Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Jordan Spieth has seen the highs and lows of being a professional golfer – all by the age of 28.
He is a former top-ranked golfer in the world and has three Majors in his pocket, winning the Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015), and the British Open (2017).
Things went downhill and late in 2020 Spieth had fallen out the top 50 for the first time. He has shown some signs of life with a tie for fourth at thee Waste Management Open, just two shots back of champion Brooks Koepka last week.
This week Spieth is back at the AT&T, an event he won in 2017. Wednesday, he met with the media in a virtual press conference.
ACES editor Dennis Miller put together notes from the interview.
DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome Jordan Spieth to the interview room here at the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a tournament obviously that’s near and dear to you for many reasons. You’ve had eight previous starts here, your win in 2017 and half of your starts here resulted in top-10 finishes, including last year 9th place. With all that said, just a few comments on being back here this week.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it’s Pebble Beach. What’s not to love as a golfer here? So, I’ve loved this tournament, obviously finding success at this tournament has been really, really cool, just as a golf lover and someone who enjoys the history and the architecture of golf courses. I’m happy that it’s been good to me over the years. And coming in this year with the courses playing a bit different. Spyglass, at least on the greens yesterday, I thought they were a foot and a half-plus faster than they normally are in tournament speed, and this was a Tuesday. And then Pebble was certainly firmer, and the tee boxes seemed to be using a lot of the U.S. Open tee boxes, unless they’re going to move stuff around, so it’s a lot longer. You’re hitting a lot longer shots into some of those small greens making it certainly more challenging.
It’s a little different this year, I think. I think you got to think your way around the golf course more – both of them. You can’t miss in certain spots. I think course knowledge really serves you well. I’m excited that it is potentially more of a challenge this year. I’m excited that the greens are faster than they normally are, and I’m sure some pins will be a bit different, given, without the amateurs here, you’re not really watching out for that and instead can make them quite a bit more challenging.
So, I think it’s a different year than — obviously, it’s a weird year not having the pro-am be a part of it, but I think it’s going to be a unique experience in that we can see the course more similar to major championship conditions even in February.
DOUG MILNE: Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, a little bit from last week, how much did last week, obviously the third round was the big highlight, how much does a week like that do for you?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it was a nice confidence boost. I love that I trusted what I was working on all four rounds, knowing that it wasn’t necessarily going to fully be there, and I think that kind of trust and that belief just pays off. I mean, when you stick to something and you start working at it, it feels a little better each day that you do it, when you’re doing it correctly.
But even more so, you just think kind of the golf gods will reward you for — and that’s what happened on Saturday, the chip-in and some long-made putts at the end. But I think that was more just kind of just a reward for kind of the work that I’ve been putting in and it was really nice to see a low round like that and to be able to continue to take it deeper and deeper as the day went on. So, rounds like that are big confidence boosters because going low no matter where you are on the PGA TOUR is very difficult to do.
Then very disappointed off of Sunday. I just, I know standing on the first tee that I don’t necessarily have the control that I’ve had other weeks where I’ve been in that same position, but I knew it was close enough where I could get the job done. I just didn’t make anything. I just didn’t adjust to the speed of the greens. I left a lot of putts short. Not even off of — I had nerves to start, but I didn’t really feel the nerves on the greens. I just didn’t adjust to the speed like I did the day before. That’s really what it came down to. I think I had 35 putts because I 1-putted the last two holes and that’s just very unusual for me, no matter the round or the situation.
Do some extra work on speed control here. Make sure I’m a little more dialed in. But these greens seem to fit me better over the years than the ones in Phoenix. So again, confidence boost, but a bit disappointed coming off Sunday.
DOUG MILNE: Understood. Well, we appreciate that, and we’ll open it up and take some questions now.
Q. When you look back, do you look back more to Saturday or to Sunday last week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think I look back at Monday through Sunday. I mean, there’s some weeks where I look back at either one specific really solid round or I look back at one that, a lot of times when you look back when you’re leading on Sunday and it doesn’t work out, that’s what lingers. But for me it was, where was I at when we started on Monday and then where was I at when we finished on Sunday? And the progress that was made from the end of the Farmers until last Sunday wasn’t just out of nowhere. I mean, it was legitimate work and progress in the right direction. It wasn’t, Boy, I kind of got lucky here or there or I changed feels and it worked out like I would have said in the previous couple years. It was more, Man, I really felt like we were on — we’re on the same page. I’m getting into where I’m able to actually play golf instead of think about swings, and that’s just really exciting. It gets me enjoying the game, loving the idea of going out there this week on No. 1 and if I shoot 65 or 75, as long as I’m trusting what I’m doing, I know I’m moving the right direction, that’s just the head space that I’ve wanted to get into and, for awhile now, and I feel like I’m starting to tap into it.
Q. As you try to build on last week, how important is it, I don’t know if important is the right word, but what is it like to come to this place as you try to build on last week?
JORDAN SPIETH: It requires a lot of precision, obviously, in approach shots with how small the greens are, but there’s a lot of trouble down the right side of Pebble Beach, pretty much the entire golf course is you can miss left and left is okay and you can’t miss right. So it requires precision off the tee in that sense too, hitting those kind of Jack Nicklaus ball flights, certainly he’s loved this place with his fades. The year that I won I know I had a left bias with the ball flight and really right was almost, I couldn’t miss it right and that was very helpful when I came here.
So adjusting to getting out in front of the ball a little bit better. And it’s different in that it has those characteristics to the golf course, where some of the, some other courses, it just depends on the hole on which ball flight you play. It’s almost — I enjoy coming back here off of last week because I know the place. I feel like course knowledge goes a long way in this tournament as it starts to firm up and if the greens get faster, and then if the conditions get bad too. If it becomes a Palm Springs-like day out here, that kind of levels out the field, but when the conditions get tough, you got to understand a little bit more the course knowledge, and it looks like we’re going to have some of that this week.
Q. Leaving Scottsdale with like texts you were receiving, reaction of family, friends, your team, was there any part of it that felt kind of like a victory?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, actually on — I think it was like Friday afternoon I was at 8-under, I was just in the top-10, maybe like 6th or 7th and I was receiving texts that were like, like it was my first PGA TOUR event ever. And as much as I enjoyed that support, I was also like, I mean, I’m not leading by three, I didn’t win the golf tournament, I’m — yeah, I know it’s been a little while since I’ve been near the top, but like come on guys, I expect to be here, you know?
And then after Saturday’s round, after a low round like that it’s, you know, those texts, you’ll get texts from friends or people that are like, 0h, that was awesome, this or that, which that was just the round specifically.
But, no, after Sunday, really after my putt missed on 16, and I hit a great putt and just nothing went in that day, I knew that I essentially couldn’t win. Maybe I had to go eagle, birdie. So then it was, let’s go ahead and just finish strong. So I was actually happy walking off the 18th green. But at walking off the 16th green, it was pretty deflating, just being in the lead and having two holes to go and knowing that you essentially didn’t have much of a chance to win the golf tournament. That was frustrating, and it’s driving. It makes me want to go out and work hard this week and try and get in the same position because I know that you put yourself in that position enough, you start hitting the pins and they go in or the ball lips in on Sunday and it goes your way. So I didn’t leave feeling like I won. I actually left, fortunately, I felt disappointed that I didn’t win.
Q. Going into last week on Monday or Tuesday whenever you showed up to Phoenix, did you think what you were working on was good enough for you to be able to win the tournament?
JORDAN SPIETH: It was really, I drove over on, we drove over on Saturday and I started working Sunday there and, no, to answer your question, no. I thought that once I played Friday’s round, I thought, yes, but it wasn’t until then. And I mean it’s not like I’m not — I mean I’m probably as optimistic in myself being able to get the job done with less than my best, I would say, as much as anybody. But I’m also realistic enough to know, hey, this still feels quite a ways away, I’m not sure if I’m trusting this shot or this shot yet and so I got to play away from spots versus being able to just go out and play with freedom.
And it was after Friday’s round where I kind of walked off that day saying, Man, I shot 4-under, but I should have shot 6 or 7. I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing, it’s just starting to feel better and better, now let’s go have some fun on the weekend. It’s just funny how, when that kind of just a little bit that have feel comes back what ends upcoming from it and I was rewarded the next day for it, for sure.
Q. The other thing is, obviously you’ve been frustrated over the period of time when things haven’t gone well. How frustrating is it for people to keep coming to you and asking you or maybe even shunning away and not wanting to ask you things or not wanting to talk to you over this period of time? How difficult is that considering you’ve had such success as a professional?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I think for the first little bit of time it was, you know, I think that even friends on TOUR are probably like all right, just struggling for a year or something. And then people are reaching out saying, you know, I see this or you know, it’s kind of a tough thing, because even some of my best friends out here on TOUR I play a lot of practice rounds with, they want to help, but you don’t want to overstep, right? So it’s kind of a tricky situation.
But anyone that I would reach out to, I was probably too stubborn and waited too long to probably reach out to people that I definitely could have for just help in whether it’s certain areas of the game or just getting through kind of areas of down years or something like that, I probably was just a bit too stubborn on that when there were a lot of people willing to help that are super friendly that have gone through, you know, I guess somewhat relatable situations out here.
So, with a bit of friends kind of stepping in and offering help, to myself doing some more reaching out and just kind of letting my guard down a little, kind of letting the walls down and I think that kind of combination kind of helped free me up a little bit to — hey, for me it’s, when I’ve been struggling it’s very public, right? I mean, it’s very aware. If I had just kind of been 120th on the FedExCup every year, it would have been pretty easy to have a couple off years. But instead it just gets heightened.
So, it was about just kind of just being myself, not caring about how heightened it is, but instead allowing the belief in the system, belief in my age, saying you could start at 27 and have an unbelievable career, so let’s just take our time, make sure we’re getting on the right path. It just took a little longer than I would have liked and I feel like I’m on the right path.
It doesn’t mean that I’m going to have massive success immediately. I saw a little bit of success last week, but for me it’s about the feels more than it is the results and I know when it starts to feel a certain way that the results follow. And that’s what I’m trying to tap into.