Interview With 2011 U.S. Junior Am Champon Jordan Spieth


By USGA
July 23, 2011

THE MODERATOR:  We're very happy to have with us the 2011 Junior Amateur champion, Jordan Spieth.  Congratulations.  Can you talk a little bit about how you're feeling winning your second title?

JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, it hasn't really sunk in yet, because the time went by pretty fast on the back nine there.  But a tremendous honor to win any USGA competition, let alone winning two of them.  But I'd like to kind of take it as a step in the right direction.  Still got a long way to go.  I'm just very, very pleased that I came out on top here with the expectations and everything going in.  I know, I was preparing for it the whole year, and it's nice to be able to execute.

Q.  What's it like to join Tiger Woods as the only guy to win two of these? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  That's really cool.  Any time you can be compared to any of Tiger's golf accomplishments, it's very special.  You know, he won it three years in a row.  I'm glad to have gotten two of them, so now that I'm ‑‑ I can't play in this one anymore, I'm going to go after the amateurs that he won.

But as of the present moment, I'm very happy to have won this coming in as a past champion and being able to kind of make it through again, man.  It's a long, long grueling week here.

Q.  After the second round you kind of had that stroll, that mojo back.  Was that something left from the morning or was it something coming out of lunch, just be aggressive and see where it goes? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, I think it's the same thing I did yesterday afternoon.  I think I was just more loose, the weather was warmer, I was able to kind of fire at the ball.  After I hit a couple shots right on the center of the face, they all started hitting the center of the face.  I couldn't quite get it this morning.  I was close, but I made some birdies on the back nine, and to close with a birdie on 18 going into lunch I think was very important, especially after he had already made birdie.  That up‑and‑down was, I think, key in keeping the momentum through lunch because 3‑down is difficult to come back from, even if it was 18 holes.

But got out there and I lost No. 1 ‑‑ big surprise; I lose No. 1 every match I play.  But able to come back and shoot 4‑ or 5‑under again in the afternoon, which is ‑‑ you don't really even ‑‑ just kind of in a zone, kind of not really thinking.  I actually looked back at one point on No. 9 because I didn't know what the match was at, just kind of looked back because my caddie and I kept on telling each other, we're 2‑down, every hole, play you're like 2‑down.  We were able to keep that in our head.  I was able to ‑‑ I literally thought that I was 2‑down a couple times, and I was just a few up.  That was, I think, what kind of held things together when it came to the back nine.

Q.  Winning the second hole on the second 18, that was pretty important, right? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, that putt was very important, especially because he was inside of me.  His ball was about ten feet away, and I was, I don't know, 15, 18 feet, and it was a perfect read.  We both agreed on it, and I just stroked it.  Very, very big confidence booster because I was trying to find my stroke at that time.  The first 18 I just felt like my alignment was off, I was kind of giving up on some putts, and that one I kind of made sure I released the putter, and from there on in I was able to make a lot more putts, just very confident, kind of tried to stay a little more upright on my stroke, and I think when I made that and he missed his, it got back to 3‑up, I think that was very big, especially with the long holes coming up because I had a length advantage over him.  I was able to see what he did and kind of playing my round to what he did.

Q.  How much do the expectations wear on you?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, whatever happened in 2009 had no effect whatsoever in this event.  I came into this as a single event, not thinking about the past.  It's a very, very hard week, a very difficult tournament to win no matter ‑‑ if you have to win six matches against some of the best junior golfers in the world, they all are capable of shooting 3‑, 4‑under on this course because they had shot 5‑ or 6‑under in their qualifying to get here or they had made it through match play in the past to get here.

So it's extremely hard because no one is going to have ‑‑ no one is going to shoot 6‑, 7‑under every single round, so you're going to have an off day.  I had two or three off rounds where I just was able to, maybe because of experience, I don't know, able to stay through it, and when the nerves came on, I knew I had been there before and I was able to handle it this week.  But it could have gone ‑‑ there was two or three matches where it could have gone either way.

I think I won three of them 2 & 1 on No. 17 where I won No. 16 and 17 each time.  I was all square with three to play in three matches, and that can always go either way.  If they hit one close instead of missing the green, it could have been a different week for me.

Q.  As the guy coming in with the pressure to try to do it again, how do you deal with being the target?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, off the course, throughout the week of any of these events or any event I play like the Byron Nelson when there's a lot of media, I never look at any of it during the week because you don't want to put any added pressure.

But coming in, just like last year, it was the same deal.  I knew I was kind of the target.  But at the same time, like I said, anybody is capable of shooting 4‑ or 5‑under, and as soon as someone realizes that, it could be dangerous.

So once you tee off, though, that's not in your head.  I know I played a few guys that played very, very well.  Seemed like I kind of got everyone's best game at least.  That's what Michael and I were saying.  Maybe I didn't; some of the guys I didn't know.  But it seemed like I got ‑‑ until yesterday afternoon and today, got everyone's kind of best game and was able to kind of struggle through it when I wasn't quite striking it the best.

But it was such a tiring week.  I'm going to sleep well tonight.  I've been getting up at 6:30 the last six days in a row.  I haven't done that since school.  I didn't even do that at school.

Q.  What time do you get up? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  I did get up at like 7:00.  Now, who knows.

Q.  Playing in the Byron Nelson, does that make it easier to deal with the pressure here? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, definitely.  I honestly didn't have any first tee nerves, which very surprising.  I did this morning a little bit, but this afternoon I was really loose.  But as far as ‑‑ I got nervous, I can recall, maybe three or four swings this whole week, which has to do with ‑‑ I honestly think it was just because of the weeks that I've been fortunate enough to play on the Tour.  It's just different out there, especially when the crowds came out.  I remember two years ago I was freaking out, and this year Michael goes, wow, it's a pretty big crowd.  It's like, yeah, you weren't there in Dallas.  (Laughter.)

I was able to really stay calm, and it was great to have a caddie who's keeping me very, very positive, because I get negative out there.  That's one of my weaknesses, I get too negative.  So Michael was unbelievable as far as keeping me positive with everything I was doing, just saying simple just basics, stay balanced, stay smooth, and stay calm, and I was able to stay neutral today.

Q.  Was it fair to say you didn't have your best stuff this week?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Today and yesterday I did.  Before that I was struggling to find it.  There were times where I did, but I don't know exactly what it was.  I struggle on poa annua greens.  I've never seen them.  It's just I haven't putted on them enough, and the three tournaments I've played this summer have all been poa annua, and I've never seen poa annua before this summer.  Luckily I don't think they have poa annua in Chicago in a couple weeks.  I don't think it's physically possible to grow poa annua there.

It was really the putter that kind of kept me away.  I wasn't making enough 10‑, 12‑footers when I had the opportunities to in stroke play to kind of get things going and get on a roll and gain momentum.  But yesterday and today, I found a way to will it in, and stroke felt a lot better today than any other day, including my afternoon match yesterday.  I knew having been through this, the key to winning this event in the final is if you can ‑‑ you've got to make your putts from three to six feet and you've got to have good distance control on the greens.  Everything comes down to the putter.  It's all about can you make your four‑ to six‑footers and do you have good distance control for your 30‑, 35‑footers.  Fortunate to kind of have both of those work my way today.

Q.  What other courses did you play on poa annua this summer? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  I played in the Sunnehanna Amateur, which was in Pennsylvania, and I played in the Northeast Amateur, which was at Wannamoisett.

Q.  How much longer are you now than you were two years ago?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  I don't remember two years ago, but I'm a lot longer than last year, just because of what I went into this past winter.  Just really the last eight months or so have been huge.  I don't know exactly the distance I went.  I probably gained 15, 20 yards over a span of six months or so, which was a big change, especially in my swing.  I had to make sure that I was staying consistent, too.  That was a big change I made, and it's been working out well for me, thanks to the work of my trainer and my swing coach.

Q.  One was your nemesis hole but 17 seemed to be your friend.  Do you want to talk about that?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  I have no idea ‑‑ I still don't know how I won that hole, but I didn't deserve to win that hole today.  I didn't feel like I hit a bad drive.  I thought it was going to be in the left rough, I kind of overhooked it a little bit, and it ended up in the tall fescue, and Michael said, just punch it out in the fairway and we can hit it on and try to make a par putt from 150 yards.  I was like, I think I can muscle this up there with a lob wedge, and it came out nicely, got all the way up there.  He missed it short of the green, and got it on above the hole, and then he chipped it outside of mine, which was a big kind of mistake on his part.  I think it ran on him more than he thought.  But then he hit a fast putt, he hit it by, I saw what it did and was able to kind of cozy it down there.

But that was a really ugly hole today for both of us.  There was a lot of really good holes that we played, and that was not one of them.  But throughout the week, 17, it's very ‑‑ I just like the shape of it.  I mean, I like the holes that go straight downhill where you bomb it and you just see it go up in the mountains and then come back down.  I don't have that where I live.  I just like the view of 17.

And then I guess when you have good vibes just kind of going down the fairway, it helps.  But I knew that in the matches that went there, all the matches that I had that went there except for one of them, I was playing in front of my competitors, so I was able to see what they did, and they missed the green, and that kind of frees you up to hit the green and win the hole.

Q.  Who's going to caddie for you at Erin Hills?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, yeah.  Well, I originally asked my dad, and that'll probably hold up, because in the past my dad and I struggle when he caddies for me.  But we've had some really ‑‑ two of my probably three or four best tournaments rounds I've ever played has been when he's been on the bag, but they haven't been the most fun.  (Laughter.)  But I know Michael was probably planning on going out there, so I may have ‑‑ Justin is a really good friend of mine.  I keep in touch with him four or five times a week, so we may have a little argument here coming up soon.

Q.  Had you played 18 in match play before today?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Uh‑uh.

Q.  When you got on the tee was there any thought about what you wanted to do? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  No, I took out driver I think before we even stepped on the tee box.  Tees are moved up and driver was I think too much club today.  If I didn't go in the sand trap and it went over the green, it would have been...

No, I was going to hit driver because the tees were moved up and I could fly it onto the green because of that, and it was downwind, plus at that point it's not like you're up one and need to play conservative.  But where the pin was, if you can just kind of put it anywhere on the left side there, it's kind of an easy birdie, and I actually got it in a tough spot and thought I hit ‑‑ I thought that was one of the best shots of my day until it got kind of overlooked by how great his shot was to get even closer.

But that was a very important hole to get a birdie on, especially after 17 turned out the way it did.  I was 2 up going to 17, thought it was going to be 1 up going to 18, and it ended up being 3.  Big turnaround going into lunch.

Q.  What are your thoughts on this course for hosting a championship? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  I saw a different golf course this afternoon.  It was so firm, and the greens just completely firmed up.  The first hole I hit a drive 60 yards past any drive I had hit all week on that hole, and I had a sand wedge into No. 1.  And it's like 465 yards, yeah.  And I hit a sand wedge from like 130 yards.  I hit it and I thought it was going to be a little short or perfect, and it lands kind of next to the hole, and it just looked like it hit a frigging trampoline.  It shoots off into the rough.  And the rest of the holes today, too, they were just bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.  Very, very, very difficult golf course, and because of that, I think that they could host an Open if they made it this firm.  I think it could be difficult enough.  They'd make new tee boxes obviously for that.  It would have to be longer, but the layout, the way that the rough grows here for how kind of thick and sticky it is, it's very possible.  I absolutely love this course.  I said it after the first ‑‑ I played six holes the first day I was here, and I already said that I loved the course, just so many hills, great kind of blind shots, and then it all opens up.  You get rewarded for good shots and penalized for bad ones, and that's how it should be.  There were really no holes out there where I hit a great shot and I was penalized for it.  It never happened.

Q.  Where is the Western this year?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  It's at North Shore.

Q.  In Chicago? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yes.  I'll come home for a couple weeks and get ready for school, and then my mom and a couple of my friends that are going to Texas, I think, are going to move my stuff in while I'm at the Am.

Q.  Think you'll make the Walker Cup team?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  I'm hoping.  I know this didn't hurt, but I'm hoping.  That was the goal to begin the year.

Q.  I don't know if you've played much international golf, but what would it mean to you to play on the Walker Cup team?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, I've played for the United States six or seven times, probably three or four times overseas, so two Junior Ryder Cups and the Spirit and the Junior Open.  There's some other ones, too.  But it is honestly the most fun I've ever had playing golf is in those events, even though in the past it was kind of junior golf events where it's not necessarily you're saying you're playing for your country, but at the same time you really are.  You were selected to do it, and I'm about as patriotic as it gets, so that would be ‑‑ and then for it to be the Walker Cup, that would be something special.

That was my goal to start the year.  I knew it.  I was very confident once I got invited to the practice session in January, which was very cool, I knew there was a good chance, and I'm hanging in there.  I had a rough couple last events, but I took a lot of time off, made some changes, and then preparing for this and the Western.  Got the job done here, so go to North Shore and hopefully have a good week there.

Q.  After you won another USGA event, would you be surprised if you weren't included in the Walker Cup?  

JORDAN SPIETH:  Well, depending upon how the next couple weeks go, because there's been ‑‑ it's such a tight race.  I mean, there's four or five that are kind of secured right now.  There's only five or six spots open between all the best college players in the country.  Now, I know the one in '09 has nothing to do with the selection this year, but I think winning a USGA he event, no matter what it is, even if it is a junior, definitely has pull because the Walker Cup is a USGA event, USGA and R&A.  So we'll see.  I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if I didn't make it, depending upon how the next couple of weeks go.

I'd be disappointed because I feel like I would be a good choice, have the experience and stuff overseas.  But at the same time he's going to pick who he's comfortable with and who he thinks is playing the best golf right then.  Western and U.S. Am are going to be two really big weeks.

Q.  Where have you played overseas? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  I've played in Scotland, England and France.

Q.  What were the events in Scotland? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  Scotland was the Junior Ryder Cup, England was the Junior British Open, and France was four years ago, and it was me and Justin Thomas actually ‑‑ no, the Spirit is actually played in Texas, but shoot, that's this year, too.  I hope to make that team.  But it was the Junior Evian Masters.  That's going on right now.  That's why I didn't play in this four years ago.

Q.  What was the name of the course? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  In Scotland it was Gleneagles, where they're having the Ryder Cup in 2014.

I would have been disappointed if I didn't win this.  Like I said, I've had plenty of preparation for it.  I've been here before, seen ‑‑ I've been here before and won, been here to the semis, then got a little further and won the next year, and then last year I saw what could happen if you kind of let your focus down.  So I knew where I should be mentally, and then I felt coming in like my game was strong enough to win.  You know, I would have been disappointed.  But I was very confident the whole week and never really crossed my mind that that would happen.  I was able to stay positive.

Q.  Any ideas how you're going to celebrate turning 18 next week? 

JORDAN SPIETH:  I know my friends are planning something.  I don't know, I'm not going to plan anything, I'll tell you that much.  I'll just be along for the ride.  I'm going to sleep tonight.  10:00 flight tomorrow, I think, back home, and maybe take another day off tomorrow and Monday or something, then get to preparing.  Western starts ‑‑ I leave next Saturday, so in a week.

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