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January 20, 2021

Justin Thomas

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Press Conference

NEIL AHERN: You've played a couple of these Rolex Series Events before but this is your debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC championship. Can you tell us how excited you are to get started?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I'm very excited. This is a tournament and a place that I've watched on TV many a times back home and it's an unbelievable place. You know, it's even nicer being on a Troon property for me, a partner that I have and I'm very close with, and it's an unbelievable course. It's in immaculate shape. Pretty convenient staying in hotel right on property here. The facilities are great. The food's been great and it's been very enjoyable thus far.

Q. What do you think will be key to winning this week?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It definitely is going to help driving it well. It seems like a course that if you're driving the ball well, you have the opportunity to make a lot of birdies. The greens are pretty soft and they are in very good shape to where if you put the ball in the right place on the greens, you can make a lot of putts and really go low. That's kind of been our priority here this week is just figuring out lines, figuring out shots and what I want to hit off the tees.

Yeah, that seems like it's going to be a pretty big priority this week.

Q. Your first time over here and we've had a lot of big tournaments here from Formula I through UFC and they kind of pride themselves on their safety and health of everybody involved. How have you found the coronavirus treatment here and do you feel in a safe environment?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's been great. I was not curious, but obviously playing on the PGA TOUR and seeing how they have done it, every single organisation, sporting group, whatever, they all do it differently and they all kind of have their own system.

And for The European Tour, I would have to think it's difficult travelling country-to-country each week and with different guidelines and they really have done an unbelievable job, I mean, from when we started up to now and being able to put these events on and still have great fields week-in and week-out.

In terms of me for this week, it's been nothing but great in terms of the bubble that you're in and staying within that and following the protocols both on and off the golf course. They have done a great job just like the PGA TOUR to making it feel as normal as possible while also not being normal.

Q. Obviously first chance to speak to you since what happened in Hawaii, just wanted to get your reaction, first of all, to what occurred with Ralph Lauren deciding to end their relationship with you. Were you disappointed in that, given that you had given a full apology?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I think disappointed is the wrong word. Obviously I was upset. But at the end of the day, they have that right. They had to make the decision that they had to make. I spoke with them along with all my sponsors. Although I apologised, it's like it was then; it's an opportunity for me to grow and I felt like it was something we could have done together and gone through that process. They just felt like they needed to move on. That's exactly what I'm doing, as well.

It was a great run that we had and a great partnership, but you know, things will work out on the best.

Q. How many of your other sponsors have given any indication of what they are planning and are they sticking with you as things stand?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I've had great communication with all of them. It was obviously not calls or e-mails I was hoping or planning to make but I needed to because I have some great long lasting partnerships with all my sponsors. They know that's not the person that I am.

They know that's not how I act and although they are far from brushing it to the side just like I am, they understand that this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person, and just like they hope, I know that I'll become a better man and a better person because of it, and they are going to kind of help me along that process.

Q. You said that you hoped yourself and Ralph Lauren could move along together. What did you hope would happen and be the outcome? How would you have liked to have seen this dealt with?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Well, you know, just like my other partners and other sponsorships, you know, it's an opportunity for them to help me just like I hope to help them.

But like I said, they had to do what they had to do. You know, they are a huge, huge global brand, and I have to respect their decision. Like I said, I wasn't disappointed, because I put them in a terrible position. I just was more upset. I had a great relationship with a lot of people there, and like I said, we would have had the opportunity to do it together, and I totally respect their decision and I've moved on from it.

Q. Some people on the outside who don't know you will say that what happened, it may happen all the time; it just so happens this was picked up by a microphone. That's quite an easy assumption to make, actually, people saying that. How would you respond to that?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's very easy to say that and understand but that's unfortunately just what comes with it in terms of people not knowing who I am and the consequences of what I said. You know, I'm clearly beyond proud of what I said. It's humiliating. It's embarrassing. It's not me. It's not a word that I use, but for some reason, it was in there. And that's what I'm trying to figure out as to why it was in there, and just like I said, it's going to be a part of this process and training program or whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but prove to my sponsors and prove to those people that don't know who I am that that is indeed not the person I am.

Q. I just want to go back to that, I'm sorry. Are you aware of the considerable amount of support you've had, and in particular, have you read the piece by Eamon Lynch that appeared a couple of days ago that's attracting a lot of attention?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I have not. I don't have social media on my phone, so I have not read anything. I'm just using this time to try to get better and improve as a person from it, so I have not seen it, no.

Q. Well, you ought to look it up at some stage.


Q. You already played in Hawaii obviously the off-season wasn't really long for you because you've also been playing the Father/Son. How do you think this will be an advantage to you? And also regarding equipment changes that are happening right now, how difficult is it to adapt to new equipment and basically what are the metrics you look at before making that change during the wintertime?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I don't tinker and change with equipment very often. The irons that I use are basically the irons that I've used for probably four, five, six years now. They are the same. They have no offset. They have the same kind of bounce and grind on them. They are just kind of newer models but they are made basically identically so that's always been an easy transition. Wedges are always an easy transition. I'll change bounces on 60-degree every once in a while depending on the turf we're playing in.

In terms of the woods, I just am I big believer that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So I like my 5-wood. I like my 3-wood, and the driver is something I feel like I've been able to try to improve, and I've made some good strides on that and I think we are getting really, really close in that.

And yeah, so I mean, in terms of playing during the off-season, if you will, I'm hoping it was going to help me. That was kind of the plan behind it, and I was just glad that my dad to carry us to a victory at the Father/Son to get a win in December before Christmas.

Q. Sorry to go back to the hot topic once again. But I wanted to clarify, when you said that you were discussing being on a programme and that kind of thing, is that to try and get to the bottom of why you said what you said? Is that just internal introspection, or is that actually you enlisting and getting help from outside on this matter?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's kind of -- I feel like it's, although the mistake wasn't a personal level, what I'm doing for myself is personal. Obviously people are going to be part of that process but what I'm doing I'd like to keep internally and just go through the appropriate steps to get where I need to and want to be to where, not the word trust, but people understand that's not -- like I said, not the person I am, not the character I like to portray.

But like I said, that's stuff that I feel I'd like to keep it at a personal level and go through the necessary steps.

NEIL AHERN: Thank you very much for your time and thank you for your honesty, and hope you have a great week this week.

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