PGA Championship Interview Transcript: Jordan Spieth
KELLY ELBIN: Jordan Spieth who at age 19 last month became the first teenager to win on the PGA TOUR in 82 years, at the John Deere Classic, joining us at the 95th PGA Championship. This will be Jordan's debut in the Championship. Jordan, since you turned professional in December last year, a victory on Tour, five other Top 10 finishes, pretty remarkable run. Congratulations and welcome to the 95th PGA Championship.
JORDAN SPIETH: Thank you very much. PGA of America has been very good to me, played some of the Junior Ryder Cups and those go down as some of the best experiences I've had on a golf course. Obviously extremely well run here on a fantastic golf course, I'm excited for the week.
KELLY ELBIN: Can I ask you to talk about what the year is like for you, and maybe any expectations going in and where you are right now, having already won.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, this year has been more than I ever could have imagined for, starting with no status, and you know, never I wouldn't have imagined winning on the PGA TOUR this year. Once we were on a roll and contending in a few events, it became a possibility and it was in my mind where each week I play to win, but when it actually happens, it was kind of a shock for me.
So now I guess the next step is trying to compete in a major. The British Open, the next week, I think was a valuable experience. I learned a lot. I was not patient enough to win that golf tournament, not even close. I was off to great start there, competing Friday, but I fell off and learned that 20 feet, even if you have a wedge, is a great approach shot in a major championship. That caries into this week, here.
Q. I assume you feel a little better rested and prepared for this major than you did for your last one.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, first of all, definitely, I had a week off before the U.S. Open this year and just didn't quite have my game there. Obviously the British, was running on fumes, not expecting to play more than one tournament in a row, let alone four.
It was nice to have two weeks off leading up to this event, and I feel like I got my legs under me and I'm ready to go.
Q. As a young guy, up and comer on Tour who probably watched this guy as a kid, what are your thoughts on Phil Mickelson, what he's meant to golf and his standing in the game with his fifth major and one more to go maybe before a career Grand Slam?
JORDAN SPIETH: It's fantastic. I mean, this year, it's pretty incredible what he did over there in Scotland, and what he's done in the year in general. He's a guy that I've always looked up to, been a fan of. I don't know anyone who is not a fan of Phil. He's been very nice to me. Hopefully get a chance to play practice rounds in the future with him; haven't gotten a chance yet.
But yeah, what he did, he won as an amateur coming up. I guess he was around my age when he won. He was still in school. Went that route, which was extremely impressive and won, what, a couple Masters, and he's won at every level. He's someone that I aspire to on and off the course, and he's continuing it today, which is pretty remarkable.
Q. If you play a practice round with Phil, remember to bring your wallet, that's a requirement.
JORDAN SPIETH: That's what I hear.
Q. Now that you can schedule your entire year for 2013 and the 2014 season, are you going to be one of those players that's played a lot of tournaments in a row? It's kind of worked for you so far, or will you be one that spaces it out?
JORDAN SPIETH: I imagine it's going to be similar to the way I played this year. I played really well in the third and fourth events of four weeks in a row. Sometimes I played my best in the second week. It's kind of been a little of everything. So I would imagine I've played four in a row twice, which I've never played two in a row this year. So that's already a lot. By that fourth week, I was super tired both times. And guys play five six weeks, most of the guys, every year. I would imagine it will be difficult to play more than four in a row, but, man, there's just so many great tournaments, a lot of opportunities that have opened themselves.
So we will just have to look at that kind of at the end of this year. But yeah, I see myself playing a good amount of golf next year.
Q. What's the biggest difference for you between a regular TOUR event and a major?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, just how difficult the golf course is, the ones I've played. I haven't played in Augusta, and sometimes Augusta at 12 under can win, just depends on the conditions.
Other than that, it seems to be that the British, the U.S. and the PGA, at least this one, it's the only time I've seen the PGA, and it's extremely difficult. They grow that rough up to where the further you miss, the more trouble you're in, and you really can't reach the green versus regular TOUR events. But as far as the stage, honestly, at this point I don't feel much different at this event than I do at any other tournament. I'd be hard pressed to find somebody who would say they do who has been playing on a regular basis. It has a similar feeling.
I feel comfortable out here, just because mentally, I'm just telling myself, it's just another week. Obviously the field is one of the best, if not the best fields of the year. So in that sense, you get everybody's best golf.
But, you know, I have a feeling that pretty much everyone here feels that if they play their best, they can win, just like any regular TOUR event.
Q. Has your, not so much the success surprised you, but maybe how quickly it's all come and how fast everything has sort of happened; has that surprised you at all?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, a little bit. I had goals this year and my main goal was to earn a PGA TOUR card for next year, which we've done. Best case scenario, I thought maybe I could use those exemptions to earn it through PGA TOUR starts, which happened. I didn't think I would be able to play the TOUR this year, especially not in the Playoffs or the Majors, so it's kind of exceeded that.
Right now, this is what I was looking at when I was really sitting down and looking at it, at maybe a great year next year. Yeah, it's come out definitely quicker than I expected. But, you know, I have a lot of confidence in my game. I love to play with confidence, be aggressive and that's just how I've always done it. It's really reassuring that the transition has been kind of easier and quicker than normal.
Q. I know that this is all probably still new to you but looking around the field, Tiger, Phil, Adam Scott, these guys, Rory, these are your peers now, is it hard sometimes just to absorb that and not feel overwhelmed by the suddenness of all of this?
JORDAN SPIETH: You have to think of them as your peers. You can't really when you're on the course and looking up to anybody, you're saying, wow, that's so and so, that's when you get into trouble. For instance, if you're paired with them, then what do you do? Fortunately, I've been paired with Rory and I've played a few holes at the British in a practice round with him. Once you get to know the guys, it almost puts it to where they are more of your peers once you talk with them.
Everyone's been really, really nice to me, and that really, I think, helps me as far as playing in these tournaments, not being wide eyed like I may have been a year or two ago. Now they are my peers and in order to get where I want to go, I'm going to have to beat them on a regular basis, and there's a long way to go for that. Yeah, again, every tournament I go to, I'm kind of learning a little bit mentally and on the course. It's been a lot easier to do so recently; after the John Deere, it's easier to not feel nerves after rounds or when you're playing certain groupings.
Q. I know a young up and comer from this area, you're playing on Gavin Hall's home turf. He's going to UT; can you just talk about Gavin a little bit, what you know about him and how you know him, your relationship with him?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, Gavin, I've known him for a few years now. I remember someone talking about him, he was playing a practice round at a U.S. Junior in front of me three years ago maybe. Someone said, this kid, he didn't start out playing national junior golf when he was super young, kind of came to it a little later, but they said watch out because this kid's actually kind of a favorite this week. I'm like, yeah, right. You typically know all the guys that are really good in that tournament.
All of a sudden, he was medalist or he shot 62 or 63 the first round, and I was kicking myself. And I was like, how can we get this kid to commit to Texas at that point.
Yeah, Gavin, there's so much I can say about his golf game; he's even a better guy. He's very well rounded and he's got a great support group. His family is awesome. We are all extremely excited he's coming to the University of Texas, but getting to know Gavin and the way he plays the game is awesome.
Zach Johnson talked to me at the U.S. Open, because he was playing in The Open, and he said, Do you understand how good this kid is that you're getting at your school?
Top TOUR players are talking about him. He's got a great his on his shoulders, so I think he'll go a long ways. He may out here earlier than Coach Fields wants, but we'll see.
Q. A two part question relating to the two week break you took and your decision to skip the World Golf Championships, which I feel like any other 20 year old can you take us through your decision making, thought process, the strategy, was it to rest up for this tournament or for the rest of the year?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. Like I said earlier, I was expecting to go to AT&T National, week off, John Deere, week off or two weeks off. It turned in to four in a row, obviously with the John Deere coming in there and a major championship. I didn't expect to be in the World Golf Championships ahead of time. I'll never skip one again. I was worn out, very tired. I didn't feel like I had anything with me. I want to be 100 percent every tournament I play in. It wasn't necessarily to rest up for this event, it was this and coming up in the next six weeks, everything coming up.
But I also committed to going to my caddie's wedding, and having the time off allowed me to go and support him. He got married this past Saturday, so I was very happy to go there and get some good practice in and still get a lot of rest in doing so, and kind of take my mind off what's going to happen the next six weeks.
Q. So knowing that your caddie was getting married on that Saturday, which was the week of the WGC, did that influence your decision?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure if it necessarily influenced it. It was just, I just was feeling like I needed more rest. Just felt like if I went to the tournament, maybe I wouldn't have been 100 percent there/here/the rest of the season. And then having a chance to go there and support him, he's like family to me, so it was very important. I'm not sure if it necessarily had an influence overall, but it was something I was looking forward to for a while for a lot of years.
The World Golf Championships, if you go and play, it's a free check, but I'm not going to chase a free check. It felt like it was more important to me at the time.
Q. Talk about your aggressive play, and you certainly hit an amazing shot to get you in the playoff of the John Deere, and then you proceeded to beat some great players in the playoff, including Major winner Zach Johnson. Curious, you seemed very composed, especially after hitting that incredible shot. Were you nervous?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I don't know how composed I was once it went in.
Q. Going into the playoff, you seemed to really have your head about you, and I was just wondering, were you nervous? Were you just in the zone?
JORDAN SPIETH: I wasn't nervous that entire Sunday until 18 fairway. I birdied 13, 14 and then 16 and 17, and all of a sudden I was in the fairway, and the leaderboard just wasn't shifting. So I was nervous there, had a tough shot, hit it in the bunker.
From there, I wasn't expecting it to go in and I wasn't going to leave it short. The leader was still 19 under so at that point you are just trying to get to 19 under, and you don't think about any other score except for what's leading on the board. Still thought I was going to be one short.
I watched from the scorer's tent Zach birdie. But the first two playoff holes, yeah, I was as nervous as I've ever been anywhere. I just tried to use some breathing techniques. Michael helped me out a lot. He was very composed. We had been in contention enough to where we learned enough from each other on how we should act when we are in that circumstance.
Those first two holes, there's just not much to do. It's so new, I dodged bullets, Zach had a 12 footer that somehow didn't break, and I had a 6 footer. Once I made the 6 footer for par and I saw the putt go in and we were walking over to 16, the nerves went away, and I didn't feel them again until the 2 footer to win.
It was weird. I convinced myself that I was not afraid to lose. If something were to happen and I get tied for second, it's still a great week, but in order to win, I was going to have to be able to be aggressive and not worry about what would happen if something bad happened when we focus on the good. Obviously dodged a couple more bullets and went in.
Q. Your first victory and going to the British, what will you take from those experiences now in your second major?
JORDAN SPIETH: At the British on Friday, the back nine on Friday, obviously that's very early in the tournament, but I was in third place; I was on the board, competing, felt comfortable. I was getting birdie putts on that course which is kind of rare, striking the ball well. The thing that was really awesome about it was that I didn't feel anything.
The two U.S. Opens that I had played before, I definitely felt nerves from the first tee on, and it was hard to settle down.
At the British, I didn't really feel anything. I was hitting shots, I was picturing shots and hitting them. I think the John Deere did a lot for that; being able to capitalize and get a win on the PGA TOUR, it does a lot to settling you down in pretty much any round of golf that you play.
Coming into this week, I'll learn from the mistakes that I made on the weekend. Weekends are set up at majors to be difficult for a reason and I decided to be more aggressive, which is not the right thing to do. But I think that it will help not just here but Majors going forward the fact that I feel comfortable competing, even if it's at an early stage. Hopefully I can get off to a good start and kind of keep it going and see what it feels like on the weekend.
Q. I know it's an old story for some people who have been around, but for those of us who were not there, can you talk about the quick turnaround from the John Deere to the unexpected British Open? What was that like for you getting there and getting ready and all that?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, a lot of people have said, you must not have been able to sleep on the plane. I passed out. I was just very worn out. It was a long playoff. I waited two hours or an hour and a half after I finished before the playoff even started. I was grinding, hitting balls, so it was really just a long day.
Once it finished, you know, I had to figure out how to get clothes out there, and luckily Under Armour, they brought it out there themselves. Obviously I wasn't packing for Scotland, being in the Illinois heat.
I had a lot of media stuff and I had to shower and change and have all our bags there, and then trying to shoot to the airport, I think there was a lot of people that were waiting. They figured the plane would leave right after the last group would finish, and we ended up going an extra two hours or whatnot. When I hopped on the plane, there were some people that were unhappy at me for making it last so long. But no, everyone was very supportive.
Got into Edinbrugh, didn't touch a club, just went ahead and kind of spent the day on the town, just walked around and saw some cool places, tried to kind of gather my thoughts and refocus, because luckily I didn't have much Internet access, so I couldn't really look back.
I needed to it was a major championship, so no matter what happened the week before, I needed to kind of get back at it real quickly. So I was out there early Tuesday morning to play a practice round and prepare.
Q. The last 20 Majors have had 14 first time winners. When you look at that, do you think you could be No. 15?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I didn't know that stat. That's pretty incredible, actually. Obviously there's a lot of major championship winners here that are playing their best golf in a long time or in a few years.
So it's going to be difficult. Those guys have done it before and there's a lot of guys out here that know how to get it done in Majors. Winning anything for the first time is difficult. I think the best opportunity I have is to approach it like a regular PGA TOUR event and try not to let myself think about anything bigger or think about it being a bigger tournament.
Yeah, I'm not going to sit here and say, I'm not trying to win this week; I am. I'm confident in my game and I feel like my swing, my ball striking, especially with my long clubs is a lot better than it was in the last four week stretch. But I'm very confident and I love this golf course. It's a great ball striking golf course, and I think it can happen.
Q. Earlier today Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both mentioned the next generation of great young American players and they brought up a lot of names but they didn't bring up your name. How motivated are you to join that conversation? And consequently, how motivated are you to play well this week in front of Tom Watson, who could be your Ryder Cup Captain next year?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think winning this tournament might help both of those. Like I said, I have confidence in myself.
The generation that I'm in is extremely talented, and those that are still in school, my peers that are my age that will be out here really soon, you guys will see, will make a pretty easy transition on the PGA TOUR. I don't think they will have a problem at all. The game is getting younger and the game is getting better. It has to do with Tiger and Phil largely, inspiring everybody and brought a lot more youth into the game of golf.
I think the young generation of Americans is very talented and there's a lot of 22 to 25 year olds on TOUR that have already won in their first, second years. I played with Harry English today, who is one of those extremely impressive players.
Yeah, Mr. Watson, it would be great to play well. He's here. He's got his eyes on everybody. If I could stand out in any way, that means I'm playing great golf and that's fine. But none of that's on my mind once the tournament starts. The rest of it kind of takes care of itself if I can play well.
Q. Along those lines of team events, The Presidents Cup coming up, do you even know do you check the points standings? Do you know where you stand?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't.
Q. Has Fred Couples or anyone talked to you?
JORDAN SPIETH: He was on the plane after the John Deere and he congratulated me. I've met Freddie a few times. He used to spend some time in Austin when I was there and he used to play with Mr. Kite a lot. I know Mr. Kite pretty well, too.
Yeah, I don't know where I stand with that. I assume I would have to, once again, win this week and then it would be pretty nice, but I don't know where I stand on the list. I don't think I'm anywhere near the top. You have to get in, I guess, the Top 10 before his picks.
Yeah, it would be a dream come true to play a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup, it really would be. I think that I'm on the right path right now. I would have to play some phenomenal golf in the next six weeks in order for that to be possible this year, if it is even still possible. But it is a dream of mine. I love it. I played in the Walker Cup, a couple Junior Ryder Cups; representing your country is probably my No. 1 goal in golf to do.
So love match play, love the experience. Hopefully I can just kind of take care of that this week or through the next year, because next year is an important year for that, too, obviously, just as this year is.
Q. You've mentioned the course a couple times; do you know much about the history here at Oak Hill, and if so, what? And could you speak to the rough and the greens, because those two things have been a popular topic this week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I know a bit of the history. I know the most recent was the 2003 PGA, correct? They had the Senior PGA here; Jay Haas won. They have had U.S. Amateurs, Ryder Cup. Yeah, this course is one of the great American golf courses, and it's a monster.
Now, I don't know how the tees have changed. I played with Jim Furyk today and Davis Love, who both have played it in past events here, and they had their old book out and showed some of the greens have changed and obviously some of the tee boxes have been moved back. But it's great.
The rough, yeah, the rough, the reason I think it's a great setup is because they have that first primary rough that's about three, four, five yards wide after the first cut that's very playable. You can hit the green and you can stop the ball on the green with a mid iron from there, and it just shows that they are keeping it pretty straight. Even if you miss a drive just a little bit, you don't get penalized too much for it. Obviously if you miss a drive pretty wide, you're not going to be able to reach the green out of the thick stuff. It's very difficult.
Around the greens, I was stumped today. I just had to go with my instructor and work for 45 minutes just on chipping out of that rough because there's just different types. Some of it is kind of the woolly, really sticky stuff, and some of it is a little thinner. So it requires different shots and it takes a lot of touch and a lot of confidence. It takes some confidence to get out of this rough to some of those pins where they are going to be.
So honestly out there, if I'm aiming at the middle of the green, I'm looking where the bunkers are, because those are a lot better to hit it into than the rough. It's pure and the course is in great shape and I think it's going to be a very tough test.
Q. Whom have you sought out for mentorship or just plain friendship out here on TOUR?
JORDAN SPIETH: There are a couple guys that I played with on the Walker Cup team with, Russell [Henley] and Harry [Harris English] are good friends of mine. There's quite a few friends on TOUR that are buddies of mine.
Mentorship, Davis Love has been extremely nice to me. Today was the first time I got to play a practice round, but whenever I see him, he's always interested in what's going on. Like I said, everybody has been extremely nice and helpful. Everyone is going about their business and working hard, so if I go up to ask about anything, the veterans have been great at helping me.
J.J. Henry has been a great friend of mine; he's managed also by Jay, my manager. We've stayed together a few times this year and he's been a great friend and a great guy in general.
So it's nice to be out here in a new situation and feeling very welcome.
KELLY ELBIN: Jordan Spieth, thank you very much.
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