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January 30, 2015

Justin Thomas


THE MODERATOR: Welcome Justin Thomas to the Waste Management Phoenix Open media center. Justin, 7-under through 36 holes. How pleased are you with your performance so far.

JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm very pleased. I played really well the last two days. Obviously the back 9 today was a little different than the first 27 holes with the weather, but I really played well yesterday. I didn't get as near as much out of it I felt I could have. The front 9 today I played well. I think the important thing for me is I managed my mistakes well. When I got in trouble, I just kept it in front of me and just tried to salvage as many pars as I can.

Q. What was going through your mind this morning when you were 4-under on the front?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was just trying to keep it going. I mean, I realized it was a really good round in those conditions. I hit some good putts or had good chances on 16 and 18 that I just let slide, but any time obviously you shoot 4-under on nine holes you can't be too upset. I was just trying to stick to my game plan. I was hitting all the fairways, and I think that's why I was playing as well as I was and getting it in good spots on the green. I was just trying to keep that game plan that I had going, but it got tough out there. It was kind of hard to keep it going.

Q. What did you end up doing on that putt on 17 this morning? And then 18? How much of a difference if any did it make on the day?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was huge. I made that putt. I hit a really good putt there, about a 7-footer, left edge, and then I wasn't honestly too thrilled about hitting 18 tee shot this morning at 8:05 when it was pretty cold and rainy, first swing of the day. But I hit a good drive down there, hit a wedge to about 20 feet and made it. That was huge confidence but more so just kind of got the day going and kept it going into that front 9 this morning.

Q. Why didn't you putt that last night?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Because I had perfect greens this morning, no spike marks. I could see the line. I guess that's why. I made that mistake before. I remember playing as an amateur one time, I had same thing, like a 10-footer for par, and, you know, just being young and stupid I putted it, and then one of the guys came up to me -- I think it was Jeff Klauk -- he's like, By the way, don't ever putt that again. You have perfect greens tomorrow morning. Don't putt that.

Q. When you were young and stupid?

Q. How old are you now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: 21. I was 16 then (smiling).

Q. So 4-under on the front. You make the turn and you bogey the first hole. Did that have any effect on you in terms of how you...
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I was pretty bummed just because I felt it was a good birdie opportunity, but I missed the fairway and I got it out of position. And I hit a good putt. Just didn't hit it hard enough. A day like today, I realize you're probably going to make at least one bogey. Obviously it would have been nice not to make one. But it happens and I just tried to stay patient and keep trying to hit fairways after that.

Q. You're a class of 21-year-olds. There's Dan and Jordan. You have been pushing each other for a while. What is it about you guys? Have you been pushing each other for a long time? Does that help you prepare for life on tour?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think so. We had a really strong graduation class, obviously in high school, 2011s, and all through Junior Golf, AJGAs, or amateur events and college events. I felt like it was always pretty competitive. I mean, I didn't think about it. I realized it last year, I guess the last three winners of the Haskins Award, the college players of the year, have all been 2011s, just been different years between myself, Michael Kim, and Patrick. I think it's really cool, because I think in two, three, four, five years there will be a lot of us up there. There's some of us up there now, but guys like Patrick and Michael Kim and, I mean, Anthony Paolucci, he was really good, and Ollie, Danny, there are so many guys that are really good. I think we always pushed each other throughout the ranks that we were in.

Q. As the day progressed and the weather got dicier, how did you change your strategy throughout the round?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Besides hitting about four more clubs than I would have liked on the greens, it was not too much. I mean, there really isn't too much you can do. It was just really hard because it would rain and the greens would get kind of skippy and they'd skid, and they would stop a little bit and you'd play for the skid and it would land soft. It was hard to judge that. The hardest part was if you missed the fairway, you couldn't -- even if you had a good lie it was so thick that it was wet. It would go 75% of the distance you wanted. But fortunately, that would mean you're short of the greens. That happened to me a couple of times. I had some easy chips. It was more of a grind trying to find the easiest way to make par than anything.

Q. Were you upset on Sunday night? If so, how long did it take from upset to get a little more perspective and carry it into this week? How much of a learning process is that in itself?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I was really upset. I think I was -- I was definitely upset. I don't want to say disappointed, but I was just -- I mean, I thought about it a lot. It was just such a bummer to -- I felt like of all holes, iron, wedge, to screw up and make 6 on, but I feel like stuff like that makes you stronger in the end, although, you know, being 21 and that happened to me at the time, I thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen and that wasn't going to make me stronger at all. The four-hour drive the next day gave me plenty of time to think about it here, too. That's just part of the learning curve. And I get a little amped sometimes, and the air was thin out there. That's something my caddie and I talked about, when we get in those situations we need to slow down a little bit and talk it out and make sure we're hitting the right clubs, staying short of this or short of that, because every shot matters, especially in a situation like that.

Q. Where does your best advice come from for stuff like that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Best advice? I mean, I don't know. My caddie and I talk about it a bunch. Just because he's out there and he sees, you know, my tendencies and stuff like that.

Q. Your dad talk to you much?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, he does. He's not really a specific kind of advice kind of guy. He is if I ask for it, but, you know, he's just more about go out there and have some fun. It's just another round and it doesn't matter whether the putt's for 63 or 73. You want to make the putt on the last hole or hole before that just to get it one shot lower every hole. Just always fight, you know, no matter where you're at.

Q. How much of an influence do you think Jordan's success, coming out right away, getting his playing privileges and doing so well on tour...
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been huge. He's obviously done really well and it's been really fun to watch, but I'm really excited to be out here with him now. Not more to play against but just as a friend and as a peer that we get to hang out and be 21-year-olds again. I think it can be tough for us out here, because there is a lot of, you know, the mid to late 20s, early, middle 30s, and it's pretty serious out here. For us, I think it's important for us to stay young and we need to enjoy it, because although it's serious out there, but, I mean, it doesn't take away the fact that we're still 21 and we need to enjoy it and have fun. It's been good, but seeing him do that well, it gave us a lot of confidence. I mean, I think Berger can say the same thing, or any of us, because we knew that we had beaten them plenty of times in college and amateur golf. We didn't understand what the difference could be. Obviously now he has a little more experience than us, but that's something that will just come with time. And, you know, like I said, we're just happy to be out here with him now.

Q. Did it factor much in your decision to turn pro?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really. It's such a selfish decision. You need to feel right inside. I had a decent idea what I was going to do before I even did that, because I wanted to playing in the Walker Cup. But the college season just felt a little different my sophomore year, and I felt I was probably going to leave after the year but I wasn't positive. I guess it didn't hurt anything seeing him do that well, but I had a pretty good idea what I was going to do already.

Q. When we spoke Wednesday, you mentioned that you use TrackMan to calibrate how far you hit the drives. So off that calibration on Wednesday, how much shorter were the drives going today?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Oh, man. I just know like perfect example on 6, there is a bunker, it's about 2 -- I think it's 295 to it and maybe like 303 to carry it, and there is another bunker after that that's probably 320 to it, and I like two-hopped it in the bunker, 320 bunker yesterday. Today I hit a good drive and I was about 20 short of that 290 bunker. I had 97 yards in yesterday and I had 190 in today.

Q. If it makes you feel any better, all the drives looked great today.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hit them well. They just went about seven yards shorter.

Q. We have seen it for the last three or four years, this gradual shifting of generations as Phil and Tiger get older, et cetera. There is kind of a new wave, not just the illustrious class of '11, but a bunch of people. Do you feel that at all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I do. It's really cool to be a part of it, honestly. You look at guys like Max and Blain. It's crazy to think guys like Harris and Russell and P Reed. P Reed seems like a veteran now. What, he's 24? It's insane. It's hard for me to say the game has changed just because this is all I know and this is my first year as a rookie, but just from watching it so many times over the years, it definitely seems like it has changed. But I think a lot of that is due to guys like Phil and Tiger. I mean, I don't think I'd be where I am today if it wasn't for Tiger. He was an idol of mine growing up, and a lot of people my age. And Phil, as well, seeing the things they did, and being interested in golf, it was kind of hard not to do that as fast as we could.

Q. As someone spending time worrying about his own stuff now, seeing an 82 next to Tiger's name, what's that like?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's disheartening for me. I never met him and he's been my favorite golfer my whole life. Yeah, it's a bummer. I mean, I'm upset for him, but at the same time I'm worried about myself and just trying to win the tournament. It's definitely I think better for golf if he can get back into it. I'm sure he will. It's not coincidence he was the best player in the world for so long. He will get it back. It's just a matter of time.

Q. You never met him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I never have.

Q. What are you going to do when you do?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. I will probably be unconscious. I won't know what happened. Just hope I don't say anything dumb.
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