Following his Wednesday practice round at the Golf Club of Houston in preparation for the Shell Houston Open, Jordan Spieth sat down for the obligatory/mandatory pre-tournament press conference with the golf and local sports media.
Amanda Herrington of the PGA Tour moderated the presser.
Here’s the full transcript via ASAP Sports – along with photos from Getty Images.
HERRINGTON (MODERATOR): We’d like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room here in the Shell Houston Open. Jordan, making your fifth start here at Shell Houston Open where you have a run up before. Got your first victory in your home state last year at Colonial.
SPIETH: Fifth start. That’s weird. Yeah. I love this tournament, this golf course. It’s a fantastic event, one I grew up watching. I played this course in Junior Golf going back to when I was, I think, 14. It was a very big golf course back then. I couldn’t reach a few of the par 4s in 2.
Then this was a tournament that gave me an exemption my first year on TOUR, and last few years leading into the Masters, it’s been, you know, a fun event to play. The greens are very quick, have a lot of slope. This grass in the fairways and in the run-off areas is similar to what we see next week, and so it’s nice prep for the year — or the, I’m sorry, next week’s Major. It’s also it’s just a really well-manicured golf course and makes for a very exciting finish with the last few holes in its own right. Got to hit the right shots under pressure coming in, and that’s what you like to see in a golf course.
HERRINGTON: Thank you. With that, we’ll start with some questions.
On The Texas Slam
QUESTION: Jordan, I know it’s good preparation for the Masters, but do you sometimes think about the Texas tournaments as a group as like the Texas Slam (Byron Nelson, DEAN & DELUCA, Shell Houston)? You obviously won at Colonial and came pretty close at the Byron.
SPIETH: Yeah. Certainly feel more support here than anywhere else. It’s awesome. There’s a big Long Horn contingency here, and that is in full force at this tournament.
It would be a goal of mine certainly to win all the events that are in Texas. There’s five of them now. So I’ve got one, four to go. So, this tournament is one I came very close to two years ago, and there was a little kind of — it was a tough one because I hit pretty good shots when I needed to and my drive went too far in the playoff on 18 and went to a tricky lie. I think J.B. won that year and certainly earned it.
Anybody can win here. You see Matt Kuchar contending, J.B. Holmes. Those are two difficult games. This one in particular is a lot of fun.
On What He’s Working On This Week
QUESTION: Jordan, when it comes to preparing for next week, is this week more about mental stuff or is it about working on swing mechanics?
SPIETH: Quite a bit of both, yeah. The mental stuff certainly comes into play when — and if you can work yourself into contention and you start feeling the pressure and you start seeing how your visuals change, what shots are you playing, what are you most comfortable with, that’s kind of the mental side of things even though it translates into the mechanical side. It’s where do you feel most comfortable standing over the ball, which shots are you liking to play right now. That’s changed. Going back — I’ve been more comfortable with draws last year, two years ago more fades, three years ago more fades.
Just depends for me, personally sometimes, but you got to work yourself into contention I think for that kind of mental prep.
On Pros And Cons Of Playing Before a Major
QUESTION: Jordan, I was going to ask you what are the pros and cons of you playing the week before a Major? You played before the Masters. I know you played before the Open.
SPIETH: I’ve historically played better golf second, third, fourth week in a row just after playing the week before. Really I think the third week in a row might be my — historically my best, I don’t know, scoring average or finish, average finish. You get some kinks out. I made some kind of rusty-ish swings off the 2 break in Austin. I say “rusty.” I was practicing, but just, you know, focus isn’t quite fully there for me, and it gets there after playing the week before.
So, I like doing that. I do it for — I’ve done it for two out of the four Majors. I’ve done it for three out of the four — actually I’ve done it — yeah, I’ve had the week off before the U.S. Open the past few years and we won one there. So doesn’t necessarily, doesn’t — it’s not a tell-all, but it’s been successful this time leading into the Masters so I keep doing it.
On The Favorite At Augusta, Him Or Dustin
QUESTION: Jordan, who would be a more legitimate favorite for next week, you because of your ability to play Augusta, or Dustin?
SPIETH: I think Dustin Johnson is the guy to beat in golf no matter where you are. Put him anywhere, I think just about anybody would agree with that. He’s the guy to beat. If I play my best golf, I believe that I can take down anybody, and you have to believe that. But I think that right now he is the guy that everyone is saying he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.
On His Caddie, Michael Greller
QUESTION: Jordan, two questions on Michael. What prompted you to decide to hire him five-plus years ago?
SPIETH: Well, there’s a fun answer and a serious answer. The fun answer, no one else wanted the job. There was no — there actually weren’t any caddies that wanted my bag that had been caddying for awhile on TOUR. But, at the same time, the serious answer is, I had success with him, he was familiar with my game and who I was. Thought he was a really, really good person to the core and somebody who I would enjoy and trust traveling with no matter where we were going to end up.
And that went from Panama to Columbia or Pebble Beach, San Diego, could have gone to the rest of the Web.com Tour that year and who knows after that.
So, somebody who I trusted to travel with as a really good person and a good role model for me but also a good friend. Kind of — you don’t have many of those where you have a great role model and a great friend, and he’s one of those guys. He has been going back a ways. It was the right gig for both of us at the time. We wanted to take a chance.
On His Journey With Greller
QUESTION: What’s the best way to describe this journey you guys have been on for five-plus years?
SPIETH: Growing, growing as people and as golfers in and our golf IQ. We’ve experienced experiences that, you know, I wouldn’t have dreamt of having in 30-plus years. Just getting to meet the people I’ve met and play golf with the people I play golf with, and Michael doing the same, being able to contend in Major championships, win Major championships and other golf tournaments. It’s been a special journey. I would say, yeah, growing and continuing to might be a good word for it.
On Playing With NFLers
QUESTION: Jordan, did you see where Vince Wilfork said he wanted the play a round with you. What does that mean, whatever city you go to, some of the big wigs are talking about playing with you?
SPIETH: I haven’t seen that, no. He might need some smaller clubs. That would be really cool. He’s got a great reputation for being a really fun guy to be around. I’m a big football fan and obviously know who he is and have seen — obviously watched him play quite a bit.
But, yeah, I think it’s funny. I think it’s awesome because I’m such fans of these guys and, you know, it’s not the NFL, it’s not the same kind of spotlight. Golf is not as popular as football is, and therefore when it happens, because you start to sit there and think, wow, you know, these guys like golf? Sometimes you don’t think of it with other sports, people get into their own stuff. I don’t play football in my spare time partly because I don’t think I’m allowed to. But it’s great.
On What It Takes To Beat Spieth
QUESTION: What do you think is the edge to beat Justin Spieth?
SPIETH: Fortunately I’ve played a lot of golf and competed against him on the weekends. I’ve been successful against him, which is a huge advantage, just having done it before. The way to do it is to not get caught up in his game, not trying to hit it out there with him, not trying to get to — the thing that’s difficult about beating Dustin Johnson is, you get on the tee and by the time you’re hitting your second shots, you’re already at a disadvantage on the hole.
It’s trying not to feel that way and trying to recognize that, you know, you — you add them up at the end. There’s a lot of ways to do it. Mentally saying okay, I’m just going to hit my shots, play my game. I know I can beat him, I have before, and that’s the mental attitude you have to have out there if you feel like you’re disadvantaged every hole, even though you are, percentage-wise when you both hit a good tee shot, if you feel that way, you’re probably not going to have a chance to beat him, but if you just kind of don’t worry about what he’s doing and you just — you play your own game, having the advantage of having been there before and him knowing that, too, he knows which guys have taken him down and are capable of it and he knows which guys are probably not going to be able to. And fortunately I feel like, you know, we can.
On His Confidence
QUESTION: Jordan, where is your comfort level especially and confidence with your game relative to how you felt coming into this event each of the last three years?
SPIETH: I’d say ’15 I was really confident here. I just come off a second place finish. It’s hard to tell off Match Play where we are. So this week will tell a little bit more. Last year I was coming about the same off of Match Play. So, somewhat similar. I think I’m in a better place than ’14, maybe not quite as confident yet as ’15 coming off of a good finish there. And then last year probably pretty similar.
On Dustin Johnson’s Dominance
QUESTION: It seems like it was pretty recent that we were saying it was going to be maybe guys were going to trade the No. 1 ranking for a little while, sort of pop around between you and Jason and Rory and Dustin. We all knew Dustin was a good player. Are you somewhat surprised at how quickly this has escalated to being sort of his to lose, like you say?
SPIETH: Not the slightest bit. I believe you guys can all attest I called this. Am I wrong? I mentioned this going back years. Dustin Johnson is probably the most talented player and it’s a matter of time. Once he gets that click and — whether it was the U.S. Open or it was — probably was the U.S. Open, looking back on it now. Just got over that hurdle. And whatever free-up he needed that we didn’t need him to have, he got.
And I mean, I’m not trying to say told you so, but I definitely called this and I have been quoted as doing so. So I’m not in the least bit surprised that he is the guy to beat. And it’s going to be very difficult at this point, considering he was No. 1 and he’s won two world golf championship in two starts. So I’m pretty sure he’s got a big lead now. I don’t really follow it closely.
Major championships have huge weight, and I’m not focused on trying to win Majors to get to No. 1 anymore. It’s just trying to do it to do it. So, that side of things getting No. 1 isn’t the pressure that I feel, but that’s the only way to really take big strides towards him because I don’t think he’s letting up anytime soon.
On Augusta’s 12th Hole
QUESTION: Jordan, you referenced your recent trip to Augusta. One of your strengths is to analyze a hole on a course. When you, just as a player stepping to the tee box No. 12, when you see that hole, what do you see as a player?
SPIETH: I see an extremely well-designed par 3. It’s a lot better design for a left-hander than a right-hander, because the left half of the green is at a shorter distance than the right half.
So when we pull the ball right-handed, the ball goes further. When we push a ball, it goes shorter. Lefties are the opposite. It fits lefty green. If lefty lines up at the middle bunker and they pull it, the ball is going to carry further. It will be okay on that hole. If they push it, it will go shorter. If they have the right club, they will be on the green. For a right-hander, you got to hit a really good shot. The reason it’s so tough is because there are swirling winds and the green depth is so small.
So, on the left side you might have maybe ten paces from the front to the back before it goes into a little swale, which is very difficult to come out of. On the middle of the green, you only have about six or seven, and on the right side you have another 10 or 11 paces. But that’s not very — it’s not very deep of a green to be hitting — you have to — you’re trying to hit the middle of that surface even you only have 5 yards on either side. To only be off by 5 yards with a potential of wind gusting or swirling makes it difficult.
Even though it’s a 9-iron or maybe an 8, some days a pitching wedge, with the spin rate those clubs generate, a simple gust of wind that goes up 3 or 4 miles an hour more affects it more than 5 yards. So trying to trust that when you’re on the tee is a challenge, especially on days that are tough conditions.
So, it’s extremely well designed. The bunkers are really well done for bail-out areas to be more challenging because it’s a 9-iron, you hit a good shot, you should have a birdie chance, and you do on that hole. Historically I played the hole really well, but depending on where the pin is, depends on the shot you play and where you play it to. To feel like you’re laying up with a 9-iron in your hand is abnormal. That’s tough for players to trust.
On Preparing For Augusta In Houston
QUESTION: Jordan, the way this golf course is conditioned, can you use the speed of the greens and the chipping areas around these greens in preparation for the Masters next week and if so how?
SPIETH: A bit. The grass type is similar around the greens, but the greens — I was just at Augusta and I compare it to here on a Wednesday versus there on Sunday, Monday, it’s still nothing. There’s no place, nothing against here. You just can’t get it like that. They’re very fast there already and very full much. Such a kind of a mild winter, the grass is very full and the fairways and the chipping areas and the greens have a lot of grass to them, which means they can cut them down and they have already.
The green speeds it will putt different next week. But around the greens, hitting different pitch shots, whether you’re it or trying to kind of nip it off the ground, can certainly benefit from the practice you can get around the golf course here.
HERRINGTON: Jordan, thank you for your time today.
Credit: PGA Tour, Getty Images, ASAP Sports