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November 10, 2020

Justin Thomas

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure, really a great pleasure to welcome back Justin Thomas, the PGA of America 2020 Player of the Year, who is competing in his fifth Masters tournament. You're coming into this event ranked No.3 in the world. You've won three times this year alone, and maybe you could share with us how you feel coming into the tournament, preparation, and after actually being here. I think you played yesterday, played a round.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm obviously excited to be here. This is probably my favorite event of the year, one of my favorite courses. I enjoy everything about it. It's just fun. I don't really know how to describe it, but it's just every time going out there and playing, I feel like I know the course so well, and I still just enjoy hitting all the shots and kind of doing the same stuff that I feel like I already know.
At this point it's just about getting rest and really just going out and executing come Thursday. I feel like I've prepared well. I got a good bit of rest after Vegas and LA and worked on some stuff I felt like I needed to work on.
Like I said, at this point it's just about getting it done once we tee it up.

Q. You played with Bryson yesterday; can you just talk about his length off the tee, and what does it do here at a place like this?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's a substantially easier golf course for him than it is for everybody else. To me, he's not hitting it any further than he was the last time I played with him. I think once he starts messing with that longer driver and has a little bit more free time, then as crazy as it is he might be able to hit it further.
But yeah, there's a lot of holes that he actually‑‑ pretty much every hole he's going to have a pretty distinct advantage over everybody. You look at a hole like 2, he's got a 90‑yard fairway pretty much and he could be flipping anything from a 9‑ to a 7‑iron in there. He obviously still has to execute, hit the shots and make the putts, but I sure would like to be hitting from his tee shots as opposed to mine distance‑wise.
No, I mean, it's very impressive what he's done. I still think the fact that he hits it as straight as he does as far as he does is extremely impressive, and he's definitely gotten a lot of players to change their mentality or at least try to pick up some yardage. I think I've said before, I don't exactly have 240 in the bag for weight, I don't exactly have the height for that, but no, it's impressive, and yeah, it's a very gettable golf course for him.

Q. You have not been tempted to try to gain 40 pounds of muscle and just swing as hard as physics will allow?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I already swing it pretty hard. That's not something I'm lacking. I mean, he's put on a lot of weight. I don't necessarily think 40 pounds of muscle. He's just eating everything in sight and he's working out a lot. He's gotten huge. He's just absolutely‑‑ he's jacked and he's got the frame for it, which is, again, something I don't have.
But I have zero desire to put on 50 or 40 pounds. I could put on 10 and it would be a good 10 pounds, but I mean, I don't need to hit it 370 yards or 340 yards in the air to win every tournament. I feel like I hit it plenty far enough that, if I get a little bit better in other aspects, I can contend and win in every single tournament I play.
Now, that being said, would I like to hit it that far? Yes, but it's just not realistic for me. It's all about optimizing what I have at the moment. I just need to continue to be good at what I'm good at. Kind of going down a wormhole, although it can be productive, it can also hinder you, I think, more than anything.

Q. Is there any real difference playing this place in November rather than April, or is it all just subtleties?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's all subtleties. The ball doesn't sit nearly as well around the greens with I think both the Bermuda and the overseed coming in, you're going to have some sketchy lies around the greens, balls that are sitting down to where you're not going to be able to get the spin that you're used to getting, especially chipping up to the elevated greens or when you need to spin one, hold it against the slope or whatever it is.
But I think you're going to see that over the course of the week. Definitely some chips that kind of come out high and knuckly and with a lot of top spin on it. But everybody has to deal with it. Everyone is playing the exact same golf course, so you can't complain or make a fuss about it because everyone is teeing it up in the same spot on Thursday.
It is what it is, and obviously the no fans thing I think is pretty self‑explanatory, so I don't really think I need to go into that.

Q. Just curious with all that's gone on this year with COVID, all the political and social upheaval, to what extent has golf been a refuge for you as much as a living in terms of practice and playing tournaments and just being in that world?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, we're all lucky, but myself included, we're all fortunate that I think it ended up‑‑ what was it, three months we were off, something like that? But we're very fortunate that we were able to do what we normally do and what we love basically the entire year.
I mean, I said it at one point in the press conference when we started up, there were so many people, so many small businesses, so many people that run big companies that had to just change everything so much and were in such a deep hole that we are so, so lucky to be able to continue to do this and be able to play the Masters. Yeah, it sucks without fans, but it sucks a lot less than if we weren't even playing the tournament, know what I mean?
It is, I hope it's been something positive not only for us but for everybody. The people at home, I think the game of golf has grown so much since March, it's gotten people to go out, be outside, be active and hopefully be able to watch a little bit more on TV because there's been a lot of great tournaments and a lot of great story lines. This week is I'm sure going to produce some more.

Q. Curious, playing with Bryson yesterday, was that an accident or something that was planned? Wouldn't it have been better not to look?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, I mean, I knew coming in I could‑‑ I already ran through hole by hole in my head of how easy a lot of the drives are going to be for him compared to everybody else. I mean, I've seen it before, it's not like I've never played with him, and it just confirmed what I already knew. I knew that he was going to have sand or gap wedge into 13 and I was going to have to hit a really good drive and turn it around those trees that he flies it over. That's just the fact of the matter. Holes like that and 15 are par‑4s for him and par‑5s for everybody else. But it is what it is.

Q. As we talk about traditions that are missing this year under the circumstances, I'd be curious when you got to 16 either of your two days, did you bother skipping it, or is that something for the fans? How did you approach that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's definitely for the fans. Sunday we were going to skip and we had a group of members behind us, and they were on the 15th green, so we didn't feel the need to hold them up. And then yesterday Tiger and Freddy didn't really want to and I kind of do whatever they say around this place, so I'm 0 for 2.

Q. What's your Masters bubble this year compared to past years? Different house, fewer guests? Is that part of it different than past years?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's not. Not anything crazy. Obviously you have people or family, whatever it is, come, but I'm not hosting them. They're not staying in the same house as me. I've always done it where I get two houses, I get a house for me and whoever I want in the house and then have a house‑‑ have like three of my best friends from high school, middle school that come, and then some of my other family members, and quite frankly I don't really care who stays in that house, that's why I have it. They can stay up as late as they want, they can have people sleep on the couch, I don't care, just don't damage the house and don't screw up with me giving you my tickets. That's pretty much the two rules.
But in terms of who's in my house, I still have my dad and I have my chef, girlfriend, and this year I just am having the trainer stay with me. It's not much different there, it's just more so I don't see my buddies, have them over for dinner at night or whatever it is. I usually try to keep it pretty low key during the week.

Q. Without guests this year, do you miss not having them?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I do. It was always nice if I needed to because especially in April there was quite a bit of sports on. I feel like it was usually kind of during the NBA Playoffs maybe were starting, but I always remember the Stanley Cup was kind of starting, or at least those Playoffs were. They'd come over for dinner a couple times a week and we'd watch games together, and it just kind of took my mind off of the big picture and the big moment of what was going on.
I'll miss that, but nothing is going to stop me from still watching sports, I just won't be doing it with them.

Q. Random question: Is this the only press conference all year where you take your hat off?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, probably. I keep my hat on as often as I can, but I respect the rules if places want me to take it off. I have no problem with it.

Q. Do you worry about the hat head when you come in here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Not really. I'm sure my hair doesn't look exactly great right now, but luckily I wear a hat for my job, so I've just got to get through this press conference and I'll be okay.

Q. Do you take a different approach if you're going to tee off of 10 instead of teeing off of 1? Is there going to be much of a difference there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't think so. I wish I could answer because I haven't done it before, know what I mean, so it's hard to say. But it is going to be weird hitting a snipe hook as your first tee shot of the day. You know, that's a tee shot I've been comfortable with, but I've also hit many shots until then. Like I've hit enough to where I feel like I can aim it right and shut a driver down and consistently turn it. But when I haven't hit a shot on the golf course yet, it could be a little bit different. Hopefully it isn't, but I think that's just going to be weird.
You might see some a little bit more squirrelly tee shots on 10 this year than normal, because like I said, when you're able to kind of get in a little bit of a rhythm, you at least can kind of figure out what you're doing to step up on that tee. But you have to turn it quite a bit there, so it could be a little different.
But I don't think in terms of strategy and game plan on the golf course is going to change anything.

Q. You talked about Bryson being able to flip wedges into long holes and taking it over trees instead of having to turn it over. At some point does his length become too much of an advantage, or do you look at it as he put in the work, he made the changes to his body and his swing and he deserves what he's getting?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think he deserves it. I mean, no offense to him, but he's not winning every tournament he's playing in, so it's clearly not too much of a disadvantage. You still have to get the ball in the hole. Although he has a big advantage, I still think that he wins tournaments he does because he still putts it really well. He's a great putter, and it's a very underrated part of his game.
Yeah, at the end of the day he has put a lot of work in. He's done a lot of things that a lot of players aren't willing to do, make life changes and swing changes and equipment changes and extreme body changes, and really he had an end goal, but you don't really know what's going to come out of it, know what I mean, when you start.
You could go into that and maybe tweak something and hurt himself and kind of put himself behind the 8‑ball, but he hasn't done that. He's earned it. Obviously I wish he didn't have an advantage over me and everybody else, but the fact of the matter is that he does and I just need to grow up and get over it because I can still beat him like I can anybody else, but it just comes down to playing better.

Q. You've played a lot with Tiger over the years, but when you have a round like yesterday on the golf course, given his record here, do you pay attention to some of the things he's doing a little bit more?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Oh, for sure. I'm very happy that I've gotten into a yearly routine. I think probably the last three years of playing with Tiger and Freddy here, practice rounds, and, no, I follow everywhere they go. Tiger is a little‑‑ I shouldn't say a little, Tiger is less willing to give me information than Freddy is. I know if I ask Freddy, he'll answer, whereas Tiger this week probably won't answer.
But still, I just watch where they chip from and I pretty much follow them around. When they do something, they leave‑‑ it's like a station, whenever they leave, I pretty much go to the next spot. There's a reason they've been successful here, and they know how to get around here, they've played as often as they have.
That being said, I feel like I know the course pretty well, too, but it definitely helps watching them go around here and kind of watch where they practice from because they know where to play the golf course.

Q. A lot of people say Justin Thomas is the best ball striker, best iron player on Tour. If you could look at someone else's game, is there someone else's iron game that you like, or are you pretty satisfied with yours?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm very satisfied with mine. The only person on the planet that I would debate is Tiger. His iron game is absurd. It's so good. It's very solid. Yeah, I think plenty of people hit maybe more solid irons than me. They might have a prettier ball flight, they might hit it higher or turn it one way or the other, but just it terms of statistics speaking, the last couple years, I would definitely take mine. But the only person, like I said, I would think about would be him.

Q. With Tiger winning and there was the talk about resuming the chase for Jack and now here we are at the next Masters, given the year, it almost seems like he's an afterthought at this tournament. As much time as you spend with him, what do you think of his chances?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, someone like him or Phil, I'd never take them out at a place like this. I think this course is so unique that you don't need to play great to have a chance to win.
I think you just need to be playing okay if you know the golf course. You have to be chipping and putting well, but you can be hitting it okay and get it around this place more than okay. You know where to hit it, you know where not to hit it. There's certain holes if you're not hitting it well, it's like okay, as long as I hit it over here, I'll be all right. And no one knows that better than Tiger.
I think especially with the forecast the way that it is, it's not going to be too cold, which I know is helpful for him, and I know talking with him and Freddy, Freddy was‑‑ had some kind words about potentially a cold Masters. He goes, there goes any chance I have if it's going to be cold. I'm sure he's happy to see the same.
No, I know that he takes this event so seriously, he takes them all, but he knows this place so well and he knows that he has a big advantage, I think, over half the field before even teeing it up.

Q. If you're in contention going into Sunday with the early tee times, is it a good thing for you if Alabama does or does not play LSU?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, we're going to beat them by about 70 if we play them, so I don't think it really makes a difference.
THE MODERATOR: J.T., thank you for joining us today, and all the best this week.

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