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May 8, 2018

Justin Thomas

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome our leader in the FedEx standings, Justin Thomas, here to the interview room at THE PLAYERS Championship. Just start out with some opening comments about being excited for this event and also an exciting grouping that you have for Thursday-Friday.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it'll be a fun group. I got told last week that I'd be playing with Jordan and Rory, which is always a fun pairing. I've played with Jordan a lot now, obviously, and gotten paired with Rory a decent bit, as well. Actually got paired with him here last year. I enjoy playing with both of them. They're both really good friends of mine and fun to go out and play with, especially at a place like this. Going to draw some pretty big crowds. That's something I really enjoy about this tournament. It has a very major-like feel, and hopefully we can continue to get weather like we have today the rest of the week.

Q. Justin, earlier in the year you had some pointed comments about fan decorum and fan behavior. Do you sense it's improved at all? I talked to one player who said he's seen evidence that fans are starting to police themselves a little bit. Somebody will say something. He's heard other people say, hey, that's not appropriate, shut up. Where do you think we're heading in terms of this overall issue?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think -- I haven't seen any one way or the other. I mean, with the Masters in there, that's at a totally different realm. That tournament itself just won't accept that, so that's something that they kind of have their own thing, so I haven't played in a whole lot of tournaments, I guess, since I had said that. In terms of crazy crowds, New Orleans doesn't have as many people as the Honda. Last week there was a lot of people, but the fans in Charlotte are awesome.

I think it's just that it comes at times. It's not something that happens every day, every week, every hole, this and that. It just happens at times, and I'd heard some guys say that fans were saying stuff about families and stuff like that, and that's kind of when the line needs to get drawn a little bit. But it seems to be getting better. I haven't had any issues, which is surprising. I would have thought I would have maybe had some here or there. But it is what it is. I said after the Honda I overreacted a little bit, and I've learned from that, but at the same time, I feel like everybody is learning and the fans are getting better. Not that they were bad in the first place, it's just you don't want those couple here or there to ruin it for the rest of them.

Q. You're not alone in this, that you've had some low rounds here and of course a high couple of rounds here, as well. A lot of the big names have done the same. What is it about here that creates volatility even for the best players in the world?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's a shot maker's course. I think you look at the list of winners here, and it's all over the place. You have some guys, some of the best players in the world, you have some guys that maybe haven't had the same amount of success as the top players, but it's just -- it truly is whoever is playing the best. You have to be in total control of your ball. You have to be working it one way off the tee, working it another way into the green, have your distances down to where you're putting from the right spots. You can't short-side yourself. You have to be good around the greens and around the par-5s in two. It really is a total package golf course, and I've always said I love this design. I think it's just a well-designed, great-designed golf course, and it just requires a lot of different shots, a lot of different trajectories, a lot of different decisions while you're out there.

Q. It seems it's as easy to score a 66 as it is a 78; is that fair?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, fortunately, knock on wood, I've had a lot more low rounds than I think I -- last year was my first really high round that I've had here. Well, I guess my last round my rookie year. But it is, when it gets firm and fast, it's hard. It's the hardest par-72 we'll play, that's for sure, in terms of you look at any course with four par-5s, on paper you would think that TOUR players would rip it up and we'd be licking our chops. That being said, 10- to 15-, 16-under has won here, but at the same time, if you get windy conditions, if it gets firm and fast, you're looking at mid to high single digits could potentially win this golf tournament. That being said, you kind of have to just take what it gives you and kind of take your medicine when you get out of position.

Q. What do you feel about the move to March next year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it'll be exciting. It'll be cool just because I think all of us on the TOUR feel that this event can stand on its own. It's not like it's another event, and it's no disrespect to the other events, but this is our championship, this is THE PLAYERS Championship. This has a very major-like field, has a very major-like feel, air to it. The roars are very similar. So it'll be cool to kind of have a major tournament, one a month there, starting in March. In terms of the golf course, I have no idea how it's going to play. Some of the older guys I guess you could say have experienced it in March, so next year when I come here, it'll be something new to me.

Q. We spoke to Phil Mickelson earlier, and he talked about how the younger players probably don't know and honestly are not appreciative perhaps is a better word about how good Tiger was back in the day. Do you ask the senior guys questions about what he was like and how dominant he was back then?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not a lot. Not really. I mean, I was such a Tiger fan growing up. I mean, I watched all his tournaments, and I mean, I still will watch if it's on Golf Channel or whatever it may be, I will watch it. I enjoy watching him -- I enjoy watching him now, but I enjoyed watching him when he did what he was doing.

I think when Bones caddied for me at the Sony, I asked him quite a few questions about Phil, but I also asked him some questions about Tiger and what that was like because Phil is -- it's unfortunate for him, arguably one of the best careers ever, and just to be playing at the wrong time basically, kind of thing. I was curious to ask him some stuff, but yeah, I don't think -- I agree that we won't truly understand because we never played against that, but I enjoyed watching it on TV when I was little, that's for sure.

Q. This is regarding Rickie and just kind of his pursuit of a major. You and Jordan who are all buddies with him were kind of fortunate to pick off one early in your career, and he's getting to the point now where it's becoming a thing to try to get over the line, and he's been so close a number of times. Can you talk about that pursuit a little bit, and for lack of a better word, do you root for him to kind of get that monkey off his back, so to speak?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, yeah, I root for him if I don't have a chance to win. But no, it's something, I think -- but I get it. He is such a great player. You can look at it as a positive and negative because if he wasn't as great a player as he was, then nobody would care. But the fact that he is such a great player -- and he cares, too, but a big deal is made about it, when in reality it's not like it's a regular tournament. We only have four a year. And you've got to think one, maybe two of them at least he just won't have his best stuff in a particular year. Maybe one of those tournaments he just isn't putting well, and then that basically leaves one or two of him having a chance to win, and that goes for all of us I would say. You're going to have those years where -- like he did whatever year it was where you play well in all four, or Jordan in '15 where you play well in all four. That's not common. But it's just the truth.

That's the hard part about this game. And I think a bigger deal is made about it than it needs to be. It's not like he's playing poorly in them, like you said, he is playing great, and that may make it tougher, that may make it easier, but it'll happen, and he could end up winning multiple and many, but you just don't know that. That's the thing about myself; I may win -- I may never win again, I may win 15 more, you just never know, you just have to hope it's the latter.

Q. You shot 65 on this golf course twice. As somebody who's been inside the ropes here specifically, how good was Rickie's finish in '15? How clutch was that to close?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was very clutch, to -- when people always bring that up, to put it in perspective, he was three groups ahead of me, so starting 14, or starting 13, I was six shots ahead of him, and I finished 24th and he won. I didn't play those last six holes very well, and he did. I always tell people that, and they kind of get the same reaction. But it's extremely impressive. 16, where they put that pin, it's obviously an impressive eagle, but they do that for that reason, to get a little bit of excitement. But 15 is a really impressive birdie. 17 is obviously very impressive, and then that drive he hit on 18 and that putt he made on 18 was pretty unbelievable. But it's nothing that we haven't seen from him before. He's done it in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and I liked having him as a partner this year at the Presidents Cup. I felt like if I got it anywhere on the green, he was probably going to make it. It was pretty cool to watch, and I was glad to see him get it done for sure.

Q. Brandel Chamblee has been a little bit of a polarizing figure sometimes on Golf Channel with his analysis and opinions, and I'm just wondering from your perspective do you find that he makes the game more interesting for viewers even though there may be times when players may disagree with what he says?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I personally don't pay a lot of attention to -- no disrespect to him -- but to really anybody else. I mean, I don't watch The Golf Channel that much other than like if golf is on, or I don't watch -- or Damon, someone like that. I spend a lot of time around golf, and I'm not going to watch -- like I said, unless it's golf, I'll watch that. But unless it's my dad, I don't really -- like I said, no disrespect, I don't really care or get that much out of what other people say.

I do -- word spreads, and I do understand that he's had some words with people or has his opinions, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I just happen to like my dad's the most.

Q. Growing up and watching Phil on television and Tiger and all those golfers, having to play the playoff hole in the WGC Mexico, walk us through a little bit how it felt, how the pressure was, and the outcome.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, the outcome sucked, to be honest (laughing).

No, it was weird because I'd been in two playoffs before, but I was the last group, so it was like, I was done, signed my scorecard, went. In Mexico, I finished, the final group I think was on 14, so I had to wait a while, and that was different for me. I had never experienced that. I don't think I would have done anything differently, but I just -- my adrenaline kind of went away, and when I got out there, I kind of had a hard time getting back into it, and then I did, and I hit the longest gap wedge I've ever hit in my entire life. I still will never know how that ball went over the green. But it was a bummer just because, obviously Phil won the golf tournament, but I gave it to him. It was a wedge par-3, and he made a par to win the tournament. So that was a bummer. I mean, I made that known and I told him I was very happy for him. He's put a lot of hard work into playing as well as he is again, and to win a WGC at the age that he's at and how many times he's won is extremely impressive.

But it was unfortunate to kind of put it in a little gift bag and hand it to him.

Q. Did Bones give you any advice on how to beat Phil at any given time?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just shoot lower than him pretty much. I'm worried about beating everybody else in the field, I'm not worried about beating one person.

Q. When you dial in all your Titleist equipment and balls for it seems like max distance, does it make it more difficult to play, not course management golf as such, but hit knock-down shots and things like that with today's golf equipment as compared to really soft balata balls that would check? Do you know what I mean?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, I --

Q. Like this course here would require or like a three-quarter trap draw 8? You don't see that much anymore.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I don't use equipment to max out -- the equipment, yes, the golf ball, no. There's plenty of golf balls that go farther than the golf ball I'm using, and I had to change -- I'm still using a golf ball from a long time ago because of that. But no, I use a ball to -- I can hit a ball that would probably carry eight to ten yards farther with a driver and go farther with my irons, but I don't need that. Like you said, I need that control. I would say for a long drive guy or something like that that are using very hard, whatever, firm covers. I don't know a whole lot about golf balls, but stuff like that, I would say for them. But a lot of us out here, at least myself, I don't use a golf ball for max distance. I use a ball for feel around the greens, for total distance control, for spin control, for those exact shots you were saying.

Q. What do you think Jim Furyk's strengths are going to be as a Ryder Cup captain, and what are going to be the differences between his style and Davis'?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I don't know about Davis, so that part I'm not going to be sure. But Jim was our fire team captain or whatever you want to call it. He was in our group. It was cool to -- I'd spent some time with Jim but never in that setting or atmosphere, and it was really cool to see how fired up and into it he got. I mean, he was intense, but a good intense. Not like pressure intense, but he got us pumped up, he got us motivated, he did anything that we needed. I was very fortunate to be one of those four in his fire team, knowing that I'm going to now be playing the Ryder Cup for him, because I got to see a side of him that got me even more excited to play the Ryder Cup than I already was.

He's going to be a great captain. All of us that are going to be fortunate enough to play for him are going to be very excited for it. We'd be excited to play for anybody, especially in a Ryder Cup, but I think he's going to do great things, and he'll be able to lean on the assistant captains or vice captains for things that they've learned that can help him, as well.

Q. Obviously you are in your own marquee pairing, but on the other side of the draw you've got Tiger and Phil together. I'm kind of curious, as a fan does that interest you at all, to kind of see how that goes down --

Q. Can you expand on that a little bit?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'll definitely -- I play early Thursday, so I'll probably be on the couch in my hotel room watching that one in the afternoon. I don't know the last time they've played together. I mean, they're very cordial, obviously. It's not like it's -- I wouldn't say it wasn't anything or it isn't anything like it was when they were dueling at it all the time. But it'll be cool to watch them play. It's hard to believe, and it's absolutely not even close to any disrespect to Rickie, but Rickie being the third person in a group, I mean, that hasn't happened in however long. He's such a big name everywhere we go, Rick is. But when you're with Tiger and Phil, it's a totally different animal. It'll be pretty cool to watch.

Q. You said last week the wedding proposal, the guy messaged you on Instagram. Has that opened up the floodgates of requests?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm actually surprised. I thought it was going to get a little wild, but I haven't -- at least I haven't seen. I probably haven't looked at everything. But haven't had any other requests or crazy things. But I'll keep looking and see what I get.

Q. How do you describe the way your dad and Matt help you with your golf swing and coaching, and is there something you can pinpoint that your dad did during a -- around winning the PGA Championship or said to you that week that helped?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, now that my dad's a pro emeritus and not a head pro and he doesn't have to be home all the time, we have a great relationship with Matt Killen, he's been my putting coach since college, since my freshman year, but my dad couldn't come out as often, pretty much until this past year out on TOUR. So Matt, being an instructor out here, being able to be out here basically every week was more of a seeing eye because my dad would be able to come to some of the events in the fall and on the West Coast because it was cold back home. But an event like this, it's starting to get pretty nice in Louisville, and then the summer, same thing, so he can only come to a handful of events a year. Not having an instructor there, obviously you can send a video, but Matt was more of like, okay, I need someone to watch and video and all this stuff and I'm in a group text with Matt and my dad that have who knows how many videos in it of putting and swings and stuff in there. But it's nice because, I mean, if I want to work on my putting and I can choose one person, I'll choose Matt. If I could work on my swing and choose one person, I'll choose my dad. But to have them both there for both, it is kind of helpful.

Sometimes you need to hear something a different way for it to resonate with you. You can say something but it not make sense, whereas the other person could say, well, why don't you try this, and it's like, okay, that makes more sense to me. They're able to kind of -- I get mad at them a lot because they kind of sit back there and just whisper. It's like, guys, just talk. I don't know what you're saying, and this really ticks me off. I'm hitting balls and I'm not hitting it good, and I'm up there and I just keep hitting and they're back there just looking at video and I can just see them, and I'm like does anybody want to help me hit the shot? Like I'm hitting it terrible up here. I'll get on them every once in a while for that, but it is nice to have them together sometimes to help. But in terms of the PGA, I don't remember anything in particular.

Q. How long after the Masters do you start thinking about the next major?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably a week-ish, because that first week I want nothing to do with golf at all. I mean, the clubs are who knows where, and you just are pretty much doing anything else. But once you get back into golf, you start thinking about it a little bit, but obviously more focused on the next tournament that I have. But kind of thinking of when I'm going to go up there, when I'm going to be able to do this, when I'm going to be able to do that, type of thing.

You know, it's so weird, something about Augusta, you're always thinking about it. You're always prepping for it when it is just another major like the rest of them. But for some reason, we don't treat the rest of them the same that we do Augusta. It's bizarre.

CHRIS REIMER: Justin, thank you. Have a good week. Appreciate it.

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