MODERATOR: Go ahead and get started. We'd like to welcome Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer to the 2018 Zürich Classic of New Orleans.
Jordan, you guys finished fourth last year. Was there a conversation that needed to be had about teaming up again this year?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think we had the conversation that night and kind of recommitted. It was a lot of fun. We had a blast. We were able to contend.
And then the changes this year, we're pretty excited about the changes in the format with flipping a day and having alternate shot the last day. You can lead, four or five behind, and certainly still in it in an alternate shot format, but in best ball it's probably too difficult to overcome.
It's nice to be back here. Looks like we're going to get a weather-free Zurich Classic here, which is rare. Should make the golf course really show some teeth.
MODERATOR: And Ryan, you guys were bogey-free in the first round last year in the alternate shot; shot a 66. We had Willie McGirt in here yesterday, and just like Jordan said, that that's going to create some more drama down the stretch. How does that help you guys?
RYAN PALMER: I think so. Obviously Thursday is going to be important to get off to a good start with the best ball format. Alternate shot being on Sunday, it's hard to go out and shoot 10-, 11-under par and catch a guy that's ahead of you.
This year hopefully we can make a few more putts than last year. Had a cold spell with the putter. I feel like we have a little unfinished business, so hopefully get back out there and get a few putts rolling in.
Definitely sets up for more dramatic finish on Sunday knowing it's going to take a little bit better strategy and golf. That way one guy can't go out and take over the team. It's going to take both of us on Sunday.
Q. Wondering how important chemistry is among teammates? Not just having the talent and be talented players, but seems like maybe in this event that you really need to have some type of chemistry.
RP: I think so. Obviously Jordan is more familiar with team concept, you know, the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cups he's played. It is. It's also having somebody you're comfortable with and can relate a little bit with. Makes it more fun, relaxing. You kind of laugh a little more. Take a little pressure off you, I think.
You see so many teams out there, I mean, I'm not sure how some of these teams are teamed together, but definitely knowing this format was going to start, I wanted to play with someone I knew real well and that I was close with. It's worked out.
JS: Yeah, we've played a lot practice rounds together going back the last few years, so we know each other's games. We have a good time out here. I think first and foremost, this event for guys is a really nice kind of breath of fresh air where you feel like you can go out and there are no world ranking points.
You obviously want to get in contention with FedExCup points on the line, but it's an opportunity to just go out and be in a different space than normal; have a little bit more fun. When you have good team chemistry, somebody you enjoy playing with, it can certainly feel that way. Of.
Q. Jordan, how much can the Masters be a springboard for you? You had mono back in December. Masters kind of got you going again?
JS: Yeah, I think I got on the right path. I was kind of working on things throughout the year thinking I was doing the right things, and I finally feel like I got the short game back on track in Houston and Augusta.
And to hit some of those putts under pressure and see some go in I think will be very beneficial going forward this year. It very well could be a spark for a really solid year.
Yeah, I'm very pleased after the last couple tournaments I played and where I've come from the month prior to that.
Q. Knowing you had a really good high school golf career, would you recommend to high school students who have goals reach pro levels?
JS: Goals to reach the pro level? You really want to stay committed. One thing that I did in high school that I think was big for me, was on the weekends I made sure golf was my no. 1 priority.
You still want to be well rounded, right? You still want to have a social life, work hard in school, and you want to work hard on your sport. But I let golf kind of jeopardize some of the social side where friends were all hanging out late at night or whatever it was. I bailed on that a bit in order to make sure that I could get out and get to the golf course. It's what I loved to do more than anything else in high school and still is.
So I kind of jeopardized some of the those situations knowing it was for a higher goal. You just really have to prioritize your time, and it starts in high school.
(Audio interruption. )
RP: -- good friends together. So I think it just helps us carry out a positive and exciting day each time we're out there.
Q. Jordan, with the NCAA championships coming up next month, talk about what your time in Texas meant to you and why college golf is so special.
JS: It was short and sweet. Yeah, that year was unbelievable. If I'm talking from the golf side of things, I mean, the entire experience was fantastic. It's where I would've wanted to go to school was I not a golfer.
We had a team that won eight times, including the national championship. In that match play format, we squeaked into match play. We had to have a really good final round of stroke play, which we kind of came together and did and worked our way through match play.
It's a bonding experience. We all stay in touch with each other and root for each other constantly.
And the national championship in general, it wasn't televised back then. Now being televised, you should see all the professionals at Muirfield that sit in the locker room and watch. They're all interested in what's going on, which teams are the best, and as you get closer to the weekend, who is left and what are the scores.
All the pros are watching these guys in college golf just like professional NFL players watching college football. That kind of exposure for the national championship is very cool, and we're very interested in it. Especially having lived through that, I'm probably even more so interested in it.
Everybody kind of looks forward to this one week.
Q. Given the popularity of this event and the field that's here, do you think there is room on the tour schedule for one more like this? If so, what kind of format tournament would you like to see?
RP: Probably room I guess somewhere. I think guys enjoy it. I know they look forward to this one week, especially the guys that grinded through the Masters. As Jordan said, it's kind of a week to decompress and start the rest of the season.
Would it be successful again? I'm sure it would. It's hard to say if it would be as big as it is right now.
I think Zurich has done a great job making this what it is today, and it just gets bigger and bigger every year.
Format-wise, I don't know. Some guys talk about having scrambles at one time. I don't know how that would play out.
Q. (No microphone.)
JS: Mixed event? Yeah, could be really interesting. As our schedule changes significantly next year, it provides that kind of potential opportunity as you get into the late summer and the fall after the FedExCup season.
I don't think anybody would be open or wanting another team event like this or mixed team event in the shortened FedExCup schedule given guys would probably like to be able to go out there and control their own destiny in a shorter amount of time to be able to keep their card, keep your job.
I think that it provides a lot of time and opportunity, and in the fall, a lot of -- a lot more golf courses, really cool golf courses, potentially to add. Whether another one of these or mixed team event I think would be really cool.
This one is special. If this were three or four times a year then it probably wouldn't be as special.
Q. (Regarding Aggies and Longhorns.) What do you take -- individually -- how do you assess at the end of each year what you've done and what you can do better?
JS: For me?
JS: Normally, individual statistics certainly talk about the year as a whole, how do I feel at the end of the year. But in order to improve my results, it goes back to there was parts of the game that stuck out that need to be added and worked on and fine tuned.
That's been something that's -- something different each year so far in my career. After last year, my scoring average was the lowest I had ever had. It was lower than 2015 average. So we took that as a tremendous positive.
Then we looked into what specifically I can work on to get even better. Typically when you do that, you spend a little less time on something else that becomes the knock for the next year.
You're obviously not going to be in the top 10 in every category. Nobody has, not even Tiger in his prime. Last year it was trying to get better I think ten feet and in putting, and actually the mid-range game, too. I just wasn't making as many as the years prior, which was going to be harder to sustain for an entire career, but still something I try to work on.
Haven't been successful at it yet this year, but we're only a third of the way through.
Q. Jordan, going back to the Masters, wondering if you took any time after that to kind of reflect on exactly how close you to got to doing something pretty historic?
JS: Yeah, I watched it. I watched the Sunday coverage. I wanted to learn a bit from it. I wanted to see -- because it was, I felt like the -- I felt like Houston, but really at Augusta was the best my swing has ever held up under the gun. Especially my driving. I felt like I really felt look I drove the ball beautifully on Sunday, especially when I started to get closer and closer and could feel being in the tournament.
So I wanted to kind of see what that looked like compared to other times. And also, I was interested in kind of how it looked from the viewer's perspective. It was really cool to see. I knew how I was feeling and thinking, and I didn't realize the timing of when I tied it up or whatever.
But going back, I look back on it and I actually thought I truly could have shot 59 without doing much more other than making a few more putts. I put myself in opportunities on each hole to shoot 59 that day, which is really, really cool.
It was a day that it almost was, but from nine back and in 9th place, there was just too many variables. I would've had to get really lucky on the side of -- with Patrick backing up, too, and Rickie backing up and these other guys that were in fourth, fifth place. It was just a little too much. That's what I thought going into the day.
But to have a chance in general was a new experience for me. I proved, like I said right afterwards, that in any situation, if you can do it there, then you're really never out of it if you're within ten shots. That's kind of cool.
Q. Did you guys pick up in any kind of walk-up music?
RP: He got busted yesterday.
JS: Yeah, I was trying to sneak the Texas fight song past without Ryan knowing, and we got questioned, Are you sure that you want this? Ryan was sitting with me at the table. I was like, Wow, guess we're not doing that.
So, yeah, we have a few songs that we came up with to use.
JORDAN SPIETH: I'm not sure. I don't think we rated them. We'll just have to find out which one they decide is number one on the list.
Q. Can you tell us genre?
JS: We have a mix of like Texas music and -- I guess most of it is...
RP: His age music. (Laughter.)
Q. I know you guys already talked about the NCAA golf, but if we could get a little more on what it's like watching it now and memories it brings back and how much you enjoy, if you do, watching NCAA golf.
JS: I think it was first round of match play where your Aggies won first year they did it, and I'm sure you were into that.
RP: First year they had the match play, '09. It's awesome to see what they've done with their program since I was there. We were never a powerhouse when I was at A&M. It's great to see what J.T. Higgins has done with that program. They're always -- seem to be up there each and every year.
I know he feels the same way about Texas. It's pretty cool to see where the game has gone in college. Tougher and tougher for these kids to get into good schools and compete because there so many good players now, I think.
Guys like Jordan and Rickie and Patrick, all the young guys, kids are starting to work at their game a little earlier now. Going to these bigger schools and playing college golf is getting tougher for some, so it's exciting for the game of golf.
JS: And the courses these guys are playing in the tournaments now are set up close to as difficult as we're playing out here, and then the level of the competition is getting higher, and it makes the adjustment from college golf to the PGA TOUR easier than I think they've ever been to come out and play fearlessly and expect to be able to play well on the PGA TOUR.
They're almost playing like a PGA TOUR type schedule obviously with less events and the competition being -- you probably have a handful of guys that can win versus just about anybody in the field out here.
These transitions you're seeing younger generations make out here, we owe that to college golf and the courses we've been playing and the competition. Even junior golf, too. The national circuits that you can play against the best players in the country instead of just playing locally and not really knowing how good you are. You have a pretty good idea now of what you need to work onto get to the next level.
It's owed to college golf. The national championship being televised, having that experience too, is something you don't have to worry about and get over that next hurdle when you get on the TOUR.
Q. Jordan, did you actually notice a difference in why your swing held up under the gun?
JS: Yeah, yeah, I did. I had a good -- kind of really found a good feeling in my last six or seven balls on the range Sunday. That kind of got back to the feeling I had the first round; the middle two I got a little off.
So I was a little more stable and patient in the swing. There are some specifics that would probably bore you, but that's mainly it. I just stuck with it and was able to work the ball flights I wanted to throughout the round.
Really, in on all honesty, I made a couple putts, but it wasn't really hot day with the putter. I just put myself in position to birdie just about every hole. I missed a couple greens, but every other hole had within 15 feet for birdie.
So once you make a couple of those, you can start to get the ball rolling.
Q. Obviously a lot of people who love golf who are not pros take golf vacations. With this being in New Orleans during Jazz Fest and you're playing with your friends, but on the other hand, FedExCup points and considerable prize money at stake, where does that fall on the spectrum relative to your year-round experience?
JS: Where does it fall as far as...
Q. How serious...
RP: If I speak for him, I mean, I know for sure I'm taking it like any other tournament for sure. Putting in the time yesterday, and today I'll do the same. I'll treat tomorrow like it's Thursday of Colonial. There is a lot at stake. FedExCup. I mean, obviously the money we play for out here, but the key is to get in good position for the FedExCup, and this is another step towards that.
Have a few more dinners this week and hang out a little bit more and kind of enjoy it, but at the same time, still do the things we need to do for the gym. We both work with Dr. Van Biezen, so we'll treat it like any other tournament.
JS: Yeah, I think right on. Same amount of practice, same amount of work. And then being Jazz Fest, also New Orleans offering some great food and fantastic culture. The tournament has done a great job of putting extra stuff to go for us to be a part of. Everybody is more cordial off the course.
Less guys are going to the hotel room and hanging. Everyone is kind of hanging out with each other, which is definitely a little different. When you're out here, it looks very similar to a regular TOUR tour event. I can speak to just about everybody on that.
JS: Probably playing golf.
RP: I been doing it for 32 years. For me, it's a challenge. I love competing. You know, the people I've met along the way, the friends I had I think at the beginning of golf, just the life it's given me. Aside from that, just the fact of getting out with buddies. You know, I love playing golf at home with guys at home with the guys Colonial. James and I both do.
I've never not been excited when I've gone to the golf course. I've always just loved being out there. When you make a mistake here and there, I love to go work on it. Always something new to kind of learn and gain.
I love playing this event with him because I kind of watch and I get to learn a lot this week watching how he handles himself when things don't go his way.
James and I talked about it yesterday. The game itself, it's a game everybody can play and enjoy.
JS: Yeah. It's a game you can't perfect. The majority of us out here are perfectionists, and that drives us because we want to so bad and we want to get as close as we possibly can.
For me, it's almost like an artistic thing to do. -- obviously anybody out here was born with a bit of talent, different levels of talent, and people that have worked hard to get out here. But to use that and kind of -- I love being out the course creating pictures and letting a round get -- feel the round out.
I also love the individual aspect of it, where you get what you put in. The ball is in your hands at all times. You're the starting pitcher, and also are playing the infield. You're responsible for everything that happens.
You can change that for better or worse based on how much you put in. That's unique in golf. It's you, a white ball, and the golf course. Even in tennis somebody else across from you. The person across from you essentially is responsible for creating what shot you have to hit back.
For us, that ball is still, and we can do whatever we want with it.
MODERATOR: Last question in the back.
Q. (No microphone.)
JS: I think having a partner to walk with, somebody to root for, as much as I just spoke to the individual aspect of the game, that change of pace into you have a team is awesome.
Our guys, James and Michael, are really fun to be around. They love being around each other. As much as we're rooting for each other, we're also giving each other smack out there, too. It's just part of it. Just part of the game and the way we've always done it.
So we just -- you seem to have more fun. You're lighter. You can take more chances. We get a best ball format and get to play more aggressive golf, which is fun, too.
So there is a lot. There is a lot that makes it unique, and that's why we enjoy coming here.