ALEX URBAN: Good evening, everyone. I’m Alex Urban with PGA TOUR Communications and I just want to welcome everyone to this SBS Tournament of Champions with our defending champ, Jordan Spieth.
I want to open up with a little introduction of Jordan and he’ll make an opening statement and then we’re going to follow some questions with you all on the line.
Let’s welcome Jordan Spieth who is calling in today, winner of the 2016 SBS Tournament of Champions by a pretty incredible eight shots over Patrick Reed, who was the 2015 champion. Your record in the tournament is impressive. You had a runner-up in 2014 to go along with your win last year.
Talk about your play last year. You were obviously able to get to that 30-under plateau I know you were aiming for.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, certainly not the beginning of the week, but as the week went on and I think Saturday, the finish to Saturday’s round, I remember hitting a really cool 3-iron into 18. I think it was almost a two, and ended up making a three that set a nice goal to achieve for Sunday’s round.
Everything was clicking. I mean, I got down there early. Really just tried to have a great time that week ahead of time. Michael and I, my caddie, Michael, and I, played the golf course every day for five or six days leading up to the tournament week. We played with Brandt Snedeker a couple of times. We played with Dustin and Austin Johnson.
We tried to have a great time, and the tournament is so easy. It just makes it so easy to do so with just quick practice rounds and then go to the beach, hang out the rest of the day. I mean, just kind of in a good place in Maui. I mean, how can you not be, and led into a fun week.
Got some work in at home but most of the work I put in was there at Kapalua leading up to the tournament, and just kind of had everything click. I mean, it was just one of those weeks where you’re in the zone.
ALEX URBAN: Just quickly talk a little bit about the state of your game as you get ready to make that trip back to the Plantation Course at Kapalua. This will be your official debut in the 2016-2017 PGA TOUR season.
JORDAN SPIETH: I would say pretty similar to last year. The weather is terrible in Dallas right now just like it was last year but trying to get some reps when I can. I’m working on very similar things to this point last year.
Feel good off of the end of the season. Played two events in Australia and the Bahamas and felt like I made some progress where I wanted to off of the season, and trying to continue working through and creating kind of a new normal through my swing that I’ve been trying to work on for awhile and just haven’t given enough time off for it.
So hopefully that becomes the case by the time we tee it up this year. I’m approaching the week the same way as last year. Going to come in early. Going to play a lot of golf, hang out and just kind of relax in the afternoons and the evenings and explore a bit. Go snorkeling, go whale watching, fishing, whatever it may be. Try and make it just a really long week, two weeks, or I guess a week and a half. Try and make it last as long as possible, because once you get off the islands, it’s back to reality.
Q. After Hero, you sort of mentioned that you wanted to improve on win numbers each season and you had done that until last year or whatever. Given that was the first time you went backwards, what’s been your number going forward, and what do you see that being as you progress in your career?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’m not sure yet. I think, you know, more than the 2016 season. So I guess that was in my opinion, I’ll put it at 3 1/2, considering The Ryder Cup was a win in my mind, but it was a team win. So trying to reach the over on 3 1/2, I’d say, and I would be very satisfied with closing that out.
Obviously would like to improve on the record that I set for myself on TOUR in 2015 with five, but you know, just get out and get going, get in contention. I’m going to play a lot of PGA TOUR events this season. I’m going to stay on the PGA TOUR from Hawai’i on through The Presidents Cup, hopefully The Presidents Cup.
So going to give myself more opportunities I think this year than I had last year, and I would say that would probably be, over/under, 3 1/2 on how I’d feel.
Q. Obviously you mentioned schedule just then. People thought you were going to make it less, but that just meant less travel, right. Do you have any specific ideas where you’re going to go, at least early in the first few months?
JORDAN SPIETH: It’s going to look — that’s right. I’m not sure why it was said that I was going to be playing less. It just meant less world travel through the PGA TOUR season this season.
But first part of the season is actually going to look pretty season so the past for me. Trying to finalize where exactly. There’s a couple different routes to do it, but I’ll play a lot of the same events, events I’ve had success at in the past and try and gain some momentum.
Our schedule leading into Augusta has been very successful the last few years, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do is plan a really solid schedule leading into Augusta to get everything ready for the first major of the year. So that’s why I would say it’s going to be pretty similar.
Q. Coming off of the win last year at Kapalua, was there anything going through your mind to the effect of, wow, I wonder what the year has in store if I can keep this up.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think I remember sitting in the press room after that Sunday after the tournament in saying I need to stay very patient because this isn’t every week. I need to not get ahead of myself. Because that same question was asked, right, after ’15; and then you start ’16 this way, what does that hold in store.
I believe I was looking at it the right way: To stay patient; at least I was talking about it the right way. And I think there were certainly times where I didn’t stay patient throughout the season with it but you know, this season, I certainly don’t come in expecting to match or improve on what happened at last year’s Tournament of Champions.
So I know that ahead of time. I’m going to go there and try and obviously have the same result, but at the same time recognizing that you can’t force being in the zone. It just has to come.
So you know, I said the right things last year. There were certainly times where it was hard to stay true to that, and I learned a lot from that experience. I think the patience will be something that I will improve on and will continue to improve on throughout my career. But it’s something that I needed to learn a bit last year.
Q. Yeah, I think everybody thought even if you stayed patient, boy, you know, that was really good golf, and you were certainly capable, even if you got close, of doing some special things. What, in particular, do you think you want to work on specifically heading into 2017? If you could just encapsulate one area of your game where you said, I really just kind of want to firm this up a little bit.
JORDAN SPIETH: It’s the scoring irons. It’s the 125 to 175 yards. That’s where I was pretty solid in 2015 and then that was one area of the game that took a little bit of a hit this past season. I just wasn’t as good with my wedge, 9-, 8-, 7-iron, and especially on kind of shorter par 3s. I didn’t play the short par 3s extremely well, because I think I was just trying to do a little bit too much, given they were more scoring par 3s.
From that yardage, when we dissect the stats, when I dissected the stats with Cameron, we looked at that yardage as big room for improvement for this season.
Q. I have two things for you. What do you consider to be the single-greatest individual achievement for the year?
JORDAN SPIETH: Single-greatest individual achievement for the year.
Q. And why.
JORDAN SPIETH: On course, I assume?
Q. I was kind of thinking that, but if you wanted to go outside the box, that’s up to you.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I’ll stay on course. I would say — I would say Colonial, individually. I thought The Ryder Cup, it’s hard to say as an individual achievement, because it’s not.
But I think Colonial, winning here at a tournament that I grew up going to, I mean, that was really special. I had so many people here and able to kind of share that with them and the closing, the finish was so exciting.
Q. Did you get a chance to get up to Providence during your time off to see your brother?
JORDAN SPIETH: I am going on Wednesday afternoon to see him Wednesday and Thursday and come home with him for Christmas.
Q. Have you ever been up there to watch him?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, yes. I’ve been up there quite a few times. He’s having a great season. I think we’re doing something in the morning of the 22nd before his game. I’m not sure, he kind of set up something, we might be playing horse and it might be videoed. At the moment I am starting my grind in the gym shooting a thousand shots a day so I don’t embarrass myself.
Q. Where do you think this might be videoed to be viewed by the public?
JORDAN SPIETH: Even if I knew, I certainly would not be announcing that. I think it’s through ESPN. I’m not sure.
Q. Just guessing that, okay. Don’t screw up your putting stroke.
JORDAN SPIETH: You got it.
Q. You seemed genuinely enthused down in the Bahamas with your ball-striking. Outside of — you talked about the range of scoring clubs, but what have you and Cameron worked hard on on the weeks you’ve been able to get some work done?
JORDAN SPIETH: A lot on the patience through the backswing. I’m actually working on the same thing, same kind of couple moves right now that I’ve been working on — that I worked on throughout 2015 season.
I mean, for two years straight, trying to go kind of go against the way I originally learned how to swing the golf club and to load more into my back leg and get more of a full shoulder turn, and commit to that. I can do it on the range just fine. Committing to that in tournament play consistently, it’s the same things I was working on in Hawai’i last year. It’s the same things I was working on in some of my worst weeks. It’s just a matter of how tight the dispersion is, how much work I put into it.
So we’ve had some time off, time away from tournament play, before Australia and Tiger’s event to really nail it down and I felt like I did a good job trusting it throughout those weeks. And therefore, my ball-striking was much better. The weeks where I really, really have done a good job committing to it are my best ball-striking weeks on TOUR.
So trying to just get more and more consistent with it and almost create that as a new normal. A lot of it’s just loading into my back leg more and not being as quick in transition. Just letting it set and then from there, I can play each ball flight.
Q. As you look at the major season ahead, we’ve had six first-time winners the last two years, including yourself. Can you put into some kind of perspective just how hard it is these days to win a major?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, there’s just an added — there’s just an added element on the mental side of things, because you know it’s a major. You see a lot of first-time winners on the PGA TOUR. You see a lot of young talent, fearless talent now in the game.
I think it’s a matter of time — you saw Dustin Johnson, even Jason Day, when he won, so many kind of close calls before winning; Dustin, a lot of close calls before winning. I think those guys, it’s a mental thing.
I mean, I had one, I guess, before, and then just rode a hot putter to the first one, which made that one kind of easier. But it’s just an extra added mental barrier, I guess, that is just challenging to get through. That’s why it’s so hard.
It’s funny, because I think last year at this time, the conversation was: The last whatever majors were only held by three or four guys. And now, the phrase, six first-time winners in the last whatever majors, it’s just funny how it’s phrased because that makes it look completely different now than it did last year. And I get that the season brought new major winners.
It’s not any easier now I don’t think than it ever has been. I think you saw a lot of just quite a few guys in the last couple years that had a lot of close calls, and you figured you would have bet on five years ago would be a major winner in the next five years, and it just got through that threshold of, I’m tired of the close calls and I’m tired of this crop; I’m going to bust through the barrier.
And that just kind of seemed — when they’ve won, look at Henrik’s win; look at Dustin’s win; look at Jimmy’s. These weren’t kind of squeak-through wins. I mean, these were shots towards the ends of the round. Look at Dustin on 18 as Oakmont. I mean, just a stripe drive, stripe, whatever it was, 7-iron, to five feet, make the putt. That’s a very, very difficult hole that he made look very, very easy. And it’s even more difficult at that moment in time.
It’s pretty easy to scrap that around for a bogey and still win. You’re seeing these guys pretty much just stand up to this barrier and say, not only am I going to close this thing out, but I’m tired of the way it’s been and I’m going to do it in style. It’s really cool. It’s cool as a peer and fellow competitor to see that because it’s inspiring in a way, because you know how difficult that is.
Q. Your good friend kind of joined you in Maui, Cody Gribble, who won at Sanderson this year, and I’m just wondering, he played I think three years on the mini-tours back and forth. What advice did you give Cody when he was starting out about what it’s like to win on the PGA TOUR? Because he took, you know, three or four years to win on the PGA TOUR, which is not unusual to do. I was wondering what advice you gave Cody coming out, what it’s going to take to win on the PGA tour.
JORDAN SPIETH: Honestly, not much, if anything. We play a lot here in Dallas. Whenever there’s games going on, we’re both in them. I actually roomed with him quite a bit while at Texas when we were traveling on the road, and spent a lot of time around Cody.
I mean, going back to junior golf, I remember having my first couple lessons with Cameron and looking over the bunker at Brook Hollow, and there is Cody grinding on his short game. And I’m like, Oohh, that’s Cody Gribble, wow, and you just sit there and watch. I was 12, 13 years old, and Cody was one of the best juniors in the country, and he was then one of the best amateurs and college players.
And now he’s got three years’ job security on the PGA TOUR from winning, after almost winning a couple weeks before. So he’s also a guy who has had success in a major. He played really well at Pinehurst in his first attempt and I think only attempt at a major championship. Cody has never had a probably stepping up to the plate.
I’ve never really — I don’t remember offering any kind of advice at the time other than, I mean, we just kind of would talk about where things are, where we’re at, what our plan is, what our schedule is. But I don’t remember ever giving any advice. I didn’t really necessarily think he wanted it. I mean, we kind of go about things our own way, and I could not be happier for him.
It’s going to be awesome to see him down in Hawai’i and I’m sure we’ll play a couple rounds here before, but it will be awesome actually at a TOUR event playing some practice rounds together and having him on TOUR going forward.
Q. I know you mentioned that you guys like to play some money games and different stuff together in town, but what did y’all do to celebrate, on the course or off the course? What did you do to celebrate when he finally got his first PGA TOUR victory?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think I’ve just seen him once since then because he was playing so much and I wasn’t at the course or anything. I was out of town in Australia maybe when he — because I left to go early when he was kind of having everybody to hang out.
You know, I haven’t had really a chance to celebrate with him yet. But we’ve just been texting the last couple days about playing in the next couple days here and right after Christmas before leaving, so we’ll get together and then we’ll get together down in Hawai’i, and I think Hawai’i is a great time kind of around New Year’s to get as many people that are down there together and kind of have a celebration for being there.
It’s a tremendous honor to just play in Maui. Kind of get everybody together and celebrate the year as a whole and what everyone’s done.
Q. Have you made a decision on what kind of irons you’re going to use this year? Apparently you were trying to different ones in Australia and I didn’t know if you kept those in the bag or those are gone.
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I’m continuing to play those. So what I did was switch to the new version of the AP2s, the 16 — the 716.
I didn’t switch over as cleanly as I have in the past to them but we found a great combination of heads that are grinded down a little bit for a little cleaner look. They messed with the face a little bit so they look the way I want them to.
And then I changed to a different shaft, just a stiffer version of the shaft I was in. My speeds are high enough to do so without losing any kind of distance or trajectory or spin. What it does is just tightens — these irons, compared to the irons I was playing, there’s just less dispersion side to side with miss-hits. They stay a lot straighter, and I liked them a lot in Australia and the Bahamas. I haven’t thought twice about it.
Q. And on your scoring clubs, your wedges, last year Dustin Johnson said he practiced his wedges, hitting high, medium and low shots on several different clubs. Do you have a certain practice routine that you go through when you’re trying to work on hitting your distances?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, I like to go in five-yard increments from anywhere from 40, to, say, 110 yards and try and hit three different trajectories at each location. Kind of mix it up: Hit one from 40, and then a low one from 40 and then go hit a high one from 65 and then go hit a medium-trajectory from a hundred.
So yes, trying to mix them up to get face control and distance control, very important. You also have to have the right place to do. So you don’t want to be practicing in a lot of wind because you’re just trying to train your brain. You need to have kind of a flat location with not much wind. So when you get a day like that, that’s when I go take advantage of it.
Q. So it’s really practicing your feel with your scoring clubs?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, for me, the improvement is more the full swing from 125 to 175 this year. My wedge play was fine and I’ll continue to work on it, but it’s that pitching wedge, nine, 8-iron, just getting a little better there.
ALEX URBAN: We’d like to thank Jordan Spieth for your time, jumping on the phone with us today. I hope you’re excited to get to Kapalua. We’re excited to have you. Have a great holiday season and thanks