2017 PGA Championship: Preview - Interview

2017 PGA Championship

Jordan's Comments Ahead of the 2017 PGA Championship

JOHN DEVER: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to the 99th PGA Championship from Quail Hollow Club. Pleased to be joined by three-time Major Champion, Jordan Spieth.

Jordan, welcome to your fifth PGA Championship. Especially in lieu of your victory a couple weeks ago, you've had a wildly successful year. Curious whether you think you're playing golf better this summer or this year compared to 2015.

JORDAN SPIETH: Different parts of my game were better in 2015 and different parts of my game are better now. I feel like around the greens and on the greens, I was stronger in 2015. But I feel like my ball-striking, especially my iron play, is better now than it was then.

Each is translating into somewhat similar scoring. If I'm putting to kind of the extent that I was striking it then, then I'm shooting the same scores. For me, the biggest thing recently has been putting a lot of work into the short game and then trying to find more fairways. We're trying to improve on individual statistics and set goals for the remainder of the year.

Last week was a good week. Didn't quite have my best stuff, but I come into Quail Hollow here on a very, very difficult track, and one that's going to be kind of wet and long, which puts even more of a premium on finding the fairway. And if I'm doing that, I love these bermuda greens and I feel like they are a good style and speed of greens to kind of get my putting right where I want it.

Q. Is there anything you learned, whether it was about majors or about yourself in your first three major wins, on or off the course that you're now taking into majors like this one where you're using that knowledge?

Sure. I think I've taken a lot from wins and a lot from losses. Specifically, yeah, there are things, but that's kind of, you know, what I -- what we like to keep to ourselves.

But yeah, gaining the confidence; and each win was very different from each other, each one of the major wins. And then I've had a few I've had a chance to win where I haven't, and each loss was different. And that's probably the way it will continue to be. You very rarely have parallel wins. Tiger had very parallel wins in the way that he got it done, but that was almost -- you know, that was almost like a robot and don't really expect that to happen with myself based on what I've seen the first few times.

It's just about being able to adapt to situations quickly and use that to my advantage when front nines or back nines like I had on Sunday can be totally different from each other; trying to adapt to create that kind of finish or trying to adapt once -- the Masters, I got off to such a strong start the year that I won on the front nine on Sunday, and actually, each year I've had a chance to win there, with such a solid front nine and held it together on the back.

You know, they take different shapes, and so each one I can certainly take something out of. The British, I won without really feeling like I was putting well at all. I mean, the last five holes, six holes, was by far my best putting the entire week. But to feel like you can go in and win a major and feel as uncomfortable as I did for a lot of it over the putter is extremely confident-building, confidence-building.

I don't like it that way. And therefore, I've been putting in a lot of work to just try and feel more comfortable and hopefully put better strokes on it.

Q. Rory McIlroy was paying tribute to your mental toughness yesterday. I wonder how do you view the dynamic between the pair of you? How do you bring out the best in each other and how do you view the stature of both of you as players now, elite players in the game right now?

That's kind of him. I think the same of him. Rory is a guy who is very difficult if you come into a one-on-one type situation no matter where it is, and especially in majors, because he doesn't -- he's not afraid to hit the shot. I mean, he plays so aggressively, and that's what you have to do to win. I mean, you're going to lose some tournaments because of it, but you're going to win a lot more than playing any other way.

He's proven that. I mean, he won this tournament by eight shots. Obviously that doesn't come from playing too safe. Even when he had the lead, he kept his foot on the gas pedal. He's done that for dozens of worldwide victories.

If you're matched up on Sunday, and you get to choose somebody, you know, you obviously want to be able to play against somebody like Rory who has four major championships and is one of the top couple most accomplished players in this field. But he is one to fear in that position because of what he's capable of doing and how he's going to do it.

Status in the game, how do we push each other? I think it's cool that we've both had the success that we've had at such a young age, and I think the coolest part about it is the question of, what's it going to be like for the next 20, 25 years. And that's kind of what is the exciting part when we think about it, too. We're friendly with each other and really want each other to do well because it does push each other, just like all these young players in the game. It's not two of us; it's really eight to ten right now.

Look at what Jon Rahm has done in really his first full year out here. Really incredible, a guy who is going to win major championships and be another guy to cope with; the way Hideki is playing, and he's obviously coming in here as probably the hottest player in the game at 25 years old.

So yeah, your question was about me and Rory, and we feel that way about each other, and we feel that way about a lot of young guys out here that are all pushing each other to get better.

Q. Who or what is going to be your greatest opponent this weekend: the course, the players you're competing against, or the weight of expectation on your shoulders?

Probably the players, yeah. Beating one of the top-couple best fields in golf.

The golf course is extremely challenging. I don't think it puts me at a significant disadvantage or disadvantage in any way for me to say that it's the golf course. That's what I'm playing against. But the biggest challenge in winning is going to be the incredible talent that's out there this week.

Do I have to be the youngest? No, I don't feel that kind of pressure. Would it be really cool? Absolutely. Jordan, on potentially completing his career Grand Slam

Expectations, I really don't feel any. This whole, this is a chance to complete the career Grand Slam; I'm here, so I'm going to go ahead and try. But I believe I'm going to have plenty of chances, and I'm young enough to believe in my abilities that it will happen at some point.

Do I have to be the youngest? No, I don't feel that kind of pressure. Would it be really cool? Absolutely. And I don't come to a tournament unless I plan on giving it my all in preparation to have a chance and to ultimately close a tournament out.

Expectations, I wouldn't even really put it on the radar. It's really just between the other two in that question.

Q. Has it been at all frustrating over the last couple years to have 2015 used as your measuring stick? And conversely, is it encouraging when you have things going well like now, how good it can get when you get things rolling?

I think last year, as much as I was trying to prep myself for it, going into 2016, which I think was ahead of the game to begin with, it was still tough. I knew it wasn't likely. It's not likely to match a season like that, maybe ever, again.

But I've got an opportunity this year. You know, if I can get the job done this week, and then run into the Playoffs with the same kind of momentum, then I would consider it as good or a better year than even then, which is pretty cool.

But I understand it's not as easy as I just said it. This year, I haven't felt any comparisons, many comparisons at all. I think once you get into where you play four, five years on TOUR, you can start to see trends and you can start to kind of expect what your capabilities are. You start to see ups and downs. You start to recognize what you should expect to be a good year; what you can do; what you can also do, and kind of where you normally stand in between.

Now, the way to get better is to find what you would call your middle ground, right, your typical year, or your average of the years, and try and raise that bar a little bit so that the highers get higher and the lowers get a little higher. I think that's where we're going to start to get at in the off-season is not just looking at the previous year but starting to look at a five-year trend and figure out, you know, where to go from there and how to raise that average bar, my average bar from the season.

2015 will certainly be in there as what we can do, but also realizing how realistic it is.

Q. When you're playing in a round, say, the front nine of the British Open and you notice things starting to slip away, you're not quite hitting the shots you want to, what are some of the things you tell yourself or what are some of the things you refocus on during the round, the adjustments that help you sort of refocus and get a potentially bad round back on track and turning it into a good round?

Well, just like Jason's question earlier, each time that's happened, it's been something different you have to quickly adjust to. And at The Open, for me, it was on the greens. I just struggled from the get-go on the greens. I 3-putted twice in my first, whatever, four holes; two 3-putts in a row and a missed short one on No. 2.

It was just about trying to find some form of a feeling on the greens that I felt I could take some confidence out of and move on. And then I just kind of started to throw mechanics out the window, which a lot times my problem is trying to be too mechanical, going away from what's natural to me which is being a feel putter. But from short range it's very easy to get technical.

Started to throw that a little bit out the window there as we kept going, and just focus on speed, and if I hit somewhere around the right line, it's going to have a chance to go in, but really focus on the speed you're hitting it at. That's what helped me make those long putts, two putts in a row, on 15, 16.

But it wasn't till really the one went in on 13 -- and honestly my putt on 13, I thought I pulled it a little bit and I thought it was going to go up and break to the left and it kind of held pretty straight. I think it still would have gone in, had I hit my line, would have been the other side of the hole.

But when that went in, it kind of was -- I stole a shot, and what do you know, you don't have to be perfect on the greens for the putts to go in and it kind of freed me up a little bit. Sometimes it takes something like that; an imperfection in a way that still was beneficial. It caused me to drop the stress level, to kind of sit back and play a new tournament, almost feel like a new golfer at that point in time.

Maybe the ability to change the way I thought that quickly is advantageous in what you're saying, but for me, sometimes it's just the actual experiences on the course more than it is a battle in the head.

Q. You mentioned the course conditions. I guess looking at the forecast for this week, how valuable has it been to be able to at least practice in those same conditions?

Yeah, very. So there's SubAir here and they are 15-month-old greens, and so you get these -- my drives, and everybody's, are sticking, right. They stop where they land. So I'm hitting it 290 instead of getting the roll-out to 310. I'm hitting two extra clubs into greens but the greens aren't like the fairways. The greens are firm. The greens are really firm, and they are grainy. So you can land the ball into the grain and a lot of bowed greens. So you can land the ball within three paces of each other and end up 40 feet apart. You have to have unbelievable distance control out here once you're in the fairway to get the ball close to these pins.

So it's going to be such a challenge to have close birdie putts out here from the looks of it. So speed putting and obviously tricky little shots around the green become so important to save par. Wait for the opportunities like the par 5s and a couple of the short par 4s. It is valuable to have seen that, but I also recognize how hard this is going to be. This is going to be one of the most challenging tracks I think that we've played; the way that it's playing right now and the way it will continue to.

The rough is brutal, this thick bermuda rough. We don't see it anymore. We grew up on grass like this. And Cameron asked me the other day, when is the last time you played in bermuda rough like this? Last time I can think of is East Lake last year. That's how rare we see it now. I don't even seen see it at home. The rough doesn't grow that high. It's an adjustment for everybody.

Q. A little more relaxed question for you. Charlotte is a great golf town but it also has so much to offer. What has impressed you most about Charlotte, and have you gotten to get out and try some of the food, any cool restaurants?

Went to Cowfish last night. That place was interesting, really good. I had no idea how to feel going in with the menu, just burgers and sushi. I needed like a 20-minute break afterward to try and figure out what I just ate (laughter), but it was good.

It's a beautiful city. Just driving around a little bit, just the massive trees, you get some rolling hills. North Carolina is a really pretty state. I came up here to go to Wilmington growing up every single year for a family reunion, and we normally fly into Raleigh and drive through the state to get over there. So I've got some family, my grandpa lives over there. Been playing golf in this state since I started to play golf.

But in Charlotte, this is my second time here. Don't really get an opportunity in a major week to get out and explore much, but certainly has a lot to offer from what I've been hearing and reading about.

Q. Yesterday's announcement on the May PGA date, did you have any particular reaction to that, and also as it pertains to your hometown, if that is something you think maybe opens up the door for a possible PGA down the road in Dallas?

I didn't have much of a reaction. It was something that us players had been in contact with Jay about for quite a while, and it's been in discussions. I think it's really well done -- with the scheduling changes going forward, I think players overall are extremely pleased with -- we have yet to see what that will mean for the FedExCup schedule and really if the season is shortened or what exactly happens.

But as far as moving the majors, the PGA up, THE PLAYERS then over; yes, it opens up a lot more venues. I think it's cool, not just necessarily for Dallas but for the whole state of Texas. You can have it anywhere in the state in May. For me to think of playing in my home state in a major championship, that would be incredible. I'm not sure what courses would be leading the charge for that, but I'm sure I've played them. Played all around the state. It would be an incredible opportunity.

Q. You walk a very different course as a player than the fans. If you were a fan watching the next four days, where would you go to watch golf the next four days?

Well, it depends. I think there's two types of fans. There's fans that want to hang around 16, 17, 18 and see some triumph and disaster. Or if you want to go see some birdies.

Personally, I'd hang out right around the 14th hole. That would be fun. You would see guys potentially driving greens and you see short holes yielding really anything. You can make a 5 or 6 there pretty easily, too. I think short drivable par 4s are the most fun holes for me, and I imagine if I were a fan, that's where I would go.

Q. Since you got back from Birkdale, how often have you crossed paths with Kuchar and what are your reflections on how he handled everything? And also, did you call the shot on somebody shooting 62 at The Open Championship?

I'm not sure if it was in here, but I said I thought there would be really low scores, at least a couple of the days. It was very gettable with no wind; as any Open Championship course is with no wind, because you have to set it up preparing for the worst to come in unexpected. So I thought there was maybe a potential record-breaking score.

Kuch, I played with him last week. We were paired on Sunday. I'm not surprised at all with the way he handled things. I've been in somewhat similar situations before and could understand the feeling. And I thought he was a class act in everything. Not that there was -- you know, I felt the need to apologize to him on 13 for the amount of time it took when we just -- it's so tough these days. The second I go take the drop where I figured it needed to be taken, the second it's called in by three people and someone alerts you three holes later you've got a two-stroke penalty. So it was worth making sure everything was correct just to make sure that I had a chance.

But I felt because of the time it took, the need to apologize. But yeah, he was tremendous in the way that he played and the way that he is off the course, as he always acts.

Q. In a fairly young career already, you've shown, and Rory mentioned this the other day, kind of a knack for big moments, whether it's 62 at Deutsche Bank early on or bunker shots that get holed for wins and what have you. Where do you think that comes from, how do you develop it, and do you have a history we don't know about of doing that?

I wish I did, but no, I don't really have much of a history before the TOUR of doing that. I'm thinking of my other biggest wins prior to the PGA TOUR and they were -- the U.S. Juniors were a 10-footer to win 4&3 or something, and then a 2-putt to win. There was nothing that happened during the round that was crazy, either.

I'm not sure why that's happened. I wish that I would, on these holed bunker shots or these long putts, I certainly wish that I hit it closer or hit the green.

But the way that they happen end up being cooler than if I had done that. You know, you try and hit it Point A to Point B to Point C and if you go off course, you make up for it with some other shot. I think when we get into these high-pressure situations, when I get off-course a little bit, there's no negativity that comes into play in my mind, and maybe that makes a difference. It's not like the fear of it not going well.

I mean, I've already had enough not go well that I've almost accepted, okay, if this doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out; I'm going to have more chances. Just that kind of freedom allows me to take the fear away of any potential bad situation. I mean, I've gone through what will probably and hopefully be the worst loss of my career in the most public eye that golf has.

So everything else that could happen is much lesser and therefore, has probably helped me since then to focus then and only see the positive that could come out of a situation. The more you're zeroed in on holing it, the closer you're going to get to holing it.

I mean, we're all good enough that our brains tell our hands to do something. We've hit all these shots before. The more you're focused on it, the more likely it is to actually happen.

When any other thoughts come into play is when the potential for bad comes in. And I'm not saying that you can't focus and then just mis-execute, because that certainly will happen. But the chances go up that something beautiful could happen.

Q. This is a follow-up to an earlier question. How do you not put the pressure on yourself and minimize the expectations this week, particularly because of your intensity?

How? There will be pressure. This is a major championship. I mean, this is one of the four pivotal weeks of the year that we focus on. So there will certainly be pressure. I'm simply stating, there won't be added expectations or pressure.

How? I don't know. I just don't feel it. I just -- it's not a burning desire to have to be the youngest to do something, and that would be the only reason there would be added expectations. The more years you go on playing PGAs, and if I don't win one in the next ten years, then maybe there's added pressure then, and hopefully we don't have to have this conversation in ten years. But if we do, then it might be a different.

But it was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg, and that's so fresh in my mind. I'm so happy about that that I can't add pressure to this week. I'm free-rolling. And it feels good. I'm about as -- I'm about as kind of free and relaxed at a major than I think I've ever felt. Maybe since Chambers Bay, arriving at Chambers Bay after the Masters and just, you know, almost like I've accomplished something so great this year that anything else that happens, I can accept. That takes that pressure, that expectation away.

Now, you get into the heat of things, certainly that changes things, because I recognize where we are and what it would mean to win a major. Not anything else other than that. And so getting into position this week, this is a very, very, very tough course, and it's one that I need to drive the ball better than I've been driving it to have a chance to win this week, and I've been working hard on it and seeing some improvements. So as long as I can do that, then I should have chance.

JD: Jordan Spieth, as always, thank you for your time. Have a good week.