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August 23, 2017

Justin Thomas

Old Westbury, New York

ALEX URBAN: We'd like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room here at The Northern Trust.

You're No. 2 in the FedExCup standings going into the Playoffs here by virtue of your win at the PGA Championship, moved you up the rankings nicely, but also three wins early in the season. Talk about your season to this point and getting geared up for the FedExCup Playoffs.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's crazy that we're already in the Playoffs, first off. It goes by very fast. But it's been a bit of an inconsistent year, I guess you could say. As a whole I obviously a.m. very pleased with where I'm at. I'm in a good position going into the Playoffs in terms of the FedExCup.

Yeah, obviously got off to a great start and kind of lulled down a little bit. But I felt like I was playing better than the results showed and just tried to stay patient and continued to work and grind with my dad.

Yeah, it was nice to see all of the hard work pay off at the PGA and hopefully we can keep it going a little bit.

Q. Now that things have settled down after the PGA, is there a barrier that you broke through? Is there any internal feeling that --
JUSTIN THOMAS: It never set in. It really never did. I was shocked by that. I don't know if it was because I had so many obligations or just things to kind of do. I never really wanted to celebrate or enjoy it. I just was so tired and I wasn't in a mood to really do anything.

But also, it was like, look, I needed to try and get rested and get ready for this week. It's one thing if you have two weeks off; that first week, you can kind of do whatever. But if you have a week off before a tournament, for myself, at least, I can kind of take Monday through we had, Thursday off, sometimes, but I need to get back into it.

I don't know. It was weird. There was a couple times where I kind of realized what had happened a little bit but not as much as I would have thought, I guess.

Q. You're probably the favorite for Player of the Year at this point, maybe with Jordan on your heels. How important are the Playoffs and your performance in being that guy for this season, or anyone else for being that guy the whole season?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's cool. It's fun. But I'd much rather hear you say that four events later than probably now.

It's one of those things. There could be a guy that's not even in contention that wins three or four events and he wins. Although, yeah, it's nice to be in the position I'm in, that's kind of the -- I shouldn't say the least of my worries or what I'm thinking about the least. But I mean, I'm more worried about trying to play well this week and to try to set myself even better for the rest of the Playoffs.

Q. I guess what I'm saying, this stretch of golf is important for you to finish off on a high note, even though you've done so much already; yeah?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it is, it definitely is, that's why it's the Playoffs and that's why it's waited more. I just need to continue to work on the weaknesses try to get the parts of my game that need to improve, keep improving, and just kind of maintain the rest and play smart.

I feel like I don't need to play my best to contend every week, but I just need to manage everything, and then when I do play really well is when weeks like Hawai'i happen or the PGA.

Yeah, it's definitely a huge stretch but you know, I'm just glad to have the opportunity and looking forward to it.

Q. After winning a major, your first major, where does the importance of the FedExCup rank in the wake of getting over that hump? Where does the FedExCup place in your priorities?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, it's the No. 1 priority now since the majors are done. I mean, you can't really weigh; if you ask someone, would you rather win a major or a FedExCup, they are both life-changers. They are both unbelievable accomplishments. They are both something that a lot of people won't do in their career, a lot of great players won't do.

It's something that now that I've done one, I hope to do the other at least once in my career, and I guess you could say I focus on that more now. But at the end of the day, I want to win this tournament this week just as much as I wanted to win the PGA or just as much as I want to win the FedExCup.

It's definitely, I guess you could say, next in line, if you could say that. There's just so many things that you can accomplish in this game and that I want to accomplish, so it's not like I really weigh others that much higher than the other ones.

Q. How busy have you been since leaving Charlotte and what are some of the things you've done besides play Shinny, and are you rested coming in here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's been just a lot of media. It was probably three or four straight days of doing stuff here and there. And then like I said, just had to try to get back into golf. I went out to practice a little bit Thursday and I just had no desire to. I probably hit balls for 15 minutes and it was so hot, and I just wasn't interested, so I left, and I just went and worked out.

I mean, I was trying to get my body feeling well as much as anything, and I'm getting there. I'm not totally back to where I'd like to be but you know, I think just another couple nights sleep, a couple nights' rest; I've been going to bed early these last five, six days, or four or five days, and just trying to get ready.

But in terms of the golf, I played -- left Friday to go up to the Hamptons. Played Shinnecock Saturday and played Liberty Sunday. I was able to play both those days and try to get as much practice as I possibly can here these last four days or so.

Q. What did it mean to you to have Tiger take such joy in your victory?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's surreal, honestly. It's crazy how someone that I did and I still do look up to so much takes such interest in how I'm doing. It's crazy. I probably got more joy out of just -- just as much joy out of that as I did winning, which is just bizarre to say and probably for y'all to hear me say.

It's just really cool. He's taken an unbelievable role with some of us young guys and wanting to help us if he can. You know, I understand he's not doing it to a lot of people but I've just been fortunate enough to be there and for him to want to, you know, kind of be a part of this. It's also fun for him, because you know, he can reminisce on the 14 times that he did it and the 79 times he's won an event or whatever it is.

You know, there's a lot of us out here that look up to him and did and still do, and want to accomplish the things that he accomplished. So any time that he can -- that he wants to hang out or speak some words of wisdom, we're going to listen.

Q. I know you're focused on this week but what are your impressions of Shinnecock? Had you been there before?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I had never been there before.

Q. What did you think of it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was soft and slow. Rickie and I played it and we both shot the easiest 65s ever. I'm almost like upset that I did that because I know it's going to be so impossible next year.

But you could see where they are going to narrow the fairways down. I mean, the greens are going to be like this (indicating table top). It's going to be quite the test.

I just spoke with Mike Davis a little bit the other day. He heard we were there and he asked what I thought and any recommendations. I said, no, the course is great this, and that, you don't have to do much. I just said, look, you have to be careful. It's one of those courses you don't need to do very much to it for it to be a U.S. Open course. It's long. It has the slope.

Yeah, it could be interesting.

Q. What did you think of Liberty?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Liberty was cool. I had never been there, either. It was fun to go check that out. It's beautiful. Just an absolutely gorgeous day. To be able to see the city and the Statue of Liberty was awesome. The golf course was cool. It had some different shapes. The course is pure. It's going to be in such phenomenal shape, in, what, five weeks or so now.

It's a great match-play course. They have the ability to have a variety of tees and kind of change things to make it, if we want to do some drivable holes, some short par 3s, longer par 3s, whatever. Yeah, with the different winds that it can play with, it's a good course.

Q. Did you shoot 65?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I don't know what I shot that day. I didn't really keep score. A couple under maybe.

Q. You won the CIMB Classic in October and Hideki was second place, and the Tournament of Champions, you won and Hideki was second place, and PGA Championship you beat Matsuyama again. It seems like it's a great battle between you and Hideki. What do you think of Hideki's strength?
JUSTIN THOMAS: He's unbelievable. If you told me the beginning of every week I could beat one guy, he's up there, because he's always going to be in the Top-10, Top 15, if not the top 5. It's been fun to battle it out with him, just because he's such a competitor. His game is so, so good. There aren't really any aspect of his game that is that weak. He's got an unbelievable short game and his ball-striking is obviously pretty impeccable.

I remember kind of starting Sunday, when he hit that drive on 1, hit that second shot into 1, and then he just hit a couple shots early in the day where he was -- the ball, he was working with both ways and it was at the pin and I was like, he's going to be tough to beat today. He just missed a couple putts on the back nine that ruined his momentum. But he's always a challenging competitor and I know that we're going to battle it out a lot the next ten, 15 years.

Q. How hard is it to stay motivated after your PGA win; granted you have that trophy sitting next to you --
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's pretty motivating (laughter).

Q. Are there any tricks you have to keep in your mind, hey, that's a few weeks ago, and here is what I have to focus on now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's extremely motivating. It's not like -- I get what you mean. But at this point in the season, especially, knowing there's four events left, and I have a chance to win the FedExCup and kind of be I guess in the annals of history or whatever, yeah, I guess you could say I'm as motivated as I could be.

But it definitely was tough, just the way everything kind of happened the next three for our days after. I tried to forget about it as quick as possible just because of that reason. It was like, look, it's awesome. I'm extremely happy I did it. I'm proud of myself and proud of me and my team. It's over with, and you know, I'll enjoy it in the off-season when I can enjoy it and don't have to worry about the next tournament.

Q. When you guys come to a new course, to a certain degree; that kind of an equalizer, considering that nobody really has a track record here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I guess you could say that. Yeah, probably. Just because like you said, no one's ever seen it and we don't know what to expect.

But we come out here, and at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how well -- there's very few courses, a place like Augusta or -- pretty bad at thinking of other places. Augusta is just the one that comes to mind where the more you play that, it's just so much easier. That's the reason why guys like Larry Mize will go out and play well or Bernhard Langer and stuff like that, or Freddie Couples, because they just know how to plot their way around it.

Whereas this, we don't know how to plot our way around it, but at the end of the day it's not Augusta to where you have to be here and you can't be there. It's definitely severe and fast to where you need to be smart but at the end of the day, whoever is playing the best golf is going to win, and that's the case obviously at most places. I just feel like at least from my knowledge the last two days in playing it, it's pretty right in front of you. There's no tricks to it. It's just golf. You can kind of see the fairway. I guess you can call it an old-ish school course. Keep it below the hole on some holes and just kind of pick your spot, sort of thing.

Q. Generally how long does it take for you to feel comfortable at a new course? Can you do it in a day?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It just depends. Like there's still some holes out here that don't fit my eye very well or I'm just not as comfortable when I step up to the tee of like, hey, if it comes down here, I think that's on the green; I think it's not, or I really like this tee shot. Whereas other courses you go, and it's just like, man, I love this place. You play it once and you just love it. But it's different with everybody. You know, there's courses that I love that Jordan hates, or courses that I hate that Jordan loves, vice versa. Everybody's different.

So it just kind of depends on the person. Yeah, I guess we'll just see.

Q. Did you picked any knowledge science-oriented from Tiger? It looks like he's involved in design of golf ball with DeChambeau. So any physics or --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely not. I am not smart enough to talk about that stuff. (Laughter).

Q. There's a lot of golf to be played between now and then but you have The Presidents Cup looming, and the first team event as a pro. How much do you look forward to that and what's the dynamic that new blood can bring to the U.S. Team because it seems like you have -- you have some new members and guys that have some fire, too?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm so stoked. I'm beyond excited. Just the event that I've watched on TV for so many years, and watching the guys on the team get pumped up, just to be able -- not only to do that but to do it near New York and New Jersey, it's going to be nuts. To be a part of it and not watch it on TV anymore and to have the teammates that we're going to have this friendship and this bond with, it's going to be cool.

I'm excited to try to get as many points as I can for my team and Captain Stricker and just see, see what we can do and see what partnerships or whatever we can come up with. You know, just play the best that we can for him.

Q. Do you think new blood can bring something different to the team element?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Sorry. Forgot you said that earlier. I guess so. We're hungry. We're excited to get out there. I know Berger is just so pumped up to go and play in a Presidents Cup (laughter). Not that I'm not, but I mean, I just, I can feel it and I can hear it when he's saying and talking about it with me.

At the same time, the experience, it probably speaks more, I would think, just the first couple holes, I'm sure we're going to be so nervous, or I'm going to be so nervous, it's going to be hard to play. I understand that but at the end of the day, we've had a lot of things happen to hopefully help us like the PGA for me and other guys winning other tournaments or majors. But yeah, we're going to be excited and ready to go. But I don't think any of us can really describe what we're going to feel on that first tee.

It's a hard first tee shot. I kind of hope I'm not teeing off on it (laughter).

Q. Going back to what Mike was talking about earlier, this being a course that you normally don't play, how does your preparation differ on a week like this on a course that you're unfamiliar with?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, yesterday, Tuesday, probably would have been a day where I maybe didn't go play nine holes. I just would have just practiced maybe. I kind of change week-to-week.

But like how my game and how I felt coming into this week, where I felt like I needed to practice a lot, then I probably wouldn't have played yesterday. I just would have taken four or five, six hours just to practice all day and kind of get everything where I wanted, whereas I felt like I needed to go play nine just to see one of the nines an extra time; or if for some reason we got rain today, at least I saw nine of the holes.

At the end of the day, our caddies are doing the work. Jimmie, he doesn't need to walk many of the courses come Monday or Tuesday. He's seen all of them a lot. For myself, it's just getting comfortable on some of the holes and seeing it as much and paying more attention when we're out there.

ALEX URBAN: Thank you for your time and good luck this week.

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