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April 3, 2017
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are pleased to have one of our brightest young stars in golf with us this afternoon, Justin Thomas.
Justin began 2017 with wins in three of his first five starts, highlighted by the victory at the Sony Open where he became the youngest player to break 60 on the PGA TOUR with an 11‑under round of 59. Justin would go on to set the TOUR's 72‑hole scoring record that weekend. He followed that victory with wins at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the CIMB Classic.
How has your preparation for this year changed based on last year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been good. I'd say just taking it a little bit more easy this past week because I know the facilities here are so good that you can catch yourself into staying out here longer than you feel like you should. I put in some good work this past week, but it was just a little bit shorter days. I wasn't out there spending six, seven, eight hours a day like I maybe did last year or I will for some other tournaments.
And then Dad came in a couple days ago and just did a little bit of work and just more excited to get the week going.
Q. Without going into a physics or science lesson the Wall Street Journal did on your swing‑‑
JUSTIN THOMAS: Thank you.
Q. Were you always long? Was it something that was a learned thing, or did you just kind of figure out, at every stage of junior golf, you might have been longer than the rest of the guys?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was very, very short. Just because I have the same stature, except I was really short, like physically was very short. So I hit it nowhere and my short game was really good; it had to be for me to have a chance to compete at the junior level or whatever level I was at.
I would say probably my junior year of high school, I started hitting it a little bit farther. I don't know why. Probably to do something with my form or maybe got a little bit stronger, but I doubt it because I never really worked out. So I don't know how I would have.
And then in college, it's kind of when I started hitting it a little bit farther than just about everybody I was playing with, except for a couple people. I've just gotten stronger since then and kind of my form and how I've started to get up on the ball and speeds are just getting faster. So kind of all that is just accumulated into it.
Q. Do you surprise yourself sometimes?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, not now, I would say. If you just sit down and look at it, it's me, my attributes on paper, you look at it how I hit it, yeah, it looks surprising. But there's not too often where I hit a drive‑‑ not too often, at least, where it's like, wow, that one went pretty deep. Just because sometimes when you get the conditions, you know you have the right conditions to hit it far and then it just happens.
Q. It looked like on Twitter last night that you were upset about what was going on with Lexi Thompson. In more than 140 characters, can you tell us what was bothering you pretty much?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's just so annoying to me that, first off, that can happen after the round has concluded. I mean, you look at the video, I think she said it, it did happen. Obviously it was completely unintentional. There was no advantage gained to it. It was, whatever, a foot‑putt and it was just because‑‑ I know exactly what happened, because of the angle she went in, she marked it behind the ball where she was. But then when she picked it up to line it down, you just naturally kind of put it in a line. But because of that, she moved the ball.
But the fact that somebody that has no relevance to the tournament, isn't involved, a day later, can‑‑ first off, I don't know where this number or e‑mail is found. I really don't. I think I've even Googled it before just because it's bizarre to me that someone can do that, and it cost her a major championship. Yeah, I guess you could look at it both ways.
When people say that she cheated is just ridiculous. She played better than everybody that week. She deserved to win and just because someone is sitting at home, gets behind a computer and decides to send an e‑mail to this mysterious e‑mail address and can change an outcome is bizarre to me.
It would be the same exact thing as somebody who could just call the NBA and say this person travelled and all of a sudden‑‑ it would be like, you know what, perfect example, I would call the ref in the National Championship game and say that last one was a pick play, Clemson, and now they went to the National Championship. I'm happy, everyone else is mad and maybe that's why they did it, I don't know.
It's frustrating and it needs to go away and it needs to change. The biggest thingthat I ‑‑ sorry, I'm kind of rambling here. But if you're not a premiere player, you're not on TV. I was joking last year, the DJ rule happened to me in Atlanta on Saturday. I had about a two‑footer, and it was downhill, I marked it, picked it up, Jordan putted. I went down and I got over it and then the ball moved. I mean, it moved, I mean, so small. But because I was on TV, because they showed it, that's when they could go back and be like, yeah, well, you caused that to move. It's the same thing. You know, just because, who knows, it could happen to someone but they don't have video evidence to go back and prove it, then no one has a chance to call in.
In an extremely long answer, that's how I feel about it.
Q. First, did you reach out to Lexi last night after what happened?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I did not. I will at some point this week. I know she's getting blown up and also I know she's‑‑ the competitor she is, she's probably really upset and really heartbroken. I don't know how she played. I mean, that shot she hit in, you could see she was getting emotional and to try to have to putt after that was tough. I mean, it had to kind of be a very odd feeling the rest of the field, to have the entire gallery chanting Lexi's name.
It's kind of how like it felt when I was playing Jordan in the Match Play last year in Austin. I was like, nobody in this gallery wants me to win. Everyone was pulling for Lexi. Everybody wanted her to win. I feel like at some point this week, I'll reach out and just say something. But yeah, it was a bummer.
Q. And secondly, completely unrelated to that, Jimmy was just in here mentioning that the first time he played Augusta, it felt like he had been here a thousand times because he had seen it on TV or video games or whatever. Curious if your first experience was like that, as well?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I wouldn't say my first experience ever playing the course was. I mean, I knew about it, for sure, but the severity of the greens I think until you see it in person and you walk on them, I think is incomparable to anything you can see on TV.
Until you go walk on 6 green and you hit that putt up that slope to that back hill and you realize how slow that is, or you get to 7 green and realize that the depth of that green is like the size of this table in front of me. It's just little things like that that until you actually see it; but saying that, when you go out on the course, that you have putts, you miss it in certain spots. There's little things, you know. But now, I definitely feel like I've played here a thousand times.
Q. Hypothetical here. But if you were watching a tournament that you weren't in on television on a Saturday afternoon and you saw an infraction, would you call somebody?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably call you. I figured you'd have the number or something, I don't know.
Q. You would know all the numbers, all the people. Would you do something?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. It's not my position. It's not‑‑ the thing is, if a person committed a rules infraction, they should call it on themselves if they know they did it. Something like that, you're not going to know they did it. They are not going to gain an advantage, then whatever. Whatever is going to‑‑ the thing that I have always believed, I've always said, whatever is going to be is going to happen. I believe in karma. You know, someone is going to try to do something like that, try to cheat; then, whatever, that's not my problem.
But in terms of something like that to where it's just very, very minimal and I see it on TV, it's not my place.
Q. Following up on that. What would happen if a golfer in that booth said, that's not what I did, I didn't do that. You have to accept it in the end, but I'm not going to accept that.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I did it in Atlanta last year. I argued for 30 minutes, I sat in there, and he just kept‑‑ you know, to their defense, it was the rule. But the rule, the DJ rule was basically that‑‑ I forget the exact wording. But just there was no defined line. It was like, if it's windy enough or if it's severe or enough. I'm like, look, we are playing on greens that are 13s. I'm on, I think it was a 3 1/2 percent grade and I'm downgrain. I'm like, That's pretty fast. That's a very, very severe slope. I'm like, how is that not severe?
He's like, Well, it's not severe enough.
I'm like, Well, where is the line drawn?
He's like, Well, there's no line.
I'm like, well, I'm not getting a penalty.
I just kept saying it, because it just was irritating because for something, to get a penalty, to get stuff like that when it's just no benefit to your score; when you're not doing anything.
I mean, I understand there's going to be times where‑‑ trying to think of a freaky scenario, where you're trying to take a practice swing and you hit a limb on accident. Yeah, you're not trying to, but that's a penalty and that's completely different. But in terms of if you do something like that, that's when I argued with him. And finally he was just like, Look, I'm not going to give this to you. I had enough. He knew how I felt; I'll put it that way.
Q. A beautiful course like this will carry very fond memories of any players returning year after year but you can also run into some old ghosts, as well, like Jordan may do on the back nine. How do you make sure that those bad memories don't get the better of him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I've only played once. I didn't have a great year last year or a good year by any means. I don't have any crazy‑‑ too many bad memories. I mean, I have some pretty crazy things that happened last year in terms of the wind and stuff like that. But I guess I have no scar tissue yet, I guess that's what you're saying, and hopefully I won't.
Q. There are courses you return to, not just this one. Do you have good memories, and bad memories and how do you avoid making too much of them?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You just look at the good memories. I mean, the bad memories, I look at it, are just a fluke and they are going to happen in sport and they are going to happen for anybody. The sooner you can get over it and realize that, the sooner you're going to be benefitting from it and probably succeed more.
Q. What's your goal going through Amen Corner?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Play it even, I would say. I don't have a specific goal in terms of like a result. But yes, essentially what I just said.
They are just‑‑ they can play so differently depending on the wind. Obviously 11 is a really, really hard hole no matter the wind. 12, it can be difficult. It can also play a little easier if it downwind, but it's still a small target. And 13 is a very gettable hole.
But yeah, I would say if I went through those even each day, I probably wouldn't be complaining too much.
Q. Sorry if this has already been asked, got here a little later. Talk about why your year got off to such a great start and how you're playing right now, and just sort of give a sense of how it's built up to these three wins and the 59.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I would say a lot of success was I was confident, playing well, driving it well. I would say the biggest thing is the short game. I was not making very many bogeys and my stats would show over the past couple years, I make a lot of birdies. So if I continue to do that or if I do that, then would I feel like I have a good chance of being in contention, and I was driving it well and there are shorter golf courses where I had wedges in my hand. I feel very confident with my wedges.
But the end of the day, I was just playing really well. I can't really give you any sort of crazy answer other than I was just playing well. But all of those things kind of went into it. I kind of got away from some of those. I started, just the putts weren't falling. I wasn't getting up‑and‑downs, those big ones I needed to in the round. Kind of started hitting some loose drives the last couple months.
I think México was a big week for me because I really, really didn't play very well, and I had a chance to win and it was a World Golf Championships. That for me was the first time I had a chance or have had a chance to win a tournament of that caliber playing like that.
That's big going into a week like this, where, yeah, my game feels good. I've made a lot of great work and progress the last couple weeks on stuff I've wanted to work on. I know around here I don't need to be my best; I just need to manage it and I need to be smart. I guess all that.
Q. This might be a hard one to pick out, but is there one spot on the course that kind of makes you catch your breath no matter how many times you're there, you kind of look out?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. As weird as it is, when you're sitting in there eating and you look out and see all those people, because that's where you can kind of look down the most. Just like today, I mean, it's, whatever, Monday, and I'm looking out and there's people right on the first tee and that's really cool, on the first tee with all the people. You can look down and see 9 green and 2 and a little of 7‑‑
Q. Are you talking on the balcony?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, like today I got some food and went out and just kind of stood there for a couple minutes and just watched all the people. I don't know, there's no sporting event like it.
Q. Can you needle Jordan about 12 or is that a place you just don't go?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, that's not really cool. That's all I have to say about that (laughter).
Q. You mentioned the six or seven hours a day practicing last year. Anything else you've learned, or is there anything you've learned about either yourself or this golf course from last year you think that will make a big difference this year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not a whole lot about myself. I was really playing poorly last year. I chipped and putted pretty well to finish what I did, in the middle of the pack. So I just wasn't hitting it well.
In terms of learning things, I tried to pick a lot of guys' brains. I mean, talked to Mr.Nicklaus last year, was here earlier this week and played a couple rounds with Phil and been talking to him and talking to Tiger some. I want to be around guys that are successful here and successful at places I'm going, and it's kind of hard to get much better than them.
So I try to, you don't want to collect too much information because then you're going to be just a little bit, not intimidated but just kind of over flowing with information. But I feel like if you get enough of it, you can kind of pick up the stuff that you didn't know or pick up the stuff that you feel is very, very important and use that. So I feel like a lot of stuff just in terms of course management and picking your spots, that I've heard from those guys is key.
Q. Did you call Mr.Knox again?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I always do. Whenever I come here, I always stay with him and play with him. This past week I stayed on site Monday, but he was here with us and played. Pretty much any time I'm in Augusta, I seen Mr.Knox.
Q. Going back quickly to the policy of fans calling in violations, do you know that the TOUR, the LPGA Tour included, accept those phone calls and accept the communications and they review it. So Rickie was a little bit adamant about this early, but do you think that players at some point are either through the PAC or the policy board are going to ask the TOUR to stop accepting these communications and acting on them?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, as long as the communication is completely shut off, I don't care how it happens. It just needs to happen, I think.
Q. I think we agree that everything about the Masters is very, very special including the invite that drops through in the letter box notifying you of your invitation here. Can you describe the moment of receiving the invitation for the first time and how you felt about that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think it gets sent home, to my home‑home, in Louisville. So my parents see it before I see it. But last year, they got it in the mail, I think, before I left for Kapalua and they brought it.
To see it in person was pretty cool. I have it framed in my house. First Masters, it's definitely something I'll never forget. But even getting a picture of it this year, when I already knew I was in, still it never gets old. Augusta is Augusta and the Masters is the Masters. It's pretty sweet.
Q. What's so special about the invite?
JUSTIN THOMAS: What's so special about it? I don't know. It just, you don't get invitations to tournaments with that sort of presentation, I guess. And just the little things like your name on the card, it's just everything that goes into it. It gets you thinking about this week, gets you thinking about the tournament, thinking about everything. I think the overall presentation of it is pretty cool.
Q. How much, off on average, do you spend in the merchandise shop here and how much does that compare with other majors?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I honestly don't spend that much‑‑ whatever, only my second year but I probably didn't spend too much time last year.
I crush that pro shop when I come here on trips, though. I have so many hats, it's absurd. Every time I come, I get two or three hats, and next thing you know, I have 12. It's unnecessary but I always get them. I just know it's a madhouse this week. And I'll let my family get stuff for friends if they want them, but I try to stay out of there this week.
MODERATOR: Justin, thank you very much. Good luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports