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June 10, 2019

Justin Thomas

Pebble Beach, California

MIKE TROSTEL: It's my pleasure to welcome Justin Thomas here into the Media Center. Justin, the 2017 PGA champion, playing in his 5th U.S. Open, best finish to tie for 9th in 2017 at Erin Hills. Justin, great start to the year for you, four top-10's in the first five events. Then the wrist injury. You played the last two weeks. How are you feeling?

JUSTIN THOMAS: The wrist is a nonissue. That's why I took as long as I did. Taking that much time off my game was pretty rusty, and hence why I added Canada to the schedule last week. I'm glad I did. It was nice to get four consecutive competitive rounds under my belt before coming here.

It's a different approach than I've taken in the past in terms of playing the week before a major versus taking it off. But I think it's what I needed to do to make sure I'm ready for this week.

MIKE TROSTEL: Does that change your practice routine going into this week?

JUSTIN THOMAS: For sure. I took today definitely a lot easier than I would have if I had not played last week. I probably would have got in Sunday and done something. Just practice today. I'm playing nine tomorrow, playing nine on Wednesday.

More importantly, you need to make sure that you're mentally fresh, especially in a U.S. Open, than physically. So the good part about playing last week is it's not like I need to go out and feel like do a lot, I just need to kind of tighten up on some things here and there. But we're definitely going the right direction.

Q. Even though obviously you're young and hopefully you've got tons of these things to go, when you are out in a stretch like that, and when you said to us at Memorial you were bored, is that because you just don't like leaving majors on the table, and how did you deal with that that week?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I watched. I watched all the PGA. I mean, I was more upset because I really like Bethpage and I feel like it's a really, really good golf course for me. I mean, same way I feel about Quail Hollow and the same thing about Colonial. Three tournaments. I feel every tournament I play, if I play well, I have a chance to win.

But those are courses that I feel like favor good ball-strikers. And you obviously never want to miss a major, but especially at 26 years old. But in -- everything happens for a reason. And like I said, at Memorial I could go have a great rest of the year, win a major or two and no one will remember that I had to skip PGA. The main goal is to make sure I took those weeks off so the injury went away, and it did. To be pretty honest, I was pretty impressed with myself how patient and smart I was with it. Because I know we all wanted me to play the PGA, but it was not a possibility. And Colonial would have been pushing it.

But I was about three weeks -- or three days away from it, just fully healing, so just taking another three days' rest is the reason why I'm able to play right now. And last week and the week before there was no pain at all. It was just a bummer to watch on TV, and like I did say at Memorial, I was very, very bored.

Q. Where is your game right now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: My game right now, it's pretty good. It's obviously not exactly where I'd like it to be. I thought I showed a lot of good signs at Memorial. I just was very like this (indicating).

I'd hit a great shot, and then I'd make a 6. And then have another couple of good holes, make a couple of birdies, and then I'd make a 5 and make a double. So it was -- I was rusty mentally. I was making some bad mental mistakes.

And then I felt like last week, talking to Jimmy today, I felt like we did better. I rolled the ball great last week, I just didn't make anything. I really felt like I putted well the first three days, just burned a lot of edges, and those greens are very severe, similar to these where you have to match everything up perfectly, they're all poa annua, so the ball is not going to do what it should every time.

But everyone has to deal with that, and I understood that. I tried to stay very patient. And because of that I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot for this week and have a couple more days to get the game where I'd like it to be come Thursday morning.

Q. How did you find the course today? How is it set up? How does it compare to other U.S. Opens you have played at?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't played it yet. So I'm not sure how -- I just practiced today. But from what I've heard from everybody, the course is absolutely perfect. There's not a blade of grass out of place. Jordan said it's the best poa annua greens he's ever seen in his life. And he said that, so that's saying something.

And I'm excited to check it out. I really do love U.S. Opens, I love the test, the grind. They just have a different feel to them, like all the majors do. And I'm excited to go out there and check it out because when you get weather like this at Pebble Beach, it's got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's going to be a fun week.

Q. You said you hadn't been out to play yet, but you were talking about courses that kind of fit you, like Bethpage or Quail Hollow. Where does Pebble fit in there, and would it help if you could have several rounds here in the past instead of a handful?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, you could dissect that as much as you want. I think -- anytime you play a course more, it's going to be beneficial. It's not like playing it once -- I mean, I feel like I know Augusta, I mean, better or just as well as everybody in the world. But every time I play or every tournament I play, I learn something else.

So you always have that aspect of learning new things. But it's just golf. You have to drive it in the fairway, you have to hit the green, you have to make the putts, and you have to do it in less strokes than everybody else in four days, and they give you a pretty nice trophy and a nice check on Sunday. That's all I'm trying to focus on. I'm not trying to think guys have more practice rounds than I do or whatever it might be. But this to me is like when I'm going to have the opportunity to play The Open Championship at St. Andrews, which I haven't done. Every major kind of has their oh, wow, you won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach or you won The Open Championship at St. Andrews. This is as good as it gets for a U.S. Open. In terms of how my game is, it's pretty much just how I play. Hopefully it's great.

Q. How much has the rule change where you can fix the greens negated the poa annua effect?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's something that I hope is monitored this week, because you can't fix poa annua, you can fix spike marks, but you can't tap down poa annua. I asked that, I think it was in LA, I was curious, because I didn't know that until I asked. So I don't even know how many other guys don't know that if they haven't asked.

But I just asked. I'm like: Look, I know you can tamp down spike marks. What about poa annua? That's the green. That's not a -- I don't know why, but you cannot do that. It's still poa annua, it's still going to wiggle, and even if you tap it down, it's still going to move.

So I guess in terms of the rule change it doesn't change anything about the poa annua, but I'm sure there's still a lot of people that don't know that rule from just not asking. Like I said, I would have never known if I hadn't asked.

Q. Were you able to learn anything by being removed from the PGA and watching it on TV that either affirmed something you already know or just watching how people handle different things that would be hard when you're in the cauldron of competition?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I feel like I've learned a lot watching Brooks at the PGA. Everybody knows he's very cool, calm, collected. He's got one of the best swaggers out here, especially when he's playing well. He's obviously very confident. And he's been the most accomplished player the last two years or whatever it might be. And I think he's still No. 1 in the world, right? So that's why he's No. 1 in the world.

But I don't know, just how -- I promise I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back, but I have started a Sunday with a 7-shot lead and it's still to this day the most nervous I've been teeing off. No offense, but all I heard from you guys is no one has ever blown a 7-shot lead in the history of the PGA TOUR on Sunday. I think every question I got was led with that. It was like, No one's ever blown a 7-shot lead, and then it could be something totally irrelevant from that, but that thought is always in your head.

And it was tough at the Sony Open. So I can't imagine how it was at the PGA Championship, Bethpage Black, best field in golf, tough conditions. Watching how he handled that and the adversity that was thrown at him and just the shots that he hit when he needed to, because I know that I can get a little bit up and down with my emotions, and yet Brooks Koepka is Brooks Koepka and I am myself. But anytime you can learn in watching that, I just felt like he handled that really well. So maybe if I got in that scenario, then I could -- I hate to say channel my inner BK, to boost his ego, but definitely stress some of those characteristics is good.

Q. Going back to the wrist, how would you kind of describe your year so far? I guess. And what kind of, I guess, hiccup did that put in it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The year has been -- it's been weird, it really has. Because I got off to a great start, consistency-wise. I had a couple of great chances to win. I felt like I really should have won LA. I felt like I had a great chance to win Phoenix.

It just was two putting rounds away from winning two golf tournaments. And I feel like that's just been the big difference this year, is my putter. And I still feel good over it, which is what's frustrating sometimes, is that you can feel great over it, but just not -- the ball still won't go in the hole and you don't know why sometimes.

So that's what we've been trying to figure out by just being patient with it and understand that those cold sprees happen for everybody. You just have to try to make that time frame as short as possible. So that's what we've been trying to work on. But the year has been odd because, like I said, with the start and then kind of phased off a little bit, and then I was playing great at Augusta.

I played unbelievably at Augusta. It's the best I've ever driven the ball. Hit my irons great. And again, going back to the putting, I just didn't make anything that week. So the injury was at a weird time because all I could do was putt for a while. And I think I could honestly say that I had too much time to putt because when you putt for two or three hours a day, you're like -- you start thinking, maybe I should try this or do this, or how many times can I do this drill or do that drill. It was like, man, I think I actually am overputting right now. It was different, but it was nice to get a little refresh mentally.

But it just was a bummer because, like I said earlier, with the stretch of golf that it was, I felt like I was close to really good golf. And even the time frame where I was finishing 15th, 20th, 30th, wherever it was, to where I could have something clicked those weeks, won all three or won one of them.

But it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. I felt like I learned a lot from it and got better because of it.

Q. Rickie was in here earlier. You're obviously more concerned about your game, but you're friends with him as well. How eager are you for him to win a major, for you to be congratulating him on the 18th green?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, I hope that it's -- I was hoping it was at the PGA, because I wasn't there, you know what I mean? It's kind of a tough question to answer because I want to win every major and every tournament I play in. But that's just one of those things, once you go through the week and once you get to Sunday and realize you don't have a chance and one of your buddies do, then you can root for them.

He'll be fine. He'll get his when it's his time. And when and how many and whatever that is is just -- it's going to happen how it's meant to be. And he's obviously shown that he's plenty good enough to do it. There's only one of them every week, a winner, and certain stuff needs to happen and go your way. I've learned that, just like he has, many times. And, yeah, is when it does happen, hopefully I'll be right there and saying can congrats to him, just like he was for me at the PGA. And it was a special moment and a cool moment. I'll be doing as much as I can to prevent it from happening.

Q. You talked about us asking you about playing with a 7-stroke lead and no one ever blowing it. These are definitely things you do not want in your head, in your thought process. Jordan is going through it with why haven't you won? Phil goes through it, what do you have to do to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam. How do you manage that when we're asking you things that you really don't want to be thinking about?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I mean, that's your job. It's not like -- I don't take offense to it. Obviously you can word things a way that can kind of give you some jabs and maybe could be worded nicer. But everyone -- it's not like -- I've never had any issues with something like that. But I said it all along with Jordan, I said it with Rory, when all the things were being said about them and Jordan's putting and Rory's closing. Look, they're going to be fine. Jordan is one of the best putters in the world. He's going to be fine. And Rory is one of the best closers and one of the best players in the world, he's going to be fine. That's just how it goes. It's hard to not read stuff. That's what I've tried to get a lot better at, especially in Major Championship weeks, is just not read anything because it's pretty easy when you get tagged in something or when someone sends you something and your name is up there, you want to read it and see what it says. And then some things start going in your head.

I remember when I was trying to make the Ryder Cup team, and I guess it would have been 16, you know, every week is like you're going to make the Ryder Cup. And I'm reading these articles, well, he's going against these guys. How is Berger playing? How is Tony playing? Who cares? Just go play. Don't read stuff. Don't worry about what other people think or say. All I'm doing is trying to go out and play for myself and play for my team every week. And that's what I'm trying to get better at and stop worrying about all the outside noise.

Q. More guys have shot 59 on the PGA TOUR than have shot 63 in the U.S. Open, and you've done both. Just curious, which one you're more proud of?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's a tough question. The 59 was nice because at least a won the tournament. The 63 was special. It was just an unbelievable day. It was history. The shot I hit on 18 I would probably never recreate something that difficult again. In the heat of the moment, you kind of go through it, yeah, it was 307, down off the left and hit a high cut 3-wood and eight feet and made it. And I go back and I'm like, how the hell did I do that? It just doesn't make sense. They're both very special, and I don't want to put one ahead of the other. Like I said, at least I won the tournament at the Sony, so that was nice.

Q. Just a follow-up, not necessarily related, well, not related, is it hard to believe your last win was August last year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was wondering when that was going to come up.

Q. It's hard for me to believe?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Trust me, I think about it all the time. It is because I feel like I've played a lot of really good golf. And we all look at my stats quite a bit, and my stats are every bit as good as they were last year, every bit as good as they were in 17. And that's crazy. That's just a part of it. That's how it goes. And sometimes the weeks that you're playing really well, someone just plays better. Or sometimes the weeks that you play really well, you're in a bad draw or you have some bad breaks or whatever it might be. It is what it is.

But I know what I'm capable of. I know that I can get hot. I can kind of get on a little bit of a run sometimes. And I'm just trying to stay as patient as I can because I don't know if it will be this week, if it will be in August, if it will not be until next year, I don't know when it's going to be that I'll win again. But I know that I miss it and it feels like it's been a while and I'm ready to start doing it again. But I feel like I'm doing all the things I need to do. It's going to happen. It's going to happen when it's supposed to.

Q. I'm curious, what's your most memorable story about dealing with the wind, either good or bad? Something when you conquered a tricky wind or when it tormented you? Seems like wind more than any challenge gets in the head of players?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, the thing about wind to me, it's most difficult in putting. That's when it's the hardest. You can -- you know what it's going to do when it's blowing 25 off to the left, it's going to move the ball off to the right. And you can make it move less by hooking it against the wind or move it more by cutting it with the wind.

It's obviously very difficult. But putting is what's hard, and I think that's what doesn't get spoken enough about, because you can have -- I can have a putt from here to this water bottle. And if the wind is blowing this way at 20 and then all of a sudden it stops right when I hit it or it blows the other way, I'm going to miss it. That's physics. It's not going to -- Bryson will probably tell you that. It's not going to go in. If you're playing for that wind, and all of a sudden it stops going, it's not going to happen.

That, to me, is what's the hardest part about it. But I have hit 7-iron on 7 here at Pebble before. It was blowing about 30 and it was raining. It was 90-something yards, and it wasn't very fun. I remember I hit hybrid into No. 9 today. And, yeah, you can have some interesting rounds out here, but I'm trying to think if I've had any crazy ones at The Open.

Q. (Off microphone) AT&T?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was, yeah. On 14. It's actually funny, I played with Varner out there, and I saw him on the range, and we were laughing, he's like, you remember last time we played here, and I totally forgot. We were just laughing about it. We're like, it's a little better weather now than when we played. Yeah, you can get some crazy days out here.

Q. How often -- when you get to a major, how much or how often do you think about Quail and your major win there and the things that you did that week and how you felt? Do you do that at all? If so, how do you do that, kind of channel that for a week like this?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think about it a decent bit. I try to think -- what I am not very good at is remembering the things that I've thought about when things were going well. And I think -- Jimmy will tell you, it's all quick. Like I'm over the ball and I hit it and I get done. And what were you thinking about? I don't know, I was trying to hit it 167 yards. You have your swing thoughts or whatever it is, but you're in such a zone and such a focus that you're almost unconscious. You don't know what you're thinking of. And it's easy when you're not playing well to think about a lot of things or when to change stuff. That's what I'm trying to get better at is the rounds when I get done, if I played well, think about doing what I was doing that day and why did I do that well so I can channel that in rounds going forward.

But in terms of just thinking about the PGA, I've looked at a lot of swing videos, I've watched a lot of videos, I've watched highlights, I've looked at stuff, anything that's going to bring a positive memory to me or good vibes I'm going to do it. There are many, many times in the six weeks that I was off that I was literally out of things to watch, out of things to look at, on my phone, on TV, computer, whatever it was, to where I'd look at something like that or look at different swings. I'm sure my dad will tell you I dissected so many old swings. I said, we get back, I've got to work on this. You're second in strokes gained on approach this year, you're doing pretty good. I try not to look at it too much. But any way that it can help me in tournaments I'll definitely try to look at it or think about it.

Q. Since you spend I would imagine a fair amount of time around Brooks or certainly see him more than we do how often do you see the Brooks that was willing to be photographed in a thong?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I never want to hang out or see that Brooks. I never want to be around that Brooks. He can do that in his own group and own time.

Q. You know what I'm saying, that guy is no expression, all business?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's the Brooks that I knew, that I got to know, that I played college golf with, amateur golf with. I mean played every practice round with in amateur golf. I hung out with Brooks a lot. And he was always nice to me. Easily could have not been welcoming to me, because I was very young, starting in amateur tournaments and he was always welcoming. Me, him and Hunter Hamrick would play a practice round almost every week in amateur golf. And college we were a little bit different time but we got to play some together. But, no, I like that because I've had some fun times with him. Obviously both of our lives have changed for the better. And you can't exactly do some of the things that you used to do and things are different.

Every once in a while we get together. It is fun and it is a little different. But I never want to see the thong Brooks ever. Thanks for putting that image back in my head.

MIKE TROSTEL: On that note, Justin, thanks so much. Best of luck this week.

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