Shell Houston Open interview: Jordan Spieth

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March 27, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Shell Houston Open transcripts

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. We welcome Jordan Speith into the interview room this morning at the Shell Houston Open.

Jordan, quite an exciting two weeks for you with a tie for 2nd in Puerto Rico and a tie for 7th in Tampa. Your last two starts. This is your fifth start as a pro. No stranger to these parts playing at the University of Texas where you were an All-American. Couple thoughts about coming back to Texas for the Shell Houston Open?

JORDAN SPIETH: My last trip was four different countries in four weeks. It's awesome to be able to drive down here and spend some time at home, get prepared for this week and get well rested. This is a golf course I played before. I'm familiar with. It's a beast, but I feel like it fits my game well and I'm confident going in.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Maybe talk a little bit about Redstone and that.

JORDAN SPIETH: My first time here was actually I think a year or two after it opened. I played -- it was the HP Junior Invitational. It moved from Bay Hill to here this year. It was too much of a golf course for me back then. I was 14, I couldn't reach three or four of the par 4s in two. But it was an unbelievable track. I've only heard about the course during this tournament and how it's in the best shape, you know, of any course I play all year, you know, except possibly Augusta.

I got out on the course for two practice rounds, and I've never been on the course that's been in this good a shape. Never seen greens; greens like this, so it's exciting when -- there's going to be no complaints about kind of lies or spike marks or anything on this course this week.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. We'll just open it up for questions.

Q. Jordan, obviously you thought were you ready to get out on the Tour after one season at UT, but has it been what you thought it would be?

JORDAN SPIETH: It's been more. It's been -- I would have never, you know, expected this at the beginning of the year. I tested the waters as an amateur, played in a few events, but never, you know, multiple in a row or anything, and I wasn't sure exactly what the travel would be like, but it's been awesome. It's my dream job, and it's been better than I really could have imagined.

So, yeah, I mean, no looking back. I'm still proud and happy to be a Long Horn and expect to spend a lot of time there with my team and hopefully route them to a National Championship. I felt like my time was this past December this whole year and it's turned out as planned.

Q. Your first tournament this year you missed the cut, but you didn't seem to show any effects of missing the cut. Did you maybe put too much pressure on yourself in that event?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. It was interesting because it's two courses and I had never played either one. Not that that's an excuse. That North Course you really have to get off to a good start at Torrey Pines because the South Course is too hard to make up shots, and I just didn't do that. You know, it was one of those where it's hard to come back on a course like the south course at Torrey Pines and try to shoot 3-under or 2-under, and, you know, just a little too much at the time, and I think I did put a little bit of too much pressure on myself. I did play the qualifier, played the Thursday and Monday qualifier for that event and played well.

So, I was confident in striking the ball well going in, just a little, you know, first tee jitters, I think.

Q. Did you kind of feel like, wow, this is it, man, this is the Tour?

JORDAN SPIETH: Not really. Yeah. I had some thoughts, but at the same time, I had great responses from tournament directors and knew I was going to get enough starts on the PGA and Web.com Tour to where I would have plenty of chances, just needed to throw that week out of my mind.

Q. Can you reflect on having the special membership? That takes all the pressure off of getting in the tournament?

JORDAN SPIETH: It's definitely a relief. I never would have thought that I'd be building a PGA TOUR schedule this year. I thought that I'd be playing -- even going down to Panama, I thought I would be playing the Web.com Tour the whole year. Wanted to get off to a good start there.

Yeah, it's a dream come true right now. It's interesting to sit down with my team and start picking out, you know, a possible schedule. It's just -- it was different. I was a little shocked.

Q. What have you learned in the past two, three months maybe that you didn't know about golf or playing on the Tour?

JORDAN SPIETH: Lot of it is off the course, learning how to travel, where to get your sleep, how to stay in shape on the road. You know, I mentioned it before, the longest stretch I've played in a row was two weeks. I did that one time in my life. So, playing four weeks in a row, there was a lot to learn and, you know, just talking to some guys, older guys and even some of the younger guys on Tour that have adapted in the past year, you know, I've been able to learn about what to do and obviously there's still a lot -- I've only had one little tournament stretch experience now, so I'm about to get into the thick of things and hopefully win a lot more.

Q. Are the older guys accepting you?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. Everybody has been awesome, fantastic. Find some guys on The First Tee, played with Arron Oberholser yesterday. He was helping me out.

Q. How does -- you said this course was too much for you at 14. This course set up the way it is right now, with people prepping for Augusta, how does it suit your game and was it a surprise to come see it? You said people had told you about it, Justin, some people like that, or who?

JORDAN SPIETH: No. I just -- I just heard -- I watched coverage of it in the past and I've heard from just -- I couldn't typical you exactly who, I've just heard from a group of different professionals that -- or even friends from Houston that come out and watch it and say this is what they think every single course is like on the PGA TOUR, which is pretty similar but this is about as good a shape as any course it will ever be.

Q. How does it fit your game, the way it is set up right now?

JORDAN SPIETH: You know, it's a complete ball-striker's course. You have to drive the ball well, you have to commit to lines. There's a lot of water. You have to drive the ball well. You have to be really confident when you step on the tee box. You can't -- there's really no bailing out, because then there's trouble on the other side.

So, this weekend, next week are golf courses like that. Out here, you got to be hitting your long irons well and really putting the ball on the greens. I think greens and regulations are going to be a very important step this week.

Q. If you could go back to January, you have the year ahead of you. What would you have considered a successful year concerning the lack of status you had and what would have been considered the absolute dream year?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, my goal at the beginning of the year was to earn a PGA TOUR card for next year, and I'm still not there so it's still -- that's the goal of mine. I thought that that would be through the Web.com Tour, so I wanted to get off the a great start early in that season and ride that tour, and then, you know, the dream-come-true route would have been qualifying in my 7 sponsor's exemptions on the PGA Tour. So right now I'm kind of the in the midst of the dream route, but I still have a long way to go here to get my card.

Q. You didn't have the -- winning the grand slam?

JORDAN SPIETH: If that came, I guess it's it still possibly could come, but never count anything out, but, yeah, that wasn't exactly on the radar this year.

Q. Is it hard not to fall into a trap of now that you've got the temp status to relax? Do you know what I mean by that?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. Like I said, I still haven't earned my card for next year, that's still first and foremost on my mind. With the change in the schedule, the shortening of the schedule, there's no set amount of money that I know I'm going to have to make.

So, you know, I have other goals that have now come up for this year, but that's still first and foremost, and I'm not going to relax. Even if I know that I accomplished that, there's still a long way to go to -- you still want move up in the world ranking, get in all the top events.

Q. When you say "no set amount," meaning you can't compare it with any previous year?

JORDAN SPIETH: Right.

Q. To what do you attribute your fast forwarding to where your maturity level? Because you can't score like you scored the last couple weeks without really being in totally control of your golf became. It's unusual for somebody who is your age.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. I bring it back to really having the experience as an amateur, being able to have those starts when I was in college and even before college and actually getting into contention. That's just -- I feel like the comfort level is just so different once you've done it before, and, you know, obviously I wasn't tied for the lead ever on like I was on the back-9 at Puerto Rico. So that was a new feeling, but, you know, it's just a lot of what I've learned talking to players. That's just how I learn the most is kind of just asking guys, you know, how do you deal with this.

I had a guy at Texas, we had a mental guy, Jay Brunsa, who taught us different breathing techniques when you start feeling the pressure. You just kind of go with whatever kind of voices you've heard in that position and, it worked out for me there. So I know that in the future, I just feel like I'm just going to get more comfortable.

Q. Did you beat yourself Puerto Rico or did you get beat?

JORDAN SPIETH: I got beat. I played well.

Q. You felt like you did --

JORDAN SPIETH: Honestly, that whole back-9 I feel like I only had two bad swings, and on 9 holes, if you have two bad swings, it's a good 9 holes. I hit great putts, felt really confident over the ball.

So, you know, obviously I could single out one stroke anywhere in four days, but, yeah, those guys behind me, he birdied the last hole. I got to a position where I was tied, and Scott made a birdie on 18.

Q. Not for a moment did you not think "geez, I can't win this tournament, I'm not ready to win a tournament," you were perfectly prepared to win the tournament.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, exactly.

Q. When you made the decision to turn pro, can you walk us through the process of your decision to hire Greller as your caddy. Was he always going to be your guy, or how did that come to be?

JORDAN SPIETH: I wasn't sure exactly what was going to be the right thing for me to do, whether to go with a veteran, if there was a veteran available, or to hire somebody that was had experience with me, but was still a friend. We decided that this year, since I had no idea where my schedule was going to take me week to week, possibly going to Thursday qualifiers and Monday qualifiers, that it was going to be a lot better to have a guy that was a friend of mine who still caddied for me, knew my game, knew how I go through my process before each shot and was a good friend off the course.

So, he was perfect and he was always a front runner in who it would be and really weren't -- wasn't anybody strictly in consideration behind him.

Q. How did you guys first meet?

JORDAN SPIETH: We met at the U.S. Junior at Gold Mountain in Tacoma, which is where he's from. I got hooked up from Justin Thomas who had used him in the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay at Seattle.

He texted me saying, hey, I can get you in contact with my guy Michael, he helped me a ton, he's a good guy. Met up with him there, and we ended up winning the event that week and I used him at the U.S. Open, too.

Q. Is there one or two things you can share with us that he does specifically to help you?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. He's really good at -- especially early in this season, I was trying to earn as much as I could, trying, you know, really pressing, felt like he was pressing at times to get each stroke and I was emotionally not neutral enough. I was a little up and down. So he was great at settling me down. He's great at kind of having me focus at, you know, make sure you hit the green.

That's what I tell him to remind me every time I'm hitting an approach shot. Greens first. Attack the pin second. Make sure if you miss it, you're still putting. He understands that the -- strengths of my game and where I get in trouble and that's it.

Q.Is he going to go back to teaching at all?

JORDAN SPIETH: We hope not. It's worked out well so far. We're going to keep it rolling.

Q. Your schedule, other than penciling in the Masters, can you talk about that?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. I think if that were the case, I'd love to go to the Masters. Yeah, I'm going to play here and next week, both courses I've played before, which is nice. That's new, play a course that I've been on before. Then hopefully the Masters. If that doesn't happen, I'll have a week off and I'm going to go play Hilton Head and New Orleans, and then from there, haven't thought about it. So we're still -- have a lot of interest from there on out. And the Byron is in there.

But other than that, there's been a lot of great interest, which is awesome for me, but once again it's been a whirlwind. So I haven't had time to sit down and really look at where to commit and hopefully get spots.

Q. Have you had the opportunity to see Augusta or go over and play with anybody for any reason?

JORDAN SPIETH: Last year we played a college tournament at Forest Hills. It's near Augusta. The Monday after the tournament we got to go watch the practice round. I have been there during tournament week, and it was pretty much like walking into a video game. It's pretty much how it feels like here, too.

Yeah, I've seen it. I haven't walked all the holes in person. Obviously I know all the holes, but yeah. Hopefully one of these days soon.

Q. Have you ever an offer for a round through a member?

JORDAN SPIETH: No, I haven't. I haven't really pursued or sucked up to get an invite (laughter). No.

Q. Would you? Now that you're a pro and it's on your bucket list?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. It has to be. I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to play Augusta National.

Q. Sounds like you don't have any Web.com Tour events on your schedule in the near future. Is there a chance you might not go back there this year?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't plan on it. You know, hopefully I can keep it going out here and just get in that 125 mark and hopefully work my way up inside there and then not have to go back.

Q. Other than lacking, obviously lacking experience, what takes you to the next level in terms of your golf game and just the mechanics of your golf game?

JORDAN SPIETH: I still have a lot of -- I go back into old tendencies of -- I move -- I shift my head forward in my swing, just some stability that I get into. I've been a lot better at -- especially when I would get nervous, I wouldn't think as much about my swing, I would be thinking about the moment. So, I'm getting better at it. I still need to work on that in my golf game, in my swing.

As far as short game work, I feel great over the ball and in intense situations, which I think is the most important thing, the thing that gets off most which is a relief and I have to convince myself that I'm confident over those, too.

Yeah. Just some stability stuff and when I get to the top of my back swing.

Q. Little off-the-wall thing here, but three rookie quarterbacks in the national football league took their teams to the playoffs last years. There was a time when that would have been impossible. A time when a 19-year-old being successful on the PGA TOUR would have been impossible. I don't know if you follow football. There really are no limits for a young person?

JORDAN SPIETH: It's interesting. Even watching NCAA basketball, these guys are unbelievable sophomores are my age, my grade, so, seeing -- yeah. It's cool to see the younger generation. I'm always rooting for everyone I can there.

In golf, I mean, you can definitely single out all the young great golfers to one guy, in the game of golf, in the way that it's grown, but as far as -- I'm a sports fanatic, so I follow all sports. I'm big fans of the guys, the Bryce Harpers, my age, and, you know, guys in the NFL, rookie quarterbacks, Russell Wilson is probably my size. I'm not sure if I stood next to him he would eat me, but still (laughter). Yeah, it's definitely good.

Q. Were you 16 when you had that nice run at the Nelson?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. The first year at the Byron I was 16.

Q. Was that hard to stay grounded, not let like the Monday after not let it get to your head?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, honestly, I don't think I even knew where I was that week when I look back. It's just -- the Monday after, if I remember right, I think I still had finals or -- I still had finals to go back and take, so I wasn't too -- I wasn't too thrilled right after the Monday after. As you guys have now realized, I'm not a huge fan of school (laughter).

Q. You think we were?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah. You know, it's just -- I just like to look at -- my goals overall that are to myself are high enough to where, you know, I have a long road even -- I'm on the right track, I believe I'm on the right track, but there's still a long way to go.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Anything else?

Q. Do you feel like you're ready to win?

JORDAN SPIETH: I do. I feel like after the last two experiences, I've gotten more and more comfortable. Even the Web.com events I was working my way into contention and definitely, you know, that was a new experience, and then each week I felt like I was more comfortable and later in the final round I was able to play solid final rounds. So, you know, I got to get my driver working here and then I think anything can happen.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Good luck this week.

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