February 6, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room here at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. 2017 champion here. This is a place you've had a ton of success the last six years. Just tell us about this event and how much you look forward to coming here and what's made you feel so at home here.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, just these golf courses are just incredible. Love coming out here. And each one's got its own challenges and you also typically have to battle the elements here, which I really enjoy having to do. Couple years ago it was pretty gnarly the year that I won. And playing well in those conditions got me into a lead by Saturday and into Sunday. So looks like we're going to have to do that again this week, which is nice. The course, given the weather that they have been experiencing here, the courses are really holding up nicely. Played Spyglass yesterday and Pebble today. And it's going to be obviously soft, wet. We'll probably be playing ball in hand, but they're still very pure.
THE MODERATOR: This event's obviously special to you with the AT&T connection. I think have you some exciting news there you wanted to share.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, so I signed a multi-year agreement with AT&T back in May of 2014, and then just re-signed another multi-year agreement with AT&T again for the start of this year going forward. So very excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: Perfect. Like to open it up for questions.
Q. Curious, can you recall the first time you actually came to Pebble Beach and the circumstances and what was kind of going through your mind as you were going around the course?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think the first time I played it would have been the practice round for the 2013 tournament. I don't remember -- I didn't play Pebble before that. We were out in the area for a college event that we played at Cypress, actually, but I didn't play Pebble on that trip, oddly enough. I remember just recognizing shots that had been hit in historical major championships and AT&T pro-ams over the years. I remember the severity of like No. 6, the second shot. I remember playing that on like the Tiger Woods video games back in the day and hitting shots up that hill and certain clubs weren't going to carry the hill and certain clubs would on the video game. And I remember looking at it like, wow, you got to really launch this one up in the air to get it up there. So I mean it was just -- and then you get to number 7, just that stretch of really 4 through 10, just being about as beautiful as anywhere in the world and I fell in love with the place.
Q. Just curious how you found the golf course setup compared to previous years, noticing the differences that kind of segues into a U.S. Open here in a few months?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, the fairways taken in is what you notice immediately. The rough's actually lower than it has been in past years for this tournament right now. But the fairway lines, like our yardage books look different from last year to this year. They have started to take them in already and you're starting to see the fairways that we're going to see. You will see the fairways this week that we'll see for the U.S. Open, it just certainly will play wider given how soft it is. The ball's not rolling. And I assume in June it will be pretty firm and fast.
Q. Are you then having to adjust at all on any of the shots that you're hitting off the tee or anything?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm hitting more club and trusting to hit more club because it is colder as well than it was last year. And then the ball's not rolling. It's actually plugging most of the time, even in the rough. So hitting more club off the tee and just trusting that it's not going to reach the trouble spots.
Q. Have the powers that be in an effort to make the game less complicated made it more complicated?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think so. You can kind of make the game as complicated as you want to, and I think it all just comes back to me. It's how complicated am I making it.
Q. I'm speaking of the rules snafus?
JORDAN SPIETH: Oh, I'm sorry. I got very selfish there, sorry. It's hard to tell right now because anything that's changed, that's new, is obviously going to, there's going to be a break-in period. There's certainly ones where the drop knee high, if you drop it from a higher you don't actually have an advantage, yet if you did that and played the shot that's a penalty. Certain ones like you just, you want to simplify them to where it becomes -- you're really looking at the recreational golfer and making it an enjoyable experience and a faster pace of play and I don't think this is like the be-all-end-all. I think there will still be more adjustments to be made. But I think it was made with the intent to move that direction.
Q. A quick follow-up. On 11 on Sunday when Ricky's ball rolled into the water, when he was nowhere near it, is that, if you were the rules czar for a day, is that something that you would change so that it's not a penalty? That's obviously not intentional.
JORDAN SPIETH: Certainly after a drop. But at the same time, I've seen that same rule work to somebody's advantage where the ball sits on a slope on the green and they're walking up to the green and by the time they get there, their ball as has rolled down the slope closer to the hole. But it was at rest for a certain amount of time, you get to play it from wherever it goes and it just served as an advantage. So I don't see it as a problem in the rule, unless it's after a drop. After a drop, it's, yes, I mean clearly I don't think that, when I'm watching it I'm like this is -- yes I -- right when it happened, that's a stroke. I was watching it on the couch. I was, I'm like, wow, that's another penalty stroke, just knowing the rule. And that's frustrating because he drops it twice and then places it and he places it without, you can't like create a lie. You can't, so he's doing everything he should be doing, and then all of a sudden it rolls in the water. And if it happens off of a shot, then that's where the ball was supposed to go. Well, when it happens off of a drop, the idea is to get the ball in play in a location there, and I don't think anybody wants that to be a penalty. And it certainly shouldn't be after you're taking a drop or a penalty stroke. But the rule itself can work to your advantage or disadvantage.
Q. Obviously in 2015 you started out so well. You put yourself in a position where people sort of expected you to win every week. The Tiger Woods syndrome, you might say. Last year you have an off year and are you getting a lot of static or questions from people, what happened to you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't think so. Certainly comparisons. Comparisons to other years that you've had, but I'm used to that now four or five years in. But at the same time at this point it's how do I improve to get myself into contention this week and then what do I do next week and just staying very present and recognizing the longevity of a career and that your career's not defined by a couple bad years. And I could have really poor years the rest of my career and still have a pretty fantastic career. So if I just think about it that way, it kind of certainly makes me a little happier, frees me up a bit. So I'm in a good place right now. I feel like my game's trending the right direction and sometimes that means results are coming soon, sometimes it means they're coming later, but they're coming. I'm not going to chase them as hard as I tried to maybe force or chase them last year because you can get hurt doing that. You can get into some bad patterns.
Q. What do you think this place will be like in June?
JORDAN SPIETH: Hopefully very different from the way it is right now. Yeah. I mean there's nothing anybody can do, but it's unfortunate at a place like this because it's meant to play firm and fast and be this, you've got to carve the ball certain ways off tees and into greens to kind of a ball-striker course into these tiny greens. I think that's the way it was intended and unfortunately with this kind of weather and very little rough, you just send it and you hit it again. It's almost better to be in the rough to a lot of these pins around all three courses.
Q. What's the firmest you've ever been here, green-wise?
JORDAN SPIETH: Last year was really firm, if I remember right. But I haven't played it in like a summer U.S. Open. I've played it in the fall before, but it was softer as well.
Q. Two unrelated questions. First of all, what do you think of number 17? There is obviously a lot of history on that hole, how difficult a hole is that? And then unrelated, I'm curious your thoughts on Ho Sung Choi and his swing.
JORDAN SPIETH: Okay. I haven't played 17 where it's been really mean before. I've really only played it when it's been benign. And it's been I think I hit 5-iron where it may have been pretty windy into off the left, two years ago on Sunday. But other than that it's been 8-iron, 7-iron into it and it's, and I think there's a tee box behind where we play and I've never played that box. Is that the one where Jack hit the 1-iron from probably? And Tom chipped in. Yeah, so we haven't, I'm assuming they will probably use that tee in the U.S. Open as well, but I have they ever played that tee box. So the hole itself is really, really cool to play, there's almost two par-3s. You either have the par-3 to the left green or the par-3 to the right green. They're just, you kind of have two separate holes. One of them is easier than the other, clearly, that right green. But it's not, it hasn't been too difficult but it's just a beautiful golf hole.
And then Ho Sung, I, yeah, it was, I actually, fascinated clearly by his swing and the way that he moves his, moves around. But I would almost say funniest but the most entertaining videos I've seen were actually some of his putts where he'll spin the way he wants the ball to start moving around and then when it goes in he'll give one of those kind of fist pumps and it's just, it's really entertaining. I think people are really excited to see him this week.
Q. What role would you say winning here two years ago kicked off 2017 for you?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, if you get a win early in a season it certainly frees you up. You feel like it's a successful season no matter what happens the rest of the year. And you don't, again, it goes back to trying to force things when things get a little off instead of being more patient with them, trying to force scores and whatnot. And the game, it just doesn't work that way. You just can't do that. Doesn't matter if you're playing a course that's 22-under or 2-under that's the winning score, you just have to play it the way it's supposed to be played and not try and overdo it. So it definitely helped a lot. I struck the ball incredibly that week. Sunday, I had like 34 putts and shot 2-under. I hit 17 greens and just did what I needed to do to close that out, which was really kind of the first tournament I remember winning strictly with my ball striking. So that was big for that season because I felt like if my putting was off I could still win. If my ball striking was off I could still win. I felt capable of winning with any game. So it was big.
Q. Was there any sense of relief because you hadn't won sort of seven or eight months before that and you probably weren't used to those kind of spells.
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I had gone from, what, I had gone well over a year from John Deere until Australia and winning out in the professional level anywhere is very difficult. So it's not, I certainly didn't have the expectation to win every three, four, five events. It's not realistic. And that would certainly, that would make you very upset for 25 years if you expected that throughout every year. So no, it was, again, I played well. I started to see trends in my game early in that season, finished third a couple weeks in a row in Hawaii. And then I remember coming in with quite a bit of confidence off of Phoenix, I think I had top-10ed there and came in feeling like I was striking the ball well, just needed to roll a few putts in and I did on that Saturday and that was good enough.
Q. You said that you liked the way your game is trending. Can you share with us what you like that's trending?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think my putter has been really good over the last five, six months. I've seen a lot of improvement there, back to where I needed to be and it's close to being really close to being at where it's been in the past. And then with the ball striking, just trying to kind of work through a little bit of some timing stuff and starting to really see some solid shots. I didn't strike the ball well at all the last two events I played and in San Diego was able to score even with that, in spite of that, I should say. But over the last week and a half really put in a lot of work and I'm excited about what the last couple days here has shown. And so I just got to go out and trust what we have been working on and whether the shot plays for it or not at this point I got to trust it and get it back to kind of zeroed out where I want it and then go from there.
Q. Have you seen the rule clarification for caddie alignment that came out today?
JORDAN SPIETH: I haven't, no.
Q. Basically, if I sum this up right, it's now the whole golf course you're allowed to back off and reset, so it wouldn't necessarily be a penalty if a player backs off and the caddie had been behind them. So that was one part. The other is this emphasis on it has to be deliberate behind the player that, now they have set out things that would be allowable, like if you're talking about yardage, if you're raking a bunker, if the caddie's not facing towards the shot, things like that. Any reaction to whether that will be helpful clarifications?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm sure, yeah, I'm sure any clarification is helpful. I've never, I don't think Michael's ever been behind me on a shot so I never really had to worry much about that. But the idea that he could potentially be behind me raking a bunker 30 yards away while I'm hitting a putt, to clarify that that's not a penalty is kind of nice because he's just trying to speed up and get off the hole and I just, you know, he may not even be able to see the green and I may be putting and technically he's behind me. It's good. It's good to have clarification, but I think any help is good, for sure.
Q. Two things: One, in the scenario where a caddie might be behind you inadvertently, how comfortable would you be if he called you off of a shot and said hang on a second. I need to get out of the way. Would you feel comfortable with that?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would, yeah. I've told Michael in certain situations if he feels the slightest wind gust, even if it's Sunday and I've got an important shot, to back me off. And I can always just go back and reset. It's fine.
Q. The other thing is, if Jay Monahan hadn't walked up to you today and said, hey, how are we doing? What do we need to do better? What would you say?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would probably say, give me a day. Let me ask a variety of different players what they think we can improve on, and then I would go to him. I have no complaints. I love my job. I love playing on the PGA TOUR. I don't -- I think the biggest thing that guys had been worried about were certain rules that they wanted adjustments on and then adjustments were made over the last year. And I just, I think we would all enjoy and probably a stricter pace of play policy, even though I know I'm sitting up here and I'm not the fastest player. But if there were stricter policies in place, then it speeds it up, and I think it makes it more enjoyable for everybody, players and fans and whatever. But nothing else comes to the top of my head right now.
Q. What's been your biggest contribution as a PGA TOUR board member?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think I've been able to help out and offer weekly -- or sorry, every meeting we have, say quarterly, insights in the PAC. But as a board member so far I've done nothing yet because we haven't met yet. But the only thing we have done there is start to help find a few guys to nominate to, for two board spots that are opening up next year.
Q. One other thing: I think if you talked to most people in golf and your name was brought up, the first thing out of their mouth would be, oh, that guy's a great putter. How do you look at yourself? Is it different from the way do you think most people look at you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think mine's very -- the way I look at myself is very present. So what I mean by that is sometimes I look at myself as I'm a great putter. Sometimes I look at myself as, man, my iron play is phenomenal. Just kind of depends on at that time what I feel and because there's always I mean within this game there's always something that we're working on. There's always a part of the game that we're trying to improve. Even when you win there's something that you could have done better. Like I was mentioning earlier, there was some, couple wins where I didn't putt great and then there were a lot of wins where I did putt great and so I had different feelings at the end of those about myself and my own game.
Q. Why do you think people think that about you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think they look at probably the major championships first and what kind of key moments there and what happened and I would imagine that. Then for two years I was first and second with Jason Day in strokes gained putting for a couple years. So anybody that leads the TOUR even for a year in strokes gained putting is going to be looked at as a great putter for a long time, because they're capable of being the best in the world at that. So I think that's probably why. For me it's nice if I get on a green and I start to feel that as you get in Saturday or Sunday and I feel my playing competitor thinks my putt's going in from 15 feet is certainly helps me think it's going in from 15 feet. So it certainly can be advantageous.
Q. You're going to play three courses this week that most people would die to get to play. What for you is the one course you've never played that you most want to and why?
JORDAN SPIETH: Good question. If I haven't played it we're probably playing it in an upcoming Major somewhere. I think County Down would be one that I haven't played that's been certainly highly regarded and I love that style of golf and I would love to play it. I don't know if we'll get a chance before The Open Championship this year, but that would be kind of a bucket lister for me right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks Jordan for coming in, best of luck this week.
JORDAN SPIETH: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
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