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July 17, 2018

Justin Thomas

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom

MIKE WOODCOCK: We'll make a start. We're joined in the interview room by PGA champion and world No. 2, Justin Thomas.

Justin, obviously, you got to world No. 1 earlier this season. You've had one win on the Tour. Your first major championship in the latter part of last year. This must give you a great platform coming into this week at Carnoustie.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it definitely helps having a little better résumé than playing in the Opens that I have in the past. That being said, it is also in the past, and it's over with. I just need to worry about where I can get my game when I tee off on Thursday.

But, yeah, I do know now that when I get in contention and when I feel like if I have a chance to win, that I'm a lot more comfortable when I'm there.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Is this perhaps a different kind of test than you might be used to with a fast and firm links course?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it is. I'm sure I'm just saying the same thing everybody else is. It presents a lot of different strategies, you know, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

I feel like a lot of the links courses I've played have been very in front of you. I mean, not that this one isn't, but it just presents the opportunity to hit a lot of different clubs off of tees and play the course a lot of different ways. With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.

Q. Justin, there's not much rough out there in terms of the really thick stuff. How does that affect decision making, do you think?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think it helps on some of those holes where you're between. You know, maybe a driver or a 5 iron or something. Knowing that if -- to me, a lot of those holes have a bunker in play with a driver, and that's causing me to not want to hit driver because I just -- the bunkers here are truly a water hazard. You can never hit them on the green from them.

So to me, the bunkers are causing me to not hit drivers as opposed to the rough. I look at a hole like No. 4. If there wasn't that bunker up there at about 330 or something like that -- granted, it is a narrow fairway, but if that bunker wasn't there, you could hit it anywhere up there as long as it isn't in that Burn way left, and you could run it up on the green. But I've hit 5 iron, 7 -- or 4 iron, 7 iron the last couple days. So to me, I like my chances from the fairway, but it definitely presents a whole other challenge.

If the rough was very, very thick, I think you would see everybody playing the exact same way and very similar, but because the rough is as thin as it is, I think guys are going to be playing very differently.

Q. How far is your 5 iron going?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hit a 5 iron on 18 about 305 today, and I've hit 5 irons 230 or so. So it just -- if you get it downwind and you hit kind of that flat, little flat draw and it gets running, it will go pretty much until it runs into something.

Q. Justin, where do you think a player could really get himself in trouble on this course? Is it just a matter of avoiding the bunkers, or are there other elements of it where you're really like don't do that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think where you really can get in trouble is just pressing out here. I think -- you know, I could see, for instance, like myself, I'm probably going to hit a lot of irons out here. If I get two, three over par early, front nine, whatever it may be, potentially trying to change my game plan and start hitting drivers, and then you start hitting them into bunkers, gorse bushes, whatever it may be. And you start making more bogeys and double bogeys, and next thing you know, you turn a 1 or 2-over into 5 or 6-over.

That's what is going to be the -- at least to me, it's really what could get some guys in trouble and myself included. So I think there's a couple holes that are still up in the air for myself, but for the most part, I'm playing the hole exactly how I know I'm going to play it, no matter the wind.

Q. Is the temptation to be aggressive greater when the length isn't overwhelming and the rollout can be pretty big?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It kind of is, but it's just -- some of those holes are just difficult. I mean, not just because you're hitting a driver up there because it's so hard to hit the fairways. Because a lot of the holes you're hitting driver on, the fairway winds. You really have to curve it into the fairway. You have to land it in the fescue and hope it gets out kind of thing.

It is not a very difficult shot to hit the green, but I would like my chances with a 7 or 8 iron from the fairway better than a gap wedge from the rough, you know what I mean? I'm probably not going to make any bogeys from a gap wedge in the rough, but I'm probably going to make a lot more birdies with a 7 or 8 iron from the fairway. It really does just present a lot of challenges out there.

Q. You come into the tournament obviously in fantastic form. How much of a difference do you feel that can make to you this week? And how much confidence does that give you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm coming off two weeks off, so pretty rested, which is most important. But, yeah, I played -- I thought I played really, really well in France.

I felt like I had a great chance to win that tournament. So I was a little disappointed to not get that done, but it was a great preview of the Ryder Cup, great opportunity to go play on the European Tour and play against some different -- a different field, in front of a different crowd, a different golf course, and I felt that I adapted to that pretty well. So I took a lot of positives from that.

But The Open is just so unique and so different and just such a great golf tournament. I love this tournament. This is one that I really hope to get at least once or twice or however many times in my career, and it's just a very, very special event. So I always get excited to come here no matter my form. But that also being said, I feel like you have to be so creative and so just decisive -- or confident in what you're doing because you don't hit very many full stock shots out here. You're hitting a lot of knockdowns, a lot of holds, a lot of kind of creative shots, using the slopes, whatever it may be. So it really is just -- it can be pretty fun golf out there.

Q. What would it mean to you to go on and be successful here and lift the Claret Jug here at Carnoustie?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It would mean a lot. I can't necessarily put it into words because I think it's just one of those things you can't describe unless it happens. It would be extremely, extremely special, just the amount of history that goes into this tournament. I've always felt this would be one of my more favourite wins that I could have as a player because it just takes such a wide variety of golf shots and such a complete game, if you will, to win here as opposed to a lot of courses in the States you just hit it high and far, you try to stop it close to the hole, and you make the putts, whereas here you really have to use all assets of your game.

So I think it would mean a lot for my career.

Q. A lot of times when you come into majors, there's maybe a clear-cut favourite or two, somebody's in top form and whatnot. It seems like now it's a little even across the board. I'm just curious how you view it coming into this week. Obviously, you're bullish on your own chances, but if you look at the handful of guys, who are you looking at as maybe if you were just a golf fan, thinking the guy that might emerge this week, including yourself?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think you can -- it's hard to say. Really it's -- especially with an Open Championship, the weather does, if you look at the forecast, it does look pretty tame. But if you get -- remember like two years ago at Troon, if you get in that wrong wave, you're probably not going to have a chance to win. So you never know if that's going to happen. That makes it very difficult.

You don't know. You look at those handful of guys that are in contention about every time they play. They or we, however I or you want to interpret it, take a lot of pride in that and practise very hard to get ourselves in contention as much as we can. But it's hard to -- I mean, I wouldn't feel right if I put my finger on a couple guys to win when I'm here trying to win the tournament myself.

Q. Justin, just want to know what inspired the new look? Is it a good luck charm? And did Dustin Johnson express any jealousy?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. He probably doesn't even know I have it, to be perfectly honest. There's really no rhyme or reason to it. I had two weeks off, and I was lazy and didn't really feel like shaving, and I got a couple compliments on it, and I thought, all right, maybe I'll just go with it. It's not like it's 85 or 90 and humid like it is in the States. So it's not unbearably hot.

I would love for it to be a good luck charm, but as of now, it's no charm. Like I said, there's really no rhyme or reason to it. It just kind of happened.

Q. Justin, Tiger was asked about not really having many peers his age when he came out on Tour. Obviously, you've got a great group of friends. But when one of you picks up a win or a major, is there ever that element of envy a little bit, or do you rib each other about it at all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It is a very unique group of us, I guess you could say. Obviously, we want to beat each other's brains in. I never want to lose to any of my friends, especially my best friends. As weird as it is, sometimes it's harder losing to your closest friends than it is someone you don't even know, whether it's bragging rights or whatever it is, but it is a weird feeling.

Then again, like last year when I didn't play well and missed the cut, I mean, I was pulling for Jordan to win. I mean, you want to see your friend win or one of your friends win if you can't. When you get in a situation like that, it differs, but in terms of pulling for them this week, I mean, I'm not worried about anybody else other than myself and what, you know, myself and everyone that I'm working with can do so that we're in the best shape possible to get the tournament started.

Q. I'm curious, I don't know how much time you spend with Jordan off the course, but when he got home last year from The Open, when would have been the first time you had seen him? And are you the type that held the Claret Jug, or are you one of those guys that doesn't want to touch something until you actually win it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I am one of those people. I usually don't like to touch it until I win it, but I was kind of thinking about it.

I remember when my dad worked for the PGA, I held David Toms' Wanamaker when I was about 9.

Q. How did you do that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: He just -- I don't know what it was, if it was a champions' dinner or what it was, but David was there, and he had his Wanamaker, baby Wanamaker, whatever it was, and he had it with him. I asked for a picture. I asked for an autograph, I think, and he let me hold it.

That picture is somewhere. We have it somewhere at home. But I was holding his Wanamaker trophy, and that panned out okay. So I'm hoping there's no jinx.

Q. So did you or did you not hold the Claret Jug?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I drank out of it two years ago with Zach. Zach, we were staying in a house, and Zach had it because he had to return it, and we had some wine out of it.

Q. Has Jordan seen your Wanamaker trophy?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't think so. Yeah, I don't -- no, I don't think. He hasn't been -- no, he hasn't seen it.

Q. It's too heavy for him anyway.
JUSTIN THOMAS: If I can hold it, I'd say anybody can.

Q. Do you think you're a good links player? And if you do, why?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I do. My dad and Jamie and I were talking about that yesterday, that obviously only two years, I feel like I've played more than two Opens, but I haven't had any success here. I would like to think -- you know, two years ago, I was on the bad side of the draw, and it was very difficult to make up ground that way, but then last year I really just had two terrible holes that caused me to miss the cut and not have a chance.

But I love links golf. I really enjoy it. I feel like I am a good links player although I don't really have the results to show. But I played well at Chambers Bay at the U.S. Am there. It's a very links course, obviously. I truly enjoy the creativity. Although those days are very difficult, when you get a course like this and it starts blowing 20 or 30 and you have to hit 4 iron from 160 or 170 yards and run it up there or hit pitching wedge from 200, it's just -- it adds a whole other element, but it really is fun because you can't just kind of step up and hit. You have to think about what's going on.

Q. In terms of flighting the ball, when do you feel like you developed that or confidence in that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I felt like I became really good at flighting it probably three or four years ago or two or three years ago. I could always flight it, but I became, I would say, really, really good at it or a lot better. I was hitting kind of those little shots, those shorter irons, and taking the spin off of them and keeping them low was something that I felt like I need to work on.

Actually, I specifically remember a couple years ago we just had like a little Tuesday match. We were out there playing with Jimmy and Rickie, I forget where it was. It may have been Jordan and I playing him, but Butch was out there with us. Obviously, Butch has seen me play a lot of golf, and being around those guys, and I remember I hit this little 9 iron, and he was like, "Man, you've just gotten so much better at that shot. You used to not be able to do that." That obviously stuck with me.

So maybe that was when I felt like I'd made it, when I had Butch tell me that.

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