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May 15, 2019

Jordan Spieth

Farmingdale, New York

JON DEVER: Good morning, everyone, and welcome back to the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Pleased to be joined by three-time major champion Jordan Spieth. Jordan, welcome to what is your now seventh PGA Championship. What's interesting about your story line here at Bethpage is that, again, for the third time you'll be going for the potential of a Career Grand Slam, which is remarkable in its own right. But what did you maybe learn from your first two tries at that?

JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn't -- in the past it hasn't been tries at the Grand Slam, it's been tries at the PGA Championship. So I've had six tries, and this will be the seventh. But it's a major, and certainly we try and peak around the majors every year.

This golf course offers, as we all know, a really tough test. It's shown on the sign when you pull in. I think it's in beautiful shape. The greens are just immaculate, and looks like the weather is going to cooperate too. So all in all it should be an exciting week.

JON DEVER: You're riding some good momentum, especially when you go back to Augusta, you played really, really well the final three rounds. Is that kind of what you're feeling right now?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think I'm going for as much consistency as possible. I've shot some low rounds, but piecing together four has been difficult this season so far. But I've shown, I think -- it's gotten more progressively consistent throughout the year, and out here you're going to need that kind of consistency.

You need your bad rounds to be held at about par to win this tournament, and you need your good rounds to go deep enough. If I can continue to make the amount of birdies I've been making and then just limit the mistakes a little bit, then should be right in it.

Q. You just referenced it a little bit. Have you been able to analytically put your finger on why the consistency has eluded you, and when you've been able to go low three rounds and there's just that one round that's keeping you back, what have you determined so far out of that?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's just been my driving of the golf ball that's -- yeah. Even on some of the good rounds I get away with a bad couple of drives, but then over the course of four rounds, you just can't continue to get away with them. Kind of the foul ball type thing. Balls need to start more on line, and it's happening. It's getting there. And I feel like I'm working on one swing feel now instead of changing it up each round, which allows me to be more consistent, to recognize where the club face is and be able to time it a little bit better. And that's only been the last week or so that I've been really sticking to kind of one swing feel, really nailing it down.

But yeah, it's just been the driving.

Q. I was going to ask you what kind of progress you might have made the last week at the Byron Nelson.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I thought I made progress. I thought on Sunday -- I was trying something Sunday that was kind of a test, and it was kind of a bad decision. That's what I'm talking about. I kind of went away from what I was doing the other three rounds to try and bring a big draw back in play to see if it would work. But then I hooked a couple out of play because of that.

My game -- my Sunday round, I actually felt like my game was in better shape than I scored. I was just making kind of a dumb decision to start the round to try and bring in a couple more shots, but not going about it the right way.

I thought it was good. I thought I made a lot of birdies, which is also really nice to see because it's easier for me to limit the mistakes than it is to ramp up the birdie count.

Q. You're always a guy that shows his emotion on the golf course. Have you been able to deal with some of the frustrations? I know you mentioned that you sometimes took them home.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think I've done a better -- yeah, I think I've done a better job. I mean, if any of y'all are for whatever reason not doing your job as well as you'd like to, I'm sure you get frustrated, as well. For me, it's more within myself than it is any kind of outside influence. But just knowing my capabilities and then what I've been doing.

It's just a frustration of wanting to -- a desire, a drive, I guess, and sometimes momentarily that can be frustration, but it certainly leads to a drive, a will to want to correct and get back to where I'm contending week in and week out.

I feel like I'm doing a better job of being patient on the frustration side and kind of letting my game come back in the time that it needs to take.

Q. Along those lines, I appreciate you being so forthright on the technical side of your game, and I know you're after one swing feel now. From the mental and emotional standpoint, competing week in and week out with the best in the world, and you are one of the best in the world, how do you work on that with Cameron or your team being barraged with a bunch of questions about your game for the better part of a year? Because the two go hand in hand, the physical and the mental side.
JORDAN SPIETH: Sure, yeah. I think it's been an adjustment being in a bit of a slump, on both sides, right. And I think it might be -- it actually may have even been harder on Cameron than it has been on me just because of the physical side being often me trying to tell him, Hey, that doesn't feel right, even though that looks right to you, it doesn't feel right. And then that's frustrating for him. But I think we're keeping it within ourselves really well. I think we've both had to block out a little bit of outside noise that's experts that may not actually know what's going on on both sides, right? For him, for someone to be critiquing what he's doing, and he's like -- he's got to be frustrated if it's not correct, and then same on my side.

So it's been a minor adjustment, but I think we've done a really good job, and I think at this point we're really doing a good job of sticking to the course.

Q. Can you describe the technical flaws you've identified and what this feel is, and is it an old feel, or is it a new feel?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I just simply -- my setup got a little bit lazy, and instead of finding that out, my swing started to kind of go up instead of around me, and I'm trying to get it right back to where it was in 2017 where I was first in tee to green on the TOUR, and we have all the data points to do it, it's just a difficult move for me right now, and it just takes a little bit of time to work it back and get the timing right, most importantly. I can kind of do what I'm trying to do, but to consistently time it is just going to take a little bit of time.

But we're really just trying to get my swing back to where it was in 2017, and it just got off a little bit last year by getting a little steep with the hands.

Q. The way Kerry Haigh sets up PGA courses, do they meet your eye compared to other courses for major championships?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think for me it depends on the conditions. I seem to play better golf in major championships when courses are firmer, quicker greens, and the scores are closer to par than when it's long, soft and you've got to still go low. That's just when I look back. If I'm on, I feel like it doesn't matter, but if I'm a little bit off, then it's nicer if it's on that side of things for me.

The PGA Championships are set up to be one of the toughest challenges in golf with the best field in major championship golf. It's if not the most difficult tournament to win, it's the top couple, and do I think that it sets up well for me? Again, Whistling Straits was playing firm, fast. I think it set up really well for me. And then like Valhalla was too big of a golf course for me at the time and the way it was playing.

I think it just kind of depends. PGA's change a lot. I think out of all of them, they're probably the -- out of all four of the majors, they're probably the most difficult I've found for my game to translate to. But any given year it can certainly play like a U.S. Open as far as the difficulty level, and it can play kind of as fast as an Open Championship, depending on where you are.

Q. As you're in this bit of a slump, as you described it --

Q. Was, did you find that people -- I'm not talking about outsiders, I'm talking about the people that you run into in the practice range and whatever, were almost walking around on eggshells around you; that people didn't really know what to say to you --

Q. Almost an awkwardness, and what's that like?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I mean, I didn't like go away from the game for five years, I just happened to not win in the last year and a half or so.

Q. Just the expectations that you face?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I don't feel that way at all. I've had friends on TOUR reach out and say, hey, everyone goes through ups and downs, and you're pretty much -- stick to it, you're doing the right things, whatever.

But no, I mean, again, I think that the -- I don't want to use the word negativity, but the questioning and the wording that's used to describe me by media or whatever over the past year has only come up because of the amount of success that I've had.

So it actually could be looked at positively, as well, because if I didn't have the success that I've had, then, first of all, I wouldn't be in here right now. Second of all, it would be, oh, his game is progressing nicely, you'd be actually looking at the progression of the game instead of the comparisons constantly to when someone is at their best, which I think is unfair to anybody in any field.

But it's not -- it's not me to tell anybody how to do their job, it's just one of those things where you've just got to block out the noise and stay the course and believe in yourself.

Q. A very quick follow, what is the biggest adjustment you have to make to the schedule change of this event? Is it your schedule, weather conditions?
JORDAN SPIETH: Actually I really didn't -- it didn't change my schedule much at all. This kind of -- I've always played a four-week stretch right through here. It's been THE PLAYERS as either the first week and now it was the Byron Nelson, and this taking the week that the Byron Nelson has been, so actually my schedule, it doesn't change it whatsoever, and I've always tried to focus on this four-week stretch as a really great opportunity to get something going around what was THE PLAYERS that we think of as a major, and now it's the PGA.

As far as on and off the course, nothing has really changed.

Q. You've mentioned your struggles with the driver. Do you feel extra not necessarily pressure but an onus to kind of figure it out on this course, especially seeing the problems that people have had if you're not straight at this course, especially with the rough?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I mean, again, I think I've been driving the ball better. I think until the last round last week, I was in the positive strokes gained category, and that's progression. And if I just continue -- if I get a little bit better than last week, I'll have plenty of opportunities this week to be able to get the job done. Yeah, there's a premium on hitting fairways here, no doubt about it, but there's maybe two holes where carrying the ball 310 has an advantage, where the fairway is wider than it is shorter than that range. I think No. 9 and No. 12.

But other than that, everybody has got to hit it just as straight as the other player, no matter how far they hit it. And I'm certainly focused on putting a focal point on my driver. But again, it goes back to just the physical side of it. I'm trying to time it up correctly, and it's a work in progress.

Q. In your quest for the Career Grand Slam, whether it's human nature, competitive nature, just people asking you about it, in your preparation, how much time do you spend thinking about what it would be like to win the Career Grand Slam?
JORDAN SPIETH: Not much, honestly. Certainly every PGA Championship week I understand that that's going to be the case, and I think I'd be the sixth person, which would be a pretty unique fraternity to be in there. That would be a dream come true for me. But I also recognize that if I continue to stay healthy and play well, I'll have, I don't know, 30 chances at it. One of them is bound to go my way, right?

You know, I just go week to week and try and set up to hit my first tee shot tomorrow down the fairway and then try to hit the second shot on the green and then make a putt and figure out how to birdie the next. It's going to be very here in the moment for me, every PGA Championship, just as it is at every major. I feel like I'm more patient in majors with letting courses come to me than I am at other tournaments, and I feel like this is a good time for me to test that out.

Q. With relation to the Slam, if you are able to complete it, whether it's this week or not, what will it tell you about you and your game, and how much would it mean to you once it is taken care of?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think that the four majors provide four different tests of golf and four different normally locations around the world or the United States and the UK, so it's more like your game -- it tells you your game travels anywhere and can win the biggest events on any type of course in any situation. It's just a -- each one has its own identity, each major championship, and so you've kind of, I guess, mastered golf, is kind of an easy way to say it, if you're able to complete a Career Grand Slam.

Each one is so unique in their own right that they require different styles of game, and the people who have won all four have clearly showed that they can win anywhere in the world in any condition, numerous times.

Q. What's the best thing that's happened to you on a golf course this year and why?
JORDAN SPIETH: A lot of great things have happened this year. How do I nail one down? I'm not sure. I'm not sure what the -- I don't know if I can single one out right now. I've had a couple hole-out wedges, which are always fun. I think San Antonio and then at Torrey Pines. The hole-out at Torrey Pines was really fun, big crowds on that green. It's a military hole on the 13th hole there, and to a front pin, it's always a wedge that you're kind of looking to feed in. I can't see it go in, but the whole crowd rising and going nuts, that was a cool moment.

Q. Speaking of a different kind of frustration, how much have you talked to Justin Thomas about his situation and how he feels about it, and what sort of things do you tell him?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't have any experience on that matter. I have talked to him. He's extremely disappointed not to be here. But going about -- I think going about it the right way, seeing the long-term over the short-term and making sure he's 100 percent before he could possibly make any matters worse, he seems to be really diligent in his recovery and his -- and who he's talking to and what he's going through. He's got great people around him, and certainly as a friend of his, I hope for as speedy a recovery and as successful a recovery as possible. But I don't have experience in the matter. It's just talking to him, trying to be supportive.

Q. Jordan, Brooks Koepka was in here yesterday talking about how he kind of whittles down to field to see who he has to worry about. It came down to about 25 or 35 guys. I'm just wondering if you actually felt that way when you were winning majors, how you approach the field, or if you even thought about the field, and how you think about it now in the current state of your game?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think I got it to any specific numbers, but the Masters every year I look at it, and I'm like, it's actually -- the Masters, in my opinion, I think it's one of the easier -- it's probably the easiest of the majors to win just because -- I feel that way because it fits my game really well. But it's also -- it's so blown up that so many people have a hard time their first time, second time, third time of just getting over the fact that you're playing in the Masters and actually being able to not overthink the place and pick it apart the right way.

But I don't remember at any point in time picking out specific numbers of people. But typically in a major, outside of kind of unheard of or long-shot scenarios, which do happen, it's normally within 30, 40 guys that I think you guys -- what Brooks was saying, I guess, is pretty accurate. You look at recent form and then guys who aren't afraid of contending or winning or whatever it may be.

So I guess to answer that, I see what he's saying, but I've never been in a situation where I've stood on the first tee picking out a -- okay, there's only a certain number of people to beat this week. I try and stay very focused on myself, the golf course and the plan to attack the golf course that day.

I remember even being in the last group on a Sunday, very little focus is done on the person across from me.

Q. The vast majority of players have said that they feel the driver is the key club this week, but Brandt Snedeker said that the greens are in such phenomenal condition that he feels that that's going to bring more players into the championship and that somebody is going to get hot and make a ton of putts this week. Where would you fall on that question?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think that -- I think Brandt is right on. The greens are -- they're not extremely diabolical, either. There's a couple that are tricky, but for the most part they're just gentle slopes, and they're so pure that somebody can really get -- I was saying that on the practice round yesterday. Somebody can really get hot with a putter this week.

But if you're not hitting fairways, that's getting really hot making par putts. I think the driver is important. I don't think it's any more or less important than PGA Championships typically are, which it normally is about as important a club as any. But certainly it can be an equalizer.

Q. Your experience being on the TOUR, you've had opportunities to play in the New York area before, but thinking back on it, what has that experience been like, and do you look forward to getting the opportunity to play in this tournament around New Yorkers?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think certainly there's a difference in the crowds than we're used to every week. It was fun out there yesterday. I mean, people were hollering at Michael, hollering at me, everybody. And I think that they're more involved than you're used to seeing in a tournament. That can be a lot of fun if you get on the good end of that.

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