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January 1, 2019
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Justin Thomas into the media center here making his fourth start at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and he's our 2017 champion here in Kapalua. Justin, welcome back. If we can get some comments please.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Always great to start the year here at Kapalua. I think for a handful a very high percentage of us this is a great, great place to start the year and it's just, it doesn't get any better than being in Hawaii. But it's a small field, a chance to get a lot of FedExCup points and get a good jump start to the year if you've either been behind or haven't played yet. And, yeah, it's been nice a little off season and excited to get going.
JOHN BUSH: This is your third start of the year. You had a Top-5 at CIMB Classic, but talk a little bit about your start to the season, and then what you've been doing the last couple months.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was very, very busy there come the end of the '17, '18 season and then Ryder Cup and then the Asia swing for me, and then had Tiger's event in there a couple weeks after, but it was good. Really from Tiger's event to now was great. I was home almost the entire time. I had a little family vacation after that and I was home actually 20 straight nights, which was I think the longest I've ever been home since I've been professional, so I was pretty excited about that. I was able to get in a good routine and just get a good amount of rest and work on my game, work on my body. And like I said, I'm just happy to be here. It's crazy it's started already.
JOHN BUSH: We'll open it up to questions, please.
Q. How aware are you of the new rule changes this year, and have you spent any amount of time kind of looking over them?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've tried to spend a lot of time looking over them. Especially a handful of them are quite a bit different and I think you'll see it across the field especially these first couple months. Everybody's going to be calling a rules official in as much possible. So unfortunately play is probably not going to be too fast. But it's tough, with anything, with change it's always going to be different. But I've tried to study up, I told Jimmy to look at them as much as he can. You would hate to get penalized just for making a mistake for something you've done your whole life, so it will be different.
Q. When was last time that you had a ruling on the course that you just didn't know what to do, that you just didn't have a clue?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You get some things that are kind of in a gray area, if you get relief from them or not. I had one in Korea where I hit a drive way right, like in the middle of these trees, and somehow like this tree that I was near had a post that it was like leaning up against like, almost like a little temporary-type tree, so it was a TIO and I was able to get relief from it. But because it was in the middle of this forest I was like I didn't really know if I got relief from it. So that's really the only instance I can think of. Although I have a pretty good idea of the rules, most of the time I still call official 95 percent of the time just because it's, with TV now pretty much every drop or everything that you have, at least when you're in contention, is televised and that's all you need is to do something that someone thinks is wrong and then next thing you know you get penalized for something you didn't know that you were doing. I call an official most times but this time, or I guess the beginning of this year it might be needed.
Q. Any likelihood you'll putt with the flag stick in or have you thought about that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No.
Q. And why not? Some people say there's statistics say it helps you, but --
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean personally I don't think I can -- I mean obviously whenever I'm like this and Jimmy is, that's one thing. But I mean if I have an 8-footer to win a golf tournament, I can't -- I mean no offense, I can't really take myself seriously if I kept the pin in. I mean it just would be such a weird picture and like on TV me celebrating and like the pin is in and my ball's like up against it. And so I don't know, to me that's one thing. But, yeah, I guess there's some instances in tournaments where the pin is really the only thing that can stop it, that's one thing. But if I have a putt I'm trying to make that thing's coming out.
Q. Is that a visual thing?
JUSTIN THOMAS: What, the flag stick? I just, I truly, I can't, I wouldn't be able to take myself seriously. I just feel like it would be very, very weird.
Q. Curious how your schedule might change given what is going on now with the condensed schedule, PGA in May, that sort of thing.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I don't think, a lot of the tournaments that I played I don't think are going to change too much. Obviously the timing has changed. But it looks like I could be doing a lot of one-on/one-off kind of thing for a little bit. It is, it's weird. I still don't -- the Florida, I still don't know very well, but for the most part, I have a pretty good idea what I'm playing. I'll have to add an event this year. I'm not sure what that will be yet. But for the most part, like I said, I'm going to play the same events, just the timing is going to be different for some of them. But it will be a little different having different conditions for a tournament like THE PLAYERS or -- I've never played it that time of year, so it could be, it's just going to be very different than what I've been accustomed to. So my prep is going to -- in the past I've even gone there Tuesday just because I know the course, I know what it's going to be like, but I may have to get there earlier now and test that out. The PGA, I might not want to get there too early. That time of year you might get some cold days up in the north, so we'll see how it is. But like everybody and anything else you just have to adapt.
Q. Did you put more thought into this year's schedule than maybe in the past because of the changes?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I guess you could say yes, just because I had to learn the schedule. I'm still learning it. In the past you just always know it went this, this, this and this and I knew what I was going to play, what I wasn't going to play. I might add this, I might take this out. But like this year it's like, okay, I don't play before the majors, like I was maybe thinking about playing for the majors, but I'm not going to go to this tournament because I don't think it's like that, or whatever it may be and so it's definitely taken more thought. Just because of the difference of it. But and like I said, getting accustomed to the order that it's in. But a couple years goes by and it will be normal.
Q. Do you think there will be a tournament that maybe you played in the past without giving a specific tournament, but could there be one that you would take off your schedule next year because it's so condensed?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It doesn't look that way. Possibly. But for the most part I don't think so. Everything's pretty similar. There's five or six or seven events I would love to play and I want to play, but it just doesn't work out in the schedule, which is a bummer and I would hope tournament directors understand that, that events that I'm not playing in -- there's, a perfect example in the past has been the Wyndham. I think the Wyndham is one of the greatest events that the TOUR puts on and they're such a great, it's such an old event, they go back so long playing there at Sedgefield and I love the golf course, (Mark) Brazil puts on an unbelievable event, everybody does, and it's just so hard, in the past, going, it went Akron, PGA, Wyndham and then playoffs and it's like you just can't play six, seven in a row. So that's always been an event where it's like if that was in the middle of the summer, maybe I would play or something. I know you said not to name events but that's one in the past where I would have loved to play along with a lot of other events, just the schedule and the timing doesn't work out.
Q. When in your practice rounds on number 4 have you gone back to that new tee and if so what's the difference in club selection?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hit 5-iron in yesterday. It's unbelievable. I've always just kind of hit that one where I tee it low and because the wind's always so hard off the left there and you kind of hit one low it doesn't really get above the trees and kind of stays straight and it really just kind of barely covers the hill, but it goes and it runs up there. I've had as little as probably 95 yards and I had as much, if I hit 3-wood, I'll maybe have 140. But I usually have somewhere between 110 to 120, 125 every time I play that hole and I had 188 yesterday. I hit 5-iron in. That green's tough with a wedge let alone with a 5-iron.
Q. But it's funny because the distance between the tee box and the old tee box doesn't seem like 40 yards.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's not, but it's just -- well I hit the low one, I probably won't hit the low one as much on that hole because I can't carry that hill. If I mis-hit it I, like I don't know if I would have gotten to the fairway. Needless to say it was blowing about 30 yesterday but yeah I could see my ball like bounce a couple times and then like I saw my ball I never have seen my ball bounce on that hole before and then I think it flew about 190 yards. I mean it was like just right there. We got to my ball and I looked back and I'm like, the tee box is right there. We're not very far out here.
Q. How much is getting back to world No. 1 and staying there for awhile a goal of yours this year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's extremely important. Not necessarily this year, but it just, it's any year, it's any time. That being said, it's, there's a lot of very stiff and hard competition. There's a lot of guys that are playing really well and it's such a tight race I guess you could say that really there's a handful of guys that are really two, three weeks away from, if they win a couple in a row or have a couple good weeks in majors or something then they could just as easily take it over. So it is very important to me and it's something I try not to think too much about but also have but I'm trying to win golf tournaments, I'm not -- and that will result in getting closer or getting to No. 1 -- but it's not like I'm out there practicing like, okay, this shot is to get to No. 1 in the world or I'm trying to win it, you know what I mean? So it's just a part of the process.
Q. There are so many guys playing well can you see anyone holding it for a significant amount of time this year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Hopefully me, but, yeah, like I said, it's just, it's hard because it's so close. Especially with BK and Rosie right now, I mean it's, I don't know, I mean I didn't follow the World Golf Ranking rankings as closely obviously when I was in high school and college and beginning when I first turned pro, but I don't know if it's ever been that close to where one place here and there even if they finish 25th or 30th is all the difference. So it just fluctuates so much and could change so much but then again I'm hoping to at least get back there.
Q. What's the longest you ever had to wait in line for a table at a restaurant?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know, I'm usually pretty good, I usually make reservations, I'm smart. No one -- if you're saying in the fact of me walking in and getting a table, that's not going to happen. No one knows who I am. So, I don't know, it's been a minute, but like I said, I'm smart, Doug, I make reservations.
Q. Curious if you're sorry not to defend at Akron.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm very sorry, yeah.
Q. Can you elaborate?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean any time, any place that you win you obviously enjoy, but there's not, that's just another -- especially my grandparents it's another tournament they could come to -- but I've always loved that golf course and I thought that it fit my game so well. Although I didn't play very well the first two years, I was happy to finally get some success on it and now it's gone, but I'm excited to play Memphis I heard that's a really, really great golf course.
Q. You haven't been there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I've never been there. I've heard it's a terrific course and a ball-striker's course so I'm hoping to have a good chance to defend there. But, yeah, I'll always miss Akron.
JOHN BUSH: Justin Thomas, thank you for your time. Best of luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports