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August 13, 2017
Charlotte, North Carolina
JOHN DEVER: Good evening, everybody. Welcome back to the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
Pleased to be joined by 2017 PGA Champion, Justin Thomas. Justin today posted a closing 3-under 68 to win the championship by two shots. His round today included six birdies, three bogeys and a bunch of memorable moments.
Justin, let's get to it. It was a dramatic closing round. Maybe tell us a little bit about your back nine and how you tackled the Green Mile after you got a little bit of a gap there.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was a crazy day. Had to be an unbelievable watching today in terms of spectating and sitting at home watching on TV.
I forget what hole it was, I think walking up to 12 green, there was maybe five of us at 7-under. I had no idea it was that close. I mean, I kind of thought Hideki and I were, you know, at around 7 or 8 or whatever he was, or 6 are 7, and then some other guys. Then I saw P-Reed was playing well. I saw Rick was kind of making a run. I saw Francesco was up there, and then obviously Kis and Stroud behind us. To see that was kind of crazy.
And then that chip-in on 13 was probably the most berserk I've ever gone on the golf course. I'm kind of interested to see how I looked for that. Yeah, it was nice.
I hit a bad tee shot on 14, but got out there of with a good par, and then you know, I hit a good little pitch after I chunked a 5-iron, and then it just missed the putt on 15. I played 16, 17, 18 well all week, I felt like. Obviously I'm nervous, I want to win, but I was a lot of more comfortable and calm than I thought I would be.
So just kind of going through those holes knowing that I've done this a million times. I know that's clich√É¬© and everyone says it. And Jimmy did an unbelievable job of keeping me calm. It was -- felt like it was a great, great team win for us.
JOHN DEVER: Now, your lineage is very well chronicled, son of a PGA professional, grandson of a PGA professional. I have to think this is a moment your family had been working toward for a long time.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was something that obviously as a kid growing up, being a golf fan, you want to win all the majors. You want to win any major.
For me, the PGA definitely had a special place in my heart, and maybe a special drive, I guess you could say. Like I said, I want to win every tournament I play in. I want to try to win every major.
But the end of the day, this was really cool. For this to be my first one and have my dad here, and I know grandpa was watching at home. I was able to talk to him and that was pretty cool. It's just a great win for the family, and it's a moment we'll never forget, all of us.
JOHN DEVER: That's terrific.
Q. Were you as in control of your emotions as you've ever been in tight situations, and what was the key behind all that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm going to try to look at you the best I can here (peering around Wanamaker Trophy).
I definitely feel like I was. I don't know, I just had an unbelievable calmness throughout the week, throughout the day. I hate to say -- I hate to kind of admit this, but I never -- I'm never one to, I'm kind of superstitious and weird about the night before, or when I get in contention, about people saying stuff. You know, like, oh, let's go out and get it done tomorrow, let's go do this.
I had just the most comforting, easygoing -- I truly felt like I was going to win. I remember my girlfriend was supposed to fly out at about 7:00 and I was like, "You need to change your flight to later, because I don't know, I just feel like I don't want you to miss this. I feel like I'm going to get it done."
She knows the first -- she's the first person to tell you that I don't want to talk about golf when I get in that situation. So I don't know, I just was very confident.
I mean, I'm sure my dad and Jimmy could tell you the same thing. I just didn't get flustered. I felt like I kind of kept everything in front of me. I know how hard doubles are to make up out here, so I tried to avoid those and was able to make a lot of birdies. It was great.
Q. How did you keep your composure after 1, which could have been a disaster? And on 13, did you know you were pretty much in the lead right before the chip-in?
JUSTIN THOMAS: 1, that was a bummer, because obviously the first tee shot, I would say, is the most nervous a lot of us are in the day. That's a big moment, second to the last group, major, great chance to win. And I absolutely just blistered a drive, exactly. I picked up my tee and thought it was perfect, and it was in the bunker. It's like 350 to the bunker and I didn't think I could get there.
I was a little bummed to walk up there and see that. I mean, I had an easy bunker shot, that first one. I just didn't have a very good lie. And I was just trying to chunk and run it, and obviously thinned it. I mean, I couldn't -- through four shots on that hole, I pretty much couldn't have drawn up a worse start to my Sunday at the PGA Championship.
I felt great with my putter all week. I just, I stayed calm. I was like, I could still knock this in and if I don't, I have 17 more holes. It's not like this course, being two back, I had to go shoot 6- or 7-under. I knew 2- or 3-under had a pretty good chance. After rolling that in, it just kind of calmed me down and kept me going.
Then, yeah, that chip on 13, I knew that there was a lot of us around the lead. That first cut is so tough to chip -- this entire course, it's tough to chip out of the rough but that first cut you get, you can really look stupid in a heartbeat because it's all into the grain and it's really short to where you can just flub it. You can hit it right in front of you and if you try it play for that, it can come out hot and you can run it by.
To have that chip kind of come out perfectly and exactly like I saw, and that was a roar like I've never experienced.
Q. You had that moment with Rickie and Jordan coming off 18. What does it mean to have those guys, your friends, share in the experience with you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's awesome and I think they know I would do the same for them. It's a cool little friendship we have. I know Rickie was a couple groups in front and Jordan was probably through nine or something when I finished.
I just didn't believe Bud Cauley stayed around. He's one of my best friends. We live together in Florida. I was about ten minutes from going to tee off and he was walking off to go sign his scorecard. So he hung around for an entire 18 holes just to stick around, and not knowing what could happen.
But I think that kind of shows, you know, where the game is right now, where all of us are. I mean, we obviously all want to win. We want to beat the other person. But if we can't win, we at least want to enjoy it with our friends. I think that we'll all be able to enjoy this together, and I know it's going to make them more hungry, just like it did me, for Jordan at the British, or whatever you want to say.
Q. There seems to be moments of good fortune for any major winner. I wonder if you can go through the tee shot on 10 that bounced into the fairway and the putt that eventually fell. And secondly, kind of the degree of difficulty on the up-and-down at 16 that really kind of put you in control.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, 10 was kind of funny. I was joking with Jimmy because I hit a drive, I mean, obviously I pulled that drive. But me being able to take it over that bunker, I kind of need to skirt that tree to get it up there, and pretty far, too, because it runs out on the right.
And I hit a drive pretty similar on Friday, I think it was. I had just pulled it. It was three or four yards left of the fairway, going to be fine. Hit that same tree and kicked about 30 yards in the trees. So I feel like that tree kind of owed me one.
And to walk -- I talk to my ball a lot and any time it's going somewhere, I didn't wish it would, I probably am saying, "get lucky" or something. And I said that in the air, "Get lucky, just spit it out for me, please." And it spit it out, and right in the middle of the fairway, I told Jimmy, "That's why you ask."
The putt was pretty funny, too, because I didn't even see it go in. I was more so looking at Jimmy, asking, "How does it not go in?" It was a weird read because the grain was in and off the right in the beginning, and it looked like a pretty straight putt, and then the second half it was in off the left. So I kind of had it -- I played it straight. We had it going a little left and a little right and it just never went right. It kept going left.
And as soft as it was going, I felt like the grain had to take it. And honestly, I swear, when it got there, I was like, "This ball has to go in. There's no way that it can stay there." I threw a little fit to try to see what would happen, and it just was -- and I was upset that I had a really easy up-and-down and maybe let the opportunity go.
Yeah, the gravity took over and the roar was pretty loud, so that was pretty cool.
Q. The phone call with your grandfather, what did you say to him and what did he say back?
JUSTIN THOMAS: He just said, "You're something else, and this is the first of many."
I love my grandparents, I love my grandpa so much. I've just spent so many times with him on the golf course. He's watched me play and win so many junior golf tournaments. It would have been great if he could have been here. I mean, I understand he couldn't. But I'm just glad that he could watch it and we can share this together. I know we'll have some fun, you know, when I see him again, hopefully soon.
Q. Maybe a little awkward sitting in the front row, but how old were you the first time you beat your father on the golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No clue. Neither one of us have -- no idea.
Q. So it wasn't a big moment?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It should have been. But for some reason -- it's like something every kid remembers. But for some reason, neither one of us know when it was, and I know it doesn't happen anymore, that's for sure. He doesn't beat me anymore (laughing).
Yeah, it was just something -- sorry Dad. I don't know, for some reason, we don't remember.
Q. Can you just sort of maybe talk about what emotions were like for you at Erin Hills after Sunday's disappointment, and what did you take away from that that maybe you were able to do differently today and got you this?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, the emotions were indifferent, because I mean, I didn't lose the tournament by any means. Brooks won it. Even if I would have played -- I would have had to play just as well on Sunday as I did on Saturday to shoot 67 or better. It was windy, it was tough, it was the Sunday of a major. First time in the final group in a U.S. Open, let alone some great players trying to win.
I mean, it was a bummer. I wish I would have played better and at least had a chance on the back nine, but it is what it is. I don't know, I mean, it's hard to say. I learned a lot because I didn't really have a chance to win. With 13 or 14 holes left, I was so far back that I just had to do something miraculous at that point.
Any time you can play and be there, you just learn little things without even knowing it. Just being patient. I probably could have been more patient and finished fifth or sixth instead of eighth or ninth or whatever I finished. I guess you could say patience, but I would say every professional golfer would tell you that is very important. But, you know, there's a reason we say it.
Q. You've already won a few times this year. You've shot 59 and you've shot 63 at the U.S. Open. How do you feel you'll be talked about after this win?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I know that a Major Champion will never be taken away from, you know, after my name. Hopefully I'm going to win some more, plenty more, a lot more, whatever.
I know you can't get to two unless you get one. So I'm excited to have this, and it's incredible. It was an awesome day. It was a great experience. It's huge for me. I mean, who knows what will happen. But it's just big for the year.
You know, we're getting to the end of the year. We're getting to crunch time and the FedExCup and the Playoffs, and this puts me in a lot better position than I was before the week started. I'm just excited for that, I'd say more than anything.
Q. We know it's a relief, but do you care to go into detail on your feelings after making the putt on 17?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Relief was probably big. That was one of the best golf shots I've probably ever hit in my life. It's tough, because when you get in those moments, that adrenaline, it's so hard to take something off of a club.
I mean, I had 193 front, 214 hole, to a pin that's really brutal, honestly. And I know anything short from yesterday is going to fall off against the collar and all honesty is probably going to make bogey. Anything long is going to do the same thing, go up against that collar.
At that point, I think I had a one-shot lead, and it just was -- I needed to make par. I mean, Jimmy and I decided, I needed to land it about 200, just because that was going to get past that first kind of false edge, if I ended up pulling it, and that was going to kind of feed, at least to get around 30 feet or so.
And I mean, it's great. I hit a stock 6-iron at home 200 yards, and I never even thought about anything but a 7. I'm like, aim it just inside the right edge of the green, put it back in the stance and just swing at a 7, because it's not a position to try to finesse something. You're pumped up, you're feeling it, and you're kind of not full bore, but you want to swing at something.
That shot, I'll never forget that vision in my head. It landed, and getting closer, and when that putt went in, it was definitely a relief.
Q. You talked about hole No. 10 and gravity taking over. You got lucky at 10, but you were able to make the chip. And then the tee shot on 17. It seemed like it all kicked off with the birdie at 9.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I guess you could say that. Really the birdie on 2, I mean, I hit a great putt for par on 3, that I don't know how it didn't go in.
And then I hit a great tee shot on 4, great putt that didn't go in.
Great tee shot, second shot on 5. Great putt that didn't go in.
I played 6 well.
I played 7 well.
I had some chances on that front nine, but that's just, again, where I just was -- it's a tough course that you just have to, pars are fine. It's not like I was losing ground. I may have been, you know, losing a shot or whatever to the lead, but I mean, no one's going to run away from you at a course like this, or not likely.
I just was -- Jimmy kept saying, "Keep hitting our shots. Something good's going to happen."
You sometimes get those feelings, and that putt on 9, I had a feeling I was going to make it. Almost try to miss it left because it breaks so much right. Yeah, I guess you could say that one springboarded me a little bit.
Q. You've talked about this calmness that you had all week. I'm just curious if there was a moment or a stretch out there where you were nervous; if so, what was it? And secondly, at what point did you sort of feel like the tournament was yours?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I was a lot more calm than I thought I would be, to be honest. Just because I know how I've felt when I've had a chance to win just a regular TOUR event. Any TOUR event is a big deal to win, but a major is obviously another level.
I was a lot more calm than I thought I would be. I thought I would be very, very shaky. I remember at one point, I looked at my hand and it was a little bit shaky. But I mean, that's why you play. You know, you play for those nerves.
As funny as it is, I tried to eat a lot today and drink a lot. Obviously it was beyond hot. But walking to 17 green, I had some snacks in my bag and I was eating it and I literally almost choked. Like I started coughing and I was like, you've got to be -- like am I really going to choke; is this a sign to come? I don't know what's going to happen (laughter). It's funny, the things that you think about, you know, when you get in those situations.
Once I got on, I walked up 18 green after I hit my second shot. I was kind of walking to see, for my third shot, and I saw Kis had bogeyed 17. Had a three-shot lead. And although that rough is tough, I knew I could gouge it on the green. But once I got it on the green, I had a pretty good idea I could scrape it in from there.
Q. You've had some special opportunities to be at the PGA as a youngster. Take me back to Valhalla and what you gained from that experience.
JUSTIN THOMAS: As crazy as it is, to have that -- I mean, that's kind of the first memory for me in terms of live and being at a golf tournament. I wanted to play professional golf; any kid, whatever they are doing, they think they are going to be the best at it and they want to be the best at it, whatever it is.
But being at the PGA that week, and just hearing the roars, and just hearing everything. And what Tiger was producing out there, I mean, that was -- him and that week was the reason that I was like, okay, this is really what I want to do.
And then to have him basically cheering me on, how he's been this week or the last couple days, it's -- I don't want to say a coincidence, but it's bizarre, it really is. I was seven years old and watching it in the clubhouse, and he hits the putt on camera, and before it can fall in on TV, I can just hear the roar outside. I'll never forget that.
It's crazy to be sitting up here now after watching him do his champion's toast and hoping that I'm there one day, and I am.
Q. How did you feel about your game walking off Saturday? What did you guys do during that range session, and did you leave that kind of reinstated, thinking I can win this now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, that's why I went out there. You don't want to end your day on a negative thought, or you don't want to be upset leaving the course.
I mean, yesterday probably won me the tournament. You could argue any day or any shot, but I mean, I didn't have it yesterday. I was just kind of getting it around.
But I would just miss it in the right spots and I was just trying to get it on the green and trusting my putting. To go around here four days without a 3-putt is a huge accomplishment to me, or within myself, that I kind of had a mini-goal. So to do that was great.
Kind of working on hitting cuts on my irons, wasn't doing that very well yesterday, and just worked on driving it because it's so imperative out here to hit the fairways, and I was able to do so a little bit more today.
Q. Your friendship with Jordan Spieth is obviously well documented. Was there ever a sense of frustration watching him win majors, and what's your feeling now that you're the one sitting here with a major championship?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Frustration probably isn't the right word. Jealousy definitely is (laughter). I mean, there's no reason to hide it. I would say anybody, they are jealous that I won. I was jealous that Sergio won; that Brooks won; that Jordan won. I wanted to be doing that, and I wasn't.
There's only four of them in a year, and to be one of them, a Major Champion, is really cool. It's just nice to have one, you know. But at the same time, I mean, honestly, it was weird but it kind of calmed me down this morning. Like I said, I was confident, but I just -- I was thinking about it. I was like, man, there are some unbelievable players out here that have only won one major and it took them awhile to do it.
There's no reason for me to hang my head today. If I give it all I have, if I stay in the moment, stick to the game plan and don't give any shots away for mental mistakes, and I don't get it done, then I don't. But for some reason that calmed me down, knowing that a lot of other players haven't done it. To win a major at 24, is pretty cool saying it. Yeah, obviously it was an unbelievable week and experience.
Q. Today was a bit of a tough grind out there for everybody, and then there were fireworks. Players are chipping in, birdies at 4, all kinds of stuff going on. Did you sense anything in the setup that allowed the players to do more today?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just rain. Any time you can get softer conditions, the golf course is going to be easier. Doesn't matter what course it is.
I mean, look at years at Augusta, the scores have been really low. I know there's SubAir and they can get them firmer, but at the end of the day, when there's no rain and the greens are really firm, it's really difficult. And when the greens are softer, we're pretty good at golf. So it's a lot easier when the ball isn't going to go as far as when it lands because we feel like we have more control over it.
When you get as tough of greens and around the greens as it is out here, softness is going to allow us to hit more greens and get it closer to where we want. I would say that had pretty much all to do with it.
Q. How did it feel to have Hideki breathe down your neck all day outside of the other players? You guys were going back and forth pretty much. And how does it feel to represent the state of Kentucky to win this major?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm beyond excited to take this Wanamaker Trophy home to Louisville and share it with some of my friends that I'm still close within Louisville and places, high school, whatever it may be.
I mean, the City of Louisville, State of Kentucky, the support that I have at home, it's unbelievable, it really is. It killed me not being able to play the PGA at Valhalla. That was a huge, huge goal of mine that year, but I wasn't able to do it. That definitely made me hungrier to not have to worry about qualifying or getting a pick or whatever, sponsor pick or whatever it is anymore.
In terms of Hideki, I was focusing on my game. I was focusing on hitting my shots. We kind of were our separate ways. I'm with Jimmy and he's with a Daisuke and we're doing our own thing. He's a great player and he's playing like Hideki. It's almost like you can't really say anymore that he's on a hot streak. He's pretty much on about a yearlong hot streak right now. I would just say he's really good.
But I knew that -- I mean, I'm confident in my really good golf, and I feel like it's good enough to beat a lot of people, so why think differently today.
Q. So much of the attention coming into this championship was on your buddy, Jordan. Do you kind of like flying in under the radar? Was it better for your game this week, do you think?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was fine. I mean, it's one of those things that it may get to some people or me a little bit, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. We're just trying to play golf and play it as well as we can.
I didn't really think too much about being under the radar, this or that. I just was trying to win a golf tournament (laughs).
Q. Did you know you had a three-shot lead on 18, and was there a discussion with your caddie about what club to hit off the tee and how to play the hole?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really. I mean, it was two shots at that point, and I mean, I knew par would be good enough, but it's something we've really worked on this year is kind of finding the go-to shot, finding something that if I'm not driving it well or if I need to hit a fairway, what I can do. It's just kind of a bullet driver, tee it really low.
My miss with a 3-wood, if I'm trying to draw it, is left. And sometimes it's a heel, spiny slice to the right. So 3-wood never entered my mind in that sort of situation.
I knew a driver, teeing it low, my dispersion was going to be a lot tighter with that.
Obviously the first couple days, I'm aiming it at the left side of the fairway because that shot usually cuts. But today I'm just aiming at the scoreboard and trying to hit a straight one. If it cuts like it did, you know, that drive is three yards from being in the fairway, whatever, but at the end of the day, I just needed to keep it right of that hazard and just try to get in five or better.
Q. What's the most lasting lesson your father ever gave you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Putting me on the spot here. I mean, just to enjoy it, honestly. It's so clich√É¬© and probably really far from what you were looking for (laughter).
I mean, but he didn't just mean golf. He meant anything. Whether I decided to play another sport, which was not going to happen (chuckles) or decided to be a club pro or decided to be a teacher, or whatever I decide to be, just enjoy it.
I was so lucky to have very supportive parents that didn't push me; that didn't, you know, kind of force me to do -- to play golf. I mean, obviously I'd say it was set up for golf to kind of be in my bones and to grow up to play that. But they treated me the same, whether I shot 66 or 76, and I mean, they are a huge reason and the reason why I'm sitting up here right now.
Q. Do you remember specifically any of the kind of goofy games you guys played when you were a kid?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, we used to always play for a dollar. We'd go play nine holes late at night, probably seven or eight o'clock when my dad was done teaching, picking the range, working, whatever, and I would be at the range and hitting balls and at the course all day.
We got to the point where I was competitive enough that I probably played men's tees maybe or the ladies tees, I don't know. But I was at a young age -- I've always been competitive, but I wanted to beat him and he wanted to beat me. My dad was playing enough back then to where he was a good player.
We would play for a dollar, and it was pretty heated out there. And I'm a pretty sore loser, so I did not handle it well when I lost and had to give up a dollar. It probably came from my dad's pocket anyway. I don't know what age that stopped, when it wasn't competitive anymore on the other side. But we always had chipping contests, putting contests, and now we're just enjoying the ride together.
Q. After you won in Hawai'i, you said you set your goals pretty high for the year. How are they looking right now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Let you know when the year's over.
JOHN DEVER: Terrific. Justin, please enjoy your night and welcome to the ranks of being a PGA Champion. Congratulations.
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