Jordan Spieth: Pre-Championship Press Conference
BETH MAJOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 2014 U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. We're happy to have with us Jordan Spieth, a two-time U.S. Amateur winner, playing in his third U.S. Open. He's off to a tremendous professional start and is currently 10th in the rankings. You were saying this is your first visit and experience at Pinehurst. Can you talk about the experience and being here.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's an incredible place. I really enjoy cities or towns that are around golf and it's really cool. The golf course, itself, is incredible. I love the waste areas to the side. I've never played anything like it. And it's already, right now, with the pins in the middle of the greens, hard enough for even par to win. It's going to be extremely challenging, but at the same time, it's a great test. I think it's going to be a fair test. I played a lot of USGA events, and I really enjoy coming back. This is my third U.S. Open, which is pretty cool. The one two years ago feels like it was a decade ago. But it's really cool being back and just seeing all the grandstands and the preparing for a Major. I've been waiting for this for a couple of months now.
BETH MAJOR: Have you -- do you have any memories of watching U.S. Opens here in the past?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don't. I was five when Payne Stewart won here. And when Shaun Micheel won, I do vaguely remember watching the back nine on Sunday. But not specifically to the golf course, at all. I just always loved watching Major championships. No, no experience here. No experience really watching here. But that's nothing new for me. And there's only a few guys that have experience here. It's going to be very interesting to see, because there was quite a bit of a difference yesterday to today. So as we get towards Thursday, it will be very interesting to see what they want to do to this golf course.
Q. You referenced it a moment ago, you've been waiting to get back to a Major. I know a couple of days after the Masters you said on Mike and Mike that it was going to take a while to recover from the sting. I'm curious to know what have you done to get over the sting of that and are you approaching this like one of the guys to beat?
JORDAN SPIETH: If I said that, I didn't mean that, that it was going to take a while to get over Augusta. It was stinging at the time, but by the time The PLAYERS came around, which I approach as a Major and believe it's one of the best fields in golf, so I approached that the same way, five tournaments in the year I consider Major championships. So by the time that came around, I was finished and, obviously, that was a little stinger, again there. I learned a lot from both experiences. I felt like a struck the ball better, played smarter shots at The PLAYERS, I just got bounces that didn't go my way. So coming in here that's all behind me. I've gotten what I think I needed to learn from those experiences and I will put that into account, if I can work my way into contention here. But very excited. I mean, we all get revved up for these events. This is the first one of the three where I've actually had a week off prior to playing the event. I had an extra couple of days prior to the Masters, missing the cut in Houston. It's been interesting preparing at home, versus playing the week before. That's not true at all, The PLAYERS I didn't play the week before. I actually didn't play the two weeks before. So scratch that. Had a great session with my instructor Cameron and then Damon working out, and everyone's here, and just getting what we need to, so come early Thursday morning, it's all me and Michael.
Q. What are your memories from that very first U.S. Open you played in and what's the difference between the guy who teed it up there and the guy who's going to tee it up here Thursday?
JORDAN SPIETH: I remember -- I got in last minute, I was actually an alternate. I think first or second overall alternate. And I got in -- I got a call, I think, Tuesday. So I didn't get in until Tuesday -- maybe I got in Tuesday afternoon. I scheduled Wednesday to play a practice round. And I didn't really know what I was getting into, but I scheduled behind Rory, Adam Scott, I think it was Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. And must have been 30,000 people in that practice round group. And I'd played in front of some good crowds, but not on a consistent basis, and that was something unlike -- I just wasn't expecting it on a practice round. It was just an incredible atmosphere. I squeaked by the cut line. I finished early on Friday and went back and had to just watch the scores and hope and hope and hope. And it fell back, and shot 1-under on the weekend to finish around 20th, which was the best golf I'd ever played in my life. I just really, really had a great time. I was able to stand up there during the awards ceremony and stand next to Webb and Graeme and Michael Thompson and be a part of that whole ceremony and get the medal was a huge goal of mine. And it was really cool to accomplish it back then. And then, yeah, your other question, two years ago to now, it's very different. I don't really notice the crowds or the people anymore, just in a couple of years of just playing in front of it here and there. So as far as the stage, I feel very, very comfortable. I don't feel tension or nerves. I'm very excited and pumped to get going, but it's not nerves going into it. I'm sure once it starts, once Thursday morning comes that will be there. But as far as the Sunday, Monday prior, just trying to do whatever work we need to get done. Luckily, I've played in a couple of Opens and I start to realize where you need to pick your spots and how to practice to prepare. So that's what we're doing right now.
Q. I hope you don't think this is too weird a question, could you tell us about your sister and your relationship with her? Does she come to watch? Stuff like that, people like to know about the golfers.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, my little sister was born I think eight weeks early, so she's -- she has special needs. But she's the best thing that's happened to our family. She's hilarious. She is going to be here. My family is coming in, it's going to be really exciting to have her here. She's come to a few golf tournaments and she really enjoys it. They kind of stay away from everything and rightfully so. Just would rather not be in the middle of everything. They can watch from a far. But, yeah, it's going to be really, really cool having her here. My brother, as well, is home for the summer from college. My whole family will be here along with maybe my uncle and my grandpa. It will be a fun -- really, really fun event. They're all going to stay with me. I'll feel at home. Hopefully get some home-cooked meals. My mom might cook. So we'll see.
Q. Is it Down Syndrome?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, she's on the autistic spectrum, but not diagnosed.
Q. How much younger is she than you?
JORDAN SPIETH: Seven years.
Q. I want to ask you a two-part question about Hideki from Japan. Last year at U.S. Open you played with him, and this year again you will play with him on the same pair. What is your impression of Hideki Matsuyama? And my second question is, do you believe you and Hideki compete in top level for many years to come?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, Hideki, I got my first impressions last year when we were paired together. And it was more we were just watching Billy Horschel hitting all 18 greens in the first round. But Hideki obviously played well there. I knew of him well before from how he played at the Masters for a couple of years as an amateur. And he's got an incredible game. Everyone saw it a couple of weeks ago. Able to win one of the most prestigious PGA events of the year at Jack's place. He's got it all. I know he was a little injured, he had some injuries at the beginning of this year. He's over them now and obviously back on track where he was before. And the other part of your question, yeah, I think -- I think he's 22. So he's still digging his feet here in the United States and learning a lot of things and obviously making an impact on the course, as well. I'm looking forward to playing with him. I don't think it's necessarily a rivalry or anything. We both respect each other. I talk to him here and there when I can. I don't speak Japanese and he's learning English, so communication isn't great. But he's very nice, very respectful and I enjoy playing golf with him.
Q. The beginning of the year you said your goal was to start contending in Major championships. Now that you've done that once, does the goal change? Does it start winning Major championships?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, you know, like a big goal of mine this year was to make the Ryder Cup team. There's a huge emphasis on every Major, even though I've contended now. But, yeah, I think now if I can get into that position, the goal isn't just to feel the feelings and try to get the comfort level, now it's to really try and put into place what Augusta as well as The PLAYERS have taught me, just certain things on the course. Out here it's going to be even more difficult to stay patient, which has been the biggest thing that's led me to be successful in those two events. This is the hardest tournament to be patient in, in the world. So, yeah, to answer your question, I think that -- I believe that I can win this golf tournament. I feel comfortable on this golf course. I think it fits my game. And when I step on the first tee that's what I'm trying to do. And if I get into contention, I'm definitely, by this point, am going to draw off any experience I've had, which now I do have a little experience. So that's only going to help me. And I feel like I will be able to close this one out, if I get an opportunity.
Q. I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit more about the playability of the golf course, and also specifically about maybe the greens and also the wire grass, and if you had a chance to kick around in that area. How is that going to affect play?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it's really hard to hit the greens. I know there's -- I've just briefly heard or read a little bit on the statistics from the last two Opens. And I can only imagine this one is going to be even more difficult to hit greens. But something like 58 percent or 60 percent was leading the field or around there, maybe that was the average of the top 10 guys. So you know that going in, and you understand that it's about where you're leaving it and where you're pitching the ball and the approach shots. It still doesn't necessarily help. It's still extremely difficult. You've got to launch the ball very high to hold the greens. Either that or you've got to land it short with a little lower shot to get it to run, otherwise it's going to land anywhere in that bank and come down or land over it and bounce forward. Certain holes require you to work the ball left-to-right or right-to-left into the greens to hit into the slopes. The wire grass I think is going to be really interesting because the ball actually -- I hit a couple of shots where I landed it kind of on the edge of the fairway wire grass, and it went 30 yards further than if I landed it in the middle of the fairway. Then you're left hitting off compact sand, which is as good as the fairway. But you can also be in between pieces of grass, where you can't really get a club on the ball. So it's going to be spotty, but you can get fortunate to where you actually hit less club than if you hit the fairway off of a pretty good lie. So you're going to see some recovery shots that are phenomenal, and you're going to see some recovery shots that look like U.S. Opens of the past, where the rough is four or five inches. It's going to be a variety. It's going to be very fun. It's going to really take a toll when you miss the fairway, because everyone is going to miss the fairway. When you get in there, you just don't know if you're really going to have that much of a shot or not. The fairway bunkers are great. They're compact and you can hit the greens out of them. They're not too steep of lips or anything. Those are kind of the places you really want to miss.
Q. You've played a lot of golf, obviously, for somebody who is just 20 years old and experienced a lot. Is there anything that still surprises you? Secondly, you've now played all four Majors at least once, is there one of them you think you maybe have the best opportunity to win or maybe feel the most comfortable in the environment?
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm sorry, repeat the first question.
Q. Does anything still surprise you, based on all the experiences you've had?
JORDAN SPIETH: Not normally, but the Masters and The PLAYERS and even this year being in contention or in the final couple of groups on the last couple of days, that's still new, so I am learning different things from that. But at this point, this week, I don't think I could necessarily be surprised. I'm sure I can be, but I don't know if anything's been surprising over the last few events. I'm sure guys that have played out here for 30 years still find things that surprise them about golf courses or whatever. But at a course like this where it's not a place I've been before or most people -- nobody really -- nobody has any experience playing this golf course in tournament play, even the people that were here in '05 or '05 and '99, it's a different track. There's no rough. So I don't think I can be necessarily surprised here, because everything is completely different. But to answer your second question, I don't know if there's a best place for me. There's only one place that plays the same golf course every time and I really enjoyed that -- really enjoyed the Masters this year and thought the course fit me well. The U.S. Open is golf's toughest test. There are going to be places that fit me well, and maybe some that don't. And the same with the British and the PGA. I've played in all once, but I've only played two rounds at the PGA, I didn't play four. And in the British we had really, really good weather. So those two I didn't really get a great feel for, because the British normally doesn't play like that. It will be interesting over the next couple of years to see if there's any trends. Hopefully there's not, hopefully they all work out for me.
Q. Just wanted to find out what your preparations have been like since you've been at home. You had a fairly busy schedule up until that point. And with the U.S. Open demanding a person who can accept everything the U.S. Open presents, and embracing that challenge, how prepared do you feel you are and specifically what have you done to get to that point?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, I've been working on some stuff through the last couple of tournaments on my swing, just different things, getting more on my body, trying to get more consistent. Putting-wise, really focused on speed control, significantly. But over the last week I took Monday off, Tuesday got back to work. I hit some balls. Then I started working with my instructor on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and he's out here now. So over the weekend I was just getting some practice in. Came in yesterday and played nine. I played 18 today. I already played nine, I'll play nine more. But, yeah, it's just a lot of speed control and then developing kind of -- really hitting a lot of short game shots just to try and get the contact point right. You can't exactly -- my practice at home, I'm not going to have the same shots I have out here. But I can at least get the right contact point, the right practice on my spin control around the greens. So I've been working on that. But for the most part, just been keeping on with what we're doing with the swing. But the biggest, most important thing, I think, has been my speed control putting.
BETH MAJOR: Jordan, thanks so much for joining us. Wish you well this week and look forward to seeing you.
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