May 18, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We are thrilled to be joined by 2017 PGA champion Justin Thomas. Justin, welcome back to the PGA Championship. This is your sixth playing here.
Big win a couple months back. Maybe talk about the form of your game right now, how you're feeling. This is your first foray out here on the Ocean Course.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It is. I played when I was about 10 years old with my dad, and I want to say maybe my grandpa, but I don't remember it too well. The only thing I remember about that round is my dad five-putted No. 3. He putted it off the green. I thought that was pretty funny because he didn't really do that too often.
But it's a great golf course. It's an unbelievable venue.
In terms of my golf game, I feel really good about it, to be honest. I've been practicing hard. It's been close. My results have been very average, to say the least I would say, but that's the thing about this game.
I feel like I've been close but just not quite putting it together.
But that's the thing about this sport. You can wake up the next day and it can all be there or it can all not be. It's a very difficult course, difficult test, and it's really just, I think, going to be about your mental game and your patience throughout the week.
Q. Back at THE PLAYERS Championship obviously you won, but you definitely outplayed the field in terms of the shots that you were hitting. Do you feel like something like that is going to be the key this week at Kiawah with the wind and all the downwind and into-the-wind shots?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It would definitely help if I hit it like I did on the weekend at THE PLAYERS. I'd like my chances. It's so difficult about this place, and I'm very, very happy and also fortunate that I came Sunday morning to play because it was a totally opposite wind than it's been the last two days.
I played 18 on Sunday and played nine the last two days, so I've seen the golf course in two completely opposite winds. I think that's definitely helpful for me who didn't play in 2012.
At the end of the day you don't know what you're going to get. When you're this close to the water you can get one that just really flips at the drop of a hat, so you could play a group of holes into the wind and it could switch and you could play the next set of holes into the wind.
It could be one of those weeks where you could get a late-early or early-late draw where one could be great, one could be a lot worse. But at the end of the day you definitely are going to have to strike your ball solid and consistently to be able to control the flight and the distance to at least keep it on the golf course at some times but be able to hit fairways and greens.
Q. An open mic if you want a rebuttal to Rory.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I can't really say too much, other than it's great to see him win. I know it's been a really long time for him, so I'm glad to see him. But at the same time, I really don't want to egg him on because usually when he wins he likes to reel some off, and with a lot of big tournaments coming up I don't really want to poke the bear.
Q. You've expressed some frustration with your putting over the past couple of tournaments. Where are you in that process and what have you been working on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just simplifying it. Honestly very similar like I did with my wrist injury a couple years ago when all you can do is putt. It's easy to fall into the trap of wanting to perfect it and wanting to maybe get it to look a way that you want it to look, very similar to I think what a lot of people -- I've done it in the past with my golf swing.
I maybe don't like how high my hands are and how it maybe looks coming down or halfway back, when in reality if I'm hitting the shots I want it doesn't matter how it looks. It's very similar to putting. I'm very feel based and very artistic, if you will, in terms of seeing shots and hitting different spins on chip shots, pitch shots, whatever it is, and I need to take that same outlook into my putting, and that's something John and I have focused on is my mechanics and fundamentals, that's what these three days are for, that's what my off weeks are for, is to make sure that those don't get too far off. Once I tee up I have to just go be athletic and be artistic and just go out and hit the putts the speed that I want.
That's something I did on Sunday at Quail Hollow, is just tried to be less perfect and just more feel based, and I putted the ball beautifully even with two three-putts there.
Again, like I said earlier, I've been working hard on it and I feel a lot better about it. It's just about maintaining that throughout the week.
Q. Have you given any thought about playing your first PGA Championship without grandpa?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I have not until just right now. I don't really know what else to say.
Q. If you could only pick one section of your game that needs to be better than the rest of this week from what you've seen of the course, what stands out to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: For me specifically? I'll take putting.
Q. In general.
JUSTIN THOMAS: In general, it's tough because you could argue literally every part of the game. To me it would be between driving and putting. I think hitting the ball well off the tee and putting it in fairways is going to be huge because then you can control the flight, control the distance, the spin, trajectory a lot more than the rough or the waste areas.
Then it's just being able to have that control.
But just when it gets this windy you're just not going to be able to hit all the greens or you're not going to be able to chip it up like this, where as you might get a wind gust and it goes to four feet instead of a foot and a half or goes to eight feet instead of three feet, and being able to make those par-saving putts are really the momentum builders and savers, I guess.
Q. Could you talk about how the practice round with Garrick Higgo came about, in I believe it was Abu Dhabi if I'm not mistaken --
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it was.
Q. And your impressions of him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was through, I guess you could say, a mutual friend, Liam, who works for Titleist on the European Tour. Comes over here some. I've gotten to know pretty well, and he's kind of taken Garrick under his wing a little bit or just worked with him quite a bit.
I obviously don't have quite the same amount of people to play practice rounds in a European Tour event than I do here, and he said, Hey, Garrick would love to play if you'd want to. I don't know how old he is. I know he's young and I know he's a really good player, as you can see by his results lately.
And he wanted to play, and we went out and played just nine holes I think it was, but it was impressive. He had some serious, serious speed. There's a lot of holes out there that didn't ask for that kind of speed, more of just finesse and kind of hitting to the dogleg, but we got a couple par-5s that he could let loose, and it was definitely a different sound than my ball made.
Q. Just wondering if you picked Tiger's brain at all about how to play this place.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I just asked him about the course. I didn't really pick -- he'd be the first to say he hasn't really played it that well, so it's not like he's won here, so he wouldn't say necessarily this is the perfect or right way to play it.
But I just asked him about the course just in terms of preparing and getting ready. He pretty much hit the nail on the head. It's long, there's a lot of crosswinds, and have a good short game. Bodes well at most places.
Q. We have two consecutive majors by the water, PGA Championship now, U.S. Open in June, one on the Pacific, one on the Atlantic. How would you compare the two events and the two golf courses?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, the golf courses are very different, other than they're big, long golf courses and can play very difficult. But the grasses couldn't really be much more opposite.
You have some of the purest putting surfaces I'm putting on this week and then you have poa annua at Torrey Pines, which we all know is poa annua. I mean, kind of the sticky kikuyu type rough that they have out there, and this is very much not kikuyu here, the very thick, I guess, bluegrass, ryegrass.
But yeah, from the few times I've played Torrey, the wind is blowing substantially more here than it does there, but we all know that Torrey can play very, very difficult when it gets like that.
Q. So talking about the water, you're going to finish your season at Whistling Straits at the Ryder Cup. That is also by the water. Talk about that golf course.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's great. I played the PGA there I think it was in '15, my rookie year, and I loved it. It's a cool venue. There's a couple holes out here that remind me a little bit of it just with the -- just the look of them off the tee and some of the slopes and the way the holes are shaped.
But yeah, it should be a fun week. But I still need to solidify my spot on the team first.
Q. This is the longest golf course in major championship history. Is that something you guys notice ahead of time, or do you have to go out there and experience it and then you may talk about it after the first or second round or whatnot?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I noticed it last week when someone sent me a scorecard and I saw that the back nine was 4,000 yards, and I think I actually laughed out loud when I saw it because I was looking at the numbers.
They can't possibly play it that long. Unless they get a day where there's absolutely no wind. The holes that are going to be back downwind when it comes back into the wind, they just can't -- they can't play 14, that par-3, back if you have this wind today.
Guys are going to be literally hitting driver on that hole. Unless the PGA wants seven-hour rounds, I wouldn't advise it.
Yes, it is extremely long, and it plays all of its yardage, even when the tees are moved up even when the holes are into the wind.
I think Rickie I was talking to about it last night said it very well where they have that length and they need the tees because, for example, the par-5, No. 7, I think it's 590 yards or something and I had 8-iron in today.
When it gets this windy and as severe as the wind can get out here, they need those tees because the 590 yards can play 500 or 490 yards when you get that much wind. And then same thing when you go back into the wind. They might to move the tee up to 420 yards to play 520.
But yes, it is very intimidating looking at the scorecard.
Q. I think you've talked before about the Olympics and your desire for it, but Rahm has made the point recently, and he's all in, as well, that it's going to be a different kind of Olympics, the logistics and not being able to get the Olympic experience. Is that any kind of a turnoff to you as you're thinking about it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I don't know if turnoff is the right word. I guess somewhat it is. It's a bummer. That's kind of the only way I can put it.
I mean, I'm very excited about the possibility of playing for the U.S. on the Olympic team. Am I upset and disappointed that I can't have my family or some friends or a normal team that I would have with me there? Yeah. Would I like to feel like I'm just as prepared? Yeah.
But at the same time, did I know that we were just going to go through a pandemic? No. It's just going to be one of those things down 10, 15 years from now you're going to look back at 2021 Olympics and it's going to be a weird year.
I know I'd kick myself forever if I didn't do this, and especially with this being kind of in the two-year trial run for golf. Who knows what could happen in the future.
Q. Do you feel an obligation, or is it just a personal desire of yours to play?
JUSTIN THOMAS: A personal desire. I can't imagine what the rush and what the feeling would be of winning a gold medal. It's just something growing up -- I mean, growing up I went up on the putting green as a six-, seven-year old putting to win the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA, is a chance to win these tournaments that I watched on TV, but I never had the opportunity to watch an Olympic golf event because it wasn't a thing.
It was something you couldn't dream because it wasn't a thing. Now that it is it's an unbelievable opportunity, and I think I've made it pretty known my stance on playing for the U.S. and representing my country. It's a tremendous honor.
But yeah, I guess a long way to answer it, yes, it's going to be extremely different and not near the experience, but I'll make way if I have to.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, thanks for stopping by for finding us and offering insights, and best of luck this week.
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