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August 30, 2018

Justin Thomas

Boston, Massachusetts

RACHEL NOBLE: We'd like to welcome back our defending champion, Justin Thomas, to the media center.

Last year your win here was the 5th of a remarkable season, on your way to win the FedExCup. Talk about what it's like to return here to defend your title.

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's great, anytime you can come to a place that you've not only won, but to defend your title it's fun. A lot of great memories, you know. I was able to kind of talk to my dad and do some shots that I hit out there that I did last year on Sunday. So like I said, it's always fun, especially when you come to a place say if you're maybe not playing well or just kind of can't quite get things going, you have a lot of positive memories to look back on. So, yeah, this is a course that I've loved ever since I first came here. I really enjoy playing it. Very, very passionate sports fans up here, it's pretty cool.

Q. Along the same lines, how did the pitch go last night?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm pretty disappointed with an effort for my first pitch. But I was nervous, man, out of my comfort zone. I'm more than happy to hit a golf ball and do whatever I need to do with it in front of millions of people. Throwing a first pitch with no warmups, isn't exactly on the top of my favorite things to do in confidence. But it was fun. There's one thing I wasn't going to do is throw it in the dirt. So I made sure not to do that.

Q. The story that came out this week, kind of talking about some of the changes that the Tour, specifically for East Lake, kind of based on the position you were in last year, where you won the FedExCup and you didn't win the title. Can you talk about your thoughts on making that more of a clean ending, so to speak, if you win East Lake, you win it all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's, like anything, it's going to be different. It's going to be interesting. It's going to take some time getting used to. I'm obviously pretty content with the way it is right now. I don't know how it would have panned out last year if I still would have won or not. At the end of the day, you still have to play great golf to win a FedExCup, whether it's the format it is now or the format it may possibly be or will be.

I'm more worried about playing this week here. And then I think once we get there in the following years we'll be able to kind of dissect it a little bit more.

Q. You have a 34 in your social media handles for David Ortiz, and he gave you a little shout out on Instagram for the week. So how cool was that for you? And a follow-up, who is the current Red Sox player that's impressed you the most this season?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I grew up a massive, massive Red Sox fan. A lot more so than I am now. I still like them but growing up in Louisville, we don't have any professional sports team. My fan bases are kind of all over the place. My Uncle Bill, he grew up in the Boston area and he basically refused to get me any sort of gift for birthday or Christmas unless it was related to the Red Sox. I had more jersey T-shirts growing up and hats and blankets. I had Red Sox stuff everywhere. He it took me to a game at Fenway when I was probably 12. Took me to a Yankees/Red Sox game when it was Nomar and Manny and Johnny Damon was still in the Red Sox. So I -- I was so young, but still I was always a huge fan.

And David Ortiz was just someone that I really liked, he was always really clutch. He's a great person. He did a lot outside of just the game of basketball. So I just have -- because -- it is kind of funny is because of him I have 34 on my social media.

But this year I'd say the entire team seems to be doing pretty well. I don't follow the team near as closely as I used to, but Mookie has had a pretty phenomenal season, between him and I think what J.D., their batting averages are in the top couple in the whole league. So they keep doing what they're doing, I think they're in pretty good shape.

Q. Can you talk about Tiger just in general? It was 21 years ago he won his first major. And in particular about the year he's having this year, how he's playing and what it means to have him back at that level?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It means a lot. Myself and the rest of golf are very thankful. I mean we probably can't even put into words or understand how much he was done for the game. And I think it gets a little misconstrued sometimes how we in no way will ever have any disrespect towards someone like him or Phil or whoever the greats are for the game that have helped the game get to where it is now. Just because he is who he is doesn't mean I don't want to beat him, the same with the rest of the guys. They're the reason we're playing for the money that we're playing for now, the sponsors that we have now. And to have someone like him back after everything he's gone through, after all the injuries, the surgeries, not knowing if he's going to be at -- all of us, not knowing and him not knowing if he's going to be able to play. Not only play but compete again. And now to come out and compete and play pain free the entire year, basically play a full season, full schedule, it's pretty cool. But after getting to know him a little bit I know he wants a lot more than what he's just done this year. He wants to knock off some more wins and definitely some more majors.

Q. The winning score here is usually pretty low. Are there particular parts of this course you like to attack and what's your risk/reward mentality playing TPC Boston?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think the good thing or just the great part about this golf course is it's not like it's anything tricky. It's not like you have a lot of risk/reward chances. It's really just in front of you. Hit the fairway, you have a short iron into up the greens, greens are usually relatively soft, depending on the weather we get the rest of the week. If we don't get any rain come Saturday or Sunday, as fast as these greens are right now this place can get firm and takes, which is definitely going to up the scores quite a bit, and it won't be quite as deep. They're soft right now. They're just absolutely perfect. The greens are so good to where you can kind of make it from anywhere. If you have control of your ball, leave it in the right places around the greens, you could really, really get it going out here, especially on that front nine. The back nine has some holes that you have to be a little bit more cautious, and you have to execute a little bit more so than the front. But really the whole golf course is very well designed and it's fun to play.

Q. With the schedule that's announced next year, you guys probably looking at finishing I believe in Chicago and Atlanta in late August, around this time, is the heat ever an issue? Maybe in that circumstance, that obviously a few weeks earlier than usual?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't thought about that. I can't imagine it being much hotter than it's been here the last two days. Yesterday -- I told some people that have been there, it rivaled some of the days in Malaysia that we've had. It's just brutal. Your shirt is dripping wet.

But for me I've had a hard time keeping my energy up the last couple of days. I've hit some balls and I've just felt really weak. That's just from the traveling and playing a lot these past couple months. But that's what the afternoons are for, and that's what these Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday this week is for, to make sure you get rested, so come tomorrow you're ready to go. Yes, it could be hot, but it's going to be hot for everybody, and that's all the more reason to stay hydrated and stay in shape.

Q. But Atlanta and Chicago will be different?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, myself living in Jupiter, it's already pretty hot there, so I'm pretty accustomed to it. And same with Louisville, it got pretty hot and humid there, as well. Especially this time of year it's not very many places it's not scalding hot. And those places are good for vacations.

Q. You mentioned being a Red Sox fan as a kid. Did you grow up playing other sports and did any of those other sports ever get to a point where you had to choose between them and golf?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I think I played all the sports, your stereotypical little kid played. I played soccer, indoor soccer, T-ball, I played basketball through middle school. I really liked basketball, I wasn't that good, I wasn't a good shooter, but I was a good ball handler and passer. It's hard to be good at basketball if you can't shoot very well, so that career ended quickly.

There was nothing that I felt I could play at a professional level than golf. I didn't play any of them late enough. Like I said, I'm not very fast, I wasn't good shooting, so basketball didn't really have a very long career in that.

Q. You had a lot of great rounds last season, where does the 63 on Sunday here rank when you look back at last year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, that was a good round. I remember it was a damp, overcast day. The ball wasn't going very far. I still, to this day, I said that today to my dad and Jimmy, I hit driver on 18, that didn't carry that cross bunker. I think it's 271 to the back of the tee, so it was probably anywhere from 265 to 268 to cover that bunker and I just hit a good drive right over it, and I didn't even cover it. The ball was going nowhere.

But it was something to where because of where I was going into the weekend, when I finished the leaders were just making the turn. But how difficult it was playing and then having to play that back nine I just kind of -- I ended up hanging in there in terms of the lead.

So those are the rounds that -- I mean in reality you could say that round won me the FedExCup last year. I wouldn't have had the chance going into Sunday. And because of that -- I'm sorry, on Monday. And because of that I may not have won on Monday. If I don't win this tournament I probably don't get it done in Atlanta. So I guess when you look at it that way it was a very fortuitous round.

Q. I was wondering, now it's been a year, what your thoughts on the 12th hole, have you kind of made peace with the changes?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I liked it last year. I thought it was perfectly fine. Yeah, it's fine no now. That bunker just didn't need to be there. Now that it's over with, I think we can all agree it was a pretty bad hole before. I had to take it up a different fairway four straight days, and not just myself, other guys did it, too. If the hole last year would have been 30 yards longer and just been a par 5, because it's a very, very small green, it's a par 5-like green, then it would have been a little bit more reasonable. If you hit it in the bunker then you have to lay up. As a par 4 if you hit it in the bunker, 520 yards, you hit it in a bunker and have to hit a sand wedge out and a 6-iron in, that just doesn't really make sense. So I think they're tweaking it and getting it there. But it's definitely a lot better hole this year than it was last year.

Q. Just a question, can you talk about the pacing that you've got to do with all these events coming up? And you'll also be playing your first Ryder Cup, which comes after the -- right after The TOUR Championship. How are you adjusting to that in terms of pace and when you talk to your fellow teammates, how they, what are they doing in terms of pacing their time so you're not burned out?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's tough. I haven't asked a lot of guys what they've done in terms of Ryder Cup. Last year playing in the Presidents Cup it is tough. I very vividly remember last year being that Saturday afternoon with Berg, and just not really having much in the tank and being pretty out of it. But the thing about those tournaments is you have so much adrenaline and you have so much built up and so excited and amped up to play that you kind of forget how you feel. Your body almost becomes numb to a sorts, if you want to say. So I think once you get there you kind of forget how you feel.

But that being said, you know, these playoffs are also extremely important and have a lot on the line. So we're trying to keep our bodies rested for each and every week we play. I need to do some practicing this afternoon, but I'm not going to wear myself out because I need to be fresh for this week, but also next week with the quick turnaround. You just have to really use these Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, or this week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to your advantage and use them properly to make sure that I'm in the proper shape and come the end of the year when maybe other guys are kind of starting to do this, I'm still doing this (indicating.) But that's the reason I've put the work in the entire year with my trainer and my team, for make sure that when we get to this year I'm still fresh.

RACHEL NOBLE: Thank you for your time. Good luck this week.

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