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April 6, 2021

Justin Thomas

Augusta, Georgia, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it's nice to have you all out at the media center and I want to especially welcome Justin Thomas back to Augusta National where he will be competing in his 6th Masters Tournament.

Justin, welcome and thank you for coming out and being with us today for this view. Really appreciate it. I have to start by congratulating you on THE PLAYERS championship victory. It was dramatic. It was exciting and it was quite an accomplishment, but also the fact that it marks your 14th PGA career win before you turned 28. That's a phenomenal accomplishment, and got to congratulate you on that, as well. Great work.


THE MODERATOR: Now I think about your dad's view after the tournament, right after the tournament and he focused on a couple things. One was your amazing ball-striking out there and where that is, and then the other was the mental toughness that you demonstrated during that tournament, and I thought maybe could you build on those two points and think about it in terms of assessing your game, where you are today how you feel coming in and how did you prepare for this week's event.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Thank you, first off.

Obviously THE PLAYERS was nice. I felt like I played some pretty good golf since Memphis and had some chances to win. I hadn't been able to capitalize and get it done. Like Jordan said last week, the more you put yourself there, the more comfortable you're going to get, obviously, just the better chances you're going to have of getting it done.

I had not been playing great. Wasn't in a great place mentally going into PLAYERS, and for some reason just clicked. I practiced really, really hard Monday through Wednesday to try to find something, to try to figure something out to where I can play the tournament pretty much, and just try to get it around because I know that you can have hot rounds out there. And I was fortunate to just squeak by Friday and make the cut and found one of those rounds on Saturday.

And once I got there Sunday, I was comfortable and just had to stay patient and had to stay in my own little world and was able to really play flawlessly tee-to-green, and that was good enough to get it done.

Obviously would be nice to get it done every round you play, but that's golf and it doesn't work out like that. But yeah, just been trying to work to get into that good mental frame of mind for this week because I think that's just important as anything, and really just get rested. It's a long and grueling week, and it takes a toll on you mentally and physically and so I've been just really trying to get rested, and use yesterday, today and tomorrow is opportunities to get ready to where I feel like I'm near the top of peaking for my game one we tee it up Thursday, Friday.

THE MODERATOR: Strange to think about your last finish here was your best, but it was just six months ago, and so you finished fourth. What did you learn during the fall tournament that you think will be helpful to get into the preparation?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't know if I can say anything because the golf course was so incredibly different. There were no fans. There were some new pins. It was obviously still the same golf course tee-to-green, but it was a different golf course at the same time. Any sort of past memory that you had, you almost had to throw it out the window because a lot of chips and putts just reacted differently.

I'm able to grow on the good finish and had a chance. I was in the final group Saturday and I think second-to-last group on Sunday, I think, and I mean, I know that I can play this place well. I mean, very similar to Sawgrass. I love this golf course. I feel like it's a place that I'm going to win at some point, at least I hope, and I feel like I can do it multiple times. But at the end of the day there's only one person that wins every week, and I just need to keep working until -- if and when it's my time.

Q. Two for you that I'll ask separately. Your last competition coming into this is the Match Play. Is there anything you can take out of that, since there's such an unpredictable nature about how the results are going to go?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I hope not. I mean, I've played that event five times, and I've only gotten out of my pod once. So clearly I don't play that golf course very well and I don't like it, or there's something about everything in that format that's tough for me. I don't mind head-to-head match play, but, I don't know, it's just weird.

Clearly I don't like it. I have not played the place very well. And then when you get guys like Kiz, Kuch and Louis in your group and you don't play the course very well and you don't play very well, that equals you going home on Friday.

So to answer your question, no, I hope that that is not a sign of things to come or a sign of any kind of like form, but after we knew we didn't have a chance on Thursday, Jimmy and I went out Friday and were like, we are going to use this round to get ready for Augusta. If there's a shot that calls for a stock shot, we'll say, all right, we'll try to work this one to get ready for a tee shot on 13. You know, you could have a hole like 7 as long as it was playing Friday at the Match Play, you could be like, this is like 4 out here, the up tee or left pin or something like that.

Obviously still wanted to win my match against Louis, but at the end of the day, my week was done with and I trying to use that -- that day was the beginning of trying to get ready for Augusta.

Q. I know you've had texts and talking with Tiger. Have you actually seen him, and what do you miss the most about him not being around this week?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Playing the practice rounds with him for sure. I went over and saw him a couple times last week and tried to go over a couple times during the week whenever I'm home and see him. We texted Friday morning, and he said it's kind of starting to set in. He's bummed he's not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too. I'm very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice round group with Tiger and Freddie the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place, I just follow them around like puppy dogs. Wherever they go, that's where I go after it. If they hit chips from somewhere, I go hit chips from there.

It's no coincidence they have been so successful here, but they are also just great guys to be around. Definitely miss that part, but hopefully going to play with Freddie tomorrow. He didn't feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief. I don't know if he would have bailed on me if Tiger was with me, but he did on me. So hopefully I'll get to hang out with him tomorrow.

Q. Patrick talked yesterday about learning that you didn't have to be too artistic here. You get here, you think the mystique of Augusta, artistic, and just playing a stock shot. Is that a realization that you went through also with improving each year; that you don't necessarily need to be super artistic, you can just play your game here?

JUSTIN THOMAS: A little bit. I'm probably -- I probably hit more of a variety of shots than some others. I just like to work the ball. I like to -- I mean, even if it necessarily doesn't call for a shot, if I'm more comfortable hitting it, like that's the shot I'm going to hit. I think I -- I'm probably almost the other way around, if anything. You look at a hole like 16 at Sawgrass for me this year, I've not hit that tee shot very well in my career. It's a tee shot I don't like. I don't like working it right-to-left with the driver on demand. And the wind is usually off the left, and if it's not helping I can't cover the trees. And like I don't like hitting 3-wood, so it's just something that I don't like.

I just finally said to Jimmy like on Saturday, I'm like, dude, what if I kind of hit that -- call it like the 10 at Augusta, because I hit driver on 10 here, and I hit a similar shot to that. I'm like, what if I hit something like that? He's like, if you're comfortable doing it, then do it.

So I understand what he's saying, and there's -- I think for me, it's the way I would word that is that I'm not trying to overplay the golf course. I'm not trying to overthink it. You know, it's not like I have to use this slope or I -- or I have to play this hole a certain way.

At the end of the day, it's still golf. You have to shoot the best score, and everybody is going to get it done a different way. But, you know, there's some guys that they like No. 2 tee shot out here, and I don't. So if I can't cover that bunker, I need to lay it up short of it and I need to hit it around the green and I need to try to make four.

It's totally different for every player. I definitely understand what he's saying, and I definitely can agree with that to an extent. Just as majors as a whole, I found myself doing that, trying to overplay and be overconservative, not make mistakes as opposed to, like, dude, you have a 9-iron in your hand, you need to try to make birdie type thing. I guess somewhere in the middle is kind of what I have learned over the years.

Q. After your unfortunate homophobic comment on open mic, you said you've learned a lot about yourself and that topic. What specifically have you learned, and what does the game of golf have to learn about diversity and inclusion? Thank you.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I've learned a lot about myself, just having a lot of uncomfortable conversations, having a lot of -- I have to do a lot of stuff -- I don't have to do, I'm choosing to do a lot of stuff behind the scenes because clearly I needed to grow as a person. It's just a part of life. Doesn't matter if I made a mistake as bad as that or if I hurt someone in my family's feelings or made a mistake on the golf course.

Everybody in this room is trying to learn and grow throughout their progression as characters, as individuals. And I unfortunately put myself in a situation where my route was a lot different route than I had seen it going, but that was the route now that I have. Everything happens for a reason, and I had a very difficult time understanding what that reason was, but trying to look at it as a positive and understand that I have a great chance to not only better myself but better people around me, and I feel like I've been on a great path for that.

I think the game of golf is doing great for that in terms of it's in a great place. I can't imagine a time where golf is really doing better. Would prefer if a pandemic didn't have to happen for it to get to the peak of where it's at. But I think it's been great for everyone to understand how great the game of golf is and how welcoming it is to people, all races. And I think it's just a great, great opportunity for the game to grow -- for the game of golf to grow. And I think it has done that, and I think it will continue to do so.

Q. Without giving anything too personal, how would you characterize his spirit, his mood and whatnot when you had a chance to see him?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I would say the thing for him is he's unfortunately been through rehab processes before. So I just -- me, any time any of my friends go through something, I mean, I did the same with Brooks, you know, recently. I mean, I remember same thing with him before. It's just like you want to check on them and see how they are doing.

I remember when I was out a month and a half for my wrists, I felt so down because I had never been out because of an injury, and I remember the people that reached out to me and checked on me, see how I was doing. I didn't need a call every single day, but hey, how is it going, want to see how you're feeling. It meant a lot because it's easy to get down on yourself when you're out for a little bit.

That's just what I want to do for him, is just be like, dude, I'll do anything you want. If you need me to help out with your kids, I can do that. If you want me to bring you -- if you're craving McDonald's and you want me to bring it over, dude, I don't care, I'm here for you and I'll help out however I can.

But he's been good. It's been good just to go hang out with him. We are fortunate with the basketball to just hang out and watch sports like we would any normal time. Yeah, it's been good to see him and hang out with him.

Q. Is there any chatter on the range of how he's doing? Are guys talking about it? Obviously he's such a big presence here.


Q. And to not be here is not --

JUSTIN THOMAS: You mean here in particular or just in general?

Q. Yeah. Yeah.

JUSTIN THOMAS: I haven't heard much this week. I definitely try to -- especially the first week or two, I tried to just close my ears because it's just astonishing the things people say when they hear one thing and they start saying this happened and, oh, my gosh, did you hear this? And I'm just like it's not true. First off, if it is true, wait to either hear it from him or someone on his team. Like don't just hear because you heard -- like this is a serious situation. And even if it isn't serious, it's not fair. God forbid something terrible came out about the accident -- say that were with his kids, like his kids aren't out there, but then the word starts spreading, and then that gets back to Elin, then Elin is like what's going on? When if the person just would have waited and heard it from the source itself, then you figure out it's not true.

And that's what I found out at the beginning is kind of hearing what was going on and then hearing what was being spread of what was going on. It just was hard. Because, you know, everyone cares and everyone wants to know, but at the same time you need to be respectful and understand that you don't need to be throwing around false claims or anything like that. Just it will come out when it comes out kind of thing.

Q. Looking at the tournaments you've won, do you consciously take note of those kind of fields, the select nature of them and raise your game at all? Seems like you have a tuning fork that goes off when the field is elite, an invitational, a major, things like that. Is that something you're aware of and does it make you better?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I wish I could say I flip a switch when it's a major or WGC and I play better because I would permanently leave that switch on.

But I think a lot of it for me goes into the preparation on the mental side of it. I feel like I do everything I possibly can before and during every tournament, whether it be a regular PGA TOUR event or a major or a WGC or a Playoff event, whatever it might be. It's just different.

And I hate to say it because you should treat every tournament the same, but it's different. Just the little things like, you know, maybe going to hit -- I'm hitting a couple extra balls at home just to get comfortable with that tee shot moving this way or hitting a couple extra 8-irons for the shot into 16 this week or whatever it might be, just making sure that I'm not uncomfortable when I get on the golf course in any of those scenarios, and I do the same thing in other events.

But at the end of the day, if I'm not in the right place mentally, like I'm not in a good frame of mind, then it's going to be hard for me or anybody, I think, to play and perform well. I think I make sure that I -- I think I really, really make sure to be rested and in a good frame of mind and control it as much as I can control it.

And that way I feel like, if I don't have my best stuff, I can get it around. Because that's been some of my best and probably some of my golf I've been most proud of is when I've been able to get it around and not have my best stuff and find myself in contention and winning golf tournaments, instead of just playing lights-out kind of thing.

Q. You mentioned after THE PLAYERS that you have played some of your best golf of your life on the weekend. What was different about that round?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I wish I could tell you something specific. I hit it better. Why I hit it better, why I was swinging it better, I don't know. Just there's so many movements and so many little things that go on a golf swing that there's just a lot of very minuscule things that can get off without you even knowing.

And this is a tough game, so stuff happens. Like I said, I wish I could tell you, but I kind of found a groove and felt like I was getting a little better and better each day. And I was getting close, but it wasn't exactly where I wanted, and all of a sudden just kind of clicked and I started really, really driving it well. And then once I was driving it well, it kind of freed up the rest of my game and I was putting it well.

Yeah, I wish it was always that easy. But as we all know in here, it's not.

Q. Just a quick second one. I'm wondering your first time at Augusta National, who were you thinking about as you were walking around the course?

JUSTIN THOMAS: Who was I thinking about? I don't know, I was probably so, like, nervous and in awe. I remember it was myself, Jeff Knox, Lee Knox and Bobby Wyatt. So Mr. Knox would -- Lee, who was a college teammate of mine at Alabama. His dad, Jeff, who has been the marker here for a long time. Lee would always bring a group or two each year. He would bring, whatever, one in the fall or winter, and he would bring one in the spring. And Bobby and I were fortunate to be in that group February of my freshman year. So I guess it would have been 2012. Yeah, I think so.

So we came out. It was like a perfect day, and it was chilly in the morning and nice in the day. I mean, Bobby and I were grinning ear-to-ear all day. We were so nervous on the first tee shot of just a regular round of golf. It was fun.

Obviously you get to certain holes and certain holes have certain memories of different people doing different things and hitting shots, and obviously you have 16, you have some of the eagles on 13 and 15, and then you have Jack's putt on 17 and all the putts you've seen made on 18.

So it really was just an experience. You take it in and enjoy it and really get to practicing, because you want to be playing and sitting here one day.

Q. You keep talking about the mental place here, being in the right mental place. As much as you want to win here, I just wonder, has that desire and the anticipation, has that gotten in the way at all maybe your first few times around, and how did you get past that if it did?

JUSTIN THOMAS: I definitely think it has. It's hurt me in other majors, not just here, but it's the want to win so bad. It's the, like, I feel like this place is so good for me. It's just like it's trying to control things that I can't control.

It's kind of when I understand that, like, dude, okay, I get it, you like this place, you know, kind of telling myself all these things. You feel like you're playing good, whatever. But at the end of the day, once I tee it up on Thursday, it's game time and anything you thought, have thought, will think, like it's out the window. You can only control where you are at that moment and hit that next shot exactly where you want to hit it, and if it isn't, you go and you hit that one from where it is next.

I think it's only until you get maybe late Saturday and on Sunday is when you could and can start changing your game plan or changing your mentality on the course, if you need or have to make something happen. But it's still golf. It's a major. It's the Masters. Everybody wants to win it, but it's still golf.

I'm doing the same preparation that I do in other majors and for this event, and it's just, you know, for some reason, everybody wants to win it a little bit more, and I definitely got sucked into that.

But hopefully at the almost age of 28 now, I've matured a little bit and understand if and when it's my time, it will happen.

Q. You just mentioned that last year there was no fans and it kind of felt like different golf course. This year, finally, fans are back. And having fans cheering you on while you play, does it give you extra motivation, or how does it help?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It helps a lot. It creates a buzz. It creates a little bit of excitement in the air. I think just the atmosphere; I think THE PLAYERS was awesome. It was the first time I've kind of felt those nerves and that adrenaline again in a while.

I mean, it's hard to win, and then when you throw that all in there, it's just different. It's exciting. It's fun. I mean, anybody would be glad to win any tournament, any year, fans or no fans.

But when you're able to hit those shots and make those putts and do it in front of however many thousands of fans, it's even sweeter. I know it's kind of weird to say or hard to explain, but just having to control your emotions and having to understand what you do in your golf game when you get in those scenarios, it just adds another element to it.

But knowing here, especially here, you can hear the roars all throughout course and on the back nine really all week, but especially Saturday and Sunday, it's just one of those things that adds to the legacy of the Masters.

Q. So many fringe benefits to winning the Masters. One of them is the Champions Dinner. You mentioned those practice rounds through the years with Tiger and Fred. I was just curious, does it come up? Do they needle you about not having an invite? Have you thought about what it would be like to be at it? Have you managed your menu? What is that like?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It's a good question. I'm trying to think of a nice way to describe them that I can say on the microphone here.

As needling as they can be towards me, they have been nice enough to not bring that up. I think they know that I know and that hurts me enough that they don't need to continuously remind me. I would say subconsciously they kind of -- in our practice rounds on Tuesdays, you know, it's like, well, where are you going tonight or whatever? And I'm just like, whatever, I'm done. I get it. You guys are going to the Champions Dinner and I'm eating at my house.

They have been nice to me and not needled me about that. I was fortunate enough to do a Champions Dinner at the PGA. It was a really, really cool experience and something that you're a part of forever. Feels like a fraternity. It's definitely a fraternity I would love to join.

In terms of a meal, I mean, I don't think -- you don't care. You could serve water and I would be pleased as long as I'm there because that means that I've won the Masters.

Q. The 5-wood draw on 18 at Sawgrass, that shot shape could come in handy here. Is that useful at all to having pulled that off coming here?

JUSTIN THOMAS: It is. That 5-wood I can work right-to-left pretty good, I think, with the amount of loft that it has. I can't curve a 3-wood that much and keep it in the air. I can hook it, but it doesn't carry very far.

So I know if I need to get some extra yardage out of it or, say, a hole -- there's not too much use for it out here, because a hole like 13, it doesn't get around the bend or like 10 it doesn't get far enough down the hill.

But I would say that shot I've found and started to use in my driver a little bit is going to be very helpful. It's one that I've always hit on 10 here.

But there's a good chance I'm going to hit on 13. That's a hole that I haven't played well in my career here for being one of the easiest holes on the course. And we think that's a shot that could really help me.

So I think it's very situational. I mean, I've hit that kind of rope-hook 5-wood on my second shot on 2. It's something I was saying with Sean earlier is that I enjoy the creativity aspect of golf and being able to work the ball both ways and different flights if you need or want to. Or if it just makes the shot a little bit easier or maybe fit it or if I'm not comfortable with the predominant shot that it's asking for, maybe I'm not uncomfortable doing something else. And that's been something I've been able to do with my 5-wood and why it's been in my bag for six years now.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. And Justin, good luck to you.

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