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January 10, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. We'd like to welcome our defending champion of the Sony Open in Hawaii, Justin Thomas, into the interview room.
Justin, before we take questions, let's look back at last year. Obviously, winning the FedExCup title. One of those wins was right here, and it was in memorable fashion, 253, a number we've never seen before. Just comment on what this win meant to you last year.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It meant a lot. It was a new way of winning for me. It was playing with that big of a lead, just having the opportunity to break records like this. It really was just kind of a week of almost being unconscious, I think. It's not very often in your career when you play -- or even that often when you play that well for four straight days. It was obviously very fun, but it was just a good, really big confidence boost for me to play as well as I did with the lead that I had. I felt like it was easy to kind of get complacent and just kind of go back to the field as opposed to trying to build the lead.
Q. Jordan was in here yesterday, and he was mentioning how he thought he might have been even more excited than you last year when you shot the 59. Just comment on that friendship, what that meant to share that with him last year.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Him and Berg, playing with them, it definitely made the day more enjoyable on Thursday. Yeah, after watching the video, he definitely got more excited and showed more emotion than I did. I didn't really know what to do because I've never had a putt on Thursday that meant that much. I didn't know how to react, and I didn't know what to do. I was more worried about trying to make the putt than anything. But it was definitely enjoyable getting to share that memory and spend that day with two of my really good buddies and get a great start to the week.
THE MODERATOR: Before questions, I know you're pretty happy to have won that wager with Kevin Kisner. Talk about what it will look like to see him in that 'Bama jersey tomorrow.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It will be great. I'm going to have to ask the TOUR if I can break any rules to get my phone out and take pictures of it. I'm looking forward to seeing Kis in a 'Bama jersey.
Q. Famously last year, one of your quotes was the world hasn't seen my best golf. How close are we to seeing that now, or have we seen it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Seeing it now, I don't think it's that close. I think it's pretty obvious I'm not playing as well as I was coming into this week. This week last year was some of the best I've ever played. I mean, I think, if I play like that, it would be hard to not win the tournament at least. It's just tough. That doesn't happen very often for any of us to play our best golf. D.J., Rory, Jordan, all of those guys will tell you that they haven't played their best probably.
It's just we know what our best is in every category of our game, and when maybe one thing is lacking a little bit or maybe a couple things aren't quite up to par, we know that isn't the best. It might be our A game versus our B or C game, but in terms of where I'm at right now, I'm not coming off the same momentum in Kapalua. I didn't play that poorly last week. It was just I felt a little rusty and didn't take advantage of the opportunities I had.
But, yeah, I don't know if I'll ever play my best. I hope to at some point or some stretch, but the goal is to just play as close to it as possible for as long as possible.
Q. Or if you all did at the one moment? If you played your best --
JUSTIN THOMAS: You never know. It's not ever really a question that can be answered. All of us would argue that our best -- you know, my best would be good enough. D.J. is going to say his best. But it's like an argument of saying can -- would you see us beat Alabama this year? Not worth arguing because we'll never know and it's just a waste of time. But we would win. (Laughter). Just kidding.
Q. I would have been curious, since you're right, you never will play your best. What do you consider some of the best golf you ever played and didn't win, and what was that like?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Some of the best I've played and haven't won, I played really well at the Memorial this year, and I didn't make enough putts. I thought I was driving it beautifully. I was hitting my irons really well. Yeah, I finished tied for maybe fourth, third or fourth. I bogeyed the last hole. But I had a great chance on Sunday on that back nine.
I think I was like two back coming off of the rain delay, and I had -- I was on the 12th green, had about a 12-foot par putt, and I made that par putt. Hit a great drive on 13, hit a wedge to about three feet and missed it. Next hole, hit it to about eight, ten feet, and missed it. Next hole, had a 4 iron in my hands and shanked it out of bounds, made par. So there's three holes where I should at least birdie 2 of the 3, and I didn't birdie any of them.
Those weeks are definitely harder. Honestly, it still sticks in my mind like that. But that's probably the best golf I've played and haven't won, and that's not fun.
Q. Does that do much for you? The reason I say that, I think it was Byrd yesterday that was saying on the Web that he didn't really play sharp but he found himself in contention, as a reminder of what you can get done with less. Do you come away with stuff like that as a positive or a negative?
JUSTIN THOMAS: When you are in contention without your best?
Q. Play your best golf without winning.
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I -- I get a lot more positives out of a week like Korea or a week like Boston where I didn't have my best stuff by any means, but I got it around and ended up winning. That to me is more confidence building and just reassuring than anything. I don't really take any positives from playing really well and not winning just because I didn't win and I felt like I played better than everybody else.
It's frustrating, and, yes, maybe the mature or the proper, right thing to do would be to look at the positives, but initially, you don't want to do that. You're like why didn't I win this thing by three or four? I definitely -- I take a lot out of the weeks where I don't have my best. It's not like I'm playing bad, but where I just -- I'm going into the week unsure, and I'm just trying to find something, and then I end up playing well.
Q. Justin, how's the early returns on your working with Bones? How's that going?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's great. It's fun just because it's different. It's different for him. It's different for me. I'm so used to Jimmy, and obviously, I'd take Jimmy over anybody in the world, but it's just when you get used to something for 2 1/2 years -- I guess a little over 2 1/2 years Jimmy and I have been together now, and you get someone different, it's like -- you know they do things differently. They say things differently. It's not that it's bad or good, it's just that it's different.
So you're getting accustomed to that. You're getting used to it. We're kind of getting a feel for each other in terms of the golf course, how we see the golf course, how we talk about golf shots. So it's really kind of a first day of school kind of thing, where these last two days we've tried to get comfortable with each other and he's tried, I think, to get an understanding of what I like and the shots I like to hit and things that I see before he kind of starts, not interjecting, but being able to make suggestions with confidence.
Q. Can you say this is a one-off, or is he going to do a couple because you don't know how Jimmy is going to heal --
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm not sure because the plan is for this. It worked out. It's a little easier for him to get to Honolulu than any other caddie that wasn't planning on being here. The plan is this for now, and I think Matt Killen will work for me at Phoenix, and Jimmy should have enough time -- hopefully have enough time to get better. But at the same time, if he doesn't, he needs to take the time off, and I'll go from there. But as of now, that's the plan.
Q. You had a great season last season with five wins and one Major. What would be your goal for this season?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't share my goals with anybody. I keep them within myself and my team. So I guess you'll find out at the end of the year.
Q. It's too early to ask, I guess, but you won the last Major of 2017. What would you say the chances will be to win the first Major this season to make back-to-back Major wins?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I guess you could look at Vegas, and I could tell you the exact odds in terms of a percentage. I can't give you a percentage. I love the golf course more than any place I'll ever play. I get more excited to go play Augusta than I do any place. It's a place that I do feel like I'll win at some point in my career hopefully at least once. But you don't know. You don't know if and when it will ever happen. But I do. I love the place. It's just a matter of playing it better than I have the last few years.
Q. I know you watched what Tua Tagovailoa did Monday night. You're here on his home island. Do you take any inspiration, as a fan, watching a clutch, mentally tough performance like that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I told a lot of people this week I'm feeling the vibe from him on Honolulu. I guess he's from only a couple miles from here. It was unbelievable. I called Coach Saban to leave him a voicemail yesterday, and he actually answered, which I couldn't believe. So I was actually shocked to get to talk to him. I just told him unbelievable. He's a legend. To make that decision on the biggest stage where, if it doesn't work out, the criticism he's going to get from that, not only from everybody else, but from the university, from the players. There's a reason he's -- I mean, after that, probably the best college football coach of all time.
I'm definitely hoping to get some of his vibes this week.
Q. How's your pronunciation with Tua Tagovailoa?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I stop at Tua. That's all you need to know.
Q. You talked to Coach Saban. Did you talk to Kevin at all since the game ended? Was there any back and forth?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I know in my scenario, after last year, the Clemson fans, and they handled it well. You'll get that one fan that they haven't been there as often or you'll get a couple Auburn fans that they don't beat us that often so they feel they need to rub it in and this and that. It hurts enough losing. It's not like I need to kick him when they're down. It was a heck of a game. I don't have the hatred toward Georgia that a lot of people do. Obviously, I would have loved and I am very happy that we won, but I would have been extremely happy for Kirby, more so Kirby than Georgia in itself.
Not that I feel bad for them, but that's enough. I don't need to hammer it down their throats.
Q. What are your thoughts on the early part of the schedule? I read an interesting story today about how we talk about Augusta during the Florida swing, but it seems like the seeds are sown player-wise in the West, you, Dustin, Hideki, Jordan, so many winning early leads the way. In that vein of just what you get out of this portion of the season, the West.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't -- I guess I necessarily don't come here or go play Phoenix or L.A. trying to get something out of it. I'm just coming because I like the golf courses, I like the tournaments, and this is just another chance for me to try to win. I do approach these weeks like that. It's not like -- I think it would be one thing if like playing Houston, like I'm playing Houston to get ready for the Masters, or I take that week off before to get ready for the Masters. But it's not like I'm going here, like I'm trying to get the reps in in competition so I can be ready for that.
I don't know if that's what you were asking or --
Q. So it's just like every other tournament you want to win?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Exactly.
Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN THOMAS: Okay, yeah. It can. It can definitely give you some momentum or off to a good start, but I feel like those events are so -- I feel like you just kind of forget where you are. You don't know where you are in the rankings. You don't know where you are in the FedExCup. You're just so -- especially the Masters in particular. It's just such a grind of a week.
I feel like, obviously, you may -- it's just such a mental exhaustion from Thursday to Sunday, that you're just so focused on hitting it here and hitting it there, you kind of forget what's happened in the past. You forget what's happening in the future. You don't know what you've done that year. You're so worried about that specific round, shot, hole, whatever, that I guess for me so much that it doesn't really play as much of a role.
Q. Can we talk about the rest of the Majors after the Masters, and can you give your thoughts on those and how you're looking or will look towards playing them and what the positive and negatives are?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm excited for all of them, that's for sure. I've played Shinnecock. I played it once. It's -- that week is just going to be totally dependent on how they set it up in terms of difficulty or how it's going to be played or how I'm going to approach a game plan and how I'm going to play it. Carnoustie is the same way. You get different weather conditions. It goes from a course you can shoot under par on to a course you're trying to break 75 on. So that totally changes. And I've never played Bellerive.
Q. Or Bellevue.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I heard about that. I made sure I said it right. So I've never played it, but I heard it's a great course.
I love the Majors. They have a great feel to them. I'm excited for them. It's hard to say how I feel about any of them because they're so far away. I don't know where my game's at. You don't know what's going to happen from now until then. You don't know what's going to happen that week. But it's -- you know, I feel like they're, I guess, good setup.
Carnoustie is -- I feel like The Open Championship is very dependent on the draw you get. So you never know. I'm always hoping to be on the right side of that. And then I have no idea what kind of golf course Bellerive is.
Q. Have you played Carnoustie before?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have.
Q. Your confidence now is greater than it was 18 months ago. Is there any way you can explain to us what that feels like? You are confident, right?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Uh-huh. Just I don't have the sense of panic. I don't -- it's just like I know that I don't need to be what I thought I had to be to be in contention. I know that I don't have to go out and play this perfect round. I know that, if I go shoot 1 under the first round at this tournament, that I still have a chance to win. I know that I'm not going to win every tournament.
I know that I'm going to have weeks that I'm off, but it's just -- I think it's more the fact of the whole body language and the patience thing, it's like, when I look at players -- I mean, I'm not going to name any names or say any specific tournaments, but I've been in tournaments in the past when I've been coming down the stretch, and I can see the person, it's just like I can see it. They don't want to win. They look fatigued. They're dragging. Their head's down. They don't look confident. They don't look like they want to win. They don't look like they want to embrace the challenge type thing.
Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, exactly. I feel like I -- yeah, I don't want to have mistakes. I don't want to blow 54-hole leads. I don't want to blow back nine leads. But it's like you can't be scared of that, and I feel like that's what I've done is I've gone into those rounds and those shots, those instances where you could kind of have that fear, and it's like, look, I'm going to do it, and if I fail, I fail. If I don't, I don't.
I think just the inner confidence in myself, knowing that I've done it a million times. Yeah, there's a good chance I may do it again, but if I don't, I just have to go hit the next shot. Or if the tournament's over, I just have to go to the next tournament type of thing. And I'm going to get stronger and better because of the learning experience.
Q. (No microphone)?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Certain places, certain tournaments, as weird as that sounds. I mean, I -- it's funny, but obviously, I'm in a lot different place now than I was at the PGA. I don't even think I did a press conference that week.
Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, but I was top ten in the world or tenth in the world and a Major. You would think that they would -- I don't know. I'm like -- but to me, it's like -- but it's things like that that it's like -- and I don't know if it's my branding, if it's what, but it's like there's always people, no matter what their rank, no matter how they're playing, it's like they have the attention -- not the attention, but it's like people want to know how they're doing type thing. So I'm definitely a lot more in that category or scenario now.
Q. (No microphone).
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, he deserves it. He deserves all of that.
No, it just really depends. I feel like it's -- I'm not even close in the realm of the top ten players in terms of accomplishments, in terms of games. I feel like I'm similar in that aspect, but there's a lot of guys that have won a lot more tournaments than I have, have a lot more accomplishments than I have. They also have a lot more years than I have, but at the same time, they do deserve it more than I do, at least for the time being.
Q. Also, when was the last time that you felt actual self doubt that you can recall in these scenarios? Was it when you were very young? I mean, Jordan, Jason, Justin, they've all expressed the last years they still have moments of self doubt, but you've always been very confident. Are you faking it at any stage?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, when I was in 30th place last week, I wasn't exactly feeling great. I'm being perfectly honest. It's such a weird game. I was embarrassed. It's like was I not prepared enough? Like I just had 5 iron on a par 5, and I just set it up for a double. Like what am I doing out here type of thing?
I think I'm -- I was just in a very emotional state last week, and there's weeks that I'm like that, and there's weeks that I'm not. Obviously, I want to get rid of it, but just every little thing really just pissed me off, and I'm trying to not have that happen, but last week was one of those weeks.
And it was just like, man, like I'm so over par on this golf course. Like this golf course is so easy and huge fairways. I mean, I missed No. 7 fairway three or four days. You can land a 757 down that thing, and I missed it -- actually, I missed it every day. One day I hit it through, so I'm counting that. Three or four days, I missed the fairway left.
So, yeah, I don't know if every player's like that, but I'll have times, I mean at least a couple times a season, where just having a bad week, and I'm like, gosh, this is miserable. Like how am I playing this bad type thing. But trying to get rid of those.
Q. How do you (no microphone)?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. I think it's because I -- I had so many opportunities to make birdies and take advantage of par 5s, and I just was making -- I was literally just making those rusty mistakes. On Thursday I'm 2 under going into 9. I hit 3 wood just short left of the green, and I tried to get cute with it instead of hitting it 15 feet past, 10 feet past, trying to make it, leave it short. Don't have a good chip to eight feet and make bogey. Really? And then I don't birdie 15. Yeah. And made two doubles on 15 with irons in my hand. It's so frustrating.
So I think that's the stuff that got me. Another thing too is I was like that a little bit at Bahamas with a small field. When you get back like that, it is so hard to make up ground. It is so -- I mean, you literally have to shoot 60 to get in the top ten, and, you know, for me, when you have those weeks where you're not playing your best, top ten is kind of a good thing to shoot for. You make a cut, it's always in striking distance. Man, if you're in 25th in a 30-man field, it's really hard to make up some ground. I think that had something to do with it too.
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