Jordan Spieth – missing the Olympics was the toughest call ever


Former World no.1 Jordan Spieth has a torrid time in the Media Centre being asked question after question about his decision to withdraw from the Olympics. He admits it was one of the haardest decisions he’s ever had to make…and promises to be there in Tokyo in 2020. If golf is still on the Olympic agenda that is…..

Q. Last year, you had an amazing year, and you came so close at the Open at St. Andrews; very nearly made the playoff there. How much would it mean to you to go a step further this year?

JORDAN SPIETH: This is a very, very special tournament; everybody knows that. Again, the Claret Jug is something I’ve now held in my hands – I was with Zach the night that he won it last year. I crave to have that trophy in my possession at some point, and to reach a third leg of the Grand Slam this week would be a fantastic achievement and a life-long goal of mine.

So working hard for it. Been here since Saturday. Seen a couple different wind conditions. The course is fantastic golf course for the Open Championship. I love coming over and playing links golf as well. So all of that together, I think my game in general over the course of the next hopefully 20 to 30 years out here will show that this style of golf, I think plays to my strengths. Does that mean this week it may? I don’t know. But I love this style of golf. I feel comfortable playing this style of golf, and I think that this tournament is one that we certainly put emphasis on. Obviously, it’s a major, and look forward to trying to get into contention this week and dealing with the tough conditions.

Q. What led into your decision not to play in the Olympics and did you feel an extra burden being the last of the four to make the decision?
JORDAN SPIETH: I wouldn’t say last of the four. I wouldn’t put it at four. There’s been numerous withdrawals of great players. There’s been numerous commitments of great players. Health concerns were my reason. I didn’t feel any pressure being last. Listen, this was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life at 22 years old. I can probably honestly say that. This was harder than trying to decide what university to go to. Whether to turn professional and leave school. This was something I very much struggled with. I bounced back and forth with, and ultimately a decision had to be made yesterday, and so I made it.

Q. Why was it so hard and specifically what were the health concerns?
JORDAN SPIETH: Why was it so hard? Because I’m a huge believer in Olympic golf. I’m a huge believer in playing for your country, showing I absolutely look forward to Summer and Winter Olympics. It’s the most exciting sporting event for me to watch on TV and to have a chance to be a part of it is something I definitely look forward to trying to do. This year I just had to try and weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year, and just at the time that I had to make the decision, I just felt this was the right move for me. Not everybody’s going to understand. Nobody’s going to understand what it’s like in my shoes. Few people — as you can see, a lot of golfers are trying to decide for themselves. Mine came down to just a very personal decision that, again, I don’t expect anybody to understand, but trust that I believe I’m making the right decision for myself for my future and for those around me.

Unfortunately, this is going to be a very, very difficult thing for me to do to watch the opening ceremonies and watch my peers compete for a gold medal or any medal for that, and watch people stand on the stage and hear the National Anthem playing. I certainly have thought about all that and it’s something I’ve looked forward to since 2009 when it was announced, ’10. But I’ll make it a goal to be at Tokyo in 2020. I’ll make it a significant goal, and this will be very — it will be really, really tough to watch. I just had to make a decision yesterday and weighing risk and health concerns, I made it this route.

Q. You didn’t have much time to prepare the first time in the U.K. when you came over. You got the very last play-in. Did you get the whole thing about the Open straightaway or did it take time to sink in what sort of event it was?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it takes — I think I still don’t necessarily understand how special it is. I think I’ll feel it’s more special the more times you play. I asked Phil Mickelson, here’s a perfect guy to ask on how special the Open Championship is to a veteran and a legend of the game.

I wish that I had more time to prepare for Muirfield. That was one of the greatest tournaments that I think I ever played in was the Open Championship at Muirfield. What fantastic weather, what a golf course it is, and we got in and just had to try and prepare quickly. Man, I’m just going to go ahead and sit like this (sitting straight). Anything I do with hands or whatever is going to be used (laughter).


Q. Back to the Olympics, I’m afraid. You’ve recently played in Ohio and Pennsylvania and there have been recorded cases of Zika in Ohio and Pennsylvania. You live in Texas, Texas is one of 46 American states that has recorded cases of Zika in America. I think it’s fourth on the list in America. Could you tell us what medical advice you got on all of this and where it came from?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, that’s personal. I can’t. I can tell you that I’m not specifically pinpointing any one thing in my health concerns either. You guys have put that without me saying it. This is health concerns as a whole. I had to weigh the risk for the reward, and I felt like this year, this opportunity and the amount of or the — what am I looking for — the chances there versus being in the States at this point in time is very different.

Q. Can you understand why people would be sceptical, not just of your decision, but of all the other golfers pulling out, citing Zika?
JORDAN SPIETH: Sure, again, I didn’t cite that. So please don’t do that for me. I’m strictly health concerns as a whole. That’s not the only one.

Yes, I can understand why people are sceptical. They’re as passionate about the Olympics as I am. They also are not in my shoes. So I feel that many, if not all of you, would have made the same decision I made if you were in my shoes. Whether you believe it or not, so be it. This is just something that was very, very challenging for me. I very much struggled with it. I certainly didn’t want to have to do this during major week. Obviously, would have rather had the focus be on the Open Championship, but it hasn’t been the beginning of this week. Hopefully it will after I leave this room.

But, yeah, of course people are going to be sceptical. People are going to be skeptical if I was playing. People are skeptical of the people that are playing, too. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. I’m not worrying about anybody else except myself, and, again, I don’t expect people to fully understand it. They don’t know what I know about myself and my future and my goals. Therefore, there’s nothing I can do about it except go on and try to again focus on this week.

Q. Clearly everybody has to respect your individual decision, but do you see that it’s very difficult for people to accept given how this problem, the spacial withdrawals on health grounds seems particularly confined to the top of men’s golf. There’s almost nobody in any other Olympic sport represented that’s withdrawn citing health reasons. Do you accept that’s not a good look and that’s quite a difficult circumstance?
JORDAN SPIETH: Possibly. A lot of it has to do with it’s the first time in the Olympics. We don’t know what to necessarily expect out of the Olympics. I have talked with athletes in other sports going into it, going back six months about the Olympics. Not health concerns, whatever it may be, but just about the Olympics in general, to try to figure out the passion, what it’s like, what to expect in the Olympic Village to the opening ceremonies, so on and so forth, to the actual feeling you get when you’re competing.

I’ve done a lot of speaking with them, but those are Olympic athletes who their sport has been in the Olympics for a number of years. With the first time going into unknown territory, I think that that’s probably what’s leading to some concerns. That’s all.

I’m not sure. I can’t speak for everybody else. Do I think it looks bad on golf? Maybe. Again, I’m making the decision of what I think is best for me. I don’t feel like I have to carry the torch — see what I did there — for the sport or anyone else. This is bigger than that for me personally.

Again, I’m very passionate and very much a supporter of the Olympics and Olympic golf. I do hope to play in four or five, you name it, Olympics representing the United States in the future, if I have the opportunity, and, again, everything falls into place. This is just a really unique circumstance this year and whatever any other people think or maybe it looks bad on golf at the moment, I think that that will rebound.

Q. Off the Olympics, yourself, Rory, Jason, you’ve kind of been passing the torch, you see what I did, back and forth in kind of these runs you’ve had in the last couple years. Now Dustin’s been hot. Can you analyse or talk a little bit to the psychology of keeping that going and continuing while the iron is hot, so to speak, and how do you avoid —
JORDAN SPIETH: Yes, it’s mostly mental. I know right now at this present moment, I’ll be brutally honest with you, it’s not the same feeling I had when I was getting ready for the Open Championship last year. I believe in my ability that if I’m in contention, that I can bring my best stuff and take home the trophy. I believe I can close. The ability to get into contention, I’m a little hesitant with tee to green, versus last year I had just come off a win at the John Deere, striking the ball great. It’s just a matter of not making many mistakes and just getting into a rhythm. Right now I feel like I’ve got to do a little more work throughout my swing to get it compact and ready for the style of golf.

So, yeah, it’s hard to keep it. It puts a light on what Tiger has done even more so. I mean, if there’s any way what he’s done is underrated, I could still believe that it is, having tasted a year of it. Certainly hope to continue what we had last year, and it’s been a successful year this year as well. But it’s not the same kind of feeling at this present moment. I’m working a lot on how to gun-sling it, which is what I did last year, to step up, hit it, go to my natural movement and make some putts.

Dustin, I’ve always said, is arguably, Jason, Rory, are up there with the most talented athletic golfers in the world who are able to do stuff with the golf ball that nobody else can do. And for Dustin, I think it was just floodgates opening, which I’ve said for a long time now, and it happened, and it happened again. So it’s no surprise.

Q. Are you annoyed that Peter Dawson said yesterday it was an overreaction on the part of the players to choose to pull out of the Olympics?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, no, I mean, it may be. It very well could be. I’m just not sure.

Q. I mean, you’ve clearly given a great deal of thought to this?
JORDAN SPIETH: Sure, 100%. I have given a great deal of thought to this.

Q. And do you wish, perhaps, that you had made this decision two weeks ago rather than being in this major week and building up and all the talk to be about you and this?
JORDAN SPIETH: 100%. I wish I could have made it as early as possible, not only for myself but for also Olympic golf, USA Golf, to be able to alert next in line, Kooch and possibly get him more prepared. I certainly was not trying to wait till the last minute. I just couldn’t make a decision, and then I had to by the last deadline. I was very indecisive with it.

Again, as I’ve mentioned many times now, you obviously understand and you guys know how much passion I have when I play, and how much passion I have when I played for the United States. I’ve been on the stage now as a professional three times doing so. It’s even — I’m even more passionate there, so you can understand I recognize what Olympic golf would bring, and that’s why I’m setting it as a very, very major goal to make the team in 2020.

Q. How much external pressure did you get over the last six months to make a decision to go to Rio?
JORDAN SPIETH: How much external pressure? Not a ton. I mean, I kept it within our team. I certainly asked a lot of questions. Like I said earlier, I asked questions about the Olympics in general to other athletes in different sports. I picked the brains of a lot of different golfers, those that made decisions because they were in, they had a chance to play, in or out, as well as those who did not have a chance or did not qualify on hypothetically, what would you do? I just tried to gather a lot of information, but ultimately the information I fully made this decision through were through talking with my team. Then it was 90% me, 9% the team, and 1% of anything else that came our way.

Q. The obvious question becomes now that you’re not going to Rio, obviously there is an event opposite Rio which you’re defending champion. Would you entertain going to John Deere against Rio Olympics?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don’t think that’s appropriate. I don’t think it would be an appropriate move to play that week. So I will not be playing that week. I don’t think it would be appropriate given our decision on the Olympics.

But I do look forward to going back there. I love the tournament. I love the people. I obviously played it well.

Q. On the wall of the clubhouse here there’s all the pictures of the winners who have won British Opens here. I wonder if you paused to look at that? And I wondered if you noticed any patterns?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, Americans and actually Texans (laughter), a little bit of both there. So, man, I just feel that there’s so much added pressure off that. I don’t know how I’m even going to hit a shot this week (laughter).

It’s pretty cool. I don’t think that — again, they’re all individually very different players. I don’t think it impacts you, but I think it’s very cool to walk through the halls to see that. Just as it is at any of these fantastic just old but timeless clubhouses of these great clubs over here. You just see so much history as you walk through, and it’s really fun to do. I did a lot of that Saturday, Sunday, spent some time walking through the clubhouse. It’s something I really enjoy doing around here, because we don’t have that kind of history in the States.

Q. Jordan, it was reported that you were undecided even going into yesterday in the practice round. Where were you and when did you finally make this decision? What tipped it to the point where it is?
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, I had to sleep on it the night before last, and then kind of come out and at that point I had already leant this way and then the decision had to be made. So it was made obviously prior to me playing yesterday. So, it was, yeah, yesterday.

Q. Is the decision so tough that you still carry it with you or are you done?
JORDAN SPIETH: I will continue to carry it with me through these games and for a while, I think, personally. It’s that tough, yeah. Again, I named it the most difficult decision that I’ve ever had to make, and unfortunately it’s the most difficult decision. It is a great honour to be in that position and have to make that decision, and it’s also very unfortunate at the same time this year specifically.

It will loom over me throughout the Olympic games, for sure. I will be, I’m sure at times pretty upset that I’m not down there. I thought about all this ahead of time. When I watched the opening ceremonies, that’s going to be a big bummer. Then when I watch these guys competing on the golf course. I’ll be texting with Rickie, obviously, throughout as a good friend of mine. I thought about all of this ahead of time and still made the decision I did because it was the right move for me.

Q. With Dustin pulling on Friday, Rickie going in on Sunday, how much did that go into or affect your decision process?
JORDAN SPIETH: It didn’t. I had spoken a lot with both of them about it ahead of time. Dustin was the same way. He flip-flopped a lot. At one point we were both saying we were pretty confident about going but we still wanted to look more into it. We both feel the same way. You obviously know Rickie has that passion as well, I’ve seen that out of him in team golf.

Rickie sent a Tweet out. I was sitting right next to him. We’re all staying in the same house this week. So he goes, “Well, just sent the Tweet out. We’ll see when Sam calls me,” his agent. So, no, they didn’t have an effect on me. I had to make my decision just me. I texted Rickie immediately after I decided and said, “Rick, I’m sorry, buddy, but I’m not going to be joining you down there this year. Sorry about that. I’m obviously going to be rooting for you, bud.” He said, “No worries. I know you had to make it just for you. You’re just going to be jealous when I get that gold.” That’s what he said. So that’s how it went.

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