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January 31, 2018
EMILY TILLO: We would like to welcome Justin Thomas here to the interview room at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Justin, just finished up playing your pro-am with Uncle Bruce, making your fourth start here at the tournament. So talk about what this morning was like and your expectations for the week.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was really fun. I never been around coach before and he's a great guy, being the huge football fan that I am, I was interested to ask him a lot of questions and about some of the past players and stuff like that and he spent a little time in Alabama, so we had that in common, but yeah, it was a lot of fun. And in terms for this week I'm excited for the week, it's a golf course that I enjoy, I haven't played it very well out of the last two years you, but I had a good showing my rookie year, so hoping to kind of get back to some of those vibes.
EMILY TILLO: Talk about the dream day that you did with the First Tee and Larry Fitzgerald. I saw your Instagram yesterday seemed like a ton of kids turned out. Talk about what that meant to you.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was awesome. Any time I have the opportunity to give back, I've really enjoyed doing that the last couple years, especially the First Tee, it's, I don't know, I've done some things with the First Tee through high school when I was growing up and growing up in Louisville and now being able to do stuff on the road and just be able to give back to the kids, I mean obviously I'm 24, but it wasn't that long ago I was in some of their shoes. So to be able to try to spread some wisdom amongst them and just try to have some fun with them and I know how cool that was for me. There's still a handful of players out here I remember that were really nice to me when I was a junior and it's stuff I'll never forget. So any time that I have the opportunity to do so it's great and then to do it with someone like Larry was even more enjoyable.
EMILY TILLO: Awesome. Open it up for questions.
Q. You're so competitive, is it hard to let yourself play your way into a season when it's so early and not get too caught up in the results?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really, just because it's still golf, it doesn't really matter the time of season. The only time of season I feel like that is really, I guess you could say, stressful would be the playoffs, just because it's pretty obvious where you are and what you need to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish. But, yeah, I want to play well this time of year like everybody else does, but in reality it's just another tournament. Whether I win this week or win my first event over in Asia or I win my last event, the whatever, at the end of the year, a win is a win and that's what I want to do is play well and give myself a chance to win as many times as I can, no matter what time of the season it is.
Q. How would you assess your game right here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I feel pretty good. I had two weeks off so I got some rest and I was fresh or I am fresh, but I had a fun little weekend last, two weekends ago, just to enjoy myself a little bit and take some time away. Then last week I really got at it and have been grinding hard. Body feels great, I'm in really good shape and been practicing hard, so my game feels good, it's just a matter of execution at this point.
Q. This is the strongest field this event has had in over a decade. How has the perception or the feel of this event changed even since you first started coming here a few years ago?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The field?
Q. The feel, like the perception among the players, perhaps.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm not really sure. I know it's always been a really good field, so that part hasn't changed too much. At least the feel for me when I was when I first got here it was a little overwhelming because no one knew or cared who I was and it's finally getting to the point where at least I'm getting some people on my side when I come to this event. It's awesome. It's so, at least for me it's misunderstood, a lot of people are, oh, like you got to go play Phoenix, just because it's a party and so much fun and this and that. But I really do like this golf course and that's why I come play. I would never come play a tournament just because it's fun. It's the reason I don't play China or I haven't played in the past is because I don't, I just don't, that course does not fit my eye and I truly don't feel like I can win there. So it's like it's hard for me to go sign up for a golf tournament if I don't feel like I can win it. I like the place and I think its word's kind of spreading and once people come here and kind of feel the somewhat of a Major type feel with some of the roars and the crowds, especially on some of those holes where you get a lot of people, but it's just an enjoyable tournament, the Thunderbirds do an unbelievable job.
Q. Any update on Jimmy?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, he's doing better. I talked to him yesterday. He said he probably could have gone this week, but he didn't have an option, I told him he wasn't allowed to caddie this week, just because I didn't want him rushing back, I want him back to a hundred percent starting whenever he starts. I told him, whether it's L.A. or it's Match Play or Masters, whatever it is, I just, I didn't want him coming back too soon and then having to take another month off. So I think he has his boot off, he had a cortisone shot so he said that was really fun, and he's just going through therapy every day, he's just kind of doing exercises and stretches for it. So sounds like he's going to be good to go for L.A. So be good to have the man back.
Q. When you take time off do you put the clubs away or do you still hit balls once in a while?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well like I did this past two weeks, the first week I don't really do much. I hadn't been home for awhile so just do a lot of stuff around the house. The only thing I'll continue to do is work out. Especially when I'm home is when I really, really try to get after it and make sure I'm going to do a lot more in an off week than I would here, just to make sure I'm staying in shape.
Q. And given the level that you're at, what's the longest that you would take off and still be able to get back?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean if we had an off season and I had three months I would have no problem taking a month off. I used to not be able to go a couple days or a week, but I would love to just take a month of vacationing with some friends and do nothing for a good three or four weeks or a month. But unfortunately that's not really an option anymore.
Q. So then how long would it take you to get back to where you are now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It takes a good week's practice or a good, it takes a good four or five days of productive practice. I've gotten a lot better. I used to, I take two, three days off and I would come back and I was lost, but now I've gotten better that I need that time off. Even if I have one week off I won't really do much until probably Thursday or Friday. Just because rest I'm starting to learn is more important than anything. I can come to a tournament and my game could be sharp but if I'm mentally fatigued and I'm not making the right decisions out there I'm not going to play well. Whereas, if I'm fresh, I'm mentally I'm there, I can go on plot my way around the course, I can get it around and hopefully have a chance to win.
Q. So it's amazing at your level that a couple days off you could feel lost. Could you describe what that feels like to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't as much anymore. I'm a lot better now. But it's just the touch, it's around the greens. You get that 50, 40, 50 yard shot and you look like or I look like a five or six handicap. So that's where you get the feels back and you're kind of hitting your windows, you're hitting the ball flights you want and you're able to hit it low, hit it high, spin control, stuff like that. So it's just, it takes a day or two just kind of getting the reps in and hitting different shots and going out and playing some and then it's all back.
Q. But not so much the swing, more the short game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, well more so the short game than the swing, but when I take time off, my swing always gets back to the same thing, so I kind of have to start over if I take time off.
Q. What is it about playing professional golf that you used to couldn't go a day or two and now you feel like you want a month off?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's a grind. It's exhausting. Not exhausting in a bad way, it's mentally exhausting is what it is. It's just playing 24, 25, 26 events a year when that's a Monday to Sunday type thing and then you'll get roughly probably I would say a week to two weeks in terms of traveling for any media obligations or sponsor days or stuff like that. And then you get probably a couple events you have to go early or stay late, you have friends' pro-ams, stuff like that and then you'll take some vacation time, you have your holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family. In reality you're looking at about five to seven weeks at home in a year. So it's pretty wild when you think of it like that. That you're just able to do nothing. A lot of the weeks, that's what I don't think some people, obviously y'all understand, but a lot of people don't understand is like, say I'm playing this week, I have next week off. They're like, oh, you have an off week. Well, not really I have like three days off and then I have to start getting ready for L.A. because everybody else is and if I take the entire week off then I'm going to go to L.A. and play bad. So it's just a lot. It's great, I'm not complaining by any means, it's just I've learned that, like I said, that taking the time off is huge for me and just getting away from it and getting my mind off of it, that way I want to come back versus going out practicing because I feel like I have to isn't productive for me. So I just think when you're in college you play four, five times in the fall, five, six, seven times in the spring, three-day events, you go there the day before, you leave that day, it's a little different now than a Monday to Sunday type thing.
Q. How has having Matt on your bag this week changed that dynamic in any way working with him as long as you have?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's good, he's caddied for me a couple times, so it's something I'm comfortable with. I would never ask somebody to caddie if I wasn't comfortable or didn't think that I had a chance to win with them. So it will be fun. In terms of for a putting coach/student type thing, I think it will be very productive for us, because there's a lot of things I'm going to do differently on the putting green in practice than I do in tournaments, so he may be able to pick up on those things, which could be huge and very influential in terms of the rest of the year. So hopefully there's not, because that means I'm putting well. But if not, or if there's something he sees that we can work on, then that will be good to know. But it will be fun. Matt's a, that's what's so cool about everybody I have on my team, I don't look at any of them as oh, yeah, he's just my putting coach, Matt's someone I've -- I went to Derby with him last year, I'll go to concerts with him, he'll come stay with me and hang out. We're all friends. It's not just a business type relationship.
Q. Was that a last second decision or had you planned that out ahead of time?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, as soon as Jimmy went out in Kapalua, I knew that, I knew I wasn't going to have him for Sony, obviously and I told Jimmy he couldn't go to Phoenix, he needed to rest and I think I asked him that night or something.
Q. No thoughts of asking Bones?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I mean I didn't know who I was going to have, that was next week. So that's, I just, I talked to Killen and I was like, hey man, look, I need your help, if you can, in Phoenix, I know you can't next week, so -- and then it just so happened that Bones could do that week. So that was, that kind of happened the next day type thing.
Q. Can you talk about the world rankings? Obviously they're a byproduct of your results. Is getting to No. 1 on a bucket list of yours that you'd like to check off eventually and can you talk about -- right now it seems like there's an extraordinary number of guys who are capable of getting to No. 1. Just talk about what we might look forward to or who can get there and how many guys are in that group.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think that it's, I'm not going to say anything that you don't already know. The guys, all the guys in the top-5 or 10 are capable of doing that, it's just in reality, you know, who is going to win the big events and who is going to be the most consistent type thing. So that's an absolutely a huge, huge goal of mine, to try to retain and keep the No. 1 position in the world for as long as I can. Obviously I need to get there first, but I'm making great strides and getting closer and closer, I just need to try to continue to win tournaments and keep having high finishes in those big events. So it's never going to be perfect in terms of a system, nothing is, it's never going to make everybody happy, but that's like anything and everything in the world. But it's a huge, huge goal of mine and there's many guys that could achieve it and be No. 1 by the end of the year, it's really just in terms of them doing it.
Q. Do you think any one guy can hang on to it or do you think it's going to get pasted around for awhile?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I would hope to say me, but I need to get there first. D.J. is, he's done an unbelievable job. I guess it's coming up on a year now I think that's been No. 1 in the world. So that's pretty impressive. But he's played some great golf in some big tournaments to be deserving of that.
Q. A little bit of a course design management question. Some of the best holes on TOUR and on earth are risk/reward holes. As long and far as you hit the ball, are there any legitimate risk/reward holes that you really look forward to playing and having to think your way through? Which hole or which course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: On this course?
Q. Um-hum. No, on any course.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Oh, wow.
Q. Is there one that you really know you got some thinking to do?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Man, that is hard. We play a lot of golf courses. You're making me think way too hard right now. There's probably -- I can't think of any holes specifically, but there's definitely -- a hole like 18 in Korea where it was like, if it was no wind or a little bit of help I could take it to that second fairway. It's not that much of a risk, yeah, you could hit it in the rough or hit it right or left and have to lay up, but the reward of -- like the first day I had a wedge in and on a par-5 that's a pretty good reward. So there's stuff like that throughout the year that we'll find or that I'll find here and there, about, but it's like it's 315 carry, if I get the right wind I can take this and gain 50 to 80 yards on someone that has to go the other way type thing. So a lot of it is wind dependent but there's nothing that stands out.
Q. Anything particular say at Augusta or Sawgrass?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was actually thinking about those two places. There's nothing really. Augusta is so placement, it's not like you can -- yeah you can go for 3 if it gets down wind, but not like you're really going to make a 2, the best you're going to make is 3 and you could wedge it close and make 3. 13, yeah, you can get aggressive, but same thing, you can just make the same score as someone who hits 3-wood or driver. So Augusta definitely has no risk/reward type things in terms of tee to green. You could have some specific shots that you put yourself in, say like Phil that year when he hit it on the green from the pine straw, but that's very, very situational. Same with Sawgrass. There's nothing really, there's a couple times you can maybe squeeze a driver up there that you don't need to or that maybe you wouldn't recommend, but they're both so, so much a placement golf course that you just kind of need to plot your way around type thing.
Q. 16, why do you think that idea of that hole and everything it encompasses hasn't been replicated around the TOUR? Do you think it would work elsewhere?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. It shouldn't, first off. I think it's unbelievable what they do here, but unless you get -- how many people are on that hole? Does anybody know off the top of their head? 20?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Unless you gets 20,000 people on a hole, and you're guaranteed to do that, it just doesn't need to be replicated. There's some tournaments that are trying to, but I think they don't understand that when there's a thousand people and there's 20 people that yell, we can hear them and it messes us up. And it's then a distraction, which is not appropriate, not what we want. You saw with the guy yelling in Tiger's putt last week. It was funny at first but it's just starting to get a little annoying and it's affecting us now. So that's never what we want. When you get, like I said, you get 18, 20,000 people and then a hundred people are yelling at you, it doesn't make a difference because there's a lot of -- it's like a football game, you could yell as loud as you want, that person's never going to hear you. But when you have a small amount of people, like a lot of the tournaments do, not small, but I mean small compared to this -- a bit like Honda that comes to mind. 17 has a lot of people on it, but that gallery stand is right next to our tee and you get those people late in the afternoon on a Friday, Saturday, they start chirping at you and it's like, man, this shot's hard enough, I don't need you yelling in my back swing type thing. So I think it's great that they do it here, but unless you can guarantee to get 15, 20,000 people on a hole it doesn't need to be replicated.
Q. What other tournaments have tried to do it? You said Honda. Anywhere else?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's not that they try to do it, I think it's more the spectators that try to do it. They're like, oh, let's try to get this thing. But like I said, it's one-of-a-kind and I think it should stay that way personally.
Q. What did you think about the Sunday with JB and 18 and what were your thoughts on that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have JB's back all day on that situation. I think the -- it bothered me and I hate it for him. I went up to him yesterday and told him, it was a great week, first off, it was a great tournament for him, but I have a hard time saying I wouldn't do anything differently than he did. If you put me in 18 fairway and I need an eagle to win the golf tournament or to have a chance to win the golf tournament, I mean I knew the exact position he was in and I would do the same thing. If I have a 5-wood in my hands -- and he hits it pretty similar trajectory to me -- that thing's going to go high. And into the wind, he's into about a 10, 15 mile an hour wind, that wind gusts at all, like it was, when he was waiting for the gusts to go down, that ball's in the water. 3-wood, as long as he hits it, has no chance. You saw where Noren hit it and JB's probably longer than Noren, so and then he's got no chance. So he's debating what to do, what to not do. I get it, four minutes, 10 seconds is a long time, but nobody behind him, last hole, you need a three to win the golf tournament, you need to take as long as you can. I mean obviously there's a point you're not going to sit there 10 minutes but it's like, look, if I'm going to wait for the right wind, I'm going to wait for the right wind, I need to make a 3 here. And then people saying, I can't believe he waited that long and laid it up in the rough. It's like, do you think he was trying to lay it up in the rough? I mean I think the bigger deal -- and JB obviously, he's gotten a lot better and he's trying to get a lot better with his pace of play -- but it's just the fact of the previous 17 holes. Obviously it took awhile, but that's another thing. You get 25 mile an hour winds, you get tough pins, you get firm greens, time par goes out the window. And that's something that we have really tried to talk about a lot on the TOUR and everything like that. It was a bummer, I hate it for him, how much he's getting bashed and ridiculed. He obviously wasn't -- there was zero intention to ice Alex, that's not what this sport's about, that's not what he's about. But when you're trying to win a golf tournament, this sport is very much about comitting and being a hundred percent being all in on what you're doing. I honestly applaud him for waiting and making the decision until he was ready, because he was just trying to win the tournament.
Q. Also last week Jason Day won and he had a new caddie on the bag, so -- and he spoke about how it's kind of been helpful to force him to think about and make his own decisions and kind of take things on himself. Can there be value in having a new guy on the bag? Can that be sort of a blessing in disguise?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'll let you know at the end of the week.
No, it's so different. It was so bizarre at Sony, I was telling Jimmy that yesterday, it's like, man, it was the first person I had since Jimmy in two and a half years. I guess my dad maybe caddied for me like at the Shark Shoot-out or something, but that's a little different. It's like the first time I ever had my first caddie, you're like trying not to step on each other's toes, you're trying to get to know each other. You're like, okay, I know Bones very well, but in terms of a caddie/player, we had never done that. So we're trying to know each other's things that we're doing, we're trying to know this and he's trying to know what to say to me, what not to say to me. I'm trying to know like is he comfortable with me doing this or that. So that's different. But at the same time we all know each other and Matt knows my game just as well as anybody. So that's what's enjoyable for me is that I can, I feel comfortable being like between the 7 and 8, what do you think? He's like, I think you can turn the 8-over and I feel good about it. We talked about it today, he's known me since I was about eight years old and kind of watched me growing up and playing a lot of golf, so he knows my game pretty well.
Q. When was the last time he caddied for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Matt? At the John Deere in 2017. Finished fourth.
EMILY TILLO: Great. Thanks, Justin, for your time. Good luck.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Thanks, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports