April 5, 2022
Augusta, Georgia, USA
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Media Center for an opportunity for pretournament interview with Justin Thomas. JT, it's really great to have you back here with us at Augusta National. Welcome back.
So you're coming in for your seventh Masters appearance. You've had 14 PGA TOUR victories, five consecutive starts here. You've finished inside the top 25. You've already collected four top 10s in 2022, and you come in ranked No. 7 in the world. Pretty impressive record indeed. So welcome back.
Maybe you could tell us how you feel coming into the week and share a little bit about your preparation for the tournament.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I feel very good coming into this week. Obviously you know what you're going to get in terms of the golf course, just trying to get a feel for how it's going to play. Yesterday and today, it's probably going to be a little different than what it will become Thursday, just with the weather coming in.
I've been working hard. I feel like I have a pretty good game plan in terms of how I prep when I'm at home, and I feel like I did so. Just got to kind of stay in the moment and stay patient and just plot my way around the course once we start on Thursday.
Q. Jon Rahm was in here earlier, and I think he was joking, but he said you're the only one who gets advice from Tiger Woods. In fact, I think he used the words you get a dissertation. I wonder what you thought of that. But what kind of advice are you looking for specifically from Tiger to maybe get you over the top here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm not necessarily asking him a lot of specifics about here. When I'm asking him stuff at home, I'm just -- it's just like I would ask Jon Rahm a question or ask Jordan a question. Any person or buddy that I respect their game and I think that they are really good and they maybe are a little bit better at something that I am not as consistently good at, like I want to learn, so I'm going to ask a question.
I feel like Tiger's been a good person for me to do that. But, yeah, I guess I'm very fortunate in that regard.
Q. You've been such a consistent force on the PGA TOUR, top 10s and wins. But in the majors since 2016, it hasn't been quite as fruitful. Do you feel like you've underachieved quite a bit in the majors?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I know I have. I have not even close to performed well in my entire career in majors. I had a good year in '17. I had one good major there at the PGA, I think in '18, and played well at the Masters here in '20. But in terms of a result standpoint, which is at the end of the day is all that matters when it comes to tournaments is how you finish at the end of the week, but no, I feel like I've performed very, very poorly.
I feel like I've learned, but I've just put too much pressure on myself in the past and maybe put the tournament on too much of a pedestal and tried to, you know, just overdo things when in reality I should have faith in my game and the things that I can do on the course, with the golf ball, whatever it is. I just need to get a little bit better at kind of getting in my own world and just going to play golf.
Q. Were you doing things differently for majors than for other tournaments?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, as I think everyone else does. It's weird. It doesn't make sense. Why would I try any harder for this event than I did for Kapalua or anything else? But at the end of the day, everyone does. You want to be peaking for -- before it was four times a year, now it's five times a year, looking at the FedExCup as well.
That's the goal. You want to be playing well but not the best that you can, and then once you get into April, you want to peak some and not necessarily plateau or go down, but kind of maintain it a little bit and go up a little bit more as you get to the PGA. So just kind of keep finding what works for you, and everyone's different.
I clearly still haven't found what my answer is, but obviously I'm getting very, very close. At the end of the day, I just play better golf, and it's all good.
Q. First Masters with Bones on the bag. Has it changed anything? Has there been any insights that amazed you? Or do you feel like you had a pretty good grasp on the place already?
JUSTIN THOMAS: We came last Tuesday just to kind of get over that phase. We wanted to go over the course together to get that out of the way before going into this week, and I'm really glad we did it.
I feel like this place is very self-explanatory once you figure out how to get around it, and we both agreed on basically everything. There was, I think, a tee shot like 2 is something where we can play a little bit different, and that's just going to kind of depend on the wind. And you're going to have different layups and different pins on the par-5s, but we were very much in agreeance.
He obviously knows the course amazingly, and I feel like I know the course very well too. It's just about going out and doing it at that point. So I think it will just be kind of more game-time stuff, decisions here and there that he'll be helpful. Hopefully we can create a little bit of the success he's had here.
Q. Tiger says he still has the hands to play here. I was wondering if you could share anything. He's talked about the role of kind of the hands in his swing. Is that with the line so fine between the players out here, are the hands one of the things that separate guys?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Just the hands around the greens?
Q. I think in the swing. In his full swing, he said he still has the hands to play. Still had the hands to do it, he said.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Interesting.
Q. Shaping shot -- I mean, you guys talk about shaping shots and that kind of stuff.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I could see -- I guess, yeah, that makes sense, yeah, just shaping and being able to -- just everybody has different feels. I think that's what -- I mean, I'm still trying to learn stuff as I go along. I obviously don't want to revamp anything and completely transform my game, but at the same time, if I can keep doing the things I'm doing well and just try to throw in a thing here or there and learn, that's what I want to do.
That's kind of what I've learned the past couple years is just how -- what feels work for me that might not resonate for my dad but they do for me. Some of the things my dad might say -- that's one of the things I've always loved about working with him or hearing him work with juniors is that he's really given you four or five ways to hear the same thing, and just one of those is going to make the most sense. That's just kind of where I've gotten to.
So I think, yeah, it's the same type of thing in terms of the hands. You just have to be able to feel what you want to generate the shot and the shape and the trajectory that you want, I guess.
Q. Tiger came in earlier and said essentially that walking the course for him will be as challenging as playing it this year. Can you kind of give the uninitiated a sense of the elevation changes at this place and exactly how physically challenging it can be to walk it, especially for an older guy with surgeries?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's a very difficult course to walk. It's the toughest of the year. It's very, very long, very hilly, a lot of long walks back to tees. I would say probably 20, 30 years ago it wasn't as bad because you just would get off -- you know, I think of a hole like 6 to 7, you'd get done with 6 and walk right there to 7 tee. Or 8, you get done at 7, you go right there to 8 tee. 9, same type of thing.
But now due to lengthening the golf course, it's now you get done with the hole, you walk back 60, 70 yards back to the tee, and then you walk right back again. You add that along with some of the craziest undulation and terrain of any course we'll play all year, it produces some pretty tired, sore legs at the end of the week.
Q. Even for someone as young as you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah. This is always a very grueling week physically, and I think that's why I try to save my rest as much as I can and do a lot of the prep last week and early in the week. Then I'll take today and tomorrow pretty easy.
The weather's making that very easy for me to do. But being in a good frame of mind and being physically ready is sometimes just as important as hitting the ball well.
Q. The changes to 11 and 15 obviously are two of the major ones that we see. Will this change your strategy at all going onto these two holes?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No, it won't. 11's still hard. It was hard before. It's probably harder, still hard.
I think 15 you're going to see some -- potentially see some more big numbers. That's a hard, hard green to hit with a 5- or 6-iron, and it's really hard to hit with a 3-wood or 5-wood. So I think for us -- by "us," I mean Bones and I -- will just kind of see game time feels and situation type of thing.
It's not going to be a -- before on 15, it just seemed like, if we hit our drive up the right side of the fairway where we have an angle, it's a matter of what club are we going to hit into the green? It's not a matter of are we going to go or not? I think this year you're going to have the potential of guys hitting good drives and being 240, 250 yards away and not being able to go for it because of a tough situation, club, wind, or you're going to have guys that maybe try to force it from 260 or 270 and could potentially make a big number.
Q. Real quick, the vibe yesterday playing with Tiger with the crowd. Obviously you play a lot of rounds with him. He said he was appreciative of this. Did you see some emotion out of him with the reception he got?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I figured they were just all out there for Fred, to be honest.
Q. He said that too.
JUSTIN THOMAS: You see, great minds think alike.
No, it was unbelievable. I think I honestly didn't think as much of it until I saw. I had a couple buddies send me some pictures last night, and that's probably more people than have ever watched me play a round at Augusta National, and they weren't there to watch me.
It was really cool. I think something like that is going to just help him get through the week and being able to feed off that energy, use the adrenaline. It's definitely going to be helpful.
Q. What has the progression of Tiger's game been like the last weeks and months. I imagine you've seen as much of it as just about anybody.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, I've been playing quite a bit and been pretty busy. I hadn't played with him until Tuesday of last week. I'd seen stuff here and there, but I hadn't really played with him too much.
Q. What was it like yesterday?
JUSTIN THOMAS: What do you mean? Just his --
Q. His game, how you would evaluate where it's at.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I'm sure you can read on Twitter every shot he hit. (Laughter.) No, it was fine. It's plenty, plenty good enough to play well.
Q. Justin, what advice from Tiger on the Masters you value the most?
JUSTIN THOMAS: To be perfectly honest, what I value the most, I'm not going to tell you because I don't really want any of the other competitors knowing it.
Q. I'm just curious, Tiger's swing speed and power seems like it's in a really good spot now. I'm just wondering what your impressions of that has been seeing him get out there and what that says about his just like general work ethic, mentality to get back to kind of where he was.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it's crazy. Nobody has a work ethic and determination like him. I think it's -- I've never seen anything like it in terms of setting your mind to something and kind of setting a goal for yourself and proving to yourself and everybody that you can do it than him.
Just all the -- I mean, the days and weeks and months that he couldn't do anything and do the same thing every single day but would look at it as an opportunity to get better and get stronger and get 1 percent better that day.
Unfortunately, he's been through it a lot, not that specific type of injury or whatnot, but he's been through that type of process before. Like I said, he unfortunately knows better than others, but it's still -- I mean, it's unbelievable the stuff that he can do given everything.
Q. Justin, do you have a theory on why the greens at Augusta National have confounded you so much?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You know, it's just so situational on where you are on the greens. I putt unbelievably -- I read the greens really well. I putt unbelievably when I come here in any other round, just fun rounds and play. I think because it's a lot easier to get the ball where you want. It's a lot easier to leave the ball underneath the hole because the ball doesn't have that extra roll-out or doesn't take that bounce that maybe goes just above the hole.
On say a hole like 3, it's if you get a middle pin or just to make it easy, it's a lot easier to put a wedge that's right and under the hole to have an easier putt versus that one that takes a skip past and now all of a sudden I have an eight-footer that breaks three feet.
A lot of it is just very situational and where I'm leaving it. I definitely feel like I've putted a lot better than the stats would show, something like that out here, just in holing putts. But I know what they're doing. It's just a matter of matching the speed and everything like that up consistently, but that's why I've been working very hard on big breaks and matching up my speed and being able to deliver it how I want to so I'm more prepared this year.
Q. Why do you think Jordan putts so well out here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Because he's got the best speed of putter I think I've ever seen. You look at all his putts, especially all of his midrange putts, every single one of them goes in with the exact same speed. They don't hit the back of the hole. They're probably going to go anywhere from 6 to 12 inches past the hole. I don't think people realize how hard that is and how good that is to consistently do that every single time.
I feel like you very rarely see him hit a putt that's going to go four or five, six feet past and hits the back of the hole and pops up and goes in that happens often to other people, but he just has such a creative and great feel, great hands and feel that he can kind of deliver what he wants with his putts, and the hole gets in the way pretty often.
Q. If some other professional approached your dad and was like, I really like what Justin is doing with his swing, I'd you love for you to take a look, would that put you in a weird spot?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. It would put him in a weird spot. He's been approached before by a player, and he said he couldn't do it. He's like, I just would -- he's like, I'd hate myself. I'd be kicking myself if it came down Sunday and it's you two playing against each other and he beats you. I'm like, Well, if he beats me, it's not your fault. Like it's my fault. I just should have played better.
I've always told him I'd love for him too. He'd learn more, you know what I mean? But at the end of the day, that's just not -- I don't know. It's just not him. He has the opportunity if someone asks him if they want to, but I don't know. I guess he wouldn't do it.
Q. With Bones and your approach here at Augusta, what's it been like having him join your team and your relationship with him, and what's his style like as a caddie?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It's been awesome. Bones is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen. He does a great job and all the other little extra aspects. He's a good listener. He's one of those people where you'll be having a conversation about something, and three, four months down the road, he'll get you a gift of that little thing, that little candy you said -- you were talking about that you liked.
I wish I had that trait because I forget things after a week. My fiancee could probably vouch for that. But it's a great trait and characteristic that he has, but he just -- he never wants to be underprepared. He wants to make sure he does everything he can so that he makes it feel like we have the best chance we can to win.
And that's very comforting as a player because I have all the faith in the world in my caddie, and all of us do. We want to know that, if we're going to ask them a question, they're going to answer it not only honestly but with what they feel is the appropriate information.
We've gotten more and more comfortable to where we feel like we can say things to each other if we maybe disagree and whatnot, whether it's a club or a read or a wind or whatever it is. But we've had a lot of fun, and we're both really, really excited about what's to come, but we also understand that it's a tough game and you just have to be patient because we feel like some really, really good things are coming but just kind of have to let it.
Q. Based on your wanting to peak for majors and also the specifics of Augusta, have you been doing certain things in practice to specifically prepare for this event, or is it just a matter of getting your game in the best possible spot?
JUSTIN THOMAS: A little bit of both. Last week I just hit a lot of 8, 9, wedges out here into the green. So I did a lot of yardage work on that. A lot of uneven lies hitting off of a lot of uneven lies trying to control my ball flight and my distance still off of that because you're going to have a lot of those kind of situations.
But really just making it as -- you know, making it difficult and also going through to kind of somewhat emulate a game-type feel and get all my work done while I'm at home so I could have, like I said earlier, kind of relaxing, easier during the days this week and then just get out there and play golf and try not to worry about anything.
Q. Do you have a personal tradition unlike any other this week, either on or off the course?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don't think so. No, not that I can think of, I don't.
Q. Justin, you said you felt you maybe put the Masters on too much of a pedestal. Is it different than what you felt about the PGA Championship compared to what it's meant to your family?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think I just did it with Masters in general. THE PLAYERS isn't a major, but it's kind of being talked up for us to be on that same level, but with it being moved, this was always in the -- you know, the first major of the year, the first -- so it was easier to kind of get hyped up a little bit more for that first one, if that makes sense.
I don't know if that changes anything, but all majors are obviously important. Everybody's going to want to win a certain one more than others. Yeah, I just think it's one of those things you have to take the tournament for what it is because, if you make the situation bigger than it already is, it's going to be a lot harder.
I know in the PGA in '17, it obviously was very important and a huge moment for me, but I just felt very calm and I didn't make the moment bigger than it was. That's something that I was able to learn from.
Q. What candy is it that you like that Bones brought to you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was more of an example. It hasn't actually happened. (Laughter.)
Yeah, he brought something to Jill when she was talking about something a couple weeks later. But no candy yet for me. But if you're listening, Bones, I like purple Skittles.
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