Spieth Rides into Golf History


With his victory in Sunday's John Deere Classic, Jordan Spieth became the fourth-youngest winner in PGA Tour history and the youngest in 82 years. The 19-year-old, who turns 20 on July 27, will have his name on the all-time youngest-winners' list right under that of Ralph Guldahl, another teenager who triumphed in the 1931 Santa Monica Open.

Spieth, who had a much-heralded amateur career that included two victories in the U.S. Junior Amateur - a feat attained only by Tiger Woods, turned pro earlier this year. The Dallas native opted to leave the University of Texas after a short but All-American stint when he led the Longhorns to an NCAA Championship.

As a PGA Tour rookie, Spieth has wasted no time making his presence felt. In just 16 events, he's had six top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in the Puerto Rico Open in March, before his big win Sunday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.

The task wasn't easy on Sunday, however, as he had to endure a five-hole playoff with Canada's David Hearn and defending champion and gallery favorite, Zach Johnson, who grew up in nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After holing out from a greenside bunker for a remarkable birdie on the 72nd hole for a 6-under 65 that tied Hearn and Johnson at 19-under 265, the teenage sensation hung tough through four playoff holes before finally securing his maiden title with a par on the fifth - the 18th.

Spieth told reporters later that he was "extremely fortunate" to triumph, as both Hearn and Johnson had chances to make winning putts in the overtime session but couldn't. But Johnson, a seasoned pro with nine Tour wins, including the 2007 Masters, was complimentary of the budding star. "You've got to tip your cap to Jordan," he said.

After accepting the winner's share $828,000 - of the $4.6 million purse, Spieth, who with the win automatically qualified for this week's Open Championship at Muirfield along with earning a two-year PGA Tour exemption, met with reporters and talked about his breakthrough first title.

MODERATOR: We welcome our 2013 John Deere Classic champion into our interview room. Jordan, I heard out there a year ago you were winning an NCAA Championship for Texas, and you have come an awfully long way in one year. Let's start with today and what sort of emotions are going through you at this point and we'll open it up for some questions?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't know. It's not settling in yet. It hasn't hit me yet. I'm not sure it will until maybe I wake up on the plane in a little while. But I went into the day 6 back thinking I needed to shoot 8 or 9 under, and on a course like this I bogeyed the first hole. When you bogey the first hole out here, the first hole is it not a very hard hole, so I was not too pleased with that but just battled and grinded.

When we were on the back nine, still 4 or 5 back, but the leaders weren't going to 21 , 22 under which we thought they were going to. I told Michael, hey, let's try to get a few birdies and have a good top 10. Go home, take some time offer. Got a couple of close ones for birdie on 13, 14, and then bogeyed 15, but birdied the last three. The shot on 18 was the luckiest shot I've ever hit in my life. It was going a good six, seven feet past, which I guess I had that putt in the playoffs, so maybe it would have gone in. But the fact that it bounced right and hit the pin and dropped down in the cup, you know, it's just extremely fortunate. About as lucky as it was getting the break on 18 where I ended up winning there.

I don't know what I did to deserve those breaks. I said my prayers, but it worked. Obviously, David and Zach played unbelievable golf. It's amazing to have all three guys the last five holes like that. You know, it happened. Just got so lucky. I mean, that's what it is. But right now, I'm extremely pleased and a little worried about only having short sleeves going to Scotland.

Q. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy were all 20 when they won their first event. You don't turn 20 for two weeks and now getting to play with them. What's that all mean to you?

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't know. I don't think of my age as my age. I just think of playing and competing with these guys as my peers. The guys in this event, each week, week to week, I don't think of myself as younger than them. But I didn't think it would happen this early. Like you said, a year ago we had just won a national championship, and I thought I'd be back at school right now. It's probably a good thing right now that I'm not. Well, maybe it would have been better if I was. But, no, I mean, I had a plan. I guess the plan got exceeded. I wanted to just earn my Tour card for next year this year somehow. And now to be able to have it for a couple of years and to be able to have an exemption to Augusta, I mean, all the stuff that comes with it, be able to play in the playoffs. It hasn't hit me yet, and it will, but I'm just happy to go compete with those guys you mentioned and try and somehow - my legs are tired, trying to somehow get over there and regroup.

Q. Would you describe your style and your attitude coming into these events, are you playing loose? Is that a good description?

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, playing to win. The position I was in prior to this week was if I don't win, it doesn't do anything different for me, necessarily in order to make the playoffs. In order to get into the Masters, get a couple of year exemption, there was one thing I needed to do, and that was to win. Like I said, starting the day I had no nerves. I didn't even feel like I was in contention, and then somehow 17 and 18 came and all of a sudden I'm warming up. So it's all gone by in a blur. But, yeah, to answer your question, swinging free. And once you're in the playoff, you might as well go for the pin. You either pull it off or it ends up in the water. It's not like it costs you two strokes; you still get second place. Either way, it wasn't a bad outcome, and that is the way I thought about it. I just said, you know what, who cares? And I got a nice break on 18, and I got a nice somehow parted again.

Q. Once in the playoff you had your hand up when Hearn was putting on 17. Was that shot and Johnson's chip that lipped out, did you feel like you dodged something there?

JORDAN SPIETH: Oh, I dodged multiple bullets. The first playoff hole, Zach's - if the pin's not in, it goes in. He says he hit it hard. I guarantee that goes in if the pin isn't there. Then he had another putt on 18 the second time. David had a putt on 16 and 17 to win, shorter length putts. And he hit good putts, especially on 17 there. I mean, honestly one dead piece of grass in that line, and the ball falls. So whatever it was, the golf Gods up there, I just caught the breaks, and that's what it was. Those guys played great golf. I hung in there. They were hitting great shots, and I was just making the six footer to go to the next one. Just somehow found an opening.

Q. Years and years from now will you be telling your grandkids about the sand shot, the punch out on the playoff hole?

JORDAN SPIETH: Probably the sand shot. That was a surprise. The punch out, I'm just happy I went back to the bag and changed clubs. I was going to hit an 8 iron and try to cut it around the tree off the water, and went back to the grab and grabbed a 7 iron out and said we're just going to hit a little punch under it once those guys were in a little bit of trouble. It was the play. It was the smartest play. And I guarantee you, a few weeks ago, I don't do that.

Q. You might have played it differently?

JORDAN SPIETH: Maybe, I'm not sure. But a couple weeks ago I would have said, let's be aggressive and hit the 8. And I just kind of sat back and for whatever reason just stepped off of it and said, let's think about this for a second. I like this little punch 7, keep it under the tree of I just got over the ball, and it just felt above my feet. I just felt left coming into play. Just whatever the feeling was, and just backed off and took the 7 out. Fortunate that it held up on the back of the green there.

Q. What was your yardage?

JORDAN SPIETH: It was like 175, I think, to the hole. But all we were worried about was flying it 130 just short of the green.

Q. In that playoff, do you feel like maybe you've aged and you're 21 now? JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, if I wasn't balding before, I'm definitely after the playoff. To tell you the truth, the first couple playoff holes were the worst as far as emotions and pressure. But once the 20 footer turns into a 50 footer, you don't know how hard to hit the ball. Your hands want to smack the ball, and you have to somehow control them. Once I got to 16 and back to 17 even on the six , seven footer, eight footer I had for par on the par 5, I didn't feel any nerves. It was weird. They came back up when I had to putt to win. But I just felt more comfortable hanging in there as the playoff holes went by. I was dodging bullets and just felt a little confidence.

Q. How much have you learned here and being in contention, and how have you grown as a player?

JORDAN SPIETH: You learn a lot. You want to approach it, I think, this is my view on it which is a 19 year old's view, so don't hold me to it in a few years. But my view on it is you want to approach it the same way I approach being in contention in a college event. If you start thinking ahead, you start thinking Augusta, you start thinking playoffs, you start thinking winning, it's difficult. When you focus on the leaderboard and that you have to make a couple birdies, it's a lot easier. I think having, yeah, definitely having been in contention a few times, I was able to sit back, relax. Like I said, we didn't think we were in contention. But once the last couple holes came, I handled them a lot better than I have in the past, and that was the difference.

Q. Do you still live with your parents?

JORDAN SPIETH: No, no, no. I moved back and I live with a buddy, Alex Moon, who used to play for Texas. He graduated and he's a professional golfer too.

Q. Of all the things that came with this victory today for you, multiple things, what are the one or two that are most important to you?

JORDAN SPIETH: The whole focus has been on not being able to play in the playoffs unless you win the playoffs. But honestly, the thing that hit me was when Feherty said Augusta, and that's a place I've been to one time. The Monday practice round two years ago, because we had a college event in Augusta. It was like walking on a video game. That's something that sticks with me in my mind. Maybe it was the color I wore today, I don't know, but it worked out.

Q. Was the bunker shot on the 77th hole, a good shot, a mis hit? Describe it.

JORDAN SPIETH: It was I really good lie in the bunker, which is not what you want it on that shot. You want it to be sitting in the flat so you can chunk it out on the green and it releases the right distance. It was sitting where someone else had been in the bunker, and it was sitting on the rake to where you could catch it perfectly. It's the lie you want on a fairway bunker, not on the green side. So it's a lie that if you hit fat, it comes really fat. Otherwise you have to hit it closer to the ball, and that's dangerous with the water.

I didn't feel like I hit it the way I needed to. I think it would have released to the side of the green there six or seven feet. But I looked at my greens book, saw that for some reason the hill towards the back of the green there and lined up a little left than I originally thought I needed to play a little to the right. It just took the perfect bounce. Whether hitting a ball marker, whatever happened, it somehow went in, I couldn't tell you how or why.

Q. You said you've taken the same approach as being in contention in a college tournament. Yet you said when you got over the ball, you wouldn't have done two weeks ago?

JORDAN SPIETH: Right.

Q. So you've kind of been a quick study in your time out here.

JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I may be contradicting myself a little bit. It's one thing, you want to approach it mentally. You want it on your mind telling yourself to have the confidence that you do in a college event when you've won before. You want to have past success in your head, and that's what I tried to do. At the same time, it's a little hard to keep it out of your head when you have to putt to win the tournament. I've never had to putt to win the tournament before the first playoff hole the 30 footer, and that was just a different feeling. It's beyond nerves. Even the two footer to tap in, I didn't know if I'd get my putter to the ball. So I looked at the hole, looked at the front of the cup, decided to let my hands do it and watched it go in. But, yeah, you want to approach it where you've had success in the past. Then at some point you have to work on your breathing.

Q. You said earlier today you had nothing to lose, yet on another hand you had so much to gain with a victory. How did you handle that?

JORDAN SPIETH: Well, it's easy. They coincide with each other naturally. When you don't have anything to lose and you want to strive for everything that comes with it, I kind of fire away. I mean, I think that being in the position I was in versus if I was a member of the Tour already and were fighting if I hadn't played as well in certain events, I was fighting for my card, fighting for every dollar, it would have made a little bit of a difference. But the fact that there really wasn't anything to lose, if I end up on the bunker shot, if I end up going in the water on my second shot, if I pull it and it goes in the water and I get 8th place, the difference in 8th and third doesn't mean a whole lot to me. You know, I had to kind of go for broke, and it paid off.

Q. Did you bring your passport with you?

JORDAN SPIETH: Well, we had it brought in with my manager, Jordan, here. My parents gave it to him before he came in. My agent, Jay Danzi had to leave for meetings, so Jordan, my manager came in and brought it with him. Looks like that was good luck. Maybe we'll have to keep Jay away next week.

Q. Have you ever been to Scotland?

JORDAN SPIETH: I have. I played a lot of golf in Scotland. Junior Ryder Cup, Walker Cup. I played quite a bit.

Q. You've won an awful lot in cash this year. How does your mind process a 7 figure year so far at 19? Have you made any big purchases?

JORDAN SPIETH: No, I haven't. A lot of people have asked that. I haven't. I might now. No, I'm driving the same car I drove when I was heading into college after senior year. It's just a Yukon. Honestly, my dad's very good at keeping me grounded with that, putting it away, growing it. I don't have a desire to go out and just buy stuff. I'm extremely cheap as it is, because I was very cheap in college. It hasn't really changed. Maybe I'll work into it a little bit. But for now, the check is the check, but this is what I wanted. So I'm happy to have it. I'm just happy I got one of those big checks instead of one of the little ones.

Q. Was there any point today before you won that you thought I've got a chance to win today, and if so, when was it?

JORDAN SPIETH: 17 green. Yeah, I birdied 13 and 14, and looked at the board and saw that Zach was at 19. I think I was at 17, and there were a couple birdie holes left. From there, it was all me and Michael just talking about it, talking through it. I said at that point, that's when I said I don't need to look at anymore scoreboards. This is enough. I've looked at them in the past so, let's just look away and be aggressive. I bogeyed 15. But 17 green after birdieing 16 and having the eagle putt, I told myself, if you make this and somehow get a birdie on 18, you know, 20 may have a chance, because 19 was still leading. And I almost made the eagle putt from about 60 feet. Just went to 18, and I was in the fairway. The guys still weren't birdieing. They were still at 19 under. I knew that a birdie would be pretty close. I didn't think it would happen that way, but it happened out of the sand.

Q. Tell us some way that you're a teenager? You really seem beyond your years.

JORDAN SPIETH: I don't know. I don't want to give too much away. This is the all in the media. No, I love to fish. I go down and hang out. I miss college. I miss Austin. I plan on going down there in the upcoming weeks. I've got a lot of friends down there that I don't get to see as often as I did before. Obviously, it's summertime, so a lot of them are back home, which is nice. But it's just a different year dealing with that kind of stuff, which isn't difficult, per se, but, yeah, I like going down there. Seeing all the guys on the team, seeing Coach Fields, who I wouldn't be here without him and his support. I don't know. I don't know how to tell you. I'm 19 versus 23. But, yeah, I'm getting ready for a birthday.

Q. Your reaction on the bunker shot. Did it have a tournament winning feel to it? Because I remember Stricker a few years ago how he reacted, and you reacted the same way coming out of that bunker and jumping out?

JORDAN SPIETH: I was just surprised. When I hit it, I don't know if there is audio on it, but when I hit it, I was yelling to sit down, and it took one hop and found the pin. I think I just looked up at Michael and it was just shock. It wasn't as much a feeling of I won. Because when I finished, I'm in the scorer's tent, and I watch Zach hit 17 in two. So I know he's going to hit birdie there to go to 20. So in my mind, it was just a shot that it was just nice to feel that kind of pressure and pull off that shot.

Now given, there was some luck involved. But to pull off the shot, it wasn't a winning feeling, per se. The only winning feeling came after the two footer went in when I made sure that it stayed in the bottom of the hole, and didn't somehow get out. No, it was just shock, surprise, really cool atmosphere and cool roars. I didn't know how to react. Michael went in to bump me and I wanted to high-five, so we made a not top 10 and a top-10 on the same shot, so we'll see.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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