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March 12, 2019

Justin Thomas

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We would like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room here at the THE PLAYERS Championship. Justin, you're making your fifth start in THE PLAYERS Championship. I'm assuming you've gotten out and done a little practice so far. What are you excited for going into this week?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm excited just to -- I mean, any time you're here at THE PLAYERS, it's a big deal. It's obviously a huge event. It's going to be somewhat new to me being in March, so today was able to kind of check out the conditions. Obviously it rained a lot last night that we could tell out there, but, yeah, just I guess just going to go out there and try to swing it and ding it, if you will.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: Looking back, you had last week off. What's the state of your game?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's good. I took quite a bit of time off last week, just trying to relax and just get rested and get the body feeling right. But, yeah, I have, I feel like I've played better than maybe my results show here, so this is a place that I do get excited to come to, but yeah, I'm just excited about playing in this tournament because it's always a blast.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'll start with questions, please.

Q. Could you explain to somebody who is not necessarily an aficionado of different types of grasses what is the difference this week, seeing this place in March?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's a lot softer, so the ball is going to not roll out near as much as it does in May, especially tee shots. I've hit 2-iron, gap wedge, 2-iron, pitching wedge into 18, and I hit driver, 5-iron today. The wind's going to probably -- actually I haven't looked at what it's going to be in the tournament, but predominantly in a complete different direction. So that's going to have a big impact.

But it just -- it's totally just going to be the softness of the course I think is going to be the big difference. But they're going to be able, with SubAir, you would think that they will get them firmer and firmer as the week goes on. The greens, that is. And it will still be a premium on hitting the fairway and playing good golf because I think it's no secret or no surprise that you just need to strike it well around here to play well and then just leave it in the right places.

Q. Do you like it this way?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'll let you know on Sunday.

Q. You really don't know yet?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I've played nine holes. I mean, it's still golf, it's right in front of you. I loved it in May. Just I love firm, fast, tricky conditions, if you will. But at the end of the day, I've played well on soft, longer courses before, so although it's almost like a totally different golf course at times if you get an opposite wind than it is versus May, but still got to hit the shots and make the putts.

Q. Tiger was in here a few hours ago talking about his relationship with you, and Tiger said Matt's very knowledgeable of the game. Curious to see what you have learned over the years from him and what his assets are.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, he's been -- I would say a lot of people have found out that he was my putting coach this week. I had a lot of people probably had no idea. I've known Matt since I was probably six or seven. I mean, he's teaching JB and Kenny Perry. I've always grown up around him and knowing my dad, so it's, I've always had -- it's more of a friendship than it is a business relationship, if you will, but he's just helped me a lot with fundamentals.

I started working with him my freshman year of college, and just the little things that I maybe didn't think about and things that we can maybe go back to and just trying to become consistently a better putter each year, and I feel like we have. There's always places, especially in putting, that you can improve on, and it's something that sometimes is hard to gauge success off of because of your stats. You may be putting well but balls aren't necessarily going in or you may be playing well and winning tournaments but you're hitting it really well so your putting statistics aren't great. So we take all that into factor, but as a whole, I mean, I would think my dad would agree, we have worked very well together and it's been fun.

Q. You played with a guy today who played in this tournament the last time it was in March. Did he have any advice for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I didn't really ask. Now that I think about it, I probably should have. But, no, I talked to him about it in the past, just from clubs that's hit into holes or kind of those bizarre stories of hitting 6-iron on 17 or whatever it may be. But no, I don't think there's anything necessarily tricky, I would say. I would say if you were going from these conditions to May conditions, that's where maybe a little bit of knowledge would help, versus May to here, it's like the ball's probably going to stop about where it lands on your tee shots, and your iron shots it's not going to roll out very far.

The rough is the rough. It's not like that Bermuda. At least for me, Bermuda I have a hard time gauging and chipping out of, whereas I feel like I'm pretty good at chipping out of this rough. So for me there's just a lot -- or to me there's a lot less questionable factors to the golf course. It's just kind of all right in front of you and you know what you're going to get. So I feel like there may not be as much course knowledge or local knowledge or whatever you want to call it.

Q. Two things, Justin. From a television standpoint, do you have any favorite memories of this? Obviously it would probably be before you actually started playing in it.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm trying to not be cliche and say Tiger's putt on 17, but I mean, there's only been so many years I can remember watching it. I'm not old enough to have too much history of watching it before I played. I mean seriously, I know this doesn't really answer your question in terms of watching on TV, but my rookie year I played with Sergio on Sunday and he made a putt on 17 that was -- other than probably Jordan's putt he made in the Masters on 16 on Sunday last year was the loudest I've ever heard a golf course. It was insane. That pin was back right like always. I think he was tied for the lead or something like that, and he hit it -- or maybe a one-shot lead. He hit it probably 45 feet on the top left tier and he made it. And it was so loud, and I remember like that was my first, wow, this is a pretty big event. This is a pretty big putt. So like I said, that doesn't really answer your question in terms of watching it, but that was --

Q. Probably a better answer than my original question if I think about it. Second one, completely off topic, if you look at all the different training aids you can use, whether it's a putting aid, TrackMan, phone for video, green book if you use one, etcetera, what do you consider the most valuable and why?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's a good question.

Q. Better than the first one for sure.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, definitely better than that one. Man, it's so important to know your distance control, so I mean, I would have a hard time steering away from a TrackMan, just in terms of -- but man, that's so hard because I want to know what my swing is doing. I like looking at it on video. I don't use TrackMan for what my swing's doing. I don't know. My dad's in here; ask him. He may give you a better answer than me.

Q. Looking ahead a little bit here, but we're kind of in a strange spot in time here where none of the top-10 in the golf rankings have won a Masters, which is very unusual. I'm just curious about -- well, I don't know what do you think that might say about the new wave of players who are coming on, but also for players who have accomplished so much, to get in the top-10, how much do you really miss not having a Masters title, I guess?
JUSTIN THOMAS: What do you mean in terms of how much do I miss?

Q. Well I mean how much, how much do you think, is that -- how big a hole is that in a player's resume who has accomplished as much as you guys have to reach a top-10?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well I mean, it's just as important as not winning a U.S. Open or a British Open, to me. It's a major championship. It has the same weight as the other major championships in terms of World Ranking and FedExCup points, whatever it may be. But I think it's just a coincidence that nobody's in the top-10 has won the Masters. It definitely speaks to the new wave of players.

But the fact of the matter is it's just a coincidence that I haven't won a Masters or that Brooks or D.J. or Rosey, like it very easily could have happened many times but it just hasn't. I wouldn't necessarily look too much into that part.

But no, I mean, I want to win every major just as bad as I want to win the Masters. Sometimes it's easy to say, and definitely the Masters has its history and, yeah, I love the golf course and I get so excited to play it every year, but yeah, I would be just as pleased lifting up a Claret Jug as putting on a Green Jacket.

Q. How do you think you are suited now to perform at the Masters, because your track record hasn't been real great? But how comfortable are you now with the place?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I've been very comfortable for four years now. I just haven't played very well. I don't think there's many courses consistently that could fit my game much better. It's really, really -- I think I honestly get too excited and too amped up and honestly over-prepared for it. Because like you said, I think I put too much effort into wanting to win the Masters or winning a major, whereas it's just another tournament at the end of the day and there's no reason for me to go in there, wear myself out before I even get there and prepare and just fry myself, and then come the weekend it's hard to maintain that high level of playing, especially if I have it early in the week.

So I love it. I'm excited to go back there. I went last week and played a couple days, and it's -- I mean there's no place I enjoy more going to play a fun round of golf or any round of golf than Augusta, so I hopefully just have a lot more success over it.

Q. AJGA tweeted out that 23 players that have competed, junior players, now are playing THE PLAYERS, and you're one of them. Goes back to 2008, 2009. Just curious to see what was that experience for you? And the follow-up question would be, you're hosting the AJGA event; how much fun is it to do that last couple years?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been really, really fun doing the AJGA event. Especially now it's at my home course in Louisville where I grew up. So it's special enough having an event with my name attached to it and helping out the juniors, junior golfers in any way I can, but having it at the golf course that I grew up and I played a million times is even more special, so I've been very, very fortunate to where the schedule's lined up to where I've been able to go the last couple years and see the kids and talk to them and hand out the awards, whatever it may be, because it's, yeah, I understand that over the course of my career it's not going to work out that way every year, so every year that I can do that is important. But it wasn't that long ago I was doing that and I just remember how big of an impact it was if I was ever reached out to by a professional or even a college player, so I mean I feel like I can relate to them because like I said, they're not that different in age and I know some of them that play on my high school team or being around the area in Louisville, but it is special and in terms of playing here, I don't have many great golf memories, other than I made a 10 on number 17 and I didn't hit my first two shots in the water, so I'll let you try and figure that one out. And, yeah, I played a lot of ping pong that week, I remember that.

Q. Can you explain the difference between playing out of the ryegrass and playing out of bluegrass where you grew up. Is there very much difference for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: There's a huge difference.

Q. Explain it, please.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's difficult to explain because it's very situational in terms of how the ball's sitting. But I would say seven times out of ten in Bermuda you're going to -- or at least how the Bermuda was in May when it was dry -- you would get fliers and, realistically, you could hit the ball about as far as you wanted. I mean you could hit a 9-iron 150 or 160 yards if you chip it or you could hit it from 220 if you had the appropriate run up. I mean it just, the ball comes out with so little spin and goes so far sometimes that it was very difficult to control into the firm greens. So the bluegrass is a lot thicker, the ball, if it, it can sit up sometimes, whereas Bermuda it never sits up it always pretty much goes down to the bottom. So ryegrass, if it sits down it's very thick, it's very I guess juicy, if you will, especially in the mornings when it's wet, but chipping out of it is just a little bit more comfortable for me because I grew up on it. So I've hit out of it enough to where I have a pretty good idea of how it's coming out. But in terms of the approach shots it's just very situational because you can get fliers, you can get balls that they're sitting down and you can only advance them a hundred yards, but whereas Bermuda it either comes out dead or fly, there's not really much in between.

Q. The issues that you've had with the USGA in the past couple of weeks, have they made any moves to smooth over any damage in that relationship and are you clearer in your mind about the thinking behind some of the rules that they have made?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've had some communication with them. We talked the last couple weeks and they have made contact with the TOUR and at that point it's, I'm not worried about it, I'm worried about playing the golf tournament this week and what happens in our conversation is personal and between us and, yeah, hopefully like I said, just continue to grow the game for the better and good things can happen.

Q. One more question for me, it's unofficially called the fifth major, would you want the unofficial title to be removed and this tournament be given major status?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't care what it is, if win it I'll be pleased with it. I mean it has all the characteristics, if you will, but I mean it's -- to me THE PLAYERS is the PLAYERS, it's such a huge event everybody knows it's a huge event, everybody knows it's a major, it's, I don't think can you go wrong calling it one or not calling it one, THE PLAYERS is THE PLAYERS. There's every person in this field would be very, very content with holding the trophy at the end of the week.

Q. Would you want it on the record, come the end of your career? It won't be classed as that major, will it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not right now, no.

Q. No, would you like to see it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Sure. I mean I don't -- I don't really care. It's, yeah, it would be great, but that's a little bit past my pay grade of deciding what the majors are.

Q. How much is past your pay grade?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Other than hitting a golf ball, and doing press conferences, I can't do a whole lot else.

Q. What I'm getting at is as someone who likes to share his opinion, especially if it's stuff that you believe in, was there ever a point from rookie season on where you felt a certain way but felt like you hadn't earned your place to say it, if that makes sense. Did it take time being out here before you felt more comfortable speaking your alleged mind?
JUSTIN THOMAS: For sure. For sure. I think there's -- I mean there's always, it doesn't matter who you are, I mean ya'll I'm sure have things that you wish that you could change in your profession and what you do. I mean there's always things that I wish that the TOUR, that we could change with the TOUR with whatever. Everybody out here, there's always going to be things that we want that we think could be changed for the better. But when you're a rookie or a second year on TOUR, you got to earn your stripes and you can't, although -- I guess what it is is there's just a time and place when you're in that position. And now that I'm on the PAC, I'm not, it's not like I'm a rookie and I'm coming up and saying these things and I'm not talking to the TOUR -- I mean everything that I've said in public and interviews the TOUR knows this, I've told the TOUR this, I've had conversations, communications with them, so it's not like that's the first they're ever hearing of it, if that makes sense. So it's not like I, and when you're that early on TOUR I don't think I have the communication with Ross Berlin, with Andy Pazder, with Jay Monahan, with Tyler Denis, with all those people to sit, call them, be like, hey, can we get together, I would love to talk to you about this. They would be like, cool; man, are you even in this week? You know what I mean? It's like you can't -- it's just -- I wouldn't feel comfortable to really be able to say that. Whereas now having a relationship with them and being on the PAC now for a couple years and just truly caring about what's going on for not just myself but everybody on TOUR, to make things for the better, then do I feel comfortable saying it.

Q. In terms of your points of view what would you call your success rate?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably pretty similar to my win percentage on TOUR, it's not very high.

Q. Going off his question, you're one of the more out spoken stars, obviously, but after the USGA dust up, you said that's enough ranting from me today, I just want to know if you're planning on dialing it back, are you going to continue to kind of say exactly what's on your mind?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well I understand there's a time and a place and you can never say everything that's on your mind, but a lot of media people will tell you that I've, I mean I've always been honest and I've never, I never want to be disrespectful and I would hope that I would never come off as disrespectful, but I do always want to be honest, because if you have something in your head that you would like changed or that you think some way, then, I mean, I'm not going to sit up here and be a robot and lie to you. It's not fair to you, it's not fair to me. But it's tough because, in this day and age, you're just, you can never, it feels like it doesn't matter who you are or what you're doing you can never do anything right, so you have to kind of tip toe your way around sometimes. But I just think that, I think that somehow the flood gates have kind of been opened with a couple guys in terms of saying how they felt for awhile, whereas I've always kind of wanted to say how I feel, just because there's no reason to tell you guys something differently, especially if you're going to go write a story about it then it's just a false story, whereas there's plenty of things I'm sure that I have wanted to say or could say that it's just not necessary or the time. But if somehow that time ever comes up, then I guess can I bring it up then.

Q. What's an example of that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's not the time, Doug.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: All right, thanks, Justin, for your time. Good luck this week.


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