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April 9, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Real pleasure to welcome back Justin Thomas, the world's fifth ranked player to Augusta National, and thank you for your time, appreciate you coming out. You've opened up 2019 with a run of really outstanding play, recording three Top‑3 finishes, including the runner‑up in the Genesis and I wonder if you might begin by giving us an assessment of your game, where you stand this year thus far and maybe follow that with thinking about as you enter the Masters this year, for your fourth appearance, what would you say it will take to have success this week?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been kind of a different year. I feel like I played maybe a little better than the results have shown. I've definitely shown a lot of strides and had a lot of positivity, I would say, in terms of aspects of my game, so that's been good. Obviously there's a couple rounds, a couple shots here and there I would love to have back and change a little bit but that's just a part of it. I feel like we've done a good job learning from those things to where going forward we can improve on.
My game is in a pretty good spot. It's Tuesday, so it's kind of hard to say, but the thing about this place is I think you just have to kind of pick your way around it. You have to know when to attack, when not. I mean, you know, the course is always going to be salubrious, it's always going to be perfect, and just no piece of grass will be out of place, and even with the weather that's been going on, it's going to be a good test.
Q. Speaking of the weather and the wet conditions, being one of the longer hitters, how much of an advantage will that be for you and what do you carry‑‑ your drive, how far do you think you carry a drive?
JUSTIN THOMAS: A pretty standard drive is going to be about 295, if I really go after one and kind of tee it high, on say a drive like say 13 where I want to get it up in the air, or if I get 8 downwind I want to carry that right bunker, I can get 310, 315 out of it. I just hit a lot more up on it and it goes a lot higher.
I feel like I have a pretty decent control over that, but for the most part, I like teeing it down a little bit lower and kind of hit a little low cut. Definitely getting the ball in the fairway is huge out here just because you need to have spin control coming into the green with your irons and at least that's what I've felt like I've noticed from the last couple years playing. With the weather being like this, hopefully being a long hitter will behelpful. As long as I hit the fairways.
Q. Can you detail how you prepare for the putting challenge on these greens and how does it differ, if at all, from a regular week or another major?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, the thing about putting is it changes every week. It's not like this week is, at least for me, I'm not freaking myself out or anything like that. Yeah, the greens are faster and probably have a little bit more slope but I'm still trying to get adjusted to the speed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just as I would any other tournament week because for me when my speed is good, I'm holing putts.
Definitely, at least I work on my lag putting a decent bit because there's going to be times maybe you can't get close to a pin or you get out of position, you have to hit it to the fat of the green and you have 40‑, 50‑, 60‑footers where you need to lag it up there and try to 2‑putt. For me, that's what I'm spending the majority of my time doing, trying to hit putts on different speeds and different lines so that I can get comfortable and accustomed to what I can do once I get out and the tournament's going.
Q. First of all, who taught you the word salubrious?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Salubrious.
Q. Can you spell it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: S‑A‑L‑U‑B‑R‑I‑O‑U‑S, I think.
Q. As much as people covet a green jacket, have you ever found anything in golf that you wanted so badly that you actually got in your way, and if so, how did you learn to deal with that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's a great question. I've had a hard time at this event every year because I love this golf course so much and I feel like it fits my game so well. I've always prepared so hard and well for it; that when I get here, I really feel like I should have a great chance to win and I think that gets in my own way sometimes, or at least it has the past couple years, I would say I learned‑‑ well, I guess I'll let you know on Sunday‑‑ but I learned from it just as I took a little different approach this year in terms of not wearing myself out at home. Yeah, it's Augusta and, yeah, it's the Masters and, yeah, you have to do these certain thing but it's still golf. At the end of the day, whoever plays the best at the end of the week is going to win and whoever manages their emotions the best is going to win and I feel like that's what I was trying to get myself in the mind frame last week.
I just went on a little vacation with my parents down in the Bahamas to get my mind in a good place and my dad and I would just go play golf like we did when I was eight, nine years old, just having fun, go fishing, hang by the pool, do whatever just to try to get relaxed. Still playing golf but not sitting at home beating balls five, six hours a day, putting three hours a day, to where, when I got here, I was trying to maintain a very, very high level of playing for seven straight days, as opposed to kind of getting into it and then working once I get back here, hitting different shots so I feel like I can keep improving every day.
Q. You've grown up in an age where everything is out on the Internet or social media and I found a picture of you from junior golf days where you were wearing the mock turtleneck like Tiger is going to wear this week. When you look back on that type of fashion in golf, do you cringe?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I definitely didn't fill it out very well. I think two of me could have fit in that mock turtleneck (laughter).
When I was that age, I wanted to do anything that he did, so it's no coincidence I wore something like that. But no, I mean‑‑ trying to find the right way to say this‑‑
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, that's not the proper definition (laughter) his fashion definitely off the golf course is very well known, I would say it's known to not being the best, but he's always kept it pretty tame on the course.
It's cool what Nike is doing in throwing it back but every company in every team has their own thing but to be honest I couldn't care less what he's wearing or doing. I don't know if that answers your question or not.
Q. Because you haven't won this year, do you feel like you're under the radar? And last year you had a disappointing Sunday, but you were paired with Jordan Spieth and you watched him shoot 64. What do you remember about that day and do you think you learned anything about that day and how to navigate Sunday at Augusta?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really how to navigate is. He played really well. That's why he was 9‑under through 17. The only thing you can learn about that is just you have to play better and, it's not like I can be, oh, okay, next time I'm out there I'll just play better. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.
I played well last year. I just had a bad last four holes. If I played even par, I think I finish seventh or eighth or something like that, which is a respectable week in a major. Didn't have a chance to win but just had a couple rounds that kept me out of that.
But in terms of going into this week, the thing about it is I know that I'm close to, I feel like, winning quite a few times, but with that being said, I don't know if it will happen. That's just how golf is, unfortunately.
You know, it might start this week. It might start later in the year. Might not start till next year. I just have to hope it starts sooner than later and results in, hopefully, in more than less of them.
My game is in a good spot and I feel, I felt pretty confident this year how I've been playing, but like I said at the beginning, the results haven't shown how I've been playing or how I feel I've been playing.
Right now the way the game of golf is, if you're not winning tournaments, you're getting lapped. I guess I've just got to start winning tournaments again.
Q. You practiced with Tiger Woods yesterday; how do you think he's feeling about this week?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You can ask him. It's not really my place to say.
Q. What was your first time here like? Does that memory creep back in?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's kind of funny, I told this story when we were sitting inside. I think it was 2004, we came, my mom, dad and I, we came Wednesday for like the end of the day‑‑ or not end of the day but second half of the day for a practice round, par 3, and we were going to be able to be out all day Thursday and that was the only day we were going to get to see, and if I'm not mistaken it was the only time in the history of the Masters that the first round was completely washed out. That was my first experience at the Masters. I didn't get to see a single tournament shot and we had our chairs set up on 2 and we were all ready to go and I never got to see a thing. I was a pretty bummed out kid.
It definitely beats it being on this side of the ropes.
Q. Is there an awkward tee shot on this golf course, and if so, which one is it for you? And when you and your dad deconstruct your weeks here, is there a theme to what you've discovered?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Did you say, if there's an awkward tee shot?
Q. Yeah, do you have an uncomfortable tee shot on this golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't like 2 very much. I haven't hit that tee shot very well. I'm a fader of the ball off the tee so obviously it's not a very appealing shot but I feel like we have a pretty good game plan of how I'll play it to where if the wind is right I'll be able to hit driver over everything. If not, hit something short and hit 3‑wood on the green or around the green and get up‑and‑down.
I played it better last year with that game plan and mind‑set, until Sunday when I tried to hit driver and I hit it left.
But in terms of about this place, I think we tried to assess why I haven't played better in majors. I feel like my game sets up for majors very well. I mean, I've had a couple good majors, but as a whole, I would say I have very, very highly under performed, versus what I feel like I should have and that's what we're trying to figure out; if it's me, if it's someone else, if I'm putting too much work in, if my mental game is off, if I'm being too aggressive or pressing too hard or whatever it is.
Especially this place, we feel I'm over‑cautious. I'm playing too conservatively. That said, I'm not going to be going at every pin and doing everything I can to try to birdie every hole but it's almost like I have an 8‑iron in my hands and I'm like, oh, I can't miss over there, I'm going to hit it to 30 feet. If I have an 8‑iron in my hand, like I'm, if I'm hitting it well I'm probably going to hit it to inside 10 feet, so why am I not going at this pin, when if it was the‑‑ if it's the Sony Open, I would be going at the pin, why all of a sudden since it's the Masters am I going to be aiming trying to make par, kind of thing. You obviously have to pick your spots and understand when it's smart and you when you have to play conservative ‑‑ or when you can play aggressive versus conservative.
But as a whole, I think that we've figured out that I may be am over‑respecting the golf course, at least with the last couple years. I am yet to play a very firm and fast course, except maybe '16, where pars are pretty good‑‑ every year I've played I feel like somewhere around 10‑under par or so has won, so sometimes you have to change your game plan, but as a whole ‑‑ a really, really long answer for you‑‑ that's what we've figured out.
Q. The weather interrupting the ability to practice on the course yesterday and today, is there something you do off the course to supplement the time and prepare, especially to work on some of the things you just talked about?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, yesterday was actually‑‑ worked out perfect. I did everything I wanted to do yesterday. We came out early, played the back nine. Got my putting working. Got my chipping working. Got work on range. So we were done for the day yesterday.
Today was such a crapshoot that we got out here early just trying to hit the windows, and we actually got a decent probably hour and a half, two hours of work in before getting called off and just sat inside and did nothing and sat down with Scott Van Pelt, who I've becomepretty good buddies with, so I could sit and listen to him talk for hours, so that passed a lot of time, hanging with him.
Not much. I feel like I've played here enough to where I don't feel like I have to get‑‑ like today, I don't have to go out and play. I would like to, but you know, if I just get my practice and I don't feel like I need to do anything else or I don't need to go out and play or I'm tired, then I'll just go home. I don't need to wear myself out. It's a long week mentally, especially, so I don't need to force anything and get myself tired by the time I tee it up on Thursday.
Q. I know you and Jordan Spieth are good buddies. I wonder if you've talked to him much about the frustration and handling expectations and self‑imposed pressure, too, after winning a major or more than one?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't. Because I feel like I've done a pretty good job. I've played fairly well after the PGA win. Definitely have had a couple more wins and plenty of chances. I don't feel like a different person and I don't feel I've acted any differently, which I would hope the people from the outside would tell me if I have. I guess to answer your question, I haven't felt the need to as much. I definitely view him as one of my best friends to where if I felt that I needed to reach out to somebody, I could reach out to him, and he would be willing, or hopefully willing, to help.
I guess, again, I just haven't felt the need to or that I've had to yet.
Q. Does he do that to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, it's frustrating to watch from this side of what‑‑ everything that's being said and written about him, because I know he's close. He's going to play well this week. I really do think that. He's shown strides all year. Just hasn't been able to put it all together over the course of four days, but I would say his record at this course speaks for itself and his comfortability level. I think he'll be just fine.
But the thing is about this game is you have to let it happen and I'm sure he's had some things that he's learned like all of us have when we've gone through tough times, but yeah, he'll be just fine.
Q. You touched on not wanting to overwork yourself and not wanting to be overcautious this year, what are the next 48 hours like for you? Do you spend much time thinking about what's ahead or is it an opportunity to really enjoy the Par3 and all that good stuff?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I want to do some a good bit of putting today. I'm going to hit some balls. I don't want to do a lot of rang work today.
Honestly, I don't think I'll go play. If it works out, I will. So if that timing works out and I have time to work out this afternoon, I will.
Tomorrow, I will probably spend most of my time tomorrow probably hitting balls and hitting yardages and having my dad look at swing and everything like that and make sure it's good. Having my girlfriend caddying the par 3 for the first time this year. Playing with Jordan and Rickie, and Annie is caddying for Jordan I think and I assume Allison is caddying for Rickie, I'm not sure there. So those three girls are really close; so they will probably have just as good a time as we will. It's been a fun little tradition we've created.
I just try to treat it like a normal week. It's a major. It's the Masters. It's got a lot of buildup for it, but at the end of the day, is truly is just another tournament, so I'm trying to treat it that way.
Q. You mentioned controlling emotions, but Erin Hills would have been your first time really in the thick of it at a major. Were you able to figure out anything about emotions on Sunday that you were able to apply to Quail Hollow, and is it applicable to this major, and the space you have playing this course, if that makes any sense.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I definitely learned patience that day at Erin Hills. I did get behind early. I bogeyed, and a bad bogey, on 2. I mean, it was windy that day. It was very tough.
And it helps knowing‑‑ I'm pretty sure, I think I would have had to shoot 5‑under to win the tournament by 1‑over Brooks. He played‑‑ he obviously played great.
So you know, it's not like I could have shot even par and won the tournament still. I fought really hard. I just got off to such a bad start and was so behind quickly to where I felt like I was kind of trying to force things in places that I maybe didn't need to, and you know, threw in a couple run of bogeys late that I didn't need.
Then once I got out of the tournament and had no chance, it was just like, it was such a letdown; whereas, you know, there's nothing I could do. All I could do was be where I was and try to do the best that I could at that point.
And Quail was a much, much different setup than Erin Hills, where Erin Hills is a lot easier golf course, so I knew‑‑ and Quail is probably the best I've been mentally in my career. I don't know what it was. I had such a sense of calmness and easeness to myself. I truly did feel like I was going to win all week, especially on the weekend. I felt that I just‑‑ that was a place where‑‑ where you could not run‑off, but you could stay there or kind of just keep building by letting people fall off versus Erin Hills, you had to shoot 4‑ or 5‑under each day, whereas Quail, you could shoot 1‑ or 2‑under, and a couple people shot 3‑over. Next day you shoot a couple under and a couple more people shoot a couple over.
That's where the patience that I learned from Erin Hills helped me out because I knew if Jimmy and I stayed in our own little world and our game plan and executed what we could and stayed patient, that's ultimately what got it done for us, and I feel like it's really good to do here. Because you can go shoot 5‑, 6‑, 7‑under on that back nine, accidentally sometimes‑‑ not that I have, but at least I've seen it on TV (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Justin, all the best.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports