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January 7, 2017

Justin Thomas

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

ALEX URBAN: We'd like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room here after the third round of the SBS Tournament of Champions.

Justin, three consecutive rounds of 67. Obviously something's working for you out there. Take us through your round.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was a good day. Same as yesterday, I got off to a good start, and was 3-under through five, and I mean, those are pretty easy opening holes, besides -- 1 and 2 can be a little difficult. But I hit it a lot better today than I have the first two days. I just wasn't as comfortable with the putter, and even some of the putts that I hit well, it just didn't quite drop.

It was a lot windier today, so I felt like it was difficult to judge those on the greens and kind of had a lot of putts that were breaking one way and the wind the other way, so that made it a little challenging. But felt like I managed a good round out of I guess what I had a little bit.

Q. Since THE TOUR Championship, you're the only player to have beaten Hideki in a field he's in. You get another chance to do it again. Starting a little rivalry there maybe.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, if I'm near Hideki in the tournament, that's usually probably a pretty good thing on Sunday. He's obviously a tremendous player and he's on an unbelievable run here the last five events.

I actually had no idea I was the only one to beat him, until I saw Doug Tweeted or something, that I was the only person that beat him in the last five events, which is absurd; the fact that he's won four of his last five.

Yeah, it's good, and he's a great player but there's a lot of other great players out there. I just need to go take care of my job.

Q. Can you go over 14? What was the club?

Q. It was a nice shot. I was just hoping you could talk about it.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's kind of a weird number for us with the wind. Just because downwind, I mean, I'm going to be carrying driver over 300. And it's uphill a good bit, but if I hit a good one, normal flight, it's going to be flying on the green or on the back part, and over the green is no good on that hole.

And I couldn't quite get 3-wood there. And I hit a great shot yesterday. I just hit it a little too low to where it didn't carry enough up the hill to chase on the green.

Jimmy and I kind of talked about 3-wood or driver. He's like, I think you hit the perfect shot yesterday, just a little higher, because it's pretty into the grain and uphill short of that green. And I was like, it needs to be something hot to run up there. And I just nuked it and hit it low and just enough to scoot up the ridge.

Q. You hit a really nice tee shot on 15. I'd be curious what you had left in there club-wise, but I'm overall wondering if you're not kicking yourself for getting a little more separation.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. I had 8-iron in there twice. I had 8-iron today. I had 8-iron twice and I made two pars from them.

Obviously I'd rather be down there than up top but down there, that ball is just so far below my feet. And right is right; everyone knows what's down there. I've had a hard time kind of covering the ball this week. And the ball below your feet, doesn't really help that, and I've just kind of skanked two 8-irons down there to the right and haven't got up-and-down.

Hit a great, great chip there, and I hit a good putt. I just hit it a little too hard. But I definitely felt like I left some out there. But I mean, it was a great up-and-down on 17, and a really good putt there on 18. So it's nice to finish like that.

Q. What's your understanding of -- and what I guess are the physics of where you get all that power?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have no clue. I've been told I use the ground well. The fact that I'm probably almost in the air when I make contact probably doesn't hurt anything. Kind of why I wear metal spikes, because I need all the support I can get to not flip.

I don't know. It's weird. It's probably junior, senior year of high school, I started hitting it a little farther and then college I got a little stronger and started hitting it even farther. I don't know. I'm pleased with it, whatever it is.

Q. Has it been pretty much three different days, each round? Have the conditions been fairly different, or have any of the rounds been similar?
JUSTIN THOMAS: They have been a little different. Today was the hardest for sure. It was a little windier. The greens are getting a little faster. They are still not, I'm sure, up to the pace that they would like with all the rain, but they are starting to get a little firmer, a little faster. The wind just makes it a lot harder to putt.

And yesterday was pretty calm. It was about as easy as you could get this golf course. Then Thursday, it was, you know, a normal Kapalua wind, ten to 15. They have been similar but a little different, if that makes sense. Just kind of different versions of a little windy.

Q. Given the low scoring that's here, going into Sunday, would you rather have a position where you needed to make a bunch of birdies like you probably do tomorrow to win, or would you rather be able to protect on a harder golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Hmmm, good question. As long I'm leading going into Sunday, I really don't care (laughs). I'm going to try to get it done however I can.

But I don't know, I mean, I guess in this situation, I'd rather be on a course where you can make a lot of birdies, because that's what I'm dealt with tomorrow.

Q. We're in the first week of January, obviously if you can get a win tomorrow, it sets you up all the way through the FedExCup and you'll be in THE TOUR Championship this early. You talked yesterday about how you feel like that's where you belong and where you should be, but would it free you up even more for the rest of the year if you could pull it off tomorrow?
JUSTIN THOMAS: If I do get it done, ask me tomorrow and I'll let you know.

Q. How old were you when you stopped calling your dad and going over the number of par 4s where you have to hit --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, we had just some junior events when I hit it short -- my dad would always ask me the number, what the number was that week for the tournament, and that was the amount of holes I couldn't reach in regulation. So I mean, it was usually -- I had to hit a driver on a par 3 pretty much surefire every week; it was at least one. And it was usually anywhere from two to five holes, you just couldn't reach and I had to just rely on my short game and try to get up-and-down.

But I don't know when that age was, but I'm happy to be out of it.

Q. What are your plans for Monday night to watch the game, and would a win by you tomorrow be a good sign going into the National Championship game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm sure Coach Saban is really following me along to make sure (laughter).

I don't know, I'm already a little nervous, but I'll be really nervous come Monday. But I'm confident in the Tide and I think with the preparation that they are doing, they will be okay if they play well and do what they need to do.

I'll probably just watch it, same place I did last year. Just a place in Waikiki. I've got some guys playing, Trey Mullinax and Bud Cauley, they are buddies of mine that went to 'Bama, so it will be pretty rowdy.

Q. The back nine, must have been seven, eight guys separated by one shot, two shots, something like that. Were you aware of that, and if you weren't, what were your intentions for the day when it's that bunched up going into a Saturday?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I didn't know that. I was trying to get to 20. I felt like that was very, very doable. I easily could have. I feel like I could be at 22 or 23, just as easy, as well. I just was trying to make birdies. It's a course where you can just get so hot. You can realistically, 11 can be a tough hole, and 17 is a tough hole.

But other than that, you've got a wedge in your hand or you're looking at a lot of birdie holes and potentially eagle holes. I was just trying to tell myself that even though I made a bad bogey on 7, I hit a good putt on 8, just missed, and then just missed a wood over a 3-footer on 9 to birdie. Could have been 5-under on the front, but still being 2-under, I could still shoot 6-, 7-under on the back and post a low one. That was kind of my mind frame just going through the back nine.

ALEX URBAN: Thank you, Justin.

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