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August 8, 2018
St. Louis, Missouri
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back to the 100th PGA Championship. I am, of course, pleased to be joined by our defending champion Justin Thomas. Justin, welcome to what is your fourth PGA Championship.
As the defending champion, I've wondered if you're going to be drawing this week upon your past history as you were -- you've defended a championship in Malaysia just recently. Is that something you'll be thinking about and trying to do again?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, first and foremost, obviously, I'm excited to be back, but I need to try to get myself in contention. That's the most important part when it comes to trying to defend a title. But being the deepest field in golf and a great golf course and a lot of players trying to knock off that Major here at the end of the year that haven't gotten one yet this year, any tournament's a tough one to win, but this one especially is.
We've put in some good work yesterday and again today, and we're just going to try to see if we can -- how well we can play.
THE MODERATOR: Last night you, of course, hosted the Champions Dinner, had a really, really nice turnout, more than we've had recently. Some pretty good pedigree. Did you enjoy the evening?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was something that I look forward to going to many -- you know, many championships in the years, hopefully hosting. That was a lot more fun than it probably will be just attending it.
Yeah, it was a cool night. It was a special night having my parents there, having my girlfriend there. It was cool to be able to share that with the rest of the players.
THE MODERATOR: Let's have some questions here.
Q. Jim Holtgrieve is one of our top amateurs here in St. Louis. Can you tell us what kind of relationship you've had with him and how you guys really blended with the Walker Cup team.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was very fun playing for captain. We beat them up pretty good, so that made it very enjoyable at National Golf Links. He came out during my media day and was able to say hello. It was a pretty busy day for me, so we weren't able to catch up too often, but we'll stay in touch here and there. Yeah, he was a fun person to play for, and we really -- we had a great week that week at National Golf Links. That was a lot of fun.
Q. I've asked other golfers about Dustin Johnson, so I wanted to get your take on what makes Dustin Johnson such a talented opponent?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, the thing about D.J. is he has no weakness in his game. He just -- he keeps everything in front of him. He's a very, very underrated putter, I would say. He makes a lot of putts, even though people maybe don't talk about it as much. But when you hit it that close that often, you're going to miss more than people who don't hit it that close that often. That's just how it works, percentages.
But, yeah, he just drives the ball unbelievably. His iron game, his distance control with his wedges is up there in terms of some of the best on tour. And he just doesn't play bad very often. So he's a person that is very hard to beat.
Yeah, I've enjoyed battling it out with him a couple of times, but, yeah, we've definitely had our fair share of going at it here the last couple years. It's been fun.
Q. Justin, many congratulations on your victory at the weekend. You touched on it just briefly before, but specifically, when it comes to defending your title at a Major championship, that's got to make it different. How are you finding the whole experience so far and the approach to it all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been -- it's obviously been fun. Having a parking spot that I can pull into is nice. I was joking with my parents or my dad that I've won a lot of tournaments that I don't get that luxury. Winning in Malaysia, in Korea, and in Sony, those are events that we don't get cars. We get driven everywhere. So I didn't have the luxury of getting that parking spot. So it's nice having one here this week.
It's a great opportunity, but it's -- the part of defending isn't as difficult as just winning the golf tournament in general. I mean, any player here this week, it's very hard to win. It doesn't make it any harder that I'm trying to defend. It's just the fact of the matter is it's hard to win a golf tournament. But we're just going to go out there and give it the best we can and see where it puts us.
Q. Two things. Whose idea was the whiskey for a gift?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was mine. I mean, I had -- being a Louisville, or Kentucky tie. I'd say it was mine. It was my dinner, so I get to choose, Doug.
Q. I know that. We didn't get invited.
Secondly, is there a way -- when you talk about winning breeding confidence, is there a way you can quantify how much you take from winning a Major to winning this last year, compared to what you took from Bridgestone or Boston or the score you shot in Honolulu or any of the other ones?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's hard because you just -- you take -- I mean, you can learn just as much from winning a Major as I can winning in Akron last week or winning the Sony with a seven-shot lead on Sunday. I mean, you can learn as much as you want from anything. It's just the hard part is sometimes recognizing what you learned.
And I said that last week, but I was really nervous going into Sunday. I don't know why or what it was, but I was jittery. I was nervous that someone was going to play well, and I was going to have to play really well to win. I felt like it had been a little while since I'd won even though it hadn't been that crazy long. But I was able to go back to those past experiences, and like the PGA last year when those last four or five holes, when I kind of started getting control of the tournament and just playing smart, playing aggressive to conservative lines and kind of picking our spots when we felt like we had them, and that's just kind of what I was able to use, say, at a tournament like last week.
And then last year, you know, I remember looking up on 12th green, and I remember seeing there was six of us tied at 8 under, I think it was, and me with guys having anywhere between three and six holes left. When you have six people tied, it truly is anybody's tournament. But I just, I felt like, if I didn't make any mistakes coming in, a couple guys were going to make some mistakes and throw themselves out of it, and I just kind of needed to execute the shots when I needed to and just kind of sprinkle in maybe a birdie here or there. So that was something I learned from last year, just kind of staying patient and picking my spots.
Q. Justin, I think back in Hawaii you sought out Jordan for advice how to handle expectations coming off of a big year. He had gone through that experience, and you were looking for any ideas in that regard. Can you talk a little bit about what you learned from that conversation? And anything that you've learned in the seven months since that time about handling these expectations?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, like I just said, you learn -- I mean, you can learn from every tournament. I learned from the British Open, and I missed the cut. I learned from the Travelers when I finished 50th or whatever I finished in. You learn every week. It's sometimes the lessons are bigger than others, and sometimes they have a bigger difference than other ones. But in terms of managing expectations, at the end of the day, it's still golf. It doesn't matter if you've won nine times the year before or haven't won in three years, the low score that week that you're playing still wins the golf tournament, and I still need to get as prepared as I possibly can.
I need to do the proper things on the golf course during my off weeks. There's everybody in this golf tournament that's out here trying to not only beat me but beat everybody else, so I need to do the appropriate things in my process that's going to give me the best chance to play well, and I think that's just kind of what I've learned is that you can't -- I can't stack up two years and kind of compare. It's easy to do, but you have to take it week by week and just take it tournament by tournament, shot by shot, and just try to get better every week, every year, or every month every year that you play.
Q. What about the external demands, time management, scheduling, all that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The external demands, it is a little bit harder, but the same thing, you learn. I learn how to manage my time better. I know that I have a press conference after every Pro-Am I play on TOUR on Wednesdays, and I schedule around that. If it's a course that I like or a course that I've been to, I probably won't get in until Monday night, and I'll go out and practice -- I'll either practice or play Tuesday and have a couple of things I need to do, so every week is different. But I understand that's just a part of my life now.
It definitely beats the alternative of not having it because that means that I'm playing well. But, yeah, it's just a part of it and something I have to deal with, but it's fine.
Q. J.T., I understand you were at Valhalla in 2000 for Tiger's epic win in the PGA Championship. What did you take from that week? What did it mean to you in terms of motivation and also your career moving forward?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, being 7 years old, I don't remember a whole lot what I was thinking, but I do remember how cool it was, just hearing the roars and how many people and the shots that Tiger was hitting, the putts that he was making. I mean, I think when you're at that age, you go up on the putting green out at Harmony, and then I'm making putts to try to win the PGA or to win the Masters. And all those putts that I was making were putts that Tiger just continued to make that week, and I just was watching it over and over on TV.
So it was a cool week. It just got me motivated, being on that range and seeing those guys, I remember. It's just like, man, I want to do this, even at 7 years old. Again, I don't remember the specific thoughts, or I'm sure nothing really too intelligent was going on in my head, but I do know that I was -- I recognized enough that I wanted to do that just from watching because of how cool it was.
Q. Were you there when he pointed at the hole and made that birdie in the playoff? Were you out on the golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was -- although I probably wasn't too smart, I was smart enough to know I wasn't going to see any golf if I went out on the golf course. I was fortunate enough, because of my dad, that I had clubhouse passes, so I was perfectly content in the middle of August in Louisville in that air conditioned clubhouse watching it on TV.
Q. I understand, after you missed the cut at The Open, you came back and met with your dad and Jimmy, and they kind of had a heart to heart talk with you, turned things around for you, and led to you winning a third time. Can you share anything your dad imparted on you that day that made a difference?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was -- he definitely had some things to say, but I would say that conversation of us three was mostly me. It was a lot of me talking and saying it's hard and it sometimes is uncomfortable because the smallest things affect us or bother us. But sometimes you don't feel like you should tell your caddie or tell your coach or tell whoever it may be because you think it's -- you're like this person's going to think I'm so stupid for this.
But at the end of the day, everyone in this team is in it for the same reason. They want us all to perform as well as we can and to win as many times as we can, to finish as high as we can as many times as we can, so on and so forth. So I just -- I told Jimmy things that I wanted from him a little bit differently, and I wanted him to tell me things that he maybe wanted from me differently, and I told my dad things that I maybe wanted from him differently.
It was definitely -- it was more of a conversation between Jimmy and I and my dad was there for, but he's -- you know, he's so good at offering different ways to think about it, different ways that may settle better in the mind, and I think that's something he always does with his students at home is -- you know, a lot of coaches can say the same thing but say it in different ways, and he's able to relay the message a lot of different ways. So that person is going to be able to kind of grab one of those three things and understand the best they can.
So between the three of us, we kind of came up with some different ideas or things that we all felt that each person needs to do for us to perform our best and to have the best chance to win every week.
Q. Justin, what's your opinion on the status of the greens?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The two holes I've played have been fine. I've only played two holes this week. Yeah, they're fine. I mean, you look at any place in this part of the country in August, with this much humidity and this much rain, I mean, they're going to be soft, they're going to be slower. It's just the way it is. You're not going to get greens like Augusta. You know, you get a place like this in April, then you'll be able to have that, but that's just how it works.
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where this is how greens were in the summer, and I'm perfectly fine with them. The hole is still just as big, the ball's still going to go in, and someone's still going to win at the end of the week. So I'm fine with it.
Q. J.T., for Bellerive hosting the 100th edition of the PGA Championship is a really big deal. Is there anything extra special for you and the other players? You were the 99th player. Would it be something extra special to get the PGA 100th edition under your belt?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, just give me a place to sign, and I'll gladly take it. Any time you can win, it's a big deal, but winning the 50th, 75th, 100th, whatever it may be, you may be etched in history a little bit more, I guess you could say. But I don't know, at the end of the day, we're all still out here -- it's a Major. It's a PGA. I don't think we're out here preparing like, oh, this is the 100th. We've got to give it a little bit more kind of thing, but it definitely will be a big deal for whoever's holding the trophy at the end of the week, being known as the 100th PGA champion.
Q. Justin, how often when you're watching TV does the commercial with you and your dad come on? And what was it like the first time you watched it, and what is it like the 100th or 1,000th time you've watched it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know specifically -- I mean, I saw it before it came out, but I don't know where I was the first time I saw it on TV, but it's really cool because, if it somehow is possible to tell the story of us two in 30 seconds, they did an unbelievable job of it. They somehow did a great job of making me like somewhat of a good little kid.
It's a cool commercial. I mean, I'm obviously a little biased, but I enjoy watching it every time. It's just, anything having to do with my family, but especially my dad, with everything that we've been through and everything that we continue to go through. It's a cool little reminder, and it's fun to watch.
We've got a lot of great feedback on it, which is good. Maybe it's because of him, I don't know. Hopefully it's a little bit because of me. But it's a commercial that Citi did a great job with it, and we've enjoyed it.
Q. You were more demonstrative as a kid than you are now.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I guess so.
Q. Winning any title is impressive, especially more so when it's a Major title, but then successfully defending a Major title, even more impressive yet Brooks Koepka seems to have the secret for that, doesn't he? How much inspiration do you take from his achievements?
JUSTIN THOMAS: B.K., he's very confident. He's very unique. He's an unbelievable athlete. He's an unbelievable player. I mean, I've -- Brooks was one of my closest friends in amateur golf. We just so happen to -- I don't know what it was, but we just kind of clicked when we first met and played a lot of practice rounds together, had a lot of meals together. It's really cool, you know. There's only a handful of guys in any age group that you kind of go through the ranks together. Brooks is obviously older than I am, but just playing amateur golf together -- we had one year -- I mean, we actually played together the final round of the National Championship my freshman year at Riviera. We played together in the same group.
So it's just kind of cool as we've gone up the scale, if you will, and now we're at the top of the top. He's got me by one on the Major level, so I need to try to catch up to him. It didn't surprise me by any means how he played with the pressure on. He loves that. He embraces it. He's obviously very confident, and his game shows that. It's something that I'm hoping to show a little bit of.
Q. But actually seeing him do it, does that increase your self belief? Do you then see yourself doing similar?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, he's a totally different person. It's a totally different tournament. But I mean, I would like to hope that I think I'm motivated enough, because I want to win the PGA again. Just because Brooks did it doesn't add any more to it. But I guess maybe a little bit, but for the most part, I'm just focused on what I'm doing and not really worried about what other guys are doing.
Q. You talked about failures as learning curves. So how did you get to this mindset?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think I got to this mindset at a decently young age, relatively speaking. You know, my dad kind of told me at a pretty young age that the more that I can learn at a younger age, the more that I'll be able to just grow and get better as a player, as a person, whatever it may be. So any tournament I played, whether it was good or bad, we tried to learn from that, and we tried to really learn from the negative experiences a little bit more than the positive because as -- you know, when you're in high school, in college, you're a little bit more emotional, or at least I was, not as mature.
So you just have to kind of just look at the things that I wasn't doing right, and that's when he would maybe tell me something. And me being the stubborn kid that I was, it sometimes is hard to accept, but I just was kind of able to use those learning experiences or moments to try to better me. And now even at this point, I'm able to look at things back from college that we talked about and hopefully use them to my benefit.
Q. Justin, yesterday we were talking with Rees Jones, and I know you've only played a couple holes, but he said bunker placement at Bellerive is meant to challenge players. From what you know about this course, can you tell me what you're kind of expecting and trying to work on here in the practice rounds today?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, the big thing about this course from when I played Media Day, it's just a driving golf course, it seems like. If you drive it well, you can attack it a little bit, especially with the soft greens. But just with the rough being the way that it is, it's going to be hard to make birdies from the rough, and being soft, I would assume it's going to be a pretty low score that's going to win this thing.
So it's just about getting comfortable, getting my swing where I want it, and kind of -- the bunkers are very far away, very deep. So going to have a lot more long bunker shots than we would at your typical TOUR event or typical golf tournament in general. So we did a pretty good amount of work on that yesterday in the chipping green, but, yeah, just going to go out there today and hit some shots, hit some driver. Probably a lot of drivers and 3 woods out there for me, and just kind of get used to that rough around the greens and the bunkers and try to get a good game plan for it.
Q. J.T., is there a moment in your career that you could describe where you went from hoping to win to expecting to win, or even a transitional moment?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's a good question. I think -- I think kind of -- I mean, it's hard because you hope to win every week, and even if you expect to win, you hope to win, but I still think that there's -- whether they say it or not, I understand that, if I play well, I'm going to have a really good chance to win, and I feel that I should win, but you have to be at another level of your game if you expect to win every single week that you play. It's just not realistic.
I mean, you look at Tiger's winning percentage, which I assume is better than anybody else, and he was expected to win, and he, what, won 20 percent of his tournaments? That's just a total guess. But it's just not realistic. Yeah, there's some weeks where you're going to feel better than others, but I would say most people, it's more of a hope than expect, because there's a reason there's only one every week, and it takes some special golf, some smart golf, and it takes a little bit of luck too to win a golf tournament.
So I think I'm getting more confident in my chances of winning and understanding that I don't need my best stuff to win, but I'm still hoping to win every week.
Q. Tiger being the only one to win this back to back in stroke play, has that come up in any conversation recently? And how do you think it will be playing with him at this event in the next two days?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It has not come up. It will be pretty crazy out there. I mean, there's going to be a lot of people, I know that. Yeah, it will be fun. I enjoy playing with Tiger. I really enjoy playing with Rory. We played together in L.A., us three. So, yeah, it will be a cool week. I know this is, I guess, I don't know, the last time Tiger played a PGA -- '15? So, you know, it will be cool for him to be back, and he obviously has a lot of great success in this tournament, as he does most of the ones he's played in.
So, yeah, it will be fun, but once we get out there, like most weeks, it will be business. We'll chat here and there between shots, but, yeah, most of the bickering goes on before the tournament starts.
Q. Justin, do you have any thoughts on the job St. Louis is doing as a host of a Major? When your golf day is done, do you have a chance to get out and about, see the sights, socialize any?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't do much when I'm not playing, especially being the second week in a row, and after winning last week, rest is huge. It takes a lot out of you to be in contention, but winning especially. I've been a little tired the last couple of days, so just trying to get as much sleep as I can, get my body feeling as good as I can, just getting everything so that, coming into tomorrow, I'll be back to 100 percent hopefully.
But St. Louis has been great. I really enjoyed my Media Day here. The people were nice. Everybody that I dealt with was great. I think it's a 4 1/2 hour drive maybe from Louisville. I might be wrong, but somewhere around there. So it's somewhat close, and it's a part of the country, kind of like last week, I'm comfortable with. I'm used to this kind of weather, used to this kind of grass. Yeah, it's been fun. And, obviously, the weather hasn't been the best the last couple days, but the staff, which is expected with how they've done in the tournament, the past PGAs I've played in, they've done great in terms of handling it. Everything is still -- logistically still very well done.
And the amount of fans that were out here yesterday was absurd. I've never seen anything like that on a Tuesday. So come tomorrow and the rest of this week, I'm sure it will be pretty cool.
Q. Have you gotten any interesting texts from your grandmother since Sunday?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, she just -- just when they got home Sunday, she said congrats and how much fun they had last week. That was it.
Q. Golf course playing softer. Of the three Major venues, would you consider this to be the one you can be the most aggressive on? And do you have any preconceived notions of what you need to get to this week to win?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I'm usually terrible in terms of guessing a winning score. I'm really, really bad at that. But, yeah, it's -- it just really -- I feel like it's going to be very similar to last week, where you're going to see a pretty good amount of those kind of mid-60s, but you're going to see some high scores too just because of the length of the golf course and the rough. If you hit it in the rough, especially if you hit the into the grain patches, you can't get to the green. So it's just going to be one of those things where, if you have control of your ball, if you know what you -- if you're driving it well, if you're hitting your irons well, you're going to be able to score. But if you're not, then you're going to be kind of struggling to break par kind of thing. That's what I think is going to happen. If that's going to happen, I have no idea, but that's my quick take of how the course will play.
Q. I assume you're going to go out and play the other 13 holes this afternoon to get 18 in before the tournament?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I'm just going to go play nine this afternoon.
Q. Could you talk us through that in terms of is that good? Can that be a bad thing, a good thing, and how did it come about that you didn't get a chance to put in more time here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, Monday, I wanted to take completely off after winning last week. I just wanted to get rest, and I really didn't want to touch a club, to be honest. So I just came out, registered, dropped my clubs off, went back and worked out, saw my physio. I mean, just kind of rested really. I mean, I intended on playing the front nine yesterday or potentially all 18, but just with the weather, it just was -- it was a little too much, and it was a lot of back and forth. I was tired. So I -- for me, I was going to get a lot more out of practicing. So we just -- I mean, I hit balls for maybe five minutes before I went and played, but we just did a lot of chipping and putting, trying to get used to the speed of the greens.
If I hadn't played Media Day and played 18 holes, I would have played the rest of the course. But it's right in front of you. It's not anything hidden or anything secret. It's just, see fairway, hit fairway. You know the pin's going to be in one of the kind of tiers or kind of mounds in the green, so you just try to play to that side. I just feel like it's -- this is a course where you just need to play well as opposed to there's not a whole lot of kind of -- not a place like Augusta where it's like you learn a lot kind of thing, if that makes sense. It's just it's all right in front of you. You just need to play good golf.
Q. Justin, there's going to be about 30,000 or 40,000 each day that are going to see you play golf for the very first time in their lives, and they're all going to be amazed at your size at how far you actually hit the ball. Can you explain how and why you became such a big hitter.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I really can't, to be honest. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I've gotten a lot stronger in the last year and a half or so with putting a lot of hard work with my trainer Colby at home. We -- I was about 145 pounds to start last year, and I got up to 165. I'm about 160 or low 160s now. So I needed -- I just wanted to put on some weight to get stronger, but also I just -- it's better for me, to prevent injury, get my legs a little stronger, get my core stronger, you know, kind of get my shoulders. Anything that's going to help in the training process to keep me playing longer, injury free, is going to be better.
But when I was a kid, when I was really, really young, I was -- I mean, I was tiny. I was 130 pounds when I got to college, so I was a stick. And I've always swung really hard. So when I got stronger and kind of grew into my body, swinging that hard just resulted in hitting it farther. I've just never really hit it that well. If I swing softer, if I try to guide it.
Weeks like last week when I'm driving it well and just swinging as hard as I possibly can, that's fun. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but it just kind of has happened as I've grown and gotten stronger. When I swung hard as a kid, it just -- I guess it just kind of happened.
THE MODERATOR: He's the defending champion, Justin Thomas. Thanks for your time. Enjoy your week.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Thanks.
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