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February 27, 2019

Justin Thomas

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the defending champion of the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas, into the interview room. Justin, before we talk about your season up to this point, take us back to last year, incredible wedge there on the last hole to get the birdie and then go in and eventually defeat Luke List. Take us back to that and the memories you have.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I had a lot. Today was my first time out on the golf course after last year on Sunday, so a lot of great memories. The golf course is definitely a lot different. The fairways are very, very soft. Greens are firm, being new. They're rolling very true. Looked like they did a little bit of tweaking to some of the greens, so it was great to see it.

But yeah, any time that you can come back to a place that you've won and had success at, it's enjoyable. It's refreshing I get you could say. But yeah, we played really well last year, stayed very patient. It was a very emotional win. It kind of took a lot out of us and started a nice little stretch of golf, so hopefully we can pick up some of those vibes from last year.

THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about your season up to this point for us.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've played really well this year. I've been really close to winning I feel like a lot of tournaments. I just haven't performed on Sunday like I have in the past, but that's either for me forcing it a little bit or like Riviera I just didn't play well and J.B. played a great round of golf. But there's a lot more positives to take from this year than negatives. Again, I feel like I'm very, very close to going on a little bit of a run here, but I just need to continue to stay patient and just kind of wait for good things to happen.

Q. After playing today, can you go over some of the challenges the course might provide with the new changes, especially the Bear Trap with the changes to 17?
JUSTIN THOMAS: With the --

Q. The distance on 17.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, that's definitely easier, not having to potentially hit a 5-iron into that green is very nice. That's not a very fun shot when you have wind into your face off the right and you're trying to feather a cut 5-iron in there. That's just not fun.

But no, I mean, the course is -- it's good. They get a lot of play out here, so it's difficult, I'm sure, to keep the course in the condition that they would like. But you know, visually from the tee, it just looks pristine, and the fairways are tight. They always are. And again, the fairways are pretty wet. Wasn't getting very much roll today, had quite a few mud balls. But the greens are firm, so I think that's going to be the most important part is driving the ball in the fairway this week because last year it felt like if you hit it in the rough you could potentially still hit the green, whereas now at least on a lot of holes that's not going to be the case.

Q. I think I saw you paired with Rickie tomorrow?

Q. What does that add to it, not only playing at home but one of your great buddies? Do you go right into the same Justin Thomas feel or is there a little bit of a comfort level with Rickie out there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, it's fortunate where I've gotten to know enough the guys out here where most pairings are like that. You'll get a random pairing here and there with maybe somebody you're not as good a friends with, and that is what it is. But no, I mean, it'll be fun. We play a lot of golf together. We have played a lot of golf together. We both have had success here, and we're both very competitive. We hang out a lot, so it's not going to be too different. We're just going to -- he's going to want to have a great round of golf just like I'm going to want to have a great round, just like Billy is going to want to have a great round. You know, we're hopefully just going to -- at least I'm going to get my own little focus and just see how well we can play.

Q. Do you expect to play the ball up or down tomorrow, and obviously weather is a big part this week. How do you think the course is going to play with the conditions in the forecast?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, the thing with the forecast in south Florida is that you can't -- I mean, I never really look at it the week before. I remember last week guys saying, you're like, oh, you're going to get rain the whole day in the pro-am, and I'm like, it's Florida. There's a 70 percent chance of rain every day, and it was perfect today. Obviously you have the rest of the day, but there's always going to be a chance of rain in south Florida pretty much any time of year. You never know what you're going to get there. But in terms of playing it up or down, I'm not really sure. The TOUR pretty much everywhere always leans toward playing it down if they can, but if they get any rain, I could see it being hard to play down, and if that's the case, it's going to be very, very difficult to chip around these greens because it's tight, it's wet. The ball is going to sit down. It's going to be really hard to catch it clean and hit different shots. The good news is everybody has to play the same thing, so we'll see.

Q. With the start of the Florida Swing, can you discuss the transition coming from the West Coast, obviously a different kind of grass and that type of thing? I assume it's something you welcome since you've won here in this state?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, the hardest part is the time. Not that it's ever easy to wake up at 5:30, but it was really hard to wake up this morning at 5:30. Getting used to that, getting your body clock back to where it should be. But no, it's nice being off poa annua, that's for sure. You never know what the ball is going to do on those kind of greens, and being back on Bermuda, what I play on all the time. But like all of us, we do that all year. We play on different grasses from week to week, and the main thing is just getting adjusted as quickly as you can before the tournament starts.

Q. And then having this four-week stretch, is that something you can kind of just get in a comfortable groove with?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not necessarily because I'm only playing in two of them probably, so I mean, it's a shame because this is such a great stretch of golf tournaments, and it's just not possible for us to play all of them. I know it's unfortunate for this event, just the time in the schedule it had a lot of people that always play that just can't play this year. There's so many great tournaments on the PGA TOUR, the whole season, that we just can't play all of them. At the end of the day, although we have respect for that tournament director, that tournament, that course, city, whatever it may be, we have to think about ourselves and our body and what is going to produce our best golf, and that's what everyone is doing when they're thinking of their schedule.

Q. As a resident of Palm Beach County, how much are you looking forward to and how much fun do you have playing here in Palm Beach?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to going in my closet every morning and choosing whatever I want as opposed to the seven or eight shirts I packed and pants I packed. It's little things like that that make it nice, and being able to go to breakfast somewhere in the morning or having something at home, restaurants I'm accustomed to. So it'll be good.

But just being the third week in a row, every week is a little bit more tiring and grueling mentally, so just that little bit extra bit of comfort and rest that I can get at home is just -- I think is going to be beneficial for a third week in a row kind of thing.

Q. How often do you look at your personal analytics, and which statistics are most important to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I look at them a decent bit. I would say the ones that are most important to me are the ones that I need to improve on the most, so that's a thing that changes quite a bit. My dad does a good job of like kind of keeping stuff when I'm playing well versus when I'm not, and it's like, okay, well, we did this well there but this not well here, and why did we not do this kind of thing. I don't know if that really answers your question, but a lot of it is kind of what is happening at that time, I guess, because unfortunately this game is so dang hard that we don't do the same thing all the time. It seems like when one thing is clicking, something else isn't, and we're always changing it.

Q. Will you look at anything going into Augusta saying this is what I need to focus on going in there? Is there something for that golf course that that's the stat I need to work on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: For me it's always around the greens. I think it is for anybody. You have to have such control of the ball, pitching and chipping and wedging, whether it's spin direction or top spin, back spin and leaving it in the correct spot under the hole, and then you have to be able to make a lot of those short to mid-range putts. But that being said, if you do that really well every week, then you're going to be just fine.

Q. On the opposite end of the spectrum as analytics, I know you've been asked about playing with Tiger, but was curious what you've gotten from him that's not necessarily advice but more something that you've observed that maybe has affected your approach or attitude to the way you play.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I just like watching how he goes around the golf course and how he plays. I mean, I've played enough with him now where I feel like I've seen him play bad, play okay, play well, play really well to where it's fun watching him get around a course when he's not playing well, how he manages to shoot around par, how he shoots under par. But that being said, I feel like I do a pretty good job of that, as well, but just little things that you can pick up on, like okay, he knows this isn't a time to attack and he just puts it in the correct spot on the green, and his chipping and putting is so good. So just little things like kind of watching him make his way around the golf course is kind of fun.

Q. We talked to Brooks, and he talked about how he's becoming more forthcoming, and he said he's going to open more about issues and talk more about issues. This is what we're seeing is more of who he is. Have you seen somebody who has gotten more comfortable in his skin lately after the success and someone who can make a difference with his voice maybe on social issues or something?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, well, the thing about Brooks is somehow he was one of the most underrated players ever, and no offense, but nobody really talked to him, so it's not like -- it's not that he just wasn't speaking his mind, but there was no one to speak his mind to other than us. I think now that he's a little bit more -- a lot under the scope and getting asked questions, that's not Brooks' personality to -- he's definitely not causing issues by any means, but he's also -- I feel I'm very similar. It's like, there's no reason for me to sit up here and tell you guys that I think the rules of golf, the changes are great, because I don't, I think they're terrible. So why would I say that, know what I'm saying? I think anything you can do that's going to change the game positively or have a good impact on something, then there's no reason to feel like you need to hold back.

Q. A couple 62's and a 59 over your career; I know Mexico was the most recent and some of your comments after were like driver everywhere I could. To be totally transparent, you weren't necessarily in grind mode, so to speak. Have you noticed anything different or similar over the rounds that you've gone so low?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really -- I would say all of them I putted really well. Obviously it's hard to shoot those scores without doing that. But I'm just in a really good place mentally when I'm doing that. I don't know, early last week I had a hard time -- I couldn't get focused. I just couldn't kind of get in that zone, in that frame of mind. It's like whenever I had the opportunity to kind of get either on a run or get some momentum, I just did something stupid to kill it or I just would lose my focus and make a bad bogey or a three-putt or whatever it was, and I just -- I couldn't get there. For some reason, Sunday I was in millionth place and I'm just going into the day like, all right, let's just go try to do something positive today, and something about when you're even par, it's just not really fun to hit 5-irons off tees and 4-irons off tees, and I was driving it well enough where I wasn't doing anything stupid out there, but I was like, almost, I'm going to driver everywhere, play aggressive and just not really care, and I think when you can kind of get carefree -- we've said I've driven it well and putted well in pro-ams before, and why is that I do it better then? It's because you just don't care. You don't care about the result. Okay, if I hit it in the water, whatever, par is your partner, you pick it up and you go to the next one.

I think I'm trying to get better at kind of getting in that mind frame of just not worrying about the result, don't be result oriented, just be more about the process and just go out there and try to have some fun and hopefully good golf comes from it.

Q. Talking to people who don't play professional golf for a living, is it fair to say you kind of remove a layer of pressure you have on yourself and it's kind of on autopilot for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, somewhat. That's what I tell amateurs all the time. They always ask for advice in these pro-ams, and although it's very blunt and very aggressive, I remember Jim Furyk's talking at the Travelers, talking to this group, and again, they asked for advice, and he was like, don't take this the wrong way, but he's like, you guys suck. We don't think you're good, so don't think that you're good because we're expecting you to shoot 90. Like you're an 18 handicap for a reason, know what I'm saying, so it's like, don't go out there thinking you're going to hit the same shots we are because you're not. We're better than you, we practice a lot more, you have jobs. Our job is this. We have to be good or we don't have a job. So it's like, don't expect so high of yourself because it's just not realistic kind of thing.

Q. It's been five years now since your last season on the Web.com TOUR. Looking back, what would you say your favorite memory was from your year and what that season meant in the context of your career?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably all my memories with you, Kevin. It's like seeing your face back there behind 18 tee just brightened my whole day. No, man, it was fun. I had a lot of great friends. It's kind of like a high school or college -- not that I would know a college graduating class, but you go through together and guys will bring someone up, like yeah, I went through Web with him and stuff like that. You know, it's kind of a cool little brotherhood. You have your guys you got your card with, you have the guys you celebrated with in Jacksonville that night, whatever it may be, so you always remember that. I learned a lot about myself, about scheduling, about traveling, managing my time and dealing with media, playing pro-ams, this and that. It was my first year as a pro. That was a very important year in terms of developing -- becoming a professional and understanding everything. It was a lot of fun.

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