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August 18, 2019

Justin Thomas

Medinah, Illinois

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome the 2019 BMW Championship Winner, Justin Thomas into the Interview Room.

Justin, you took control of the tournament yesterday with a 61 and then got the deal done today. If we can get some comments on your 10th PGA TOUR victory.

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's nice. It felt like a long time since Akron but I played not very well today. I really got it around pretty well. Patrick played unbelievably, put a lot of heat on me.

In the end it could have been good for me, it kept me focused, kept my head down and yeah, I couldn't get the ball in the fairway and if I'm not able to do that it's hard to have the scoring opportunities and it was windy so that made it even worse and -- but I stayed patient.

I was really nervous going into today, had been awhile and out on the golf course it was fun. I remember that it's really hard to win a golf tournament and I'm glad that I was able to do so.

JOHN BUSH: Before questions, you assume the top position in the FedExCup standings heading into East Lake. Get your thoughts on what lies ahead next week.

JUSTIN THOMAS: That's great. Definitely beats the position I was in at the beginning of this week. I can certainly say a thousand percent I never slept on a Wednesday lead (laughter), but I'm definitely excited for that and I'm just going to try to win the golf tournament as if everybody starts at zero.

Q. What's the most nervous you felt today, was it at the start when you were hitting it sideways or 10 when it was down to two and, secondly, if you could just talk about your shot on 11 and the par putt on 12.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was probably -- I was really nervous before, like kind of as I was leaving my house and driving to the course. You know, just it's probably a better time to kind of put your phone away and not have stuff, just everyone always texts you and it's like -- then I got to the locker room guys giving me advice in the locker room how to finish off a tournament. I was like, "I've done this a couple times guys but, thank you." It's honestly -- that's what I was saying on the way over here. It's a lot of the outside noise that makes it harder sometimes to stay focused.

Q. Quick intersection, is it because the whole world pretty much has you written in as a winner?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yes. I had guys telling me congratulations on 13 today, on the front-9. This tournament is so far from over. You can get it going sideways and make a lot of bogies out here pretty quick I believe and can easily make a lot of birdies.

I wasn't as nervous after 10. Just a bad shot. A bad 3-wood. Hit a great drive. Played the hole previous to this really well. I thought I got a little unlucky on the wedge, didn't kick on the green like Patrick.

Stayed patient, and birdie on 11 was big but the par on 12 was bigger. It was a really bad drive, one of my many today. Felt like that ball easily down there could have been somewhere in the rough where I could have either hit it on the green or around the green. There's a lot of gaps down there.

That's what happens when you're not -- when things aren't going your way, it's right behind a tree and kind of the test you a little bit. Jimmy said, "Well, just chip it out there and we'll get this thing up and down for par." That putt gave me a lot of momentum.

Q. In a weird way was today, can you look at it as a dress rehearsal for what it's going to be like going into Thursday with anywhere from a 2 to 10 stroke lead? Maybe there will be people who think, of course, you should win so you learn something today that can help you manage that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not necessarily. I mean I see what you're saying a little bit but I just thought of this right now, but it's going to be kind of similar to Q-School when I played. It was 6 rounds. I'll never forget I shot 67 the 1st Round and I was in like 5th and I was like what, five rounds left. I didn't know what to think or do.

I just remember thinking like this is so bizarre. How am I supposed to keep this up -- what's going to happen over five rounds of five days is so long?

So I guess you can somewhat pair it to that but I mean I like that golf course. I just really need to start driving it better to play it well but I'm just going -- I know if I shoot a lower score than anybody over 72 holes I'll be fine.

Q. Is it more rewarding to win the way you did today than if you had won by 12?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Probably, especially since it's been awhile. I think -- I mean it's easy -- it's always easy when things are going well. When your back is up against the wall or when you get pressured or put a little heat on you, I think how you respond is sometimes a little bit better or shows a little bit more.

For me today I felt -- Patrick, it's not like he got off to a hot start. It was tough with the wind early and we were kind of all mozing around through 6, 7 holes, Patrick caught fire and I couldn't really get anything going and so I mean from 11 on I really, really played some quality golf and hit a lot of really great golf shots and great putts. I definitely, definitely is a positive.

Q. What were the keys for you to remain patient, are there things you do?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I just kept telling myself I was beating everything by 6 through three rounds with a very mediocre Friday. I'm playing at this moment. I felt I was playing better than everybody else and I felt that I was good enough I was going to be just fine. You're going to have bogies.

Patrick made a lot of birdies that first however many holes and it's hard to maintain that. I told myself I've had this happen before with Hideki and at Maui, I think I had five shot lead with five to go and all of a sudden I was tied with three holes left. So, I had literally gone through that exact thing pretty much.

It's just like when you think of it like how it went today it's hard but if you would have told me or anybody in this field at the beginning of the week hey, you have a two shot lead standing on the 11th tee on Sunday I would be, "Hell yeah, tell me where to sign right now."

I don't need to tell you I had a 6 shot lead to start the day. If I have a 2 shot lead with 8 holes left I feel confident I can pull it off.

Q. Forgot to ask, what was the advice given to you in the locker room?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Talked to my caddie a lot. Dead serious. Talk to your caddie a lot. Make sure you keep talking. "Okay, as long as you stop talking it's fine with me" (laughter).

Q. I know we're talking about key moments, perhaps 12 leads into 13 where you topped him with a birdie. How big was that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That was huge. That 5-iron I hit on 13 was so flush. Sometimes you hit those -- you can hit short irons good but a long iron, the sound of it when you hit it on the bentgrass and the divot, it was one of the best golf shots, like overall golf shots I've hit in a really long time and it just came out the flight we wanted, trajectory, the little bit of a cut, kind of wanted to start it out and let the wind take it right of the hole.

My adrenaline was pumping. 238 or something. I hit 5 iron and almost got it to hole high. Obviously it's downwind.

Q. Tough to make the putt.
JUSTIN THOMAS: "Patrick, dude, give me a little breather here." That's how he is. He's a competitor. I'm definitely glad, especially when it comes to the Cup teams to have him on our side.

Q. Just two part question on I guess the new scoring format for next week. When was the last time that you got strokes going into a round in your life?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I couldn't tell you.

Q. Even when you were a kid.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I couldn't tell you.

Q. What do you feel, what did you feel about the new format when you first heard about it and does it change and does it alter anything at all now that you're atop it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I've led with the same phrase and statement every single time I've been asked about it. If I'm holding the trophy at the end of the week I love it. It's going to be different. I think it has the potential to be extremely intense leaderboard come Sunday but obviously with the separation you have the potential of who knows, you know.

It could be a two man show or one man show or three man show, whatever. I know I'm in a lot better position starting at 10-under than I was at three or something like that, probably was at the start of the week or four.

No, I'm going to try not to look at the leaderboards for the first couple days and just try to shoot as low as I can 18 holes.

Q. You keep saying that it's been awhile or feels it's been awhile since you won. Like a lot of other guys, you were at other times anointed as the best player.
I just wonder if you could kind of describe what the level of parity is like right now at the top of the game and just how hard it is to win the bigger events with these guys.

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's extremely difficult. I think the biggest, the best example is the word ranking. Obviously '17 was a great year for me but I won three times last year, one of them being the WGC.

I've had a pretty good year this year and I mean I dropped down to 10th going into this week. It's just like I just remember being kind of right before I was hurt I was playing well, I just -- I wasn't putting very well and I couldn't quite break through to have those Top-5s and those wins that you really need for the world ranking and I was getting passed. I'm Top-10s and 15s in big events and I'm getting passed.

That's just when I was like man, you got to win to pass people. That's just how it is. I try to stay patient. I knew it was coming. I didn't know when. Obviously I was hoping it would be sooner rather than later. Yeah, the level of golf that is being played by a lot of people right now is pretty tremendous and definitely keeps me working hard.

Q. So you care about your world ranking, you want to reach No. 1?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely. I want to be better than everybody else that walks the planet. Pretty good feeling. Had it for all of two weeks (laughter).

Q. Tiger paired himself with you in the Bahamas this year. Having that kind of stamp from Tiger, what does that do for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just being with him or playing with him? It's been good. I've learned a lot from him like I've learned a lot from other guys. Kind of watching how he gets his way around a golf course.

I think it's most impressive when he's not playing well to watch how he gets it around because -- I mean all the veterans are the same. When they're not hitting it well they kind of hit it to the proper side, chip it underneath the hole. I'm trying to get better at that.

I swear, every time I'm trying to leave it under right, I hit it long and left. I'm trying. Playing with guys like him and talking with guys like him, it's pretty inspiring and definitely learning experience.

Q. Would it be fair to say you had to relearn how to win to a certain degree since it's been awhile or not?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. I knew how to win. I just wasn't getting myself there. I had a couple chances but for the most part I haven't had a chance in awhile, not really -- I've had a couple times all right, I'm five back, four back, I can go shoot 64, 5, 63, 4 and have a chance today.

But, you know, that's sometimes is easiest way to when you just get in early and everyone looks at your name up on the leaderboard, it's hard to, you know, trying to keep the pedal down when everyone is chasing you.

That's something I've been very fortunate that I've been successful in the past but that doesn't mean that I can't get better at it and the more times I get myself there, the more opportunities I'll have to learn from it.

I'll be able to learn from something today after I kind of wind down and figure out what we could have done better. But yeah, it's just hard to win. That's the fact of the matter.

Q. How happy are you you get to Maui?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm extremely, extremely happy. Who won the U.S. Am today, Augenstein?

Q. Ogletree.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Dang. Augenstein is a Kentucky boy. Dang.

Q. I don't know where we went all of a sudden. The ruling you were seeking on 10, what was that and the decision to hit the left-handed shot?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I wasn't seeking a ruling. I always -- like when you have an opportunity to maybe have an official, I was just like saying what's going on here, what are all my options, tell me everything.

I had a wire. I could move that. There was kind of this thing I didn't know what it was. There was obviously no chance I could hit it right-handed. There's a bush there.

I mean if I couldn't flip the club over I could at least hit it with the back of the club and dribble it in the rough. I felt like I could hit it on the green. Wasn't sitting very good.

That's why I kind of fatted it. Is this in my way? Once we could move that I knew it wasn't in my way and he said is any of this in your way and I took a swing and it wasn't on my back swing and if I would have a big follow through I would have hit the thing and would have gotten relief and could have knocked it on the green, potentially made 4 but definitely would have made 5.

It wasn't in my way. Just was -- I swear I could feel Patrick looking at me over there from the fairway just watching what was happening (laughter).

I wasn't calling him over to try to finagle a drop. I was like hey, what's going on here and once I took the back swing and short follow through -- I was trying to hit it so short wasn't in the way -- I knew it was okay.

Q. Going back to the big lead, what was it at Sony, 7?

Q. What's the difference between your attitude there and then and do you think you felt more nervous because it had been a year since you had won as opposed a week?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's probably it.

Q. You don't think of these things, obviously.
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. No. It was a lot easier -- it was a very similar condition day to Sunday at Riviera. I'll just say that. It was very windy, difficult and I had a five shot lead there, I think, four, maybe but I was like this tournament -- it's far from over.

It's a hard enough golf course when it's this windy that you can easily shoot 1 or 2-over and that just takes one guy to shoot 5-under and there you go, I don't win.

Q. That was a 36 hole on Sunday?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was. I still was starting my last 18. It's crazy what this game does to your head and the amount of things you think about.

Yeah, I probably -- just the fact that it had been so long. I was more nervous before starting that round at Sony but I obviously had more moments today where I was able to kind of feel it.

Q. Is it more a matter of not thinking more about winning and thinking more about don't blow this?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think that's exactly what it is. It's hard to not say constantly be like all right, now it's four, now it's three. I think I got too comfortable after No. 7.

I think it was at 6 at the time. I was like all right, let's try and see if we can get this thing to 10. Then Patrick really -- felt like he birdied about every hole after that. I feel like every single time, at least me, I get ahead of myself and I think about what could happen. I either miss the putt, make a bogey, someone makes a birdie so maybe one of these days I'll learn and stop doing that.

JOHN BUSH: Let's take a couple more.

Q. Justin, this is a follow to what you just said. It almost seemed as if when Patrick pulled within two your competitive instincts kicked in and I'm wondering if perhaps you stopped thinking Riviera and win and I don't want to blow this and you just were in a dogfight and that's your comfort zone, is competing?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah. Maybe a little bit. I did hit some really quality shots on 6 and 7 and 8, 9 and I hit a great drive on 10. Just was a bad 3-wood.

Then yeah, I just -- I don't know. I felt like I played those holes well throughout the week. I have been playing well. I know that when I'm not playing well I can get it around a golf course pretty well but I just needed to figure out how to do that, and I've been putting well.

The greens were a lot slower today with all the rain and I couldn't get the ball to the hole. If I would have hit a couple putts harder I would have made them. I wasn't going to let that happen on No. 12. I knew I had the read correct and I just need to focus on the speed and that's what I did.

Q. This goes back to the Tour Championship and your comment about sleeping on a Wednesday lead or whatever, but bit of a silly question I guess but so much separation between now and Thursday. Will you go there even feeling like you have a lead or what do you think you're going to feel?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I truly have no idea. There's nobody in the history of this sport that has experienced it so nobody knows. I don't know if it's going to be weird or -- it's going to be different, I know that but I don't know.

There's so many variables and questions I have and this and that. If I birdie the first hole what am I at? I don't know. Do I shoot a score, do I not? Whatever.

I just -- again, I know that I'm in a lot better position than I was at the start of the week. I just have to be grateful and thankful for that.

JOHN BUSH: Justin, welcome back to the winner's circle. Best of luck to you next week.

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