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September 4, 2017
MICHAEL BALIKER: Our pleasure to welcome the winner of the 2017 Dell Technologies Championship, Justin Thomas, to the interview room here.
Justin, just an unbelievable day out there, great playing, a 5-under 66 for you. You move to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings.
Just open up with some general comments on the day.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was a good day. It was a patient day. It was a lot more difficult, I felt like, that back nine. The front nine was a shootout. I knew that Jordan, I thought he was 2-under through two or 3-under through three, and I got up there and I saw he was 4-under through three, and then I saw he birdied 4. To be 5-under through four, I can't really draw up any better start than that.
It just was a great week because I felt like I didn't have my best stuff at the start of the week and that's just something I've gotten so much better at and I'm proud of myself more than anything. It was a great win for Jimmie and myself both for sure.
Q. What sand wedge -- what hole -- whenever you made birdie.
JUSTIN THOMAS: 15. That was a gap wedge. I had 144 hole. We were trying to land it about 139, 140 because we figured that downwind, even as soft as the greens were, if it lands on that downslope; and I just pulled a gap wedge and tried to hit about a 118, 120 shot.
Q. But of all the birdies and eagles out there today, that par 5 save on 16 was probably as big as any.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Huge. It was. I hit some good shots today but I definitely didn't hit it great by any means. I had struggled missing a couple left and obviously left isn't ideal on 16. And all of the ones I missed left, I was trying to knock them down and that's what I need to do with that 9-iron on 16.
It was a really -- when it's off the -- when it's crossing, pretty much straight-cross, it's a really tough wind, because it can switch at any moment and the ball can balloon and coming up short there obviously wasn't an option. It was close to being good, if I just would have turned it a little bit. But yeah, that putt was one of the best ones I made this week.
Q. What line did you have before the drop?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was okay. It wasn't great. But the thing about those shots is when you have to, I mean, you only have to fly them six feet in front of you and they are downhill. If they are not sitting good, at least in this ryegrass; when it's bermuda, it's tough, but I don't mind those too much.
I grew up in this grass, and I knew as long as I keep the acceleration up and open the face, it should pop up and land soft, but I was standing on a sprinkler head, so I got a drop from that. I was able to drop it in a downgrain patch, which I really didn't hit that great of a chip. I felt like I could have done better, but I just was trying to get it around the hole.
Q. The crowds were really into it today and as you were going through with Marc, he's making birdies. Obviously Jordan ahead of you doing what he's doing. What specifically are you and your caddie working on to keep yourself in the moment and not get wrapped up? You talk about maintaining your patience. What are you doing to maintain your patience?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just playing golf. I know that's very clichÃ© and probably not what you're looking for. It really is all it is. We're just playing to play every hole the best we can, trying to make as many birdies as we can and get the ball in the fairway, because as soft as the greens were, and there's some accessible pins; there was some tough ones.
But there were just some holes where you need to try to make par on and try to get past it and other holes where if you put it in the fairway, you can attack, and that's all we tried to do.
Q. Not just play golf?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Maybe. Probably tried to play more kind of -- what the other guys were doing, I probably would have gotten flustered, like, wow, Jordan is really feeling it today or Leisch is really on fire.
That's the thing, I was 2-under through four; I got off to a pretty good start and it was like I wasn't even there. I don't know if it worked out to my advantage or what but it just kind of helped with me staying patient all day.
Q. One win all of last year and now you have five including a major championship. Can you talk about this explosion of wins that you've had, and all the records that you've attained along the way, and will there be some celebration now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: We still have two events left. I mean, I'm probably more excited than anything to get home and see one of my roommates, Tom Lovelady, who just got his PGA TOUR card. He gets home Tuesday night, and we're going to have a little dinner, celebrate on Wednesday. I'm more excited to see him and just tell him congrats than I am to celebrate my own victory.
Yeah, it's obviously been a great year thus far, but it's -- you don't want to say it's nothing. But I'm in a great opportunity to finish this thing off and win the FedExCup. But there's a lot of other great players that are playing great golf.
So I just need to go home and get rested next week and get feeling fresh to play these last two events well.
Q. In junior golf and collegiate golf, you and Jordan, your career paths mirrored each other. Once you got out here, obviously he got a pretty good head start. Was there ever a sense of jealousy from you or ever a sense of trying to play catch-up?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Definitely jealousy. I still get jealous. Any time any of my friends win and I don't, I'm extremely happy for them, I'm pumped for them, I'm excited but I'm jealous. I wish I had three majors right now. I mean, I'm obviously pleased with one but I wish I had three.
I wish that I holed out a bunker shot at Travelers to win, whatever. And the same works for, I'm sure, them with me. It's a weird little kind of thing but we're all excited and happy for each other. But like I told you, you know, it definitely puts a little bit of fire in. I felt like I was getting behind but at the same time, I was just starting and I can only do as much as I could do.
I definitely -- you can't say that I saw this coming. It's not like I was like, yeah, I know I'm going to win five or six times this year. But I felt like I had the game and capability to; it just was a matter of it happening, and, you know, everything working out.
Q. Does being around those guys and knowing their games and how your game stacks up, has that pushed you to this level, do you think?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably. I think we've kind of pushed each other at every level. In college, we did, and amateur golf, we did. I mean, we're always competing, whether it was, you know, we want to be the top of the Rolex Rankings in junior golf when we're 15 or 16. We want to be the low junior golfer at the U.S. Amateur. We want to make the cut as an amateur in a TOUR event. We want to win College Player of the Year and we want to lead our team's scoring average.
Whatever it is, we're always competing and we always have. It's just now we're at the top level you can get. And our competing is -- it's really cool. It really is. I mean, the fact that, you know, Jordan and I finished 1, 2 this week, I guess we've done that a couple times now. It's just been a fun year competing for sure.
Q. In your gut, do you feel you're the best golfer in the world --
JUSTIN THOMAS: I can't give you an answer on that. That's only asking for trouble.
Q. Well, when did you allow yourself to think you belonged in the conversation?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I didn't -- I don't think -- I guess I should ask what conversation.
Q. The conversation among being the best in the world.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's just such a vague question, I guess, because it's like, are you saying the best in the world at the moment? Are you saying as a whole? I mean, my career stats, I'm not even remotely close to being remotely close to being the best.
So it's like I can never compare that. I have some of my best friends have won way more than I have and won more majors.
It's like, when you look at it that way, it's like, no. When you put our stats head-to-head throughout our career, I would say no. So I guess in that regard, I'm not.
But I feel confident when I get in these situations like today, or like I did at the PGA, I feel like I can get it done. I feel like I've proven that I can get it done. It's just that no one is the best in the world. It's really, whoever is playing the best at that time. I mean, I know that's not what you're looking for at all but it's just, it really is a very broad, vague question and it's hard to answer.
Q. Speaking of the rivalry with Jordan, this win essentially puts you in a heat with him for the FedExCup Playoff championship. What is your mind-set as you approach the next round?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Right now I'm just worried about getting rest. I'm tired. I'm excited to go home and sleep in my own bed. I feel as like I've been gone for so long. I guess it's been 2 1/2 weeks. There was a lot of traveling. I had some media days and kind of took a trip beforehand, and then kind of took another trip in between here.
So it was a lot of -- a lot of traveling for just 2 1/2 weeks. So that stuff wears on you. So I'm excited to go home and not touch a club for a couple days and hang out with Tom and Bud and enjoy Florida. Hoping this hurricane doesn't get us.
I'm going to Chicago a little early and hang out. My girlfriend lives there. So just go there and play some golf course, and, then, yeah, once that week comes, then I'll be hopefully ready to go.
Q. Do you remember the first time you and Jordan went head-to-head back in junior golf, and if so, what do you remember about it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I remember it was the Walnut Creek, the Junior All-Star AJGA. I just remember he came up and introduced himself on the range because we were in the final group. It's 14-, 15-year-olds, that doesn't happen very often. So I thought that was cool. And he beat me that day. I think I finished third-ish, I don't know, second. I didn't play very well.
But that was kind of the first -- that was the first time we met. Then shortly after that, we went to France and played for Team USA, so that's kind of when we got closer.
Q. And secondly, what's the difference between you now compared to, say, two years ago?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm a lot better at golf. I think I'm stronger. I'm in better shape. I'm way more mentally tough. Things don't affect me as much. I mean, I'm still fiery. I still get angry. That's just my personality, my character; that will probably never change.
But in terms of letting it roll over into the next shot, I think I'm way better at that. I only had two bogeys this week, which is -- I'm probably just as proud of that as I am winning, and one of them was a 3-putt and just a God-awful iron shot today on 11.
I really could have gone 72 holes without a bogey this week, and that's kind of, I guess you could say, a testimony to where my game is at and the control that I have. I just feel like my short game is giving me the opportunity to do that when it probably would not have been able to two years ago.
Q. Did you feel early on in your career that you were overwhelmed at times when you were in these situations?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it just was tough. I mean, I was nervous today. I was probably more nervous today than I was at the PGA, as weird as it sounds. I caught myself having a lot of deep breaths and just a lot of, you know, kind of staying in the moment. It was tough. The crowds out here were crazy. It's a big golf tournament. It's a great field.
I mean, everyone was kind of firing, or at least us three, between Jordan, Leisch and I; once the back nine came, it was kind of a three-person race.
I was nervous today, but definitely in the beginning of my career, all of two years ago, or two and a half years ago on TOUR, I think I forced things. I tried to win the tournament, as opposed to let it.
Happen. Obviously I'm trying to win the tournament now but I'm more so just kind of letting the birdies happen, letting the pars happen, as opposed to I stand on the tee like I have to birdie this hole, I have to hit here, I have to, he's up there; he did that, I have to do this.
Whereas it's like, look, all I'm going to do is play the hole as best I can. If I make birdie, great. If I don't, I'll just try to birdie the next hole. It's not like it's the end of the world.
I think I learned from that because I was probably impatient when I started.
Q. Could you explain the tee shot on 4? Was the result the intended consequence?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, it's a bad yardage for me, it really is, because into the wind, I can't get 3-wood there. If I get it kind of ballooning and cutting, it's going to go in those two bunkers, which is bad, and then driver is way too much club.
So I teed it really low today. I was just trying to get it in the upslope of the bunker and it was an easy up-and-down. I just murdered it. I hit it so hard. I saw it land right in the face of the grass. I saw it land in the grass and just popped up and went down. That was definitely a bonus.
Q. Could you see that from 300 yards away?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, young eyes can see well, Doug. (Laughter).
Q. Curious about the picture of you and Jordan, looks like your teammates --
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's in France.
Q. Are you eating a hamburger there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The food wasn't great in France. I couldn't find very much to eat at that time. And I don't know, I still don't know what was on those sandwiches but I ate them the entire week. I think it was a cheese sandwich and I ate them the entire week.
Q. Do you know who shot the picture?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have no idea.
Q. I don't have a record or memory, so bear with me. But first of all, that Evian tournament, did you not -- were you not low-American and did Jordan not caddie for you the next day?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I finished second in the men's and then first for Americans, and then the low-three juniors got to play with Juli Inkster in a Pro-Am. I don't know what Jordan finished but he came out and caddied for me the next day. He wasn't a very good caddie, I don't think.
Q. You talk about this happening before. I can't recall a time where either he finished second to you or you finished second to him without bringing up Riviera.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Kapalua maybe.
Q. He was third.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, yeah, I guess not then.
Q. The one thing, and again, I don't have your record in front of me, but it seems like to me, that you haven't had a lot of runner-ups where you've contended and finished second or third; that when you're there, you're usually winning, whether it's Malaysia, Hawai'i or wherever. Do you think that's one thing that's been missing? You kind of alluded to it from the standpoint of maybe not having your best stuff but still scoring out of it to contend.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I definitely think so. And I think the reason I don't maybe have any runner-ups, I mean, obviously, it's easy to do so if you're around the opportunity. There's only one, so if the other beats you, then he beats you.
My rookie year, I had a couple good chances to win tournaments to where I made a big number late or I just had a bad Sunday to where if I just played decent or don't make double-bogey on that 16th hole; in Career -- at Humana at the time, I have a chance to win the tournament, so maybe I finish second there.
It's something that I feel like a couple of those thirds or a couple of those like fifths, sixths, eighths or something, those could have been great opportunities to finish second.
Q. The last couple years --
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. I'm just comfortable when I get there. I enjoy it and I love winning. I enjoy that, that rush, and just the satisfaction of beating everybody that week.
Yeah, I know it's going to happen, I'm sure, plenty of times in my career where I'm not the one sitting up here getting interviewed, but it is what it is, and I'm just trying to ride this wave all I can.
Q. Can you speak to the comebacker at 12, just how big that was for you, considering it was coming off -- the only bogey since Friday? And then when you saw at 13 and what you hit into it from 125 rough?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, 12 was -- if you would have told me when I was sitting in here on Thursday I would play that hole 1-under for the week I would be ecstatic.
I hit a great drive there today and I hit it right into a divot. I don't know if it was karma for going down the wrong fairway or what. I had been going down that fairway all week but with that pin back right, it was perfect. That's such a great angle. I just had to get it going down that hill. Again I'm just trying to make par.
So being in the divot made it a little tougher but I hit probably one of my best swings of the day there. I really still don't know how I didn't get closer. It was going down that hill and it kind of stopped, especially as fast as my first putt was. I was kind of trying to dive it in and I hit it five, six feet past.
Looking at that -- it's hard to believe my second shot doesn't keep going. But especially after I saw Jordan bogey 12, Leisch just bogeyed 12, so I knew, that would have kept me tied for the lead.
Then, yeah, 13, I just had a horrendous lie. It was a lot of downgrain over there, and I somehow just found this kind of nest just going everywhere. And the greens being soft helped me out for sure. We had 98 front. What was that pin on -- I forget what the pin was on, but it was around 124, 125.
I just kind of put a sand wedge back in my stance and I'm just like, look, just try to get it on the green and if it get on, it will at least roll down to the bowl, maybe roll up there, and it came out nicely and landed soft. It almost went in. That's just one of those things you hope it comes out like that, so that was nice.
Q. Especially after winning the PGA and especially even now after winning this one, it would seem like it would be easy to lose some hunger. How do you keep it? It sounds like you're ready to win the next one. Is it not at all hard to avoid getting complacent?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It definitely is. I don't think I'm close to being at that point but I remember at college, that's why I left early. I went back my sophomore year after having a great -- winning four times, Player of the Year my freshman year, I came back and it wasn't the same. I wasn't as motivated and I wasn't as excited to go to tournaments.
When I got there, obviously wanted to compete for the team and play well, but it was different. And this is obviously a lot different level, so I wouldn't think that I would feel that same way.
But yeah, I think I've just gotten a lot better with my off-time to just take time off. That way, when it is time to get back into it, I'm hungry, I'm ready, and I don't like when my friends beat me. I don't like when people beat me. So I'm putting in work to hopefully beat all them.
At least for now, I get what you're saying, but I don't think it will hopefully ever happen.
Q. So it wasn't grades that caused you to leave Alabama?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I had great grades. I had like a 3.7 in my two semesters.
MICHAEL BALIKER: Congratulations and go get 'em in Chicago.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports