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February 22, 2017

Justin Thomas

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

AMANDA HETHERINGTON: We'd like to welcome Justin Thomas to the Honda Classic.

Justin, already three wins this season. You've won in some faraway places, but this week you'll be sleeping in your own bed. How is it feeling going into the hometown game?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's great. It's nice to be at home for a week and I'd like to get a win on the homeland. Not only for me, but everyone can stop making fun of me that I can't win on the homeland.

Yeah, it's a great place. It's enjoyable. It's a difficult test. Especially like last year was really, really windy and you never know what kind of conditions you're going to get in Florida. At least I know at the end of the day, I'll be going home to my own bed, so that's nice.

AMANDA HETHERINGTON: Strong finish last year. Have you had a lot of time to practice and come back and be prepared for this week?

JUSTIN THOMAS: You know, not really. I've had some time, but just it's been a really busy last couple days. I just had a lot of stuff to do coming back from L.A.

The most important thing was to get rest, and I was definitely very tired and I'm still a little tired. You know, I think just one more night's sleep and I'll be good, and just getting the body feeling good, most importantly.

But you know, I put in -- I've had kind of shorter sessions but I mean, you can get the work done that you need to. It's just not quite as long, and hopefully the rain will hold off a little longer and get some more practice in today and I'll be good to go.

Q. Is home Palm Beach Gardens or Jupiter?

Q. How long is the commute?
JUSTIN THOMAS: About 20 minutes I guess; 25 minutes if there's traffic.

Q. Toward that end, just talk about your decision to move here and what it's done for your game. Has it been a positive for your game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely. I mean, living in Louisville, I love Louisville, but it's just too cold. This time of year, you can get some 60-degree days but you can get some 20-degree days and snow. So that's not exactly ideal for my job.

So I needed to move somewhere warmer. I'm not a big -- Texas was a far move, and I felt like I wanted to go where a lot of people were, just in terms of having a lot of people to play with, a lot of people to practice with and travel with. And this was kind of the first thing that came to mind. Feels like about everyone and their brother is down here.

So it was a pretty easy transition or a pretty easy decision. I just took a weekend when I was on the Web and just came down here and checked it out, played a couple courses, and it was pretty easy after that.

Q. I take it you're going to México?

Q. Do you have any backstory on security or anything that they are doing back there at all, or has there been any discussion?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have really no knowledge of anything, no. Just excited to eat some tacos (laughter). That's about all I got.

Q. No concerns at all, given what you read about kidnapping?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't read a whole lot (laughter) I guess it may come to my advantage, I don't know.

Q. Do you walk around -- are you going to walk around PGA National different than you did last year? Do you feel like when you arrived to the course, do you feel differently now with this hot streak that you're on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really. Just because I had the confidence that I could do it in past. Just didn't necessarily have the resumé to go with it. But now I guess maybe I could have a little bit more swag when I'm walking out there.

You look at people like DJ and Rory; I think it's so cool watching them go walk around the golf course, because they just look so unbeatable, and they have such great strides and such confidence just when they walk.

You know, that's something that sounds so dumb when you say it, but when you're playing against somebody, and they're slumping their shoulders and they look exhausted. You're like, hey, you know, I can beat this guy. I'm trying to work to get to that and be a little bit more even keel and less emotional. But at the same time, that's the kind of person I am, so I can't change that.

I'm definitely confident when I -- not only this week, but most weeks when I step out on the course. It's just kind of a matter of how my game, the shape of my game is in, and just trying to get it around.

Q. Assuming nobody in golf intimidates you, who comes the closest, and why?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. It's tough. I mean, DJ is probably the most impressive golfer I've played with. He can just do things with the golf ball that not many people can, and he has unbelievable touch. I never played with him until Augusta last year, and he just went around those two days so easily, and it was playing so difficult. I mean, that was really impressive.

But the thing is, I think the same thing with Rory; his game is so, so good. But they don't really intimidate me just because they are friends of mine, peers. I guess unfortunately I don't really have an answer for your question.

I know if I had not probably -- even if I had not become so close with Tiger or close with Tiger, he would definitely be up there. I think if I came down the stretch with him, I mean, it would be hard to not have something going on there, a little bit more nerves than normal because he's one of the best closers to ever play. I guess I would have to still put him up there.

Q. When you play with certain -- have you ever found yourself having to play, feeling like you had to play your best that day, because of who you were playing with?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really, just because the tournaments that I had won, or that I have won, I mean, Kapalua and Sony, I had a lead, so I know I didn't need to play my best. I just knew I needed to play well. And when you just play with individual guys in the first two rounds or whatever, the third round, it's not like I have to beat them, you know what I mean.

So it's not like I'm tied for the lead with this person on Sunday and I'm playing with them. You know, like Adam was charging, my first win in Malaysia, but I wasn't playing with him. But if I was playing with him, it probably would have been a different story in terms of, I would have known I needed to play really well to fight him off because he was playing really well.

And then in Malaysia this year, I had a good lead that back nine. So I unfortunately have never been in that situation, but I mean, I'm sure at some point when you get some of those guys playing really well, like I feel like myself, then they just don't miss too often and they are tough to beat. So I don't know.

Q. Is there something you intentionally try to do to create that swagger walk you talk about?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just stay positive. I mean, it's tough to just be like, okay, I'm going to like work on this walk sort of thing, you know what I mean. It's nothing like that (laughter). It's more of a demeanor and just a mind-set I think when you're out there.

You know, just the self-talk, you don't hear the top players in the world bashing themselves out there and saying that they aren't good or whatever -- whatever they are going to say. But it's just more so, just trying to have a positive mind frame and realizing when things go bad that you're good enough to overcome that, I guess, sort of thing.

Q. Did the resumé have to come first and then you could feel that way more?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I think there's no reason why you can't act that way all the time. I think that's -- you know, it was funny. Playing a practice round last week, played with Keegan, Jon Curran and Steeley; and Curran and Keegan always have to play together for some weird reason. That's another story.

So Steeley and I played them, and I just played nine holes, and I mean, I'm always jawing. I'm always talking, whether it's good or bad, but I'm usually talking some sort of trash. I eagled the first hole, so that immediately started and I wouldn't stop going.

I think we were 1- or 2-up through five or six, and I just kept laying into them and making fun of Jon for not hitting it real far; they are all good buddies of mine. And Jon's caddie, Cubby, he just said, "Boy, you know, you win three tournaments this year, you really turned into an a-hole."

I was like, "Actually, I kind of always have been. We just don't play that many practice rounds together" (laughter).

You know, it's always been -- that has not always been my personality; I've always been, you know, standoff-ish I guess, but I've always kind of had that demeanor or that I guess sort of mind-set when I'm out there; I like to talk trash. I like to feel confident because I feel like if you can't be confident in yourself, you can't perform well, sort of thing.

Q. As you've won these tournaments and your profile has gotten higher, how has that affected your managing of your time, the demands and just the routine around the golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's definitely different. I mean, I've had a lot more things off the course. But it's good. I mean, I definitely would trade it versus not winning three times this year, that's for sure.

It's just, you know, when you have it and you know exactly what time it is, you have to just plan the day better, as opposed to before, it was like, okay: Wednesday Pro-Am, I go at 6:55, I'll play, I'll eat lunch and how I feel after that, I'll practice or whatever.

Now I'll play, I have a press conference and I have to eat and do another thing. It's scheduling, which it's probably not bad for me. It's never a bad thing to get in the habit of managing your time well. But I think that's something that we learned in college to do. So it's just kind of substituting different things where class would go.

Q. So now that Dustin Johnson became world No. 1, every golfer always says they want to be world No. 1. Everybody is talking about the number of guys who have been No. 1. Why is it important for you to become world No. 1?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just because there's only -- I mean, I don't know exactly how many guys have done it or what the list is at. But it's a list you can never get taken off of. You're the best in the world. I mean, it doesn't matter what profession, what your job is.

I mean, that's what I've always believed is, whatever sport I ended up playing, I did it to be the best in the world. I hope to get there at some point in my career and hopefully stay there for awhile. It's just to be able to, it would be so cool to me to just be able to pull up those World Rankings and you've got a 1 next to your name. There's nobody in the planet that's ahead of you. Doesn't matter what they have done in their career, how many times they have won, this or that; at that point, you're the best in the world.

It just would be really, really cool, and it's something I'm striving toward, I'm working hard, and definitely heading the right direction. But there's a lot of really, really good players ahead of me. So I just need to keep working at it and see what happens.

Q. Looking ahead a few weeks to Bay Hill, are you going to play, first of all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm not sure yet.

Q. I read that your granddad, I don't know his name --

Q. Your grand passenger?

Q. Used to tell stories that he played with Jack and Arnold Palmer. Can you kind of reflect on that for a minute?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I don't have any specific stories of said this or that to each other. But yeah, my grandpa played alongside both of them. He played more so with Arnie than Jack.

But there's a really cool picture in my dad's office. It's one of the coolest pictures I've seen of Arnie putting and my grandpa in the background with his hat and smoking a cigar like he does all the time and waiting to putt.

That's pretty cool because at that point in time, I don't know what year it was, but Arnie was one of the best players in the world and my grandpa played in a couple majors. He played on TOUR for awhile, and he was a hell of a player. I mean, he still is; he's 86, 85 I think. He still has his pigeons. He goes out there and hustles, you know, that he likes to go take their money (laughter) you can't take that competitive nature out of someone.

It's cool, anytime he's going to tell me a story no matter what it is or how many times I've heard it, I'll listen to it.

Q. Did you share any moment with Arnold Palmer? I know he was well before your time but have you shared a moment with him at any time?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I played two Palmer Cups. The second one, it was in America, and he was able to be there. So we all got to talk to him a little bit, take some pictures. Just, you know, brief conversation back and forth with him. I've seen him at some Rolex events, or just seen him around. Just kind of a quick hey here or there. I played in his tournament my rookie year and was able to tell him thanks for everything and go in and see him.

Yeah, it's obviously very unfortunate. It's going to be different this year not having him there. But you know, his legacy and what he did for the game is really cool.

Q. The pink shirts, he wore them all the time. Is there anything there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: There isn't. I love pink. It's one of my favorite colors to wear. I guess I could start maybe make that a little bit for Arnie.

Q. Why?

Q. Why do you like pink?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. I just like the color. (Laughter).

Q. The last few years has been kind of a wave of guys that have made it their year: Jason, Jordan, Dustin last year. How much does that motivate you with the start you had this year to be that guy this year and get that major -- you talked about the No. 1 thing but you're at that age now where kind of where Jordan was and where he made it happen. Does that spur you? How driving is that for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's not that driving just that other people have done it or I want to be that guy. It's driving for me because I want to win more than everybody else and I want to perform better than everybody else and have a better year than everybody else. Everything I do is for me and my team, all of us. Not, yeah, I want to win a Masters; but it's not yeah, I want to win a Masters because Jordan won a Masters, sort of thing.

It's just, yeah, there's a lot of opportunity and a lot of things that could happen this year, and the start that I got off to was great. But it's just so crazy that we're seven events -- or I played seven events; I don't know how many we're into the season, but we have so long to go.

The thing is, I won so early that I mean, I'm telling you, in three months, if, say, I don't play well, no one is going to remember those three wins. And that's just how this game goes. It's who is hot at that time and who is playing well, and that's why I just need to continue to work hard and keep giving myself opportunities to win tournaments.

Q. When you're playing here last year, as you're coming down the stretch and finally fell out for good probably on 17, as you're playing that stretch, are you thinking about what you have to do, or what others could do behind you in terms of -- we've just seen loads of fluctuation here. Scotty, Harrington, they have all screwed up.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Being one group ahead, I knew that -- I birdied 15 -- I forget. I think I was maybe three back or something like that. Yeah, I think I was maybe two back, I don't know, whatever it was, going into 16 and 17. And 16, obviously is a tough hole. Made par.

But then going into 17, I'm like, if I can just play these last two 2-under, whether it's a par and eagle or a birdie and a birdie; if I can just post. Because even though 18 is a par 5, if you have something posted, things can happen, and obviously 17 is 17.

Then I just made a five and just eliminated all those discussions (laughter).

Q. Secondly, you had a really honest and good comment at Kapalua about how frustrating it can be to see guys, mostly Jordan, I would imagine, at the time doing great things, and knowing what you're capable of. Would you have any advice or has anyone asked your advice? And secondly, if this is not too much for you to handle, was there any feeling for you expecting it to come without realizing that it still takes a lot of good things for it to happen?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Trying to just digest everything you just asked me (laughter).

Q. You could almost expect it, because you played with these guys; you're good, and you know now, sitting where you are, that expecting it doesn't mean it's going to happen.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. That's the thing, there's only one winner each week. You can play great and be in contention 15 times and never get it done. When it's someone's time, it's someone's time. There's things that happen that don't usually happen when you finish fourth or fifth. You have a ball that's going into a bunker and it kicks left; goes in the fairway and you make birdie. Just little things like that.

But no, they haven't come to me at all or any young guys have about any advice or anything. I mean, young guys, whatever, same age as me. I don't know, I didn't really -- you know, it's funny you asked that because I thought, I never really went to Jordan to ask about stuff. I don't know if we're stubborn; if we feel like we shouldn't ask them because we're the same age, or what it is.

But I haven't heard anything from those guys. I mean, they are obviously playing great but it is a totally different animal when you have a chance to win a golf tournament, those last two holes, and they have had a couple chances and they will have plenty more. I mean, obviously I'm always going to be willing to help out friends.

Q. But if you had gone to Jordan, you would have been admitting that he's better than you; right?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. I ask for a lot of people for advice that I think I'm better than (laughter).

AMANDA HETHERINGTON: Thank you for your time.

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