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December 31, 2019

Justin Thomas

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

RACHEL NOBLE: We'd like to welcome Justin Thomas, our 2017 Sentry Tournament of Champions winner, to the media center. Just thoughts on returning. Obviously you qualified from the BMW Championship, and then thoughts on the course, as well.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, this is always the best place I think to start the year, being able to be at Kapalua. It's a good thing. It means you won the previous year. But also, a small field, fun, relaxed week, great golf course, and yeah, the changes are great. I feel like it's always a little iffy the first year just in terms of how the course is going to come back, but as my dad said the other day, you can't really get much better growing conditions than Hawai'i with a lot of rain and a lot of sunshine. It's really come in well, and the greens are firm because they're new, but they're rolling very, very true.

Definitely going to be some longer clubs into some holes with a couple new tees. But I think it's going to be a good test for us.

Q. Are we ever going to see 30-, 31-under here again, at least in these conditions?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I just think it's going to take a couple of years for the greens to kind of get back. I mean, when they're new, they're always going to be really firm. If the greens are really firm, no, you're not going to see 30 -- you only saw it once, so it's not like you're going to see it very often. But I hit 5-iron into 3 today and 5-iron into 4, and I don't -- I mean, I've hit wedge and wedge into those two holes for however many years now. That's a lot different.

The ball usually would just kind of stay wherever it landed in the past, and now you're really going to have to pay attention to where you're landing it and how much roll-out you're going to get into the wind versus downwind. Most of the time you're trying to take a lot of spin off the ball, whereas now you're trying to put a lot of spin on the ball. It's definitely going to be different, but I don't think you're going to -- I have no idea what the scores are going to be like, but I can't imagine the scores being that low.

Q. You had another good year last year, and I know you had that big gap when you were hurt. Because of that, do you feel like people slept on you a little bit, like you didn't necessarily get the focus you may have gotten the year before? And does that give you any sort of added motivation to be at the top again?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, it definitely -- I mean, all the motivation I need to get to No. 1 in the world is in myself. I don't need to try to prove anybody wrong. I don't need to do it because people said I can't. Because I want to be there is big enough motivation for me.

But I wouldn't say anybody slept on me last year. I mean, I didn't play very well to start the year, and I didn't -- I hadn't won at all, and I dropped five to ten in the World Rankings, so there's a lot of people that were playing better than me and winning more tournaments. So it's not like -- yeah, I could have been a pity party and asked for more attention, but I definitely didn't deserve anything special. I mean, I hadn't done what I had the year before and definitely not two years before that. But I felt like I was playing just as well, I just didn't have the results.

Even with the injury happening, I tried to stay patient, and I was glad to see it kind of come back to how it felt like it should have been at the end of the year.

Q. It seems like yesterday you were the new kid on the block, and we blink and now you're one of the savvy veterans. Does it seem as quick to you in reality?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It is crazy. I mean, I still think I'm very young. I mean, 26 years old. But in terms of guys that are out here, I'm definitely not the young one anymore. But it's cool. I mean, the TOUR is becoming younger. It was becoming younger when I first got out here, but yeah, I mean, I think this is my sixth -- no, fifth year maybe or -- fifth or sixth year, and it is kind of nuts how fast it's gone by. I think when you don't have that time, that couple months to just kind of relax and do whatever, when it's kind of bang-bang-bang from January to December, it goes by pretty fast.

Q. We know you don't publicize your goals until the end of a season, but how has the process been each year in terms of setting those goals, and are you surprised how far you've been able to raise that each year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm definitely not surprised. I mean, I'm disappointed I haven't achieved more to be honest until this far. I shouldn't say disappointed, but I mean, I'm obviously very -- I'm pleased with my career thus far, but I feel like I could have and should have won a lot more tournaments and definitely should have contended and won some more majors. So that's just my opinion.

But I mean, the goals usually aren't too difficult. You could get four or five people together in here and you guys could probably come up with a decent amount of them. It's not anything crazy as you see every year. But to me it's just stuff that I think is going to result in a great year, or things that I need to do, whether it's on the course or off the course, to succeed, and then same when it comes to results and stuff like that. It's stuff that I feel that I'm capable of doing, whether it's easier to achieve or very difficult to achieve, it's stuff that I still feel is achievable.

Q. Do you set goals away from golf?

Q. Do you write them down and can you share any of those?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's in the same notes. It's all in my phone. It's just -- I would say probably every year I'll probably add a couple more of the on-golf. Last year I had stuff that was off that wasn't golf-related, whether it was last year a big goal of mine was to start a foundation, and we had a very successful first foundation event. Although last year might not have been the golf year I wanted, it was pretty awesome starting a foundation and having such a successful first event. It kind of puts things in perspective sometimes.

Q. What do you think of the major rotation this coming year? You obviously know the first one --
JUSTIN THOMAS: What are all the rest of them?

Q. Harding Park for the PGA, Winged Foot, U.S. Open, Royal St. George's --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've only played Augusta. I don't know the other courses very well. I mean, I know Winged Foot is very difficult, and yeah, I don't know very much about Harding Park or St. George's.

Q. Do you think about the Olympics at all?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I don't think about it often. I mean, I would obviously to have to be there, but there's a lot of golf between now and then and a lot of tournaments I want to try to win before then.

Q. Is a gold medal as good as a major do you think?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You can't really compare the two. But I'd love to have both of them and I'll tell you. Yeah, if I want them both, you can come back to me and ask me. I'd be more than happy about that.

Q. Can you talk about -- I know you did already, but what are the main differences in the course from what you knew before this year and what you see now, and is it almost like learning a whole new golf course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, not at all. I mean, it's still the same golf course. It's just -- I mean, you have holes like 3 -- 4, that tee was there but we didn't really use it. 9, 10, I mean, those holes all have new tees, but still, it's not like it changes anything, it's just that 3 is now and now the bunkers are in play when it's into the wind and we're hitting anywhere from an 8- to a 4-iron instead of a wedge, and 4, same sort of thing, and 9, we probably can't get there in two now, which is kind of bizarre because sometimes we're hitting 3-wood to stay short of the end of the fairway.

The only thing that's a little different is just I feel like we're going to have more pin placements on some of the greens because instead of having one gradual slope, now it's kind of turned into shelf, and you have to maybe focus a little bit more on being on the correct side of the shelf or the correct side of the hole. Not that you didn't before, but -- and like I said before, you really had to pay attention to controlling your spin into a lot of the greens. 16, for instance, it's always -- we're hitting gap wedge and pitching wedge from 80, 90 yards just to take the spin off it and get it to kind of roll up the hill because anything with spin would rip off the front, and then you're looking at trying to save par and potentially make 5 or 6, and now you don't have to worry about it really spinning off the green unless it lands right on the false front because they're so firm. I would say that's the biggest difference is just hitting different clubs into greens and not having to worry about that as much.

Q. Is it harder than it was last year?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's definitely more difficult, yeah. It's a lot longer, and the firm greens are always going to make a course more difficult.

Q. With a year under your belt, if you were to make it back next year, what would you expect from the golf course in terms of having a full year growing?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think it's only going to get better each year. I mean, I think they're going to -- next year won't be -- the greens won't be as firm, and I think it'll -- in probably about three or four years it'll be back to where it just is dependent on the weather on if the greens are firm or soft. I'd say in four years it'll be -- if we get a lot of rain they'll be really soft again, and if we don't, then they'll be bricks, whereas now even with all the rain we've gotten, they're still really firm. It's just either they're firm or they're really firm. So it's not really like a happy medium like you can get sometimes when greens are a little bit more developed and grown in. But they're in unbelievable condition.

RACHEL NOBLE: Thanks so much for your time, Justin. Good luck.

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