PGA Tour professional and major champion Justin Thomas addresses the media ahead of the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Thomas talks the importance on becoming world number one as well as his desire to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
PGA Tour: Justin Thomas meets with the media prior to the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
THE MODERATOR: Justin, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Getting ready to make your sixth start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Coming off a third place finish last year, coming into the week as the FedExCup points leader and with two wins already under your belt this season. That’s a pretty good for an entire season, let alone just the beginning of a season. So with all that said just some thoughts on being back here this week.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I’m excited to be back. This is a course that I enjoy. I feel like it sets up well for my game, if I can execute properly. I got a good couple weeks rest and I was able to put some good work in there at the end of last week getting ready for here and feel like we’re doing some of the right stuff at this point. I feel like when I take two weeks off sometimes I have a hard time getting back into it or get focused or make some sloppy mistakes, so I need to make sure that I don’t do that starting up tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: You had a chance to get out and see the course. Is it pretty much what you remember, still setting up well for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It’s always in great shape. I think that’s something that’s very underrated about this place. It’s obviously a great tournament, a great field, but the course is always tremendous. The greens are always rolling very, very true. The fairways are all — I mean, it feels like there’s not a blade of grass out of place. It’s very nice. Greens are maybe just a touch softer than usual. But, no, it’s always in great shape.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. Can you imagine a scenario in which you would not compete in Tokyo if you’re one of the first four?
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. There’s — no, no scenario for me.
Q. What did you think of Brooks’s comments that the Majors and the FedExCup playoffs are more important? Do you get a sense of is that a majority view still or —
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hadn’t heard those comments. That was the first I heard of them. But it’s tough. I mean, no offense, but I feel like it’s a very uncomfortable question to be asked because there’s no right answer. No matter how you say it, you’re going to be ridiculed for it or say your priorities aren’t in line. I know one thing, I’m very content with winning any of those and I plan on trying to win all of those, but it’s something that’s, it’s just different. It’s once in every four years and you have the opportunity to do it. But then again, I’ve never competed in one, he’s never competed in one, so maybe our thoughts will change if we go play in it. But, no, it’s just, it’s very, you can’t really compare it to anything because it’s in its own, I think.
Q. Any thoughts on the competition out there this week with guys being overseas and in different places?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, the field’s tremendous. It’s always great. It’s, I think that’s another thing that’s very underrated about this tournament. I think that it gets all the wrap of being the Waste Management and No. 16 and it’s a party, it’s out of control, but I mean, every year this place brings an unbelievable field and some of the top players in the world. So it’s something where, yeah, it would be great to win this tournament and be awesome just to kind of be in the realms of history of the Waste Management, but you’re beating a lot of really, really quality great players if you win this tournament. So that’s something I think that possibly doesn’t get talked about that much, which is, obviously, overshadowed by some stuff going on here this week. But it’s a great, great event with an unbelievable field. So I feel like every year it produces a really good tournament with a lot of big names up at the top come Sunday.
Q. I want to talk about, I guess, Kobe’s impact on you. You said that you’ve never cried for another man that you never met before. Just wanted you to just share your thoughts and what you’re going to do with your rounds going forward. This is the first tournament coming back since the tragic news, so.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, it’s weird. I was actually I was talking to Brian about it a couple days ago. It’s just, it’s weird because I’ve never met him. I’ve always wanted to meet him, but it’s just for someone to have an impact on somebody that I’ve never met, never been around, is bizarre. And yeah, it’s crazy, it’s sad. I think what really got me is just how he lost his life just being a dad and being a great dad and the fact that his daughters are never going to be able to spend any time with him anymore was just like, for me, just really hard to kind of comprehend and deal with.
And yeah, I mean, in terms of playing this week, it’s a golf tournament, it’s not like I’m going to try any harder or do anything differently. I mean, I have the stampings on my wedges. I was getting new wedges anyway so the timing worked out well to put some stamps on there for him. Just, I’ve always been a huge fan of his. I’ve always loved watching him play, just loved hearing about his work ethic and stuff that he did on and off the court and how he just always worked harder than everybody else, and it’s probably the reason — I mean, obviously, he’s freakishly talented but why he was better than everybody else because he was going to work harder to get there and just kind of will himself to be a winner. And that’s something that I hope to do when I’m out there playing, when I have a chance to win the tournament, I want to have that Mamba mentality, if you will, to try to close it out.
Q. Justin, Jon Rahm can get to world No. 1 for the first time with a win this week. Can you speak to how big of a goal that was for you and how satisfying it was when you got to No. 1?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a huge goal. It still is for me because I’ve lost it. But it’s a tremendous honor. I think it’s always something being, always really cool being a part of something that not very many people have done. You’re just, he’s going to be another name to that list if he gets that and whoever gets it next that hasn’t done it will be added. So it’s, it’s pretty cool walking around. I mean, I it for all of two weeks or whatever it was, but walking around, it’s like, I’m better than every single person on this planet in golf. That’s a pretty satisfying feeling. I’m very confident and I feel that when I’m playing well I do feel that about myself, but I unfortunately have a 4 next to my name and Brooks has a 1. So there’s three people that are better than me right now and Jon has the chance to be at the top of the top and that’s a pretty cool feeling.
Q. Could you talk about the actual difficulty level of playing the 16th hole when there’s nobody there versus playing it when there’s 20,000 people there, because the hole doesn’t look super hard and yet, you know, it’s a tougher shot than because of the situation?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I’ve never played it when it’s empty, so I don’t know that sense. But I mean, I feel it’s very similar to like the 17th at Sawgrass. If I went and played 17 at Sawgrass, I mean, I would feel like I would birdie it every other time. I mean, it’s a wedge, 9-iron at the absolute most, potentially a sand wedge or a gap wedge, and to a relatively big green. Yeah, when you have windy days or it gets firm it’s tough. But the thing about 16 here is that just the green is tough. It’s not, it’s not a flat green, it’s not all the same. You have a lot of subtleties and you have that false front, and then when that pin’s front left, it kind of falls off to the left to where if you have anything with left spin it goes down in the bunker and then you’re short-sided, and then if you have the right pin, it all falls away. So, you know, every fan wants to see us hit it in there inside of five feet and make birdie. But in reality it’s kind of a sneaky tough hole if you get certain pins, because you never know where wind is, you’re blocked out by everything, so you’re really are kind of guessing what wind direction it is and if it switched at all from 15, then have you no idea. And it’s just, it’s an interesting hole and an interesting experience because when you have that much adrenaline you wish you could just tee a driver up and hit it as far as you can, but sometimes you have to kind of hit a little feathery 8-iron in there to a back pin with not much room for error or whatever it might be. So it’s quite an experience.
Q. Did you hit a memorable good shot in there?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I’ve hit a couple good ones. I almost made an ace a couple years ago, hit it to about a foot. Made birdie on Saturday one year. I had pretty good success my first couple years. I haven’t played it great the last couple years.
Q. Have you hit anything that caused the crowd to really —
JUSTIN THOMAS: I 4-putted, so that was pretty.
Q. Did you get booed, though, or no?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Are you kidding me? They boo a par. I 4-putted.
Q. A 4-putt, they might have had some sympathy at that point.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Oh, no. There’s no sympathy on 16 here.
Q. Players were e-mailed earlier this week about the Premier Golf League and I’m just curious to get your thoughts, not so much on the e-mail itself but more about the concept of that. Have you looked at it at all, does any element, are there any elements of it that intrigue you in any way?
JUSTIN THOMAS: You know, I feel like I’ve heard more about it from other people than I have itself that’s bad. And, sorry, Jay, but I haven’t really read the e-mail that in depth. I know I have it, I’ve seen it, but just to be perfectly honest haven’t really taken the time to sit down and just read it thoroughly and check it out. I’m, I feel like I’m out of the, a lot more so than I wish, a little bit out of the loop of what’s going on with all that. But it’s also a good thing I’m focused on what’s going on now. I mean, if that does happen, if it, I don’t know if it happens in four months, if it happens in a year, if it happens in five years or whatever it is, but at the end of the day I just need to be focused on trying to play well at the Waste Management and that’s what I’m doing. But who knows what will happen going forward, but I need to figure out what’s going on a little bit more before I say anything, I feel like.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Justin, thanks for your time good luck this week.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Thanks.
January 29, 2020
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