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September 26, 2018

Justin Thomas

Guyancourt, France

NEIL AHERN: Justin, thank you very much for joining us. You're a Major Champion and you've been to world No. 1, so where does this achievement, being on Team USA in a Ryder Cup, rank amongst those?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's so different, being in a team event and everything, but this is something that I've been looking forward to, something I've wanted to accomplish since I was a little kid. I was very fortunate to go to some Ryder Cups when I was a kid with my dad working for the PGA, so I've seen three in person, one of which was in Wales when I played the Junior Ryder Cup.

So I've seen it from the other side of the ropes and I'm very, very happy and excited to be on this side of the ropes.

NEIL AHERN: You've seen plenty of this golf course over the summer. How is it looking this week in comparison to the other times you've seen it.

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's good. It's almost identical in terms of the fairways are the same width. The rough, it was very similar in terms of there's the first cut and there's the second cut, which there's maybe four, five yards of, and then it's the long stuff. The only difference was it was a lot longer at the French, but it was more burnt out. So you could every once in a while get a lie, but it was a lot longer.

But now, it's probably half the length and a lot thicker and a lot more lush, just given the time of year, obviously. Fairway was a premium then and fairways are still premium now.

Q. Is this your third or fourth Ryder Cup?

Q. Yes.

Q. What was the other one?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I went to Oakland Hills. I was like -- what was it, in like 2002?

Q. You were 11?

Q. What is your favourite memory at a Ryder Cup as a teenager?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The Junior Ryder Cup, when we were able to go play that Friendship Match at Celtic Manor, we went over to Gleneagles and we played the Junior Ryder Cup and then we went over and played nine holes on the course they played The Ryder Cup. That was pretty sick.

All of the experiences at Valhalla and the access I had at the age that I was, was probably cooler, you know, having access to the team rooms -- you know, not the actual team room, but a lot of the team functions. You know, maybe the after-party kind of thing and just stuff like that to where I would have never been able to do that anywhere else other than Louisville probably, and when my dad was on the board when he was.

But playing those nine holes for that Friendship Match at Celtic Manor and seeing the players, a lot of guys that are my teammates this week, it's pretty cool.

Q. Do you feel like a rookie this week, and if you've gotten any at all, what would be the most interesting piece of advice that you've gotten?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've tried to ask some questions but not -- I'm trying not to overthink it, if that makes sense. I think it's so easy to do, in not only golf but in match play. It's so easy to overthink the pairings. So easy to overthink the odds or the evens or what hole do you want to go first.

But at the end of the day, it's like, look, if we play better golf than they do, we're probably going to win; if they play better golf than we do, they're probably going to win.

It's still golf. You still have to hit it on the fairway, still have to hit it on the green and make a lower score than the other team on the hole. I'm just trying to take that information in, in terms of it's still golf. I just need to go out and I need to control what I can control, and everything else is out of my hands.

Q. Could you play five matches, and what is the status of your wrist?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Could I play five matches? I'd play six if I could. The wrist, it's fine. Like I said last week, it looks worse than it is. It's just the white tape on top of the K.T. tape, it's more prevention. It's something to where it's not going to get any worse. I could easily play without it, but my team feels that it's best if I play with it because it's not -- you know, it's not going to get worse without it. It's fine.

It didn't hurt last week, which was great. It never is -- it has not influenced (knocking on wood) any of my shots I've had, which is most important. But at the end of the day, if Cap needs me to go five, I'll go five. If he needs me to go two or three, I'll go two or three. Whatever it is, I'll be ready to go.

Q. This golf course, you obviously know it better than your teammates, but does it favour The European Team the way it's set up, or is that not really a valid statement?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think that's what's great about this golf course -- and I was in here -- sorry, I don't know who asked about the comparison of Sawgrass and here, but there's a reason why a place like Sawgrass has so many different winners is is it doesn't favour somebody, it favours whoever is playing better, and I think this course is the exact same way.

It doesn't favour Tiger Woods over me, if it was a stroke-play event, just whichever one of us is playing better, then that favours that person. Like Webb kind of said, a lot of Ryder Cups, you've just kind of been able to bomb it and drive it, at least in America, for sure, and you can hit it up there, and even if you're in the rough, you can get it on the green.

But this course takes driver out of your hands, for everybody. It's not like you can't go up on No. 1 and hit -- I guess could you hit driver, or you can't go on No. 5, I think it is, that dogleg right. You can't hit driver there. It's just everyone's hitting it to the same spot, and then everyone's hitting a short iron on the green and then whoever hits it close, makes the putt, wins the hole. I think that's just what this course is. It doesn't favour one team or the other. It just favours whoever is playing the best.

Q. Justin, I heard somewhere that you and Jordan are good friends. If you two were paired together this week, how would you see your games matching together on a team setting?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It would be fun. I think that's what I -- when talking to Jim as much as I have about pairings, I feel like we all know each other's game so well on this team and we all get along so well that it's hard to really go wrong with many options.

But yeah, that would be something that it would be cool. It would be fun. It would be something to where like with Rickie, for me, at the Presidents Cup, we know each other's games well enough that you almost have another caddie if you need it. It's like, hey, say he hits first and he hits 7-iron, and it's just a little short. He can look at me and say, "It's a perfect 7-iron." He knows that.

That may be something that doesn't seem like a big deal to others, but it's a pretty big deal in the grand scheme of things. I think it could be something that could be fun, but you just -- you know, kind of wait and see I guess.

Q. As a rookie, which seems amazing to me, but anyway, at Riviera, you and Rory were saying after you finished your round with Tiger there, and I was listening to this, how much you thought he lost to the field; now, looking at the galleries and the size of all the stands, this is your first Ryder Cup. How do you think that's going to play for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not to be rude, but he said that (laughing). I was there, obviously, but he was the one that definitely said that it feels like it adds strokes.

I don't know how he's done that his whole career; I think is more so what I said -- no, I understand exactly what you're saying.

It is unbelievable playing with Tiger, and this is far and away any crowd of a normal PGA TOUR event with Tiger. It will be great, but it will be fun. It will be that fun/nervous. It will be that adrenaline-nervous, that it's kind of like at Phoenix, there's so many people and there's so much noise, that it all cancels out. Or when you have a thousand people and five, ten people make noise, you can hear it. When you have 5,000 to 10,000 people on a hole and a percentage of people make noise, it's kind of a buzz, if that makes sense.

It will be new to me and I'm a rookie, and it's something that I'm going to need to have really, really good control of my emotions this week because I'm an emotional player and I can sometimes get up-and-down, so I need to do as much as I can to keep it even keel and feed off the energy as much as possible.

Q. How much shame is there having your dad be a sports writer?

Q. Your father being a sports writer, is there a shot of shame in that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: My dad being a sports writer? Am I missing something?

Q. I'll tell you later.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm lost, I'm sorry.

Q. How well did you know Tony going in, and just how would you describe his personality? You guys aren't so different in age, but it's like you're in different places in your lives, it seems?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, Tony's great. Tony and I went through the Web.com. We graduated the same year. We played a handful of times that year, and in terms of a person, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.

I actually heard someone say in the physio room a couple weeks ago that -- and this -- you know, Webb is viewed as one of the nicest guys on Tour. I forget who said it. They said that Tony makes Webb look like an a-hole because he's that nice (laughter). He's one of those guys -- yeah. (Laughter) and Bubba, yeah, whatever.

He's someone that pairs so well with everybody because he's easy to get along with, and who wouldn't want to play with him. You know, his game is so fiery. It's got a lot of -- it just has a lot of versatility. I think that's something when I played with him for the first couple times on Tour, I was very surprised. There's a handful of guys out here that you stop and watch every shot they hit because it's very impressive. There's a lot of guys that get it around that are Top 15, 30 players in the world, but it may not look as good.

But Tony is someone that it goes so, so high and so far, he can work it both ways, he has great hands around the greens and he putts it really well. It's no coincidence he was what he was going into Atlanta without a win, he's so consistent and such a great player. He's definitely a great person to have on your team.

Q. Have you done anything to get ready for the first tee shot by talking to teammates that have done it before? And the Europeans are pretty loose; can that be said about the U.S. side, as well?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It sounds, from the stories I've heard in the past, there's nothing I can do to get ready for the first tee shot. I've heard multiple stories of guys go into the first tee saying they have odds and stepping up there and saying, "I can't pull the trigger, you need to take it."

So if I do end up being odds with whoever my partner is, I hope that I don't have that problem. Again, it's a good kind of nervousness and a good kind of jitters to have. It's going to be a cool experience. The Presidents Cup was the Presidents Cup, and it's like we have three massive buildings around us on the first tee this week. So I'm very excited, and like I said, I'm happy to be watching this opening tee shot, whether I'm hitting it or my partner's hitting it from the first tee instead of a couch somewhere watching it on TV. It definitely is going to beat that.

In terms of the vibe of our team, I think we have a very laid back, very relaxed team. Everyone is doing a great job of conserving their energy in these practise days but also getting the work done they need to because it has been a long year, at the end of a long year, and it is a long week in terms of the functions and everything we have to do.

Everyone is doing as well as they can to stay relaxed and get their work done so that we're ready come Friday.

Q. When you first started to get to know Tiger as like a friend, what was that like to be like, oh, my God, I'm texting with Tiger Woods? Can you describe the evolution of that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I still sometimes have to -- I still kind of say that to myself sometimes. It is bizarre, just for me, he's the reason why I love golf so much. He is the person that I was -- when I was seven and eight, nine years old, putting by myself on the putting green, in my head I was making this putt to beat him.

So it's, again, like a lot of guys on our team, I'm happy to have him on my team, as opposed to playing against him in stroke-play events. It's cool, I would say a couple years ago, my first Masters, I reached out to him and just talked to him about Augusta. He wasn't playing, so he was going to be helpful. You know, it's not like it was this year or whenever he plays. His mouth kind of closes a little bit or how much information he gives out is not quite as much.

So I tried to take advantage of that time when he was hurt as much as I possibly could. I think during that process, I wanted to be there for him as a friend, or as somebody, because the life he lives is so different than everybody else. If he gets bored, he can't go out in public and do something without getting harassed. Myself, Rickie, other guys in Jupiter, we wanted to hang out with him and we wanted to do whatever he wanted to do. So to be able to have that friendship relationship with him is cool.

Yeah, like I said, I'm happy to have him on my team.

NEIL AHERN: Justin, thank you very much and have a great week.

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