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August 31, 2017

Justin Thomas

Boston, Massachusetts

MARK WILLIAMS: Like to welcome Justin Thomas into the interview room at the Dell Technologies Championship. You come in here off a T-6 last year at The Northern Trust. Just talk about the FedExCup Playoffs, you're No. 3 right now. Just talk about coming to Boston for the third time in your career.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's a place that I -- I like the course. I like the city. I just haven't played it very well in terms of any sort of success or anything that I have on the course in the past, I haven't had much. But hoping to obviously change that this year and coming off a week last week where it honestly gave me as much, not energy, but I guess positivity or confidence as a win because I really did not have anything close to my best stuff. I mean, I probably had my C Game, and I knew that going in there. I just really had a hard time in my practice sessions and just couldn't quite figure it out.

I hit it pretty bad all week, and I just got it around really well, and that's something that I don't do very often. So that was really, really enjoyable, and a great confidence booster for me to be able to finish that high in an event that I didn't play well. So you know, I'm hoping to hit it obviously better this week but continue the good form.

MARK WILLIAMS: You're third right now in the FedExCup and you finished 12th last year. The first year you played, you were 32nd, so just outside that 30. How much motivation did that give you the following season to make that top 30?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, that wasn't very fun. That's really the only way to put it. When I finished, I was projected I think when I finished, I don't know who it was with the TOUR, had an iPad, and were like, congrats, you're into Atlanta. I'm like, there's no way. It looks like I'm going to be, but there's a lot of golf to still be played and there's guys out there that could be changed and you just don't know.

I think I was 27th maybe projected when I finished. Then somebody birdied four of their last six and then someone birdied their last two, and then someone birdied three of their last four. Now, all of a sudden, okay, I'm 30th. I just remember it came down to Kevin Na had about a 5-footer on the last hole for par and if he misses it, I'm in, and if he makes it, I'm out. And he made it. That wasn't very much fun watching THE TOUR Championship from my couch.

Q. Do you have any Boston connections? When you do come here, what do you enjoy about New England when it comes to sports? Are you friends with any of the athletes?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not particularly. I'm a huge David Ortíz fan. I mean, I don't know if -- pay attention, but I have 34 an all of my social media accounts and it's because of him. I don't know why specific to him. I was a Red Sox fan growing up. My uncle from my mom's sister's husband, grew up around this area. So I just kind of became one through him because he would refuse to get me a birthday or Christmas gift unless it was something Red Sox. I had a lot of Red Sox jerseys, tee shirts, hats. I went to a Yankees, Red Sox game. I remember I wore a Nomar jersey and got booed and yelled at. I was ten years old; it was absurd.

I don't follow baseball near as closely as I did in high school. I don't know if that's partially because I may be have a little busier schedule now than I did then and I'm kind of worried about my own stuff. But I love the weather up here. I love the fans. The golf is incredible. You know, it's fun being in an area this close. I've gotten to know Tom Brady a little bit, and one of the best to ever play any sport ever. It's just a fun area. You know, I enjoy being here.

Q. When you play in a Pro-Am, is there one common bit of advice you end up giving amateurs you play with?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Nothing specific. I want to help them any way I can, and I'll help them read their putts. A lot of it is usually, if they are in a bunker a lot because it's a very common thing that amateurs are not good out of bunkers and they think they need to help the ball out, as opposed to hitting down on it to make it come up and opening the face.

So any time I see them struggling with something, whether it's their swing or around the greens or putting or whatever it is, I will try to help. But in terms of in general, you know, everybody's different. So you just kind of feel it out.

Q. Curious what you think of the changes to the course, specifically the 12th and 13th holes.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Hoping I wouldn't get asked this.

Q. Sorry about that.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I thought it was a great hole before. I personally don't think that it was a very good job re-designing it. I thought 12 was one of the better holes on the course, and 13 was a great hole, too.

I don't think that there was a need to change it, and I don't know, I think the words, or the stuff that you're hearing around isn't a coincidence.

Q. With the announcement about a month ago about the reordering of tournament play throughout the year, and then moving the Playoffs up, there's been speculation that this tournament, or this stop, could fall by the wayside. Would you be disappointed in that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. I obviously don't follow that stuff very closely; not knowing that. Obviously I knew the PGA and THE PLAYERS, stuff like that.

But yeah, absolutely. This is a great place. This is a great tournament. It's a great atmosphere. You know, a lot of people come out. It doesn't -- all the tournaments on TOUR are great and we wish that we could play in all of them every week. It's just unfortunately we can't with the scheduling, but yeah, I wouldn't enjoy seeing it go.

Q. Do you agree with the concept of moving these tournaments around, changing the order?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I feel like that's not really my position to say. You know, although the TOUR is doing what they are doing, it is a business and they need to do what's going to be best. I know that we would like to have an off-season at some point if we could. We don't know if that's, it may happen ten years from now or 20 or never or five years or you don't know.

At the end of the day, the TOUR needs to do what's best for the TOUR and continue to grow and have people involved and interested in the game of golf.

Q. It's a loaded question that's going to require you to go way back: What was the first thing that you remember that your grandfather tried to instill in you as a kid? And I'm interested for a very personal reason as you well know. Go right ahead. I appreciate your answer.
JUSTIN THOMAS: The first thing (chuckles) the first thing that I can specifically remember has nothing to do with golf. It's the fact -- I can't believe I'm telling y'all this. It's the fact that he -- that when I was a kid, my dad would always go to Jupiter or Port St. Lucie and he would play in the Section events, and I would somehow get a month off school and I would just go. I would go there and play golf and stuff like that. I mean, I was little when I started doing that. I was probably four -- that makes it even better.

We would stay at this condo and my grandparents would stay there with us. My grandpa (laughing) convinced me that there was an ant named Horatio that lived outside of our condo that was there every year, and I being, four or five years old, I believed him.

So we would come back next year and we would see this black ant. There's a million of them within a mile, and this ant was Horatio. So that's the first thing I remember from my grandpa. Yeah, that's it.

Q. Jordan said, basically if nothing changed from here on in, you're Player of the Year. How do you feel about that? Do you agree with that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I do, yeah. I mean, I would love to win it. But unfortunately the season doesn't end now and there's three events left. There's a lot of guys that could have a great finish to the season and they could do, you know -- they could take that over. But I mean, if you're asking me honestly, I do think so.

But I mean, he's had an unbelievable year, too, and DJ, both. It's pretty awesome what we've all done and I think there's no reason -- obviously in this instance, do you have to compare, because somebody does have to win. But at the end of the day, I think at this point, just kind of need to appreciate what everybody's doing and just realize that it's a pretty special year so far.

Q. And you mentioned your uncle. Do you know where he lived around here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't, no.

Q. I know you pal around with Jordan. He's going to the Patriots game tonight. Are you going to try to bum a ride with him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm going with him. Yes, I will be attending.

Q. How are you guys getting there? Any special transportation?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, it's about a 150-yard walk from our hotel, so I think we can handle it.

Q. Are you going to stay for the whole game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, we both play early tomorrow. My girlfriend gets in tonight, and I'm not really one to enjoy staying up that late. We'll probably just go before the game. Just hang out a little bit. Maybe go down the field and just go for a little bit of the game. Maybe a quarter, maybe a half, I don't know.

It's hard for someone like myself and him, who enjoy football as much as we do, to turn down the opportunity. I mean, Gillette is right there; just go and see a little bit of the game, even though I'm sure Tom won't play and a lot of the starters.

But I still love football and I love the NFL, so can't turn that opportunity down.

Q. What's your best party story from the PGA, after it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't done anything. The only -- I had no desire to. I mean, I was exhausted. I had three consecutive days of media. I guess I had dinner with Tiger that Monday night, the following night, I guess. That wasn't really a party. We just had dinner and I brought the trophy.

Other than that, I was exhausted. I was just tired. It takes so much out of you, and then have so much stuff to do obligation-wise.

The celebrations and stuff like that, where I feel like I really enjoy it, probably won't happen till this off-season.

Q. Why has Malaysia been such a good fit for you, and what's it mean to you to think that you could win that three times in a row?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's awesome. I don't know why. I think the big thing is, it's a lot of wedges and I feel that I have a really good wedge game. And the greens don't spin a lot, so the ball kind of -- it's going to stay around where it lands, and I feel like that's something that of my wedge game, I need to get better at is the spin control. If I could get it to, like I'm so envious of how Strick hits his wedges. As soon as they land, they will roll a couple inches and sometimes they will spin back. It's always in kind of a two-foot radius of his ball.

For me, sometimes I'll hit one and it will kind of rip back or whatever but there, the ball just seems to, I don't know, whether it's the grass or what it is, but it kind of stays around where it lands. I feel like I'm going to hit my number within a couple yards, about, every time. I seem to putt pretty well there, too.

Q. Will it have special meaning if you can win it three times and is it something you look back on, that first win --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, and the way I did it is even more special. It's something I always look back on -- it's something I looked back on in the PGA and something I looked back on in Hawai'i. I'll always be able to trace back to that first win because I had so many different things happen that day, between getting off to a slow start and then kind of having a hot couple holes in the middle of the round and then dumping it in the water in 14 and then birdieing 15, 16, 17. I feel like I had it all happen. I feel like I have been able to and I will be able to continue to use that round to my benefit.

Q. Dustin won three in a row earlier this year. How inconceivable is it to think that he could run the tables in the Playoffs?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The fact that there's a lot of other really good golfers in the world. I don't know how else to put it. He's definitely one of the hardest to beat when he's on but at the end of the day, it's still really, really hard to win golf tournaments. It's really hard to win them consecutively. And this is getting that time of year where, you know, there's obviously less people to beat, but the fields are, I guess you could arguably say, stronger, because the better -- the people that are playing the best are continuing to move on.

So for my sake, I hope he doesn't, but yeah, you never know. I guess we'll wait and see.

Q. So many different people playing for different things this week, whether it's to keep going or in your position, you've won four times, maybe you can try and make it five this week, who knows. Presidents Cup for some people. Where is your focus, and can you speak to what it was like when you were on that other side? Last year, for example, you're probably trying to make The Ryder Cup Team. What's it like in the midst of these tournaments when there's so many different things appealing to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's hard, it really is. The Ryder Cup definitely last year, it's so hard to get out of the back of your mind. It is.

I think as a whole, I was playing without thinking about it that much, but it's just those -- before the week starts, it always just creeps in the back of your head: Well, if I play well here, something may happen. Just you always have that "if" scenario or situation. I think that makes it tough. And then when you're trying to play well to get into the next event, I feel like that's -- as weird as it is, it's not that much pressure because you still have a card. You still get to play next year. You still, arguably, are probably going to have a full schedule, full season, getting into a lot of events.

But I don't know, it's just that -- to me, at least, like it was more pressure for me or more tiresome, you could almost say, trying to make The Ryder Cup Team than my rookie year trying to make it to Atlanta where almost, I wanted it more. That makes it tough. But at the end of the day, you just have to be focused on what you're doing.

Q. What's it like in this position?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's nicer than it was.

Q. Is your outlook on these tournaments different than it was when you had other things going on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's different, because I know that I don't have to win to get in the top five. I don't have to win to get in the Top-10 or whatever it may be. I just know that if I play solid, I'll continue to just deal with whatever game I have that week. Just make the best out of it that I can, as long as I can stay, obviously inside the top five for Atlanta, I mean, that's all you need to be. It's crazy, but it's true.

I was fortunate enough and played so well this season -- the Playoffs, they are extremely important but not as important for someone 10th or 15th. They have to have a top two or three to get in the top five. Yeah, I'm going to try to give it the best I have each week and try to get a couple wins.

Q. The 18th hole, the par 5, what's your game plan when you approach it, and do you try different things during practice rounds because it's a gettable par 5?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, the thing about it is the green is really, really difficult. Although it's a lot softer this year; that will make it easier. But when it gets firm, man, it's brutal. So that changes it. But for the most part, I would say a lot of us, I mean, 100, 99 percent of us, the only time it will change is if it gets hard downwind. We'll just hit a driver, 3-wood just left of that bunker and have anywhere from 200 to 215 front, try to get it up there. That right bunker is usually never too bad of a spot.

You know, it's one of those holes that it's not like -- I guess some of the other par 5s. 2 is kind of similar. But it's a hole that you want to make a four. It's going to be one of the easier holes but a five is not going to kill you. The scoring average will probably be 4.7 or something like that. You sprinkle a couple birdies in there throughout the week, it's great. But the end of the day, five is not going to kill you. Just trying to find a way to give yourself the best chance to make four.

MARK WILLIAMS: Justin, we appreciate you coming in.

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