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August 22, 2018

Justin Thomas

Old Westbury, New York

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Justin Thomas. Justin enters the FedExCup playoffs in the number two position for the second consecutive year, having captured his first FedExCup title last season.

Justin, an opening comment as you begin your FedExCup defense.

JUSTIN THOMAS: I can't believe it's already the playoffs. It's pretty bizarre. The year has gone by fast as it always does, I feel like, when we get to this point in the year.

It's a good stretch of golf. This is when winning it all obviously matters. I feel you have to be peaking and playing well. I've had some success and some good events, my last couple. So hopefully we can just keep it going.

THE MODERATOR: You have three wins this season. And throughout the year you've mentioned how important it would be to become the first player to win back-to-back FedExCup titles. Could you comment on that?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't think it's any secret to anybody or anything mind-blowing. But it would be an honor. And anytime you can do something that nobody else has done before, it's huge. But there's a lot of great players and a lot of players that are playing really well that have just as good a chance as I do. I just need to worry about myself and try to get myself in position come Atlanta, and from there we'll see what we can do.

Q. You had a good PGA and you were right there. What did you do since then? Did you sort of go back and work on some things, or what has your last week or so been like?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I really did a whole lot of nothing. I was glad to. I didn't really want to play golf. I didn't really want to practice.

At this point in the year it's so important to be rested, to me. I had a couple days there I went to Chicago from PGA, spent a couple of days with my girlfriend, just relaxed, went to my first Cubs game.

And I had some media stuff I had to do in New York and then went on Fallon, which was really cool, on Wednesday. Now I've just been home since then.

So, yeah, I pretty much took off completely until Friday. I played, I think, 27 holes. That was about the extent of my practice. And then I had a golf day on Monday where I hit 145-yard 9-irons for 24 groups.

Hopefully I'll have that yardage dialed in this week. And then did some practice yesterday. So it's been low key and just trying to get rest, more than anything.

Q. When you come into these playoffs right up at the top, what's the balance between obviously wanting to keep the foot down and knowing that you've got some leeway there, if you know what I mean?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I understand how important these playoffs are, though. I've kind of thought about it a couple times that, you know, you really have to win in the playoffs. It's pretty much just plain and simple. You have to win one of these four events.

And hopefully Atlanta is a little bit more preferred over the others. But, I mean, like you said, I'm in a position where I can play well. I can finish top 5s, top 10s and hopefully maintain my spot, if not drop too much, because obviously everyone's main goal is to be in the top 5 come Atlanta and you control your own destiny.

But these first three events are very important, and you just need to treat it like I do every other tournament and try to give myself a chance to win.

Q. Does it free you up given you're so high, you can just play your aggressive golf?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really, maybe a little bit. But I would say, overall, like I said I know -- I mean, someone that's however many points back could win a tournament and jump me. And someone that's maybe had a couple of top 10s this year versus three wins and all of a sudden like that it's gone.

So definitely as a whole I wouldn't say it frees you up a whole lot just because of how much emphasis points-wise is put on these playoffs. But, yeah, it's known and everybody knows that. So you've just got to go out and do it.

Q. Just for the sake of argument, though, being in your position, number two, you don't have to do a ton. And you ultimately want to be in the top 5. And East Lake is all that matters. So I'm not suggesting you stay home these next couple of weeks, but you could. And on that point, do you see these three weeks being good for your form and confidence and flow, or do you see them necessary to boost your chances to win? Did that make any sense?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It did. It did. They are important. I mean, to me it's never entered my mind to skip a playoff event. I just feel -- I mean, I could come here and play poorly and get 20 points and that's better than staying at home and missing a cut and not getting any.

I learned the hard way my rookie year that every point matters and missing the TOUR Championship by whatever, two, three, four points, so I -- obviously, like you said, I'm in a different position now. But that being said, I feel like I try to conserve as much energy as I can these next three weeks.

And obviously I'm out there playing to try to win. But at the same time I maybe not -- I probably won't go out and practice as much this afternoon as I would, say, in the middle of the season or next week I'll take a day off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before the Pro-Am to make sure that I'm feeling as good as I can.

And then the same thing that next week. So to me it's skipping a playoff event. These playoffs are so important and the points are just so amplified that if I was to win one of these first three then I'm a lock to be in the top 5 going into Atlanta. So to me it's 100 percent worth that risk.

Q. Along the lines what you were just talking about, when you left East Lake last year, you said you kind of had a hard time separating not winning the event but winning the FedExCup. Have you gotten a little bit better about wrapping your mind around the two different races?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really. I'm still pretty mad that I didn't win that tournament. 18 is one of the easier holes on the course. It's a driver 5-iron for me and I had a 30-footer for birdie. And I should've have birdied that to have a chance at a playoffs. So it still bothers me.

Yeah, I would take a second place in that tournament every year if it meant I won the FedExCup every year. But I'd like a first place in the FedExCup more.

Q. Does it bother you worse than losing to Jordan in the NCAAs?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, the payout was a little better at the FedEx.

Q. Wanted to ask you about the 12th hole. How do you play it? What's your strategy on that hole? Do you go for it every day, or do you like to lay it up at a particular spot? Have you done anything in your practice sessions to get ready for that hole?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I've only played it once. Today I hit driver. It was my fourth hole. So it was pretty early. The ball wasn't going very far. So I just tried to hit kind of a cut driver. Out in the middle of the day, a little bit more loose, I would say it's a pretty nice 3-wood number. Obviously depending on the wind.

But as soft as the greens are, I mean, that green is a lot less extreme and difficult as it would be if it's firm and fast.

I mean, the greens are still fast. But just how soft they are makes all the difference in the world. You can hit it in those right bunkers or you can hit it in the right rough and being on the upslope, you can hit one straight up in the air and use the backstop to hit it within 12 feet about every time. And I feel like on those front pins it's very difficult to control your spin or it's hard to hit it really close as opposed to a front pin. For me, if I leave it just short of the green or in that front bunker, it's a real easy bunker shot, barring a bad lie.

So to me it's a great opportunity to potentially hit a really good shot and make it two. And as long as I'm smart and missing the right spot, I'm not going to make worse than four.

Q. You just talked about saving energy more for those coming weeks. Is it anything like social, not social too much, going early to bed, not working too much out part of it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I probably am trying to do my working out and stuff like that even more, because it's important for my body to be in the correct shape. I don't want to get worn down. Yeah, I'm not out here lifting a lot or I'm not doing things that are going to make me fatigued but it's more to make sure I'm moving properly and staying flexible and stuff like that.

So that's stuff with my trainer I'm making sure we can do. But if I have the opportunity to be in bed by 8:00, I'm going to do it. I would love to be asleep by about 8:15 tonight. I don't know if it's going to be possible or not. But, yeah, like I said earlier, just rest is so important. When you have those early tee times or have those early mornings, it sounds weird, but going to that -- that's just two hours less of sleep, it makes a big difference, especially this time of year versus the middle of the year.

So I'm making sure I can do anything possible to conserve energy.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you missed in your rookie year East Lake by just a little. We always hear from the guys that making it there is such a big deal because they can set their schedule per se and whatnot. Just wanted to get your thoughts of breaking that actual comment down into how that's a big difference versus not -- making it versus not, and how you would change your schedule if that was different for you.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's a big deal. I mean, I don't know, you guys might laugh or not, but I'll tell you it's one of my goals every year to make it to Atlanta. No matter what I'm ranked in the world or how many wins I've had. I mean, if you are one of the top 30 players over the course of a year, I mean, you still have to be doing some things right.

Yeah, I would be extremely disappointed at this point in my career if I didn't make it to Atlanta. But that being said, you still have to be doing some things right to make it there.

And, yeah, I was very bummed just because, I mean, at that point in time I knew when Berger made it that he was probably going to win Rookie of the Year and that really ticked me off because I wanted to beat him out of that, and I didn't.

So as you can see, I'm totally over it. (Laughter) But it is a big deal. It's just one of those little things that I think a lot of people just assume that we don't think about it. They're like, no, he's going to make it to East Lake. But it's why would you assume that?

You say you'll get maybe five to eight guys that win that you wouldn't expect to win, or we'll say seven to ten guys that win over the course of the year that your wouldn't expect to maybe have good years. And that's a third of the field right there.

So it is a big deal. And it's something special about being there and just going through your practice rounds, going through your warmups. And it's kind of like a U.S. Amateur type feel when you get to match play because there's not many people left and it's cool.

Q. Does it change -- do you understand how it does change people's schedule the following year and sort of how would that look different if you didn't make it, not you traditionally but --
JUSTIN THOMAS: There's a lot of categories that gets you into tournaments for being in the TOUR Championship. You get in everything. You're in all the majors, which is a huge deal to anybody. Whether you're me or you're 125th in the FedExCup, it's a big deal to play in a major championship.

Having that guarantee and knowing that you don't have to qualify, don't have to work for it, if you will, is big. Because you can't win a major if you're not playing in it, that's for sure.

Q. You're maybe a little biased on this, with three wins this year, we were talking to Tiger yesterday about the Player of the Year dynamic with you and a couple of the guys with three wins versus a guy like Brooks who has the two majors. And Tiger said hands down two majors trumps everything. Where do you fall on that? Particularly maybe if you were to win one of these next few and you get to four or five or something like that but you don't have a major.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I don't think it's over by any means. But, again, I'd rather win the FedExCup and Brooks can take Player of the Year. It is a big deal to me. It's something I want to win a lot over the course of my career.

But I wouldn't by any means say that it's over with. There's plenty of people or guys -- there's four events left. There's going to be guys that win two or three of these events. And, yeah, I mean I would -- I'm sure it's hard to say because I mean majors do so much for your career and just your life. But I know one thing I'm ahead of Brooks in the FedExCup right now, and I'm more pleased with being second than I am third.

Q. In the span of ten minutes you've let us know that you're having a hard time Xander winning, Berger getting Rookie of the Year. And technically I did bring up the NCAAs. How far do you go back in your memory of stuff that really still annoys you after all these years?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I totally choked the U.S. Kids when I was eight years old. I shot 32, 30 -- I shot 37 on the second round. I'm dead serious. I lost in a playoff. I lost -- I got up-and-down on the first playoff hole then I lost on the second playoff hole, made bogey.

Q. Do you remember who beat you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know how to pronounce his last name. It's like Kevin Tanokaboon [phonetic] or something. I'm serious. Look it up. Jekyll Island. My dad was caddying for me. I choked it. I was so mad.

Q. Glad you've gotten over that.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, for sure it's dad's fault (Laughter).

Q. Not to get into specifics because I know you don't like to do that, but the list of goals you just talked about, making it to the TOUR Championship, does the list look similar to what it did last year, or did you add to it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's probably around the same number. I don't know specifically exactly. I haven't looked at it in a couple of months. But, yeah, it's always generally some stuff like it was last year. I mean, it's been always a couple of specific stat stuff that always has a couple specific things that I want to accomplish. Maybe like a general idea or thought and just kind of some other miscellaneous stuff. But, yeah, it's generally around the same. Only four more weeks, five more weeks and you'll get to see, if you want.


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