Jodan Spieth Goes Wire to Wire to Win British Open

Jordan Spieth survived a crazy day to become the second youngest player to win the British Open (after Jack Nicholas). Below are his comments after his big win.

JORDAN SPIETH: We are going to skip the first 12 holes, right? (Laughter).

MIKE WOODCOCK: I’d like to welcome the 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year, Jordan Spieth, into the interview room.

Jordan, congratulations, first of all, tremendous performance. Is that one of the more dramatic final rounds you’ve had in a major championship?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I’ve had quite a few, though, or a couple, I guess. Boy, this was eventful. I told Michael and I told Jay after the round, 17 pars and a birdie would have been fine, too. But there’s a lot of roads to get there. And today was — I was put in a tough one early on.

And showed some resiliency and give a lot of credit to my guy on the bag for that. Because as you can imagine, thoughts come in from my last scenario when I was leading a major on Sunday. And never mentioned it, but all of a sudden it creeps into your head. I was so confident and all of a sudden, the wheels have kind of come off everything. And how do we get back on track to salvage this round and just give yourself a chance at the end. It took a bogey to do so.

Q. You seem to had an incredibly good knowledge of the rules when you got in trouble on 13. Have you studied them in great detail?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I’ve just hit it in a lot of places before (laughing).

And honestly, if I was a very straight driver of the golf ball, I would have made a different score son that hole. And having been in unplayable situations before, I just asked the questions, is the driving range out of bounds? And I got the answer, no. And I thought, well, then, that’s a much better location for me to hit the next shot because I can get it much closer to the green and it saves me almost a full stroke from going back to the tee.

And the amount of time it took was trying to figure out where exactly the drop would be, to where my nearest point of relief from the equipment trailers, would be to the right side on the driving range instead of to the left side, where I wouldn’t be able to get a lot of club on the ball. I knew that on that line I was going to be — I was going to be okay hitting from the driving range, and getting it up somewhere near the green.

And from there it was about which club to hit. And Michael told me, “No 3-wood, hit 3-iron.” And I hit it, thought it was right. After I struck it, I didn’t like it because it wasn’t where we were trying to hit it, but I had some room, given the club I had and the yardage I had, which Michael was right on, fortunately.

Q. You touched on this, but what is the significance of getting over that hurdle, winning that major after what happened at Augusta last year? Is it maybe more than you let on before or said publically?
JORDAN SPIETH: Probably. Probably. You know, I thought winning a few weeks later in Fort Worth was huge. But I knew that another major would be the one thing that would, I think, just completely, over the hill, you know, I’m capable of closing these majors out. Because you just — I didn’t really do much wrong, just hit a couple of bad swings. And all of a sudden it was, in my own head, “How could I not close out a five-stroke lead with nine to play?”

And today could have been — I felt once I lost my lead completely and we were tied, I actually felt the nerves go away for a few holes until I got the lead again. And then they were back. And it’s just kind of powering through that. You just don’t know really what your mind is going to do to you sometimes. You can control it to an extent but certain situations are going to bring more tension and you have to kind of channel that the right way, play the right shots. And that was a difficult thing to do today because it was just so up and down. I mean, I’m starving, you know.

Today took as much out of me as any day that I’ve ever played golf.

Q. What happened today, does that give you the feeling that in the future there’s certainly nothing you can’t overcome if you get into similar trouble? And also you mentioned you wanted to hit 3-wood on 13. Was that must have Michael’s vetoes?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, it wasn’t a veto. We just didn’t really know the yardage. I walked up there and tried to do the yardage in my head, and thought I was somewhere around 270 to the front and Michael was like, “Buddy, you’re 230 to the front,” somewhere around there. He goes, “This is where we’re equal to.”

And typically I would — if you asked me who has the better yardage, myself or Michael in a lot of situations, when we’re on a crazy angle, I’d pick myself. And on that one he seems very confident. He was very adamant about what club to hit, and it gave me the confidence to hit it, because sometimes when that happens I’ll still go with what I think.

But he was right on.

Q. You’ve obviously had great things to say about Michael. With regards to today, was today as much influence as any on any win you’ve ever had? The gesture on 15, with the eagle, it looked like you were complimenting him for a read?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I told him pick the ball up out of the hole. It was kind of like an old-school move, when the caddies used to get it out of the hole when guys holed a chip. When you’re here, the TVs are always playing old Open Championships, and especially at that venue. I don’t know, I saw it, and for whatever reason, I didn’t really know what I was doing at that point. If I could redo it, I would have done a big fist pump in celebration. I don’t think I enjoyed that eagle as much as I should have. But I looked over at Michael and he was in shock, too, and I just said, “Pick that ball up out of the hole.” And he didn’t really know what I was saying at first.

Yes, he had as much influence for sure on a win as any. He and Cameron have been very important in the mental side of the game for me in the past, well, couple of years. Dealing with my own expectations and dealing with coming off a year like ’15, and trying to game plan and set goals. And I owe them both a lot. Michael is obviously on course, and Cameron is off course, as far as mental coaches for me.

Michael did a great thing today he said, “Do you remember that group you were with in Cabo last week,” in a picture that I posted. He goes, “You belong in that group.” This is when I was 3-over through 4. I’m sorry, this was on 7 tee box. We walked off 7 tee box, and he made me come back. He said, “I’ve got something to say to you: He said do you remember that group you were with? You’re that caliber of an athlete. But I need you to believe that right now because you’re in a great position in this tournament. This is a new tournament. We’re starting over here.”

And over a couple of putts when I wanted to kind of back off, I wasn’t comfortable, I thought this is — I just thought — it just changed a bit of a mental — I definitely thought about what he was saying while I was over some of those key 3 to 4-footers that I made on I want to say — 7 was one of them. 8 was one of them. 11 and 12, those were — I mean for the way it was looking, those weren’t easy; those 3-footers were 10-footers to me. And all of a sudden the lid came off. And the 30-footers were 2-footers to me. I don’t know why I can’t make it a little more boring sometimes.

Q. Obviously at 23, a three-time major champion. Just how exciting might it be to have the career Grand Slam at this stage may be around the corner in three weeks?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it’s incredible. It’s a life goal of mine. It’s a career goal. I never — growing up playing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world, and things have happened very quickly. And it’s good and bad, because a lot comes with it. And a lot more attention, a lot more — versus just being able to kind of go about your own thing. And I never realized how underrated that was. I wanted to be in this position but then, you know, here and there, it becomes harder when it doesn’t go your way. And you’re harder on yourself because you expect so much.

Therefore, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this. I look back on ’15 and thought, yeah, I enjoyed it, but I never realized the significance until you kind of hit a low, hit a pitfall, to appreciate the high so much. And this is as much of a high as I’ve ever experienced in my golfing life. And I’m going to enjoy it more than I’ve enjoyed anything that I’ve accomplished in the past.

Q. After everything that happened at 13, making the bogey as you did, what did you do to gather yourself there on the 14th tee? And obviously you went on that great run. Was there a calmness about you at that point that allowed you to do all that or how did you pull that off?
JORDAN SPIETH: The putt on 13 was just massive. Going 2 down, and not even 2 down, but into a tie for second. And thinking, man, I’m 5-over. That was crossing my mind. When I hit the tee ball, I put my hands over my head, walking up, thinking, oh, boy, this could be 6. And all of a sudden it doesn’t change in one hole. He’s now leading, he gets to play safe and you have to — when that putt went in, I was really, really obviously excited. But I was walking off the green and Michael said, “Hey,” he held me up, and he said, “That’s a momentum shift right there.” And he was dead on. And all I needed to do was believe that. I was starting to feel it, but when he was feeling it and he was saying, “That was a momentum shift, even though you lost the hole, you went one down.”

I went to the next hole and Matt hit one to what was a par range, and I had a good number, I had a 6-iron, 199 or something, with the wind a little down off the right. And I could hit it, a hold 6-iron and I hit a laser, and I knew I could swing smooth, didn’t have to try to do too much to it. If I held it out, I was going to be on the green. If I hit a stock shot, I was going to be on the green. It was a good number for me to have at that moment. And it almost went in. When that putt went in was my first vocal appreciation of the day. And I knew that this was — we had momentum on our side and we were tied. And all of a sudden I felt and believed that I could win that golf tournament, when 30 minutes prior and really the entire day after the 4th hole I didn’t feel that way.

Q. Evidently, Jordan, you’re very good at golf. But I’m wondering if there are other things in life that are more important to you?
JORDAN SPIETH: Well, absolutely, yeah: My faith and then my family, and then after that, you know, this is what I love to do.

Q. Does that make golf look any easier for you when you have that kind of ranking system?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, but when you’re out there oftentimes you’re not thinking about stuff that’s more important to you and oftentimes it’s just the situation at hand. If you put things into perspective, absolutely. But unfortunately that didn’t come into my mind necessarily today and it probably should have and would have helped.

But, yeah, to answer your question, absolutely. It’s not No. 1 in my life. And I’ll have a family of my own some day and that will be — golf will be fourth.

So as of now, you know, my relationships I have with my best friends and my family and my girlfriend are second and golf’s third.

Q. You touched on this in another answer, but you’ve joined Jack Nicklaus in winning three majors before the age of 24. It would beat Tiger’s record. You could be the youngest to win the career Grand Slam. What does it mean to you to be in that sort of circle?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’ve answered this question a few times a couple years ago, so I’ll be careful with my answer. It’s amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don’t think that comparisons are — I don’t compare myself. And I don’t think that they’re appropriate or necessary. So to be in that company, no doubt is absolutely incredible. And I certainly appreciate it. And we work really hard to have that, with that being the goal. Therefore, I enjoy moments like you saying that.

But I’m very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I’m anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go.

Q. There was a number of players who were surprised by your start today, as I’m sure you were, as well. I’m curious, did you at all think about your reputation as a closer before you started, during the round? And now that it’s over, do you have any opinions of it now?
JORDAN SPIETH: I thought before the round, I thought I have a reputation as being able to close, but I was hesitant in saying “majors”, to myself, because there was a lot of — I put a lot of pressure on myself unfortunately, and not on purpose, before the round today, just thinking this is the best opportunity that I’ve had since the ’16 Masters. And if it weren’t to go my way today, then all I’m going to be questioned about and thought about and murmured about is in comparison to that, and that adds a lot of pressure to me.

After four holes it was even more so. And I wasn’t questioning myself as a closer, but I was questioning why I couldn’t just perform the shots that I was before. I was just as nervous yesterday during the round, and I knew the conditions were harder, but I just wasn’t executing. And sometimes you just can’t really figure it out, put your finger on it. Am I pulling it? Pushing it? Am I doing both? What’s going on with the stroke? It’s just searching. And during the round today I definitely thought while any kind of fear or advantage that you can have in this moment over other individuals, not just Matt Kuchar today, but other people that are watching, that’s being taken away by the way that I’m playing right now. And that was really tough to swallow. And that kind of stuff goes into your head. I mean, we walked for two minutes, three minutes in between shots. And you can’t just go blank. You wish you could, but thoughts creep in.

And the finish today was a bit fortunate. I don’t know what I make. I probably make five, if it doesn’t hit the guy in the head and it just stays up there on that mound, I probably hack it back out to the fairway and make four or five, but probably five. But it doesn’t feel the same as the way that I did it. And so I feel fortunate, obviously, in the way that everything happened.

I felt like I got a good break on 17. I hit it right of the bunker. Matt had to sit there and say, you’ve got to be kidding me. And if I was on the other side of things — and I apologized profusely to Matt about the amount of time it took from when he hit his shot to when I played my second, because that’s just — it’s tough. There was nothing I could do, and he told me that. But just trying to figure out what to do, it’s tough to play golf that way and step up and hit a 6-iron when it’s starting to rain and the wind is blowing and you haven’t taken a full swing in probably ten minutes, 15 minutes.

And so I didn’t feel like that was necessarily fair to him, but I needed to do what I could to produce the best score, and I didn’t go overboard in what I was doing. This is where I need to be, this was there. It just took that much time.

But closing today was extremely important for the way I look at myself.

Q. I think you said earlier that you thought uncomfortable the first couple of holes. After the 13th, how would you describe your emotions? Were you comfortable?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I was still uncomfortable. But after the putt on 13, I felt a lot more comfortable because I felt I made a putt that really mattered from seven feet, six feet, that just was enough to say we’re still in this tournament and create a new type of scenario. So I became the challenger instead of the leader at that moment.

And so I was still uncomfortable but I was able to take that shift that I’m talking about where your mind’s going through a bunch of different thoughts, and able to really take it over to the other side and say, this is a completely new situation, because there was no other way I could think and still get the job done.

Q. You just announced you’re coming back to Australia three weeks before Christmas. I wondered why you keep coming back, when you could be kicking back —
JORDAN SPIETH: I do kick back there.

Q. Also, you one two majors after winning the Australian Open in 2014. You’ve now won another one after winning in 2016. Has that in any way helped sell it for you?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’m very excited to go back. We really enjoyed our time there. It’s tough to say. Anytime you can close a tournament, it helps going forward. The more you do it, the more scenarios you’ve gone through, and so the more you’re prepared for it and that helps.

Last year I wasn’t putting great and made a big putt on 16, and then a nice par-putt on 17 and then went in the playoff, after I couldn’t make anything all day, similar to today. And I thought that was important to look back on and I think, I didn’t have my best putting stuff, which is normally what has won me tournaments, but I was still able to close the deal. And I’ve taken that into is this year.

The Travelers was huge for today. I felt just as uncomfortable on the greens. I didn’t feel great this whole week. I mentioned to you, Doug, that when I’ve been talking about — I’ve been mentioned as putting well this week. I just haven’t felt like I had done that, even though I had some go in. It’s something that I’m still going to be trying to work on. But the Travelers I was able to win without really putting well, at all. And that was the first time ever in a PGA Tour event. And today that prepared me for the feelings I had on the green that I can still win, even if I do have these kinds of feelings.

Q. Matt is known as someone who always has a smile on his face. He was about as emotional as you’ll ever see him in the awards ceremony and afterward. Did you notice that at all? And what was that like, given that you probably felt the same way in the ’16 awards ceremony at the Masters?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I noticed it when I walked up and saw his family hugging him, and I think Cameron is his oldest, that was in tears. At that moment I’m so happy. And at the same time I see that and I thought to myself, man, put this in perspective, he’s a dad. I’m not a dad, I don’t think that way. And I was able to kind of get a little glimpse into what that’s like. I’m a son who was very emotional and one that —

Matt didn’t lose the tournament at all today. He played well down the stretch. I mean, I just had my long putts go in, his didn’t. That was simply it, versus the Masters was a different scenario where I had full control and then I lost the wheels.

But I was very emotional after, and I had my dad was the guy who came up and was able to calm me. And it seemed like Matt was doing that to his son. And I could tell he was emotional once he had sat down in the scorer’s tent.

I believe Matt Kuchar will win a major championship. And I believe that he’ll do it sometime soon. He’s a great champion and he’s such a great person. And he’s a great individual to look up to. He’s one of these guys, when I talk about having great role models on the PGA Tour, and I’m fortunate in that, he’s at the top of the class. And you’re able to see it with how he handles that kind of situation right after just a crazy day.

Q. Two-parter, if I could: When you’re standing on top that hill on 13, you’re 125 yards to the fairway, if we told you you were going to shoot 32 on the back nine, you would have told us, what? Secondly, you mentioned the picture in Cabo with special athletes in there. What is it about you that you think internally as an athlete that allows you to summon that burst of (inaudible)?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would have thought you were crazy. I would have thought how many eagles or holes-in-one did I make? I would have thought I’d sign for 34 — what did I shoot, 32? Instead of 32.

I’m not sure. I think just a little bit of belief that you are, you know. Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps are the greatest to ever do what they did, and I’m not. But if you believe that you are, then you’re almost as good as being that. And it’s so hard in that situation to believe that, but just having just the slightest bit of belief in it makes you so confident. And I thought that that was so well said. It was just such the right time.

And I think that — I’ll never forget what Michael — how he told me that, when he told me that and the significance that it had. And just that bit of confidence that when he had said that early in the round and then he had another thing to say there that momentum is on our side, “Just do exactly what you’ve been doing, it’s going to go your way.” Just his belief, when I know him so well, just fed over a bit. And all I needed was just a little bit of self-belief to be able to produce what I had there. And birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie. After I made the eagle I thought to myself, hit the green in regulation on the next hole, they might go in from anywhere now. And we’ve got an easy par-5 17th, and sure enough, that’s what happened.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Jordan, congratulations again. Well done.

JORDAN SPIETH: Thank you.