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August 21, 2019
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room at the TOUR Championship. Justin, stellar week last week. Number 1 in the FedExCup standings. Talk about what it's like to be back and bringing that momentum into this week.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's great to be back. I love this place. It's a golf course that I really enjoy, and I feel like it's very fair and gettable if you play well. But that being said, it's difficult if you don't. And I definitely can't drive it like I did last week a couple of the days, especially on Sunday. I worked hard yesterday to kind of get it dialed in and a little bit more today.
So, yeah, it's going to be a new position, but I'm definitely excited for it.
Q. How has it felt to have slept with a two-shot lead the past three nights?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't thought about it, so it's been fine. I'm sure it's going to be weird tomorrow. I'm going to need to find a way to think about it because -- I mean, just to be perfectly honest, no one's ever dealt with it, and I definitely haven't. I'm just going to have to try to play another golf tournament and act like everyone's starting at zero and try to shoot the lowest 72 holes. Because I know, if I do that, then I should be okay.
Q. Then a quick second question. Do you -- how do you feel about the format given that you have 11 non-winners in this field and two Major winners who aren't? Just because of how the points were allocated mostly.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I think Tiger would be the first one to tell you he didn't have a very -- he won the Masters, but he didn't play very well other than that, and he didn't play that many events. Obviously, we'd all love to have him here, and he would love to be here, but at the end of the day, everybody knows what they have to do to get here. It's not like it's hidden.
I mean, I've said that all year, and I said that going into the playoffs. You need to win a playoff event usually to win the TOUR Championship. In '17, I won five times, one of which being a Major and one of which being a playoff event, and I still almost didn't win the FedExCup. So it's not like it's handed to you. You have to go earn it, and you have to go -- you have to play well when the time's right. It's just like the Majors. You know at the start of the season, you have to play well in the playoffs.
I think the fact that that is known, then nobody should really feel sorry for anybody.
Q. Justin, you know how it feels to be on top of that leader board, and you know how it feels to have this pressure on your shoulders. How is this feeling? How could you describe it? And what it necessary mentally to really stand it out there on the course when you really need your best?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's going to be tough. I haven't thought about it much. Like I said, I think tomorrow I'll kind of feel it for the first time, but I'm really, really going to try not to pay attention to the leader boards because it can be easy to get wrapped up into it early when I know that this game -- that this course sets up well for my game and that I've played well here the three years that I've played, and I've been playing well.
So if I can just continue to do what I've been doing, then I should be okay, but I'm just -- it's hard to say. It really is hard to say because like I said, there isn't a person on the planet that's experienced this before, for the stakes that it's for. And I'm just going to try to deal with it the best that I can.
Q. If you had to choose between quality of ball striking and mental quality, what be would the more effective or more important thing out there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's a good question. I think being mentally strong in a week like this in a course like this is important, but if you told me I'd have my best ball striking year of the year this week, I'd take that in a heartbeat.
Q. So the new format makes it a little bit more digestible for fans. I know we won't know exactly how it plays out until Sunday, but do you think this was the right change?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think the TOUR will be the first to tell you that nobody really knows. It's the first year of it. I think -- obviously, we changed it because we thought it was for the better, but like anything, you don't really know until a couple years until you see what happens. You know, it could be for the better. Hopefully, it's for the better. Obviously, we think it would be, or else we wouldn't have changed it.
That being said, I can't say because I don't know. Yeah, I can hope, but you don't know. So I think kind of play it out for a couple of years and see how it goes and see what happens, but it definitely is going to be a lot easier to understand, and everyone's going to know where everybody stands.
Q. What was wrong with your putting or maybe not as good as you wanted it, and what did you do to fix it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think I was trying to be perfect too much. I think, when I was hurt, putting was really the only thing I could do, and I putted so much that I was trying to be perfect. And striving to find that perfection, I got worse, which is, quite frankly, mind-blowing and a bit concerning. So I came out of that thinking I was going to putt better than I ever have out of that injury, and I putted worse than I have in a couple of years. So that was pretty frustrating.
Honestly, we just went back to fundamentals and went back to basics and what got me to where I was, going back to the same drills I did. Went back to the old golf ball I used. Went back to the putter I used, stopped changing things. I was just searching and trying to find stuff throughout the year, whether it was changing a putter or changing a grip or changing a mindset, whereas I never did anything long enough to know what the variable was or to know what was wrong.
So it's like, if I went back to using the putter I did and the golf ball I did, then I would maybe know where something's wrong, whereas if I change seven things at once, how am I going to know what's wrong? So that was kind of the main thing. With Matt and all of us, we just were like let's just go back to what got you here and stop trying to be somebody you're not because you obviously -- I did really well doing what I was doing, and that's what we've done.
Q. When's the last time someone gave you strokes on the golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know. I got asked that yesterday or two days ago. I could not tell you.
Q. Of the goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of this year, how many have you met?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'll tell you on Sunday.
Q. Have you hit the majority?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'll tell you on Sunday.
Q. How much will Sunday go towards you considering your year a successful one?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'll tell you on Sunday. I don't share them throughout the year for that reason. I mean, I think it's pretty obvious that this year hasn't been what I've wanted, but, obviously, this would be a great ending to a good year. I think that's fair to say.
Q. Okay. I'll ask you a question that you probably will handle better. Looking back at 2017 when you won here, was there part of you that was unsatisfied with not winning it all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: 100 percent, yeah.
Q. Does that speak to your competitive nature? And given that, if you win this but don't have the low 72-hole score of the week, will that at all irk you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You guys probably won't believe me, but, yeah, it will irk me. I mean, world ranking points are on the line, and I want to beat everybody every week I play. I remember that going into this week in '17, there was only a couple people that had won six times in a year, and I wanted to be one of those people, and I was pissed, to be perfectly honest, that I didn't win.
I think a lot of people were shocked and a little upset about how I handled just winning FedExCup and $10 million, but, I was like, man, I lost a golf tournament by one and I didn't birdie 18, a par 5, and I felt like I should have won the tournament and had a great chance. But, obviously, in the grand scheme of things, it's still an unbelievable year and my best to date. But, no, my competitive nature is never just going to be okay with losing by one even if I get a consolation; a really, really good consolation at that.
Yeah, I think this week will be different because it's hard to -- you don't know that right away, if that makes sense. You know, I don't putt on 18 knowing that I won the FedExCup but I finished so-and-so in that. But, yeah, it's -- that part is going to be hard to know where I'm standing during that. But I just know that I'm going to try to shoot as low as I can over 72 holes.
Q. Just curious what your reaction was when you first heard the bonus was bumped from $10 million to $15 million? Is there a number out there that gets your attention because we keep hearing the money doesn't really matter to a certain degree.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, I'm very fortunate that how I've played -- I mean, if I win the FedExCup this week, it's not going to change my life. It's unbelievable, and it's an extremely substantial amount of money, and how FedEx has stepped up to take care of us players is crazy. It's unbelievable. I'm sure ten years ago I never would have thought that was possible, but I'm not going to change the way I live my life if I win that.
Money has never driven me. I hope it never will. I play to win trophies and win championships and be the best player to ever walk the planet, and that's all I play for. So money is a great consolation and it's a great thing to have, but I don't know if there's -- it's bizarre. I've never had a putt on the last hole of a tournament where like, man, if I make this, I finish solo second versus; if I miss it, it's a three-way tie for third or whatever. This is a $500,000 putt.
Whereas I go play a money game at home where this putt is $200 for the last hole, and I have to physically give my friend $200, that makes me nervous. When you have to physically give the money over and you lose to somebody, like, to me, that's -- I'm not saying I don't have a rush out here, but that's where -- that's fun. This is fun too, but it's different, you know what I mean?
I don't know. I'm sure there is a form of money that, whatever, might get me to say that, but I don't know. I truly don't think that way or play that way.
Q. I wanted to ask one other question. Rory was in here and was talking about he could foresee a scenario going into Sunday where 15 guys still have a shot at the FedExCup, which would be a little bit different than I think in the past. Could you see that same thing happening, just because there's some clarification with the leader board now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. I think that with this format, it has the potential to -- say myself, hopefully only myself -- but say myself and a couple other guys get hot at the top of the leader board, and it could be a two- or three- or just one-man show. But if some of the guys at the top don't play well and some of the guys at the bottom play well, you legitimately have a chance of 28 guys, 25 guys who have a chance to win $15 million on Sunday, which is exactly what the TOUR and what everybody wants.
But that being said, that's not going to happen every year. At least you wouldn't think. It could, but I think you're going to see years where guys separate themselves, and then you're going to see years where it's a log jam, and Sunday's going to create some fireworks.
I'm hoping this year isn't that way and I play some good golf, but you never know with this sport. So we'll take it for what it is.
Q. Justin, last week after the third round, you mentioned that hole out that you had got some of Brooks' cash. Can you offer some details on what that bet is and where it stands right now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's just a little thing we have between us too, just kind of a hole out bet, and the monetary value doesn't matter. Again, it's kind of like I was saying earlier, it's more of the fact of me doing that. But that's just something a little fun between us that we've done.
Q. Who's up right now?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I got three hole outs and he's got zero, so I am right now.
Q. Does it better taking his cash than even getting cash more cash from your PGA TOUR --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah. I guess so. I guess I've got to wait until I get it first.
Q. You hear in football all the time that people say they celebrate a win until midnight and then they move on. How have you handled winning? And has your philosophy changed of how long you allow yourself to celebrate a victory before you move on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah. Last week I had some drinks, had a good time with some buddies on Sunday night, and that was it. I have a tournament, a really big tournament this week, and it's not -- I think there's a time and place for it, and you kind of have to understand what the big picture is. I think, off-season, you obviously have the opportunity to enjoy some stuff. But for me, yeah, I mean, it really is kind of the Coach Saban method of the 24-hour rule. You enjoy it for 24 hours, and then it's over with.
I think there's been plenty of times after wins where I haven't looked that excited and kind of all over the place, and it's all over my face, but I expect to play well, and I expect to have a chance to win. So I don't want to act anything other than accordingly, if that makes sense.
Yeah, obviously, I'm very excited that I won last week, but I couldn't be any more over with. There's no reason for me to enjoy that or celebrate it more. I need to figure out what I could have done better or should have done better and put it into place this week.
Q. Has it always been that way?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think so. After the first couple -- I mean, it's different because I don't know if I'll ever win again. Obviously, I hope I do, but you don't know in this game. You don't know what's going to happen. So you do need to enjoy it. But at the same time, I think the reason why I do have ten wins now is because I'm always trying to get a little bit better.
Q. Justin, to follow on your comments about the money at this point not being life-changing, can you recall, when you first turned pro, an instance when maybe it was -- when you did something well that you realized, hey, now I maybe don't have to worry about this or maybe it allowed you to buy something you really wanted?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, buying my first house was pretty cool. It was two years ago. So it was kind of in the middle of '17 actually. I had a couple of wins, and the opportunity to buy a house at 24 years old was pretty cool.
But I remember -- I'll never forget, I got an exemption into the Memorial when I was on the Web -- and obviously, the Web, the purses are a lot different on the Web. I was playing pretty well. I was in probably 18th, something like that, going into 18 on Sunday, and I made double. I remember like, wow, that cost me. I didn't look it up. It cost me a lot.
But I'll never forget, I got a text from my mom the next day, like that double bogey on 18 yesterday cost you $42,000. I was like, Mom, if you ever send me a text like this again, I will delete your number. Don't ever text me something like this.
But that was something where she -- especially in a text message where you can't hear the tone, you just like look at it, you're like, really? Did you need to send that?
So probably, I mean, everybody -- I think the first couple years as a pro, when you start getting paychecks, you think about it, but I'll never forget that. It was pretty funny.
Q. Did you ever talk to her about it? Was she mocking you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. I think she got a pretty good idea from the text I sent back to never bring it up again.
Q. What would it mean for to you win the FedEx twice?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It would mean a lot. It's something that we work for the entire year. All the preparation and practice and stuff off the course that myself and everybody on the team puts in, it would be very rewarding. But I'm 72 long holes away from that, and I need to take it shot by shot at a time. All I'm worried about is just that first tee shot on Thursday right now, and I'll just kind of go from there. But, yeah, it would be cool.
Q. To better understand the unknown you were talking about with this format, how probable, from your perch, would those sitting at even, maybe even 1 under, be in the mix on Sunday?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's tough because I think you might find yourself -- or you might find guys at even playing aggressive, and they could shoot themselves in it or completely out of it in one day. So I think you're going to have some of that. But then again, it's just -- the fact of the matter is this golf course is hard, so you could just have a day where you just don't play well. They definitely have a chance. It really just all matters what the guys at the top of the leader board do.
It's not like you -- I mean, you can't afford to have a bad day when you're starting at even or 1 under. But then again, if you want a chance to win, you couldn't afford to have a bad day previously -- with the previous format, if you wanted to have a chance to win. So it's not like that changes at all. It's just I would say you have a better chance of going from 30th to in the top five or ten, whereas before it's just sometimes kind of hard to get motivated because you're like, man, I've got to win and I need so many other things to happen. Whereas now, you know what's got to happen. It's all right in front of you, and it's all up on a leader board.
So at the end of the day, everyone's got to play golf, and that's kind of all I'm thinking. I just need to try to play better than everyone else.
Q. Thank you for being here. I was wondering what is something that you wish you would have known, being a student-athlete and playing at such a high level at such a young age?
JUSTIN THOMAS: That's a good question. I would say what I wish I would have known early, that I feel like I didn't learn until the last couple of years, is patience but taking everything for what it's worth. I think it doesn't matter whether it's golf or another sport or life, you're always, always going to have ups and downs. It's just how you treat those.
You know, like I went through an injury this year, and it was very easy for me to get down on myself and easy to think why me? Why is this happening? When instead I kind of turned it into a positive and say how can I get better from this? It's the same with any other sport or life, you're going to go through times that are bad. And it's how you choose to say -- you know, this is meant to be for some reason, and why is it meant to be? Why can I -- why is this happening to where I can't get better? I'm not playing good golf, but this is happening because it's making me realize I need to get better at something else, or I need to change my lifestyle to become a better player.
I think it's just -- if I would have known that in college golf or high school golf, when I thought that if I had a bad day, it was just -- the world was against me, and I'm so bad, when if I could have taken the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and learn from those bad days or bad times, I think I would have had more success even sooner.
That's kind of a long answer to what you said, but I just would say to be patient and learn from everything that happens in life because even the negatives and positives because you can always get better from it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports