Jordan Spieth.

Jordan, we've just been going through the traditional returning of the Claret Jug ceremony. I guess a bit of sadness as you handed it back.

JORDAN SPIETH: It wasn't an enjoyable experience what you guys had me do there, but it's done. So, yeah, hopefully only out of my possession for a week, which would be ideal. The traditions of The Open are very special, even if you're on the wrong end of that one.

MIKE WOODCOCK: And you've spoken a bit about just the feelings of hearing yourself described as Champion Golfer of the Year. That's obviously meant quite a lot to you.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, I think that The Open has that unique title for their champion that no one else has, and it's been that way for so many years. It's been an honor being introduced that way throughout the year at different events, whether it's a PGA Tour event or other major championships. It will be nice to always have that introduction here at The Open. That will certainly bring some good feelings and some chills on the 1st tee this week.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Does it give you added pressure, added momentum going into this week at Carnoustie?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think either. It's just a title that's very cool. Represents a goal accomplished. But I wouldn't say it changes anything by hearing that.

I haven't seen the golf course yet. I'll be excited to see it this afternoon and then get started on The Open changing venues, right? If it's Augusta, obviously, you can draw back on certain memories, being in the same place. But at an Open, changing courses every year and different condition courses, and you obviously have different conditions throughout the week that some players get, some players don't. So they're very different golf tournaments.

Q. Hi, Jordan. Welcome back to Scotland. Obviously, you've handed the Claret Jug jug back now. How difficult was it for you? How special is it for you, for someone who's won most there is to win in the game, to get your hands back on it? And the second question is, how confident are you that you can retain it this time around?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it was -- it didn't really hit me. I thought maybe somebody would meet me in the parking lot, and I'd just give them the case back, and we'd move on. But it was a ceremony, and because of that, it actually hit me harder. I was like, man, this was in my possession. I took it to all the places that allowed me to get to where I am today. My family was able to take it around. Members of the team were able to take it. It's the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer. So having to return that was certainly difficult, kind of hit me a little bit there on the tee box.

But my chances this year, yeah, I think -- my game feels good. I needed a break. I was kind of dragging along, cut-line golf for a while, and playing a pretty heavy schedule, and I needed to kind of get away from the game, which I did. I feel good about the way I did it and the coming back to it.

And coming to an Open Championship requires a lot of feel and imagination, and I think that's what I needed a bit of in my game. I'd gotten very technical and very into making everything perfect instead of kind of the way that I normally play. So this week kind of provides that opportunity where you don't know how far the ball is necessarily going to go off the tee. You need to play the spots, and then you have to use your imagination from there -- hold the ball, ride the wind, a lot of different scenarios based on where pins are and the distance that you have.

Q. Jordan, what did you do to get away? Anything in particular just to chill out? You know, what did you do in that little bit of downtime?
JORDAN SPIETH: I went to Seattle. My little sister was cheering at the U.S. Special Olympics games, and I was up there with Coca-Cola as well. So it kind of worked out perfectly to do both.

I was there the weekend after I was home and was able to be a part of the opening ceremonies. It was a neat experience. I was able to see Michael. I hadn't been up to Seattle since the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. So I went out to Chambers Bay with Michael. We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.

And then I went to Cabo with friends, like I did last year. I had the same break I did last year. I kind of went through the same schedule. It was nice to have a little vacation. I played a little bit of golf, but it was more kind of fun golf. We had eight of us down there, just having a good time.

And then I came back and put on the grind the last week or so. I was working hard at home. I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working -- working hard at my game on the golf course, and it was nice to kind of have that itch to get back. It was nice to kind of start from scratch, almost like wet concrete with parts of my game.

Q. Just as a different follow to that, it seemed like as you're -- whatever word we want to put on it -- struggle or whatever your form has been to your standards, that maybe in that stretch you lost a little bit of joy for the game. You wear it on your sleeve a little bit, so you can tell when you're frustrated. Is that accurate at all? Did you lose a little bit of the joy there for a stretch when you weren't getting the results you were looking for?
JORDAN SPIETH: Over this last stretch, I didn't let it get to me off the golf course, I don't think. Certainly on the golf course, if I'm not playing well, you can tell, and if I'm playing well, you can tell. So you probably saw more of the not playing well because I wasn't playing as well. But I didn't let it affect me out from the game. Instead it was actually fueling me. I was enjoying the work even though I knew it wasn't there.

I was leading Travelers after round one, but I knew the game wasn't really at a consistent, sustainable place. I knew I caught some good breaks that maybe could last, maybe weren't going to. But that was kind of a unique position to be in typically. I'm a little more confident after leading a round.

But I kind of knew it wasn't -- I didn't get ahead of myself. I wasn't down on myself that I didn't play well the next couple of days. Instead, I knew there was work that needed to be done and things weren't firing on all cylinders to win golf tournaments. I know what that feels like, and I wasn't feeling that way.

I feel like I'm in a position now with every part of my game, I kind of attacked the places that really needed some strong work. That combination with an Open Championship, the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me to kickback into shape.

Q. Jordan, you hinted at it there, an Open Championship, the way that it needs to be played, but these are pretty extreme, fast, firm conditions. Have you experienced anything sort of similar? And what do you make of them?
JORDAN SPIETH: I haven't played one hole yet, so I don't -- I'm just going off of what other people have said and what I've seen so far. I talked to a couple of my friends, and they said it's extremely baked out. Then I talked to Michael a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, "You might hit a lot of 5 irons off the tee, and you have a lot of -- you might wear out 5 and 4 irons off the tee instead of hitting 3 or 2 irons like you're used to."

And then you might -- you kind of wear out your mid-irons, somewhere like 6 to 9 irons if you play to the fat spots. I think a couple players, a couple longer hitters might take driver a little more because I don't think the rough's as bad. But I'm not sure what my strategy will be yet. I'm sure it will be up there with the firmest conditions I've ever seen.

Q. But in anticipation of that, is it a challenge that you expect to relish?
JORDAN SPIETH: Absolutely, yeah. I love links golf. I always have. I very much enjoyed coming over here. I guess the firmest conditions I can remember ever playing might have been The Open at Muirfield. The weather was perfect that entire week, and it baked out, but there wasn't much wind.

So if we get wind with these kind of firm conditions, that would be certainly a treat. But hopefully, we get a pretty even draw. I think everybody always hopes for that going in. That's the one thing The Open can bring, you can actually eliminate half the field with one bad afternoon of weather Thursday or Friday, like at Troon, which is always disappointing to come over here and have that happen if you're on the wrong side, obviously. Pretty nice on the right side.

But looks to be a normal one this year, and you'll see guys playing this golf course very differently. You'll see a lot of different strategies.

Q. Jordan, you're obviously part of a group of players from the U.S. in their 20s who won the last five majors. Outside of physical talent, what do you think is the specific trait or characteristic that has allowed that group to close out majors like it has over the last 13 months?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure. I think just the added competition and the better competition, the more -- the deeper fields that we've experienced in junior and amateur golf that led to kind of quick transitions onto the PGA TOUR. So maybe when it took five years to transition guys into winning 10, 15 years ago, it's taking guys five months now, and therefore, whether it's five times faster, ten times faster, therefore, you're that much quicker and more well prepared for majors.

So it's kind of a natural transition into kind of fearless golf at the highest level. I think that's what you're kind of seeing out of 20-something-year-olds. I mean, the game is getting athletic, but as far as the mental side of it, guys have just been playing against better fields on better golf courses because of the junior and amateur circuit. There's been more depth, and I imagine it will continue to be the same way it's been now.

We also had a random, extremely strong class of players out of the United States in my graduating high school class and the classes right around us. And that could have just been randomness, where guys just -- we all pushed each other at a certain level. I mean, our class has a ridiculous number of worldwide wins, the 24-year-olds or whatever, the 2011 high school class. It's kind of absurd and would compare probably better than any other class maybe in the history of the game in one kind of -- I would say American, but with Matteo Manassero, starting with back way back to Emiliano Grillo winning overseas, but he also played with us growing up. Combination of that maybe.

Q. Could you share with us your memories of The Open at Carnoustie 2007. Maybe '99, you were a bit young to remember '99, but do you have any memories of 2007 and watching that Open?
JORDAN SPIETH: I just remember -- I remember maybe the last couple holes and then watching the playoff. I remember Sergio having a putt that kind of dove off and I think missed just on the right side to win the tournament. And then I remember the playoff and Padraig winning. But not very -- I could only tell you somewhat vividly what the 18th hole looks like. The rest of it, I have no idea out here.

I've seen pictures, obviously, of No. 6. I know the story of Hogan driving it in between the out of bounds and the bunkers all four rounds, en route to winning his first and only Open I think he ever played.

I think the 8th hole, someone told me if we hit a draw on a par 3, it could land on the green and be out of bounds. But other than that, I don't know much and don't remember much from even 2007.

Q. I'm guessing you had to change to go back and watch last year's final round, specifically the last five or six holes. Can you remember what your emotions were when you were watching that on TV?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I watched it no more than 12 hours after it took place for the first time. I was already back home -- I'd say maybe 20 hours after it took place. I was back home, and I watched it with Michael. We were able to get back to the States.

I just remember a couple things: One, how long it took on 13 versus how long it felt it took. It felt like I was making decision, decision, decision, decision kind of quickly, concisely, and on TV I was very annoyed. I had to fast forward through it.

And then how quickly it looked from when I finished on 13 to tee off on 14 and how long that time felt, that regrouping actually felt like -- I remember using the rest room. I remember kind of regrouping.

But on watching the coverage, I finished 13, all of a sudden I'm on 14, and I looked like a different person -- demeanor, player, everything. But it felt like I had all this time. So it was kind of the opposite there when I was watching it. Kind of weird.

Q. Jordan, can you remember which one of you when Michael said, Let's consider dropping on the practice ground, in the hole you've just been talking about, because no one else seemed to have even thought that was possible. Did you say it to Michael? Did Michael say it to you? Can you reconstruct how you arrived at that idea?
JORDAN SPIETH: It was my idea. I'll certainly claim that one. Michael was pretty adamant about going back and re-teeing because he said, "How's it look?" And I said, "I don't think I can get a club on the ball." And he said, "Okay, then what are you thinking?" And I said, "Well, I'm going to look around and see if I can take an unplayable within two club lengths any direction."

And I was down there, and he was with me, and I remember it was -- there was such a slope that I had to get lucky on the drop for it not to roll back into another bush. And I said, "You know, it's probably going to run back here." And he said, "Okay, why don't we go back to the tee? You hit two good shots, you get a putt at 5." And I just remember kind of looking at him going, "Okay, if I'm taking an unplayable, the other line is you can go in line with the hole as far back as you want." There was a flat spot to drop, but I wasn't going to be able to get -- I could only hit maybe a 9 iron back to the fairway then, which was going to be better than re-teeing still. It would have been the same as me hitting a tee shot, but instead I could hit a short iron.

So I was running that scenario through. Then I run the next one. If I go even further back, all of a sudden, I'm on the driving range. Is it out of bounds? There's a question. No, it's not out of bounds. Okay, if I drop it on these trailers, I'll then get a free drop, and if my free drop goes to the right, I have all this space. Now it was, how far will I have to the hole? If I have over 300 yards, then there's no point in doing so because it will be the same scenario; it's too risky. I'll have to hit it back to the fairway, and I may as well drop it from 50 yards up closer.

But when we figured out that that yardage was a yardage I could reach the green, it made sense that I could hit it up around the green, and it would have been my best chance to make the best score.

Q. Do you reckon that was one of the best decisions you've made?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, absolutely. It had to be the best, yeah, considering the timing and what it led to.

Q. Jordan, I'm just trying to draw a bridge to understand the virtues of getting away from the game to find the artist within versus needing to work on some things as recently as the Travelers. So is the Jordan Spieth sitting before us today more artist or tactician at this point?
JORDAN SPIETH: Than when? Than three weeks ago?

Q. Than three weeks ago.
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably more artist, I would say. I was able to -- I went through some stuff in my swing that -- I was striking the ball beautifully through the Masters and then took time off, got into some bad habits into New Orleans, and I needed to work a different swing field than I had experienced maybe the last two, three, four years to get things back in shape. But I knew that that swing feel was not permanent. It was something just to get the beacons back to even, right? Train the eyes, train the alignment, the swing.

And then once that got kind of overdone into Muirfield, it was kind of time to step back. So I kind of struggled with -- you know, I was overdoing it one way, overdoing it the other, and just trying to find the middle ground. Getting away from the game allowed me to kind of come back with a set, natural setup, and therefore, working the same kind of swing feels with the right ball flights from that setup.

So I can be -- I don't have to worry about as much before I start my swing. And within the swing, I can do kind of the same feels that I've been doing the last year, year and a half, that's produced my best ball striking in my life.

So is it as consistent as it's ever been? Probably not. But can it be by the time we tee off? Absolutely. Does it have to be to win the tournament? No, because it requires so much feel over here. As long as I play to the right spots and give myself enough chances, it can be good enough.

Q. Jordan, you've spoken about how proud you are to come here to Carnoustie as defending Open champion. Just touching on the game what happened at the 13th last year, does it make you even more proud knowing that you won it both on the course, but also about with your decision making?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think -- yeah, I'm proud of the decision making on 13, but I don't look at it as maybe as crazy as some of the questions I've been asked today -- it was, for me, this is the rules. Let's figure out the best advantage to use them. I didn't think it was anything other than that. I was still upset at my tee shot. I didn't hit a great 3 iron. I was still frustrated at the striking.

And then the regrouping between 13 and 14, I was very proud to be able to do that, no matter if it were the first round on -- I need to stop touching anything near my face because then I can't think. (Laughter).

Q. Did it surprise you that you were able to, amidst the chaos almost of what was happening, from our point of view, you were right in the moment, and you knew what you were doing?
JORDAN SPIETH: I did know what I was doing. I didn't feel like I was right in the moment. I felt like I was working the rules to help save a stroke. It's that simple. That's legitimately all I was thinking about, how to do so. Sure, there was chaos because there was a lot of people there. So I was trying to respectfully ask everyone to please give us the space, which they did, to work.

But, no, it was more physically. It was more the shots I hit from then on that I was most proud of and most impressed with when on a day when it looked like it was all going away, to kind of tighten things up and go 5-under on the last five and shoot, I think, even or under par on the day when I was -- the wheels were off.

I've had plenty of tournaments where I've made it very boring coming down the stretch, and I've had plenty of tournaments where it's been exciting, good and bad. And that needed excitement to get it back, obviously, but if I could go back and redo it again, I would 100 percent make three birdies and no bogeys and just walk my way up the 18th green and win the Claret Jug. Even though it was so special the way it happened, that was more special for the writing and the story. For me, I would have been more proud if I had made no bogeys and three birdies, and that would be the goal of what to do next time.

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