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May 7, 2014

Jordan Spieth


JOEL SCHUCHMANN:  We would like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room.  Just the day before your first PLAYERS, but you do have some experience here having finished second at the American Junior Golf Association tournament back in 2010, so you've obviously got some experience with the golf course.  Maybe just talk about your year so far and especially about your experience here playing back in 2010.
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, the year's gone great so far.  Obviously the Masters being the highlight, but plenty of chances to win, and it's eating at me a little that I haven't taken advantage of one of them yet, but keep putting myself in position and I believe that it will go my way here soon.
So I feel really confident about my game.  I had two weeks off, which is very rare, didn't do that at all last year in the middle of the season, so I feel very rested.  I got in here a little early, able to practice and get on the greens, get on the practice greens, and the game feels good here.  Three and a half years ago I played in the Junior Players, which is a really an incredible experience to play a golf course like TPC Sawgrass in a junior event against the best juniors in the country.  I felt like it fit my game well and I played well that week, and I got beat by a 20‑footer on the last hole.  I had finished my round and signed my scorecard and came back to watch and watched Michael Johnson make a 20‑footer to beat me and Emiliano Grillo, who plays on the European Tour now, by a shot.
So, yeah, it was a really, really cool experience playing the Sunday pins, obviously not necessarily the same difficulty that we'll have, but pretty close.  It definitely tested our game.  So I'm excited to see the difference.  I'm a different player now.  I hit it a different distance, but ultimately having seen the layout of these holes, I knew, I know in the practice rounds where to practice chipping from, which sides to miss it to certain pins.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN:  We'll take some questions.

Q.  Given the emotional highs and lows that you went through in the Masters, now with a month behind you to have reflected, what do you walk away with from that and how does that better prepare you for other big events like this and the rest of the May jurors?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I'm very excited with the way everything went emotionally at the Masters.  That was going to be, obviously, a position I had never been in, a place of heightened emotion.  As much as you can have, I think.  And being able to be in the final group and be in contention and leading on Sunday for a little while, I think I handled everything extremely well.  I only take positives out of it, knowing now that if I'm in that position on a Sunday at any tournament, I have experience and I feel like I hit very solid shots and I played the right way.
I felt like I made the right decisions.  Michael and I made the right decisions and I made good swings.  It was a couple yards here and there, a couple bounces is all I look back on being the reason why that tournament turned on 8 and 9 there.
Then I was trying to press on the back nine.  I take a lot of positives going forward knowing that I was just a couple bounces away from being able to win the Masters.  So anything else, any other position I can be in now will be something I've already experienced, which is nice to draw back on.

Q.  How did you spend the last two weeks after Hilton Head?  And then secondly, a word that's been used to describe this place is some players will call it uncomfortable, and I'm just curious, you're a guy that's played it before, obviously different conditions, but how do you sort of feel around this place in terms of the course?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Last couple weeks I was at home just I took a day off, then got to work.  I was working out and working hard with my instructor.  I got a little off at Hilton Head and played some tough conditions there, so my swing got a little off, so we were just adjusting as we do here and there all the time with Cameron.
So I saw him a few times each week.  We played a little golf as well.  Yeah, I was just hanging, seeing my family and enjoying the rest, going to a couple Mavs games and just getting away from the game here and there at night and then preparing for what we would call another major championship here.  So there's a lot of work during the day.
About this golf course, I wouldn't say that it's terribly uncomfortable.  I think that the approach shots can be uncomfortable.  The tee shots, there's some leeway on one side or the other to hit the ball.  So I feel off the tee very comfortable here.  I feel like I'm driving the ball well right now leading into the event.  With the approach shots, definitely you want to say away from the swales.  It's very tight, it's pure, it's very tight, into‑the‑grain Bermuda that you don't really know what shot to hit from down there, whether you're going to try and nip it and spin it or you're going to bump it or even putt it.  So certainly when you're hitting your second shots I think you'll see a lot of bailouts on not wanting to be in certain places because they're so difficult to get up‑and‑down from if you're too aggressive.
So that's kind of my thing is sometimes I'm too dangerous in the shots that I play, but if I draw back and approach it like it is a major, like I approached Augusta, then I should be able to play the safe shots and stay away from that trouble.

Q.  Anything still resonate from four years ago about playing here?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Not really.  What really sticks in my mind is the final round we were able to play those last few holes with the Sunday pins, especially 17.  I remember making birdie on 17.  I needed to go at the flag, and whether I needed to or not back then, I was going to, so I did.  There was another couple of us in my group made birdie on 17 to that pin, which is pretty cool.
Yeah, just drawing back on the closing stretch there and being able to compete at a PGA TOUR major golf course, that was really, really cool as I was 17 at the time, so I knew that that was a golf course that was, there was a couple each year, really a few each year in the AJGA invitationals that 3‑, 4‑under was going to win.  They played really hard.  And that was one of them.  And I always liked going to those and trying to accept the challenge.

Q.  With such a variety of holes, how does the course fit in with your game like you were talking about in your opening statement?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, there are.  You really have to think your way through, knowing where the pins are on each tee box.  You really have to pick a plan for the hole.  If you don't, you step up and try and hit it, then even if you hit a good tee shot, sometimes you're left in a really difficult position for the next.  You could hit it too far or you could hit it too short.  What you said is right; there are a variety.  I think the par‑3s are very important here and par‑5s, obviously, on what you're going to do if you hit a good tee shot.  For me, sometimes it's a blessing in disguise when I miss the fairway on par‑5s.  So this week the fairways are wide enough to give you an opportunity to give it a go, so you really have to be smart and know where these pins are and understand even if you hit a really good second shot, most likely it's not going to be able to hold the green, but can you get up‑and‑down from the places that you miss it.
I think those are the two, kind of par‑3s and par‑5s will determine the tournament.

Q.  On those par‑5s, if you get a good tee shot, are you one to go after it in two or do you want to try and lay back or just it depends on the hole, the situation?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Depends on the pin and really the club in my hand.  If I have to hit 3‑wood into them it's probably not a good decision; there's too much trouble around the holes.  But if I get a good number with a 4‑iron or hybrid, then it may definitely be worth it to have an easier look at birdie.

Q.  Do you recall how you felt the first round of the AJGA tournament the first time you played 17?  Do you think the first round tomorrow you may have some similar feelings, especially with a few more people?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, I think so.  It's a good thing I'm teeing off early, and on the back nine, you play it just as your eighth hole coming up and there probably won't be‑‑ the stage won't be huge by then.  It may be.  It's famous here for the amount of people and the amazing atmosphere, but yeah, I remember playing it for the first time and just saying, all right, where is that 10 paces on the green number and we're just going to hit that and not mess around with the hole.
But yesterday was kind of cool yesterday even being a practice round.  I got ‑‑ that hole just gets your blood running.  You step on the tee, I had a pitching wedge downwind, and it was‑‑ I would have had to miss it wide to miss the green, because it's so soft.  And it was such a perfect number just to hit to the middle of the green.  But still you're standing over it and you realize where you are and it's maybe the most famous hole in golf.  So it's pretty cool.
Tomorrow, I think that actually all four rounds I know it's a hole that guys think about, even though it has the most birdies I think of any hole out here, but the most bogeys or worse as well.  So something like that.

Q.  I know that obviously you played very, very well with a lot of big crowds at Augusta.  I'm sure there's a lot of crowds when you played as a 15‑year‑old in your hometown.  Do you still think throwing 10,000 to 20,000 people up there changes how you feel on that hole than if you just are in a practice round or if you're just in a junior tournament?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Not necessarily.  I think the difference is knowing that versus a practice round knowing that the hole actually means something to your score.  I don't think the people, the stage changes much until you get to where you're competing on the weekend and you need to adjust maybe the shot you're hitting and really commit to it.  Then sometimes that's difficult on a hole with water and you're firing away from the pin with a wedge.  Guys don't really like to do that.
So no, to answer your question, throwing a lot of people there at this point doesn't‑‑ I guess having the experience playing in front of a lot of fans, I think it only helps kind of help carry the momentum if you hit a good shot and hear the cheers.

Q.  What you've accomplished already, winning at 19, being a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, then the Masters, even a couple weeks ago playing with Tom Watson and Davis Love at RBC, how do you process what's happened to you and keep a level head?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I think that there's just a long way to go forward.  Those guys are all‑time greats and I'm just kind of sticking my feet in the water.  There really is a long way to go.  The Masters was a humbling experience, not being able to pull that off.  So many of these guys have won major championships, so I know what they felt and how they overcame it and succeeded.  I only hope to do that and get myself in positions to do that.
I've set goals.  I've set goals from when I was 15 years old.  I still have yet to accomplish a couple of those and those could take two years and those could take 20 years, and in order for it to actually happen, I've got to keep my head down and keep moving forward and work as hard or harder than anybody.
That's what it comes down to, because the guys that have won major championships or have been the best in the world, that's what they have done, so that's what it takes.

Q.  Has there been a difference in your celebrity level since?  Have you noticed that since the Masters?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, since the Masters, walking around I've been noticed more than I had before.  So, yeah, it's changed a little bit.

Q.  How is that?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, it's cool.  It's awesome to know that so many people, and not even people that necessarily follow golf, still watch the Masters and still watch the major championships and I think that's really cool to know the impact our sport is having on the non‑regular golf fan.

Q.  Following up on that, a lot of guys in their early 20s have made big noise on the TOUR as you have over the course of time.  What do you feel like is the most important thing for you to do to try to get to that place, whether it's a Tiger place, a Phil place, whatever it ends up being, what is it that you have to do like maybe over the next five years to ensure that you don't go by the wayside like some have?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I think just have fun with it.  I've got a great team around me.  I've got a great family.  I've been blessed with both.
So ultimately everything's on path if I do my job, I believe, and I think that if I'm having fun with it and not putting too much pressure on myself and knowing that I'll have plenty of opportunities.  I mean I play 30 times in a year, so that's 30 opportunities to win a golf tournament, and each week I come in thinking that I can win that golf tournament.
So just knowing that you add that up over hopefully a really fun, 20‑, 30‑year, well I guess, 30‑, 40‑year career, that's a lot of opportunities to have success.  And knowing that a little bit of experience will come along the way if I keep putting myself in these positions, so it should become easier and easier.  But ultimately if I'm having fun with it and really enjoying traveling and like I am, it's I think the best job in the world.
As long as I keep on believing that, then ultimately I shouldn't have a problem.

Q.  As a follow‑up, what do you perceive is harder, getting to the top of that mountain, finally getting that major, or being able to grind and sustain success when it's already come your way?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I think winning a major is more difficult.  I think that everybody looks at five tournaments a year and says that these are the tournaments that are weighed the most.  These are the tournaments that I guess put you down in history maybe, that can have the biggest impact on the future of golf.  That's what I think we're all out here to do is to try to put our name down as one of the best players to ever play the game, as well as inspire the game to grow globally for the future.
In order to do that, I think it goes to major championships and you approach them like a regular event, but ultimately those are the events that when you're competing feel a little different than others.
So I think that that's probably the hardest to do, versus maintaining kind the same plateau year to year.  That's, obviously, extremely difficult.  There's not many guys that have had their full TOUR card for 15 years straight plus.  There's only a few or a couple of them.  So obviously that's pretty difficult as well.  But from my view right now, I would say winning a major seems like a more difficult task.

Q.  Following up on the celebrity question from earlier, is that something that you have thought about?  Did you consider that element maybe two, three years ago, and is there any part of you that kind of dreads it a little bit, maybe this idea that going to a Mavs game might never be the same?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, I've realized that just being around other professional golfers when I was younger and seeing when they walk around and everybody comes up or whatever it is for pictures or to sign something.  I've seen it for years now and it's something that I enjoy, because it's cool to see that other people are following and are rooting for you and cheering you on.  It feels like you've got a 15th club in the bag when you see it a lot.
So I do enjoy it.  It's tough sometimes when you're practicing or something at home and you got to try and find somewhere to go on the other side of the range or kind of get out of the way to make sure you're getting your work done, because at golf courses is where people recognize you more than anywhere else.
But, yeah, ultimately that's about it.  I have fun with it.  I try and use it, channel it positively, and just know that people are rooting for you, which is pretty cool.

Q.  Curious if you have gone back and re‑watched the final round of the Masters at all, and if so what did you learn, and if not, what was maybe your biggest disappointment from the week other than obviously not winning?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I did not.  I did not go back and watch it.  I don't really watch anything.  I saw the replay just in watching Golf Channel or something.  I saw the replay of the bunker shot on 4.  Then Bubba making the putt on 18 is about the two things that I saw replays of.
The biggest regret, I don't really have anything, other than being able to stand on the tee with a two‑shot lead and it just went away so quickly.  That's what happens there.
But like I was saying earlier, it's amazing looking back on the shots that I hit, and yes, I could have made a couple birdies on the back nine.  I missed a couple five‑, six‑footers, tricky putts, but putts that I definitely could have made and needed to make in that tournament to win.  But I just looked back on a couple bad bounces that turned that tournament around and made the back nine‑‑ I had to play it a little differently.
But I still had some great up‑and‑downs, like 10 and 17, to really keep myself in it.  10, after what happened on 8 and 9, I look back as kind of a cool moment from that week.  To hit it in that bunker, and that was a really difficult bunker shot to get up‑and‑down, and to gain a stroke back on Bubba before it not going my way on 12 and 13.  But ultimately I don't have any disappointments.  I'm very excited from the week, felt like I played good enough golf to win, and if 8 travels a foot shorter or further, if 9 travels two feet further, then maybe I would be in a different position now.

Q.  For someone who's had a lot of good things happen to you in such a short period of time, do you have to work hard not to get a big head, or does that come natural to you?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, I was saying earlier that I just look forward.  It's awesome to be in the place I am right now, being able to play in tournaments like this, being able to play in the majors against the best field in golf and to try and work my way up the world rankings.  But the point is the guys ahead of me all have major championships, guys right next to me all have major championships, and in order to be No. 1 in the world at some point, which is the goal of mine, I think I'm still very far away.  So that's humbling to me, to look at the guys that have been No. 1 and what they accomplished in the years that they, outside of Tiger, who's been there for the most weeks ever, what the guys have done to propel themselves to be No. 1.
So I believe that there is a long way to go and that's humbling to me, and we'll see how long or if it happens.

Q.  Jack said last week, Nicklaus, your buddy, if he would have won the U.S. Open at age 20, which he probably should have, it might have been the worst thing that ever happened to him because he fears he might have gotten too complacent to have won something that big at such a young age.  Can you understand or appreciate that?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, I believe that everything happens for a reason.  I believe that what happened to Rory at Augusta was really good for him, and obviously he channeled that to just dominate a couple majors.
So I think that's very similar.  Yeah, only time will tell, but that's interesting to hear it from Jack.  That's pretty cool.  I hadn't heard that.  But, yeah, it could definitely, if I look at it the right way, like I'm trying to, really see it as a positive, really see it as something going forward that was good for me.  Obviously it was a great experience, but not being able to pull it off could be great going forward, because it is humbling to know that I had it in my hands and kind of let it slip in a sense.  Obviously Bubba played some incredible golf, but yeah, hopefully that's the case.

Q.  Speaking of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, golf may be a sport of superstars for a really long time, and fans probably expect that even now.  Do you think it's true that it's harder now, with the amount of good players, for anybody to emerge at that kind of level?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, definitely.  There's no doubt.  Guys are all getting better, younger, even going to high school right now.  There's just, it's expanding, the facilities are better, equipment, guys are shooting lower scores, breaking records all over the place, and in college.  And then on the professional level, guys are coming out and ready to win in their first year.  Last year the rookie class, I mean, it was pretty special to watch.  So I believe that given that, given guys aren't afraid to win, not that I'm saying that anybody was ever afraid to win, but I think that Tiger in his prime winning so much and kind of just being that dominant, which he can come back and do, no doubt, but in those years that I was watching growing up, it seemed like it was all about you go enter a tournament and you say, well, who can beat Tiger this week.
Now I don't feel it's that way.  Obviously he's not in the field, but you just can look down the list and you can find the entire field can win this golf tournament.  I don't know if that was the case years ago.  I didn't look closely enough, but I find it hard to believe that.

Q.  Do you think that his success created a weird expectation that's impossible to meet?  Do you feel that?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Not necessarily.  That's the goal is to try and break those records, and if you just approach it one tournament at a time and look back later, just keep looking forward, then you never know.  In order to do that you're going to have to work harder than Tiger worked, which is extremely difficult to do, so we'll see what happens.

Q.  In your brief time as a professional, is there anything that's kind of caught you off guard, just kind of surprised you about how it is out here?
JORDAN SPIETH:  Not really.  Maybe the most surprising thing is just how welcoming everyone's been, whether it's a veteran, whether it's another young player.  It really is a sport of good guys.  That's pretty cool.
Having guys come up and finding letters in your locker from great players, saying that they're rooting for you, go get it, or on the driving range, coming up and saying, I was watching and pulling for you or it was a great Masters, whatever.  It's pretty cool to see, and I don't think you see that in other sports, or universally it seems in golf that everybody is always kind of rooting for each other, they just hope that they play a little better.  I think that that's maybe the most surprising, because I didn't know what to expect necessarily, but it's really cool going forward and knowing that it's a game of good guys.

Q.  Anyone specifically kind of take you under his wing?
JORDAN SPIETH:  I would rather not.  I would rather not say specific names.  But, yeah, there's a lot of great players.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN:  Jordan Spieth.  Thank you.  Good luck this week.
JORDAN SPIETH:  Thank you.

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