Highlights Tours

US Open 2022 – Justin Thomas: “It pisses me off!”

Justin Thomas started the moving day of the 2022 US Open with high expectations and six shots off the lead, but the third round at Brookline Country Club went differently than expected. First, the superstar was not recognized and then Thomas landed in an awkward position with subsequent rules discussion.

US Open 2022: Justin Thompson or Thomas?

Justin Thomas has 15 PGA Tour titles, two of them at major tournaments, and yet not all golfers know him. Before the start of the third round, the announcer on the first tee of the 2022 US Open made an embarrassing mistake, and Justin Thomas became Justin Thompson.

No drop for Thomas on Moving Day of the US Open 2022

But if the start of the round was more funny than annoying, it continued for Thomas on lane 4 with a controversial situation. After a drive, his ball landed near a drain cover. Unsure what to do now, the American called in a referee. The first question in this situation: Is the swing or stance affected by the obstruction? Thomas answered in the negative. “It’s very clear that my stance and where my ball was was altered and sitting bad because of that drain, but didn’t get a drop from it. That’s just how it is. You have to be able to hit the drain to get a drop,” Thomas said after the round. “I called an official in to get a ruling on it, and in the spirit of the game, I told the official I wasn’t going to hit the drain. I felt like I could have very easily told her I was going to do it and gotten a free tee shot, but I didn’t.”

The USGA’s statement to ESPN later said, “During the discussion, Justin was asked if the drain was going to interfere with his swing, to which he replied it was not. Because there was no interference from the drain, Justin was not provided relief.”

Immovable obstructions – What is allowed, what is not?

The Justin Thomas case was about Rule 16.1a (1), it states “an impairment exists if the ball, stance or swing is impaired by unusual court conditions (obstructions), the ball may be dropped without penalty within one club length of the nearest point of relief.” It also explicitly mentions, “If the unusual court conditions are close enough to distract the player but do not meet any of these requirements, there is no impairment under this rule.” So Thomas answered the impairment question in the negative and didn’t get a drop. His shot ended in the greenside bunker in front, and he walked off Hole 4 with a bogey.
“That’s what pisses me off, because so many other people would lie that they can hit that, but I just say, ‘I’m not going to hit it.’ That’s f***ing bu****it, man,” Thomas said before tossing his iron onto his bag. That leaves him seven strokes behind heading into the final round after another round of 72 on Saturday.

Highlights Tours

PGA Championship 2022 – Justin Thomas: “Trophy can speak for itself”

With an incredible comeback after trailing by eight shots at one point, Justin Thomas wins the playoff against Will Zalatoris and the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time after 2017 at Quail Hollow. In an interview afterwards, the winner of the 2022 PGA Championship talks about the exciting final round, the significance of the victory for him and Tiger Woods, who certainly has something to grief about.

Question: Justin, you told us that on Wednesday you were kind of lost, working through your swing with your father on the range, and then you bogeyed the third hole today and you were eight shots back. How did you go from those depths to these heights that you’re standing here with us today?

Justin Thomas: I mean, a lot of self-belief, a lot of patience. I wasn’t looking at leaderboards today. I was just trying to play golf. It kind of goes back to what I said on Thursday of just not trying to play golf swing, not trying to play the field, not trying to play to a certain person really.

Just trying to execute each shot as well as I could, and then wherever it ended up, just give my club to Bones and let’s move on and try to do the best we can on the next one. He did an unbelievable job of keeping me in the moment and keeping me patient today, and yeah, it just is an unbelievable team win for all of us.

Q. Coming into the day, did you think that 5-under would be good enough, and I know you said you weren’t looking at leaderboards, but at what point did you think, okay, I have a chance to win this thing?

Justin Thomas: As soon as I found out I was going to be in a playoff. When I missed the putt on 18 in regulation, I looked at the leaderboard and saw, and I had a pretty good feeling that that putt was pretty important. I hit a really good putt, just hit it a little, little too hard.

I didn’t know what the score was going to be. I kind of looked at a leaderboard last night, just kind of looked at — surveyed it, I guess took one last look at it, if you will. There’s a lot of great players ahead of me, but I know that they hadn’t won a major before, and I know I hadn’t won in a while.

But I just remember how tough it was, and I remember how tough it is now to win, so I knew I was going to be nervous and I knew they’d be feeling the exact same thing. I thought I probably needed to get to 6 or 7 to have a chance, but I also didn’t know. I just as well knew 2 or 3 could be in a playoff. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. Yeah, just glad, stayed patient, and kind of went about my way.

Q. Your dad mentioned that on the range last night Bones kind of gave you a tough-love conversation. Can you share a little bit more about that, and also, was it stuff like that why you really wanted him to come out of retirement and caddie for you?

Justin Thomas: Yeah, I’m fully confident in saying that I wouldn’t be standing here if he didn’t give me that — wasn’t necessarily a speech, but a talk, if you will.

I just needed to let some steam out. I didn’t need to bring my frustration and anger home with me. I didn’t need to leave the golf course in a negative frame of mind. I just went down — I played pretty well yesterday for shooting 4-over, and I felt like I’d played terrible. And he was just like, dude, you’ve got to be stop being so hard on yourself. You’re in contention every single week we’re playing.

I’ve had a lot of chances to win tournaments, and it’s a hard golf course; it’s a major championship. You don’t have to be perfect. Just don’t be hard on yourself. Just kind of let stuff happen, and everything is trending in the right direction. So just keep staying positive so that good stuff can happen.

I left here in an awesome frame of mind. It was very — I think the last player here, it was like this out right now, it was so peaceful. It was almost kind of eerie how beautiful it was outside, and there’s not very many times after shooting 4-over on Saturday of a major I left in as good a frame of mind as I have.

“Best bogey in my life”

Q. You’ve got the trophy, but what happened on No. 6 tee?

Justin Thomas: I shanked it. Just — I just cold shanked it. I don’t really know how else to say it. It was the best bogey I’ve ever made in my life, that’s for sure.

Q. The weather changed so much over the course of the four rounds; I know that adds to the toughness over four days, but you ended up with a pretty beautiful day. How much different did it play from day-to-day?

Justin Thomas: Well, I don’t think I’ve ever played — I mean, a non-Open Championship. I’ve never played it so severe — because when we played Friday morning, it was howling out of the south, and then yesterday it was cold and howling out of the north. That doesn’t happen often, let alone in a major championship and at a place like this.

It just brought out another side of everybody. It challenged us, and I was excited for that because, although I would have loved to have seen this place in a north wind, I hadn’t before. But at the same time, I’m sure a lot of guys hadn’t either. It was just about — it probably helped that I hadn’t been here that often because it was a lot easier to throw the past two rounds of memory out and just almost take each hole from scratch for what it was.

It was very, very tough, but everybody had to deal with the same kind of stuff.

Favorite Major is the next one

Q. Can you speak to how special it is to win the PGA of America’s Major Championship considering your father and your grandfather?

Justin Thomas: Yeah, it’s very, very special. I’m pleased. At this point any of them is great; I don’t care which one it is. As Tom Brady always says, your favorite Super Bowl is your next one, and that’s what my favorite major is. And at this moment, it’s definitely this guy right here.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to talking to my grandma. I’m sure she was watching.

I know somewhere up there, Grandpa was definitely watching today and pulling for me. It’s very, very cool to be able to share this moment with my family.

Q. In what ways are you a better golfer now than when you won your first major championship?

Justin Thomas: I mean, I’ve matured a lot. Five years is a long time, especially at this stage of my life. I would like to think and hope that everything has just gotten a little better. There’s nothing that’s like standing out of a massive difference. I would say the biggest difference is I probably just weigh about 15 pounds more, I don’t know; I’ve put on some weight.

That’s just the big part of it is you just want to get 1 percent better. I don’t need to revamp everything. I don’t need to hit it 30 yards farther. I don’t need to change equipment, change ball, change — it’s just everything that I have and been doing has been working. It’s just trying to just get it a little bit better. I just feel like that’s what I’ve done in every facet.

There’s nothing that stands out, like this is monumentally better. But it’s all improved. (…) my putting for instance, it won me this golf tournament this week in many ways, and you had to have a complete game. So there was all facets were working at different times.

Justin Thomas: “I’m on top of the golfing world”

Q. I was going to say, we know how much you love to needle your friends out here on Tour. You just joined Rory with two PGA Championships. How much are you looking forward to trash talking with some of your buddies out here after this, and also with Tiger and Charlie, as well?

Justin Thomas: I mean, this is a good moment where the trophy can speak for itself. I don’t need to necessarily bring it up on my own. I’m very fortunate right now that although there might be people ranked higher than me in the World Ranking, but at least in my eyes, I’m on top of the golfing world right now, and I’m very, very proud of that. I think I’ll let the trophy and the week speak for itself.

Q. You mentioned the challenges of just coming down the stretch in a major championship. Obviously a lot of guys felt the pressure today. How much did you feel that pressure today, and was there some freedom of chasing from behind?

Justin Thomas: Well, again, I didn’t look at a leaderboard, so I didn’t know where I necessarily was. I think when I made the birdie on 12, there’s just different roars, different energy that you can feel sometimes, and I felt that that one was pretty big. I didn’t hit a very good wedge shot in there, but left it in a good spot and was able to make that putt.

I could just kind of feel the energy. I got a little bit of goosebumps when that went in. Just like, all right, I don’t know where I’m at, but I’m in striking distance.

Yeah, I was obviously nervous. Walking up 18, I wanted to make that putt. But you’d like to have a little straighter, easier uphill putt than a putt breaking a foot and a half, two feet, going away from you. But it all worked out just fine.

Q. From your own opinion, I think you were the only player in the last seven groups to tee off who broke par. How much of that would you attribute to the difficulty of the conditions and pins and what-have-you, and frankly, to the nerves, given so much lack of experience out there, major experience?

Justin Thomas: I would say the golf course and the wind probably 80 percent, and I would say the difficulty of winning a golf tournament and a major, 20 percent, if I had to put a number on it. I mean, it was tough.

Again, the north wind just made it a little bit more difficult, and it was kind of switching a little bit to east. It was northeast, but it kind of was getting a little bit more easterly. So having to try to factor that in.

It’s a simple thing like a little hole like drivable on 17. Obviously you hit a great tee shot, you hit it where you want to go, then you’re looking at birdie. But if you maybe double-cross it over in the back left rough, or if you kind of heel one and it kicks down in the hazard — so quickly out here can a birdie hole turn into salvaging for bogey.

I think that’s just why — that’s one of the reasons I love this place when I first came here. I think it’s a great major championship venue.

Q. What would you say was the difference in your nerves between here and Quail given you were always kind of in the mix at Quail, and you started today, I think you said, “I can’t believe I’m in a playoff,” or something like that. Probably misquoted you.

Justin Thomas: Yeah, I think they were different. I was very calm today. I was very calm in the playoff. I was calm the last couple holes.

I felt like I could do what I wanted to do, which is really all I could ask for. Again, I couldn’t control what anybody else was going to do.

I think it was a different kind of nerves. It was a nerves just for being in the moment versus like I think on 17, it was maybe like nerves as to what’s going to happen and not knowing the outcome, and I want to win my first major.

They’re both very up there, but different kind of nerves.

PGA Championship 2022: Fighting allergies to major win

Q. Just describe the moment from being wheels down in Tulsa, what your week was like in this city, at this club.

Justin Thomas: Yeah, I got my butt kicked by allergies more than I think I ever have in my entire life early this week. Tuesday I wasn’t sure if I was even going to play a practice round. I felt terrible. I thought I had a sinus infection coming. Maybe I did, I don’t know.

But luckily got some medicine in me, got a bunch of rest. I definitely altered my practice schedule just to try to get as much rest as I could and just try to start feeling better.

Then once I started to finally feel better, it decided to be like 55 degrees and windy out, so that didn’t really help my cause. I don’t know, maybe I need to get really bad allergies more often.

Q. Can you describe what it feels like to sort of live the childhood dream of: This is a huge pressure moment, I have to hit this shot like 17 in the playoff? That’s really hard. You did it and executed it. What does that feel like to you?

Justin Thomas: It’s just awesome. I don’t know, really, how else to describe it other than that. I mean, that iron shot on 18 in regulation, like that’s why I play golf. Like that’s why I practice.

All the hours and everything and the time put in, you want to be in that scenario. You want to be in that situation: With the backdrop of the whole gallery up there, knowing that I’m in contention; I have a decent chance to win this tournament; probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest hole on the course.

And I hit a great drive down there, and to be able to just flag an 8-iron like that when I know in my head I needed to make birdie, it’s awesome. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a full-body-chills-type of feeling.

Thomas on Pereira und Woods

Q. The Championship is well earned, of course, but do you feel for Mito at all with the wheels coming off like that?

Justin Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you don’t — you want to win a golf tournament. You don’t want someone to lose it.

And I think, I mean, I had many, not exactly like that, but I have had times in my career when I feel like I’ve let a tournament get away. And I mean, it’s brutal. It’s not fun.

But at the same time, if you’re able to channel that and look back at it later or whenever the time is when you’re kind of, I guess, calmed down and to reflect, he’ll be able to learn from it and be better from it.

He played unbelievable golf this week. There’s no reason to hang his head. Yeah, I never saw him this week. I don’t really know him that well. I never got to talk to him or anything. But he played great.

There’s however many people were in this field, everybody else would have traded places with him on that 18th tee for sure to have a chance to win.

Q. You and Tiger are the last two to win major championships here; I don’t know that that necessarily makes it more special, but is that meaningful at all? What does that mean to you?

Justin Thomas: Yes, I think now I only have like 150 other things to do that he’s done to where he can stop giving me grief. So I guess it’s just a steppingstone.

I mean, the list of champions at this place I think kind of speaks for itself. When you get good golf courses like this, you don’t — you hate to say a fluke win, whatever, but it seems like you have to know your way around. You just have to play golf and you have to execute.

I think being on the list of champions at this golf course is very, very special because all those others have been able to do that, and it’s definitely nice doing it after he did it in ’07.

Q. As a close friend to Tiger, how tough was it to see him struggle this week? And in a way do you feel like he cleared the stage for you to be here and he’s celebrating back home?

Justin Thomas: I mean, I wouldn’t say how tough it was to see him struggle. I mean, he made the cut in his second major in a row, what, a year and a half after being in a gruesome car accident, broken leg? I don’t think you guys understand how unbelievable that is. He’s a freak of nature. It’s mind-blowing the things that he can do with his mind.

I didn’t play during his prime, but from the times I’ve been out here and him winning the Masters in ’19 and winning the TOUR Championship, him making the cut these last two tournaments for how — some of the conditions he was in last year, it’s absurd. Like beyond absurd.

Yeah, I talked to him a little last night and asked how he was feeling, and he just said he was feeling terrible because my name kept dropping on the leaderboard.

So I was like, “Thanks, good to talk to you too, I’ll talk to you later.”

Q. Do you feel he’s celebrating right now, and have you talked to him?

Justin Thomas: I don’t know, I’m sure he probably will give me a hard time for shanking it. I should have made the putt on 18. Shouldn’t have been in a playoff. I don’t know, he’ll always find something to give me grief about.

(Interview via ASAP Sports)

PGA Tour

Replica of the 17 and “wonder bread”: How to pass the time during the Players Championship

The Players Championship 2022 is drowning in weather chaos. On the first day, some players couldn’t even make a shot and on the second day, even less golf was played – 47 players still haven’t finished their first 18 holes. Some golfers therefore had a complete break from play on Friday, while others only had a few holes to play before play was paused at 11:15 a.m. local time and it was clear at 3:13 p.m. that there would be no play before 11 a.m. on Saturday either. So the stars of the PGA Tour had a lot of free time, which was used in different ways.

PGA Tour: Free afternoon for the players

Rory McIlroy is one of those who has not yet been able to hand in his first round scorecard. So far, the Northern Irishman has only played 15 holes, recording three birdies and four bogeys. The four-time major winner was then able to spend the free afternoon with his wife Erica and daughter Poppy.

Meanwhile, Max Homa philosophised during the rain delay why his mother never allowed him to eat the ” wonder bread” with peanut butter and jelly – he probably wouldn’t have been able to stop. Luckily, his caddies’ fiancée doesn’t see it so restrictively.

The fact that play was finally suspended completely for Friday probably didn’t bother the “Twitter King” of the PGA Tour, who is at two-under-par after 14 holes – after all, he can watch the new Batman then.

Justin Thomas hasn’t finished his first round either, but can spend his afternoon chilling on the couch.

The From the sofa, the defending champion also immediately found the guilty person: Max Homa.

But it could also have been Ian Poulter who caused the break-up. The Englishman had already finished his first round in a hurry on Thursday and therefore had Friday completely free. The 46-year-old was literally feverishly anticipating the break-off, letting his fans share it in his Instagram story and, given the weather, logically wanted to avoid the trip to the golf course. While the pro himself passed the time with Netflix at his house on the beach, his son Joshua rebuilt the signature hole of the TPC Sawgrass on the beach and also imitated his hurried father.

Poulter hopes for rain, watches Netflix and checks out the "island green". (Photo: Screenshot Instagram/@ianjamespoulter)
Poulter hopes for rain, watches Netflix and checks out the “island green”. (Photo: Screenshot Instagram/@ianjamespoulter)

Players Championship at TopGolf?

With so many breaks, the stars naturally have time to connect with fans on social media. Some initiate discussions about the interruption of the tournament, Kevin Kisner would like to hear the expert opinions of the internet. One of them: Simply move the tournament to the nearby TopGolf facility – problem solved.

Justin Rose is organising a small contest on Instagram to pass the time. The Englishman, who currently has 14 holes played, wants to announce the winner after his second round. Cynically, you could say: There’s still plenty of time to take part.

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas has a new apparel deal with Greyson Clothiers

Justin Thomas and Greyson Clothiers announced their future collaboration on Monday. The fashion brand is now the official outfitter of Justin Thomas. Just a year ago, Thomas had lost a large portion of his sponsors as a result of a homophobic outburst at the Tournament of Champions. Among them was his old supplier Ralph Lauren, who had very quickly withdrawn in the wake of these remarks. Since then Justin Thomas has appeared without an official outfit sponsor. But already during this time he played again and again in outfits of the brand Greyson.

Justin Thomas, the biggest name in Greyson’s player lineup

Then on Monday it became official: the new partnership was announced on all media channels. Thomas is now the biggest name in the company’s athlete lineup. Other sponsored players include Luke Donald and Harry Higgs. Both Greyson Clothiers and Justin Thomas are excited about the newfound partnership, “What’s interesting about the deal is that the head of Greyson, Charlie Schaefer, was the former design lead for Ralph Lauren. He was also at Ralph Lauren when Justin Thomas became a partner at the company. Now they are crossing paths at his own company. A true friendship has grown between Thomas and them, Greyson let it be heard on Instagram.

Justin Thomas had fallen out of favor with many of his sponsors 14 months ago. At the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the American had made homophobic slurs on the course. Ralph Lauren and other sponsors stopped their cooperation with the golfer shortly afterwards. Back then, he had apologized and expressed his “deepest” shame.


PGA Tour: Year-end performance review

The stars of the PGA Tour around Rory McIlroy are asked performance reviews – and still have plenty of room for improvement for the upcoming year.

As the year draws to a close, it’s time for the annual performance reviews. This is also the case on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, where the stars like Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Co. are called into office for the year-end performance reviews.

PGA Tour: year-end performance reviews

Actor John C. McGinley, known as Dr. Perry Cox from the hospital series “Scrubs”, sits in front of them and sums up the performance of the professionals in the past year with many allusions. Rory McIlroy, for example, looks back on two wins in 2021 and considers himself his harshest critic, “but that could all change.”

Jordan Spieth has to face the interview without his caddie Michael and is “very nervous” about it, and Justin Thomas has to answer for his beer action at the Ryder Cup. Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, whose height and emotional nature are always a topic, Henrik Stenson, Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa also have to make an appearance. The latter is “by any estimate, perfect” but that’s where the danger lies, the interviewer said.

McGinley, who plays management consultant Bob Slydell in the film “Office Space,” analyzes the stars and their performances. In the process, it also becomes clear that many stars have no plan B up their sleeves in case their golfing career should come to an end overnight. Finally, the interviewer himself is taken for a ride.

Watch the funny sketch here:

Highlights Tours

Justin Thomas: We need a shirt like his

Team USA leads a blowout over team EU in the 43rd Ryder Cup. It only took five singles matches on Sunday for them to capture a win. The forceful singles win against Tyrrell Hatton was the icing on the USA cake, as Thomas finally got to feel what it’s like to win a Ryder Cup in his second appearance. He took to Instagram to share his excitement, sporting a wonderful T-shirt. The shirt includes frenemies Brooks and Bryson who surprisingly didn’t have a dramatic feud this weekend. Perhaps this Ryder Cup win has squashed any hard feelings forever.

European Tour

Rahm and Thomas set to star in Scottish showpiece

Two of global golf’s biggest stars are set to light up the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open with Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm – the current World Number Two and Three – confirming their participation in the second Rolex Series event of the 2021 Race to Dubai.

The two former World Number One players bring further star power to an impressive field gathering at the Renaissance Club on July 8-11, 2021 and fans can book their places to take in the action now, with a strictly limited number of tickets currently on general sale at ET.GOLF/ASISO2021

Rahm was crowned European Number One in 2019 as the swashbuckling Spaniard continued to impress on the world stage, and the 26 year old will go in search of a fifth Rolex Series title when he makes his debut in Scotland’s national open this summer.

Major winner Thomas returns to the Renaissance Club after recording a top ten finish on his 2019 debut in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. The 28 year old former World Number One is returning to where it all began, after making his first start as a professional in Scotland, the Home of Golf at the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Rahm and Thomas join fellow World Top Ten stars Tyrrell Hatton, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schaufele in East Lothian as the tournament once again takes its place in the week before The Open at Royal St George’s.

Rahm will attempt to become the only the second Spaniard to win the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open title since the formation of the European Tour in 1972, after Rafa Cabrera Bello in 2017, while Thomas will look to follow in the footsteps of four fellow American winners – Michael Allen (1989), Tom Lehman (1997), Phil Mickelson (2013) and Rickie Fowler (2015).

European Ryder Cup star Rahm, whose six European Tour victories include four on the Rolex Series at the 2017 and 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in the same seasons, said:

“I’m looking forward to teeing it up at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open for the first time. I always enjoy playing in Rolex Series events, and I’ve had success in them in the past few years, so it will be pretty cool to try to add another title in Scotland this summer ahead of The Open.”

Thomas’s impressive CV includes the 2017 US PGA Championship and two World Golf Championship titles and, like Rahm, the American’s impressive form in recent years led to a Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National in 2018.

He said: “I can’t wait to get back to Scotland and the Renaissance Club. I have a lot of good memories of playing in Scotland and it would be an awesome place to win a first Rolex Series title. I’ve said before it’s a goal of mine to win on different tours and in different countries, and I would love to be successful when I come back to the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in July.”

A strictly limited number of tickets are currently available for each of the four Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open competition days at ET.GOLF/ASISO2021

Tickets are priced at £10 for juniors (14-18 years), £30 for concessions and £35 for adults, with under 13s going free. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available on site during the tournament.

A percentage of the tickets available for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open will be donated to key frontline workers in recognition of their dedicated work throughout the pandemic.

The only official sales channel to purchase tickets for the 2021 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open is via the ticketing platform Eventbrite. The resale of tickets on unofficial platforms contravenes the European Tour’s ticket terms and conditions and such sales render the ticket void.

(Text: European Tour)

European Tour

McIlroy aiming to get the job done in Abu Dhabi

Four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy hopes to continue his strong run of form at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he starts his 2021 season at the first Rolex Series event of the year.

In ten appearances  the Northern Irishman has finished runner-up three times and third on three further occasions, admitting that he has done “everything but win” around Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The 31-year-old is no stranger to success in the Middle East, claiming four of his 14 European Tour titles in the United Arab Emirates as well as winning the Race to Dubai three times.

McIlroy will begin his campaign in the company of defending champion and reigning European Number One Lee Westwood, and  World Number Three Justin Thomas. The 2017 US PGA Championship winner admits he has been an avid viewer of the tournament in the past as he prepares to make his first appearance in the Middle East.

Former champion Tommy Fleetwood will go in search of a third win in the space of five years at this event. After a near three and a half year wait for his second European Tour title, Fleetwood won the 2017 edition which he then successfully defended the following year. In 2020, he finished runner-up to Westwood.

Rory McIlroy: “It’s good to be back. I started my season in Abu Dhabi from 2008 to 2018 and it’s worked well for me. It’s a golf course I’ve done well at and played well on. I’ve done everything but win here and yeah, I’ll try again and see if I can get the job done.

“I enjoy playing in the desert, this style of golf. Obviously last year was a different year and I really didn’t travel back over this part of the world and play at all. But now with things, it’s still obviously not where we want it to be, but I think we know a little bit more about what’s going on in terms of how the virus is and how it affects you or how it doesn’t affect you in many cases and feel a little more comfortable traveling.

“It’s great to be out here and playing. It’s a great way to start the year. It’s a big event. Got some great players here. Obviously J.T. has made the trip over, as well. The start of our Ryder Cup points starting again, so a lot of guys will want to start well and get themselves off to a fast start in regards to that, too.”

Justin Thomas: “I’m very excited. This is a tournament and a place that I’ve watched on TV many 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.

“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.”

Tommy Fleetwood: “I think it’s a great way to start the year. Everybody seems to like coming out to the Middle East just after Christmas and New Year, do some practise, and you come out here and you have some great tournaments to start the year.

“It was never really a course that gave me much pleasure, really. I missed a lot of cuts to start off with and all of the sudden in 2017, things kind of turned around and I started hitting good golf shots around the golf course. I’ve been on a lovely run in this event.”

Text: European Tour Press Release

Highlights Tours

Justin Thomas: “I’m very confident I’m going to win around this place at some point”

Question: Not having a crowd out there, you mentioned it, there was no way you could tell what was happening.
JUSTIN THOMAS: No. I mean, I had no idea. Yeah, that’s the weird part is you know what the guys are doing in front of you from whenever you see your watch. If you happen to turn around and see what the guy’s shots are, but with no crowd, yeah, you have no idea what’s going on.

Q: How would you assess your week as a whole?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I mean, it was far from my best stuff. So to finish fourth, it looks like it’s going to be, with that is a positive. I mean, I keep getting better. I’m very confident I’m going to win around this place at some point. I just don’t know when or if it will happen. I’m very comfortable. I just need to execute a little bit better. This week with the conditions being softer, the course knowledge didn’t come in play as much. You still had to leave it in the right spots, but not near as much when it was this soft. So I wish the tournament in April started tomorrow. I’ll just say that.

Q: A little bit of a slow start today.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, a little bit of a slow start is an understatement. Yeah, I hit four great golf shots on 1 and made par. Yeah, I mean, you just can’t bogey two in the scenario I was in. No, I didn’t hit the ball very well to start, and any time I had a birdie chance, I didn’t hit a very good iron shot. Then I found a little bit of rhythm on the back nine. It’s just one of those weeks. Stuff didn’t go my way. Kind of ended the week, my ball landed on the fairway, and it’s my first ever mud ball in a fairway bunker on 18. So it was just one of those weeks.

Justin Thomas :”I hit it really solid”

Q: Ball striking‐wise, it seems like you had a very, very good week. Are you going to take that from this week as far as going forward?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, sure. I did a little bit of everything. I didn’t hole anything the last three days, but I hit the ball beautifully yesterday. Like I hit it really solid. I didn’t hit it really close to the hole a lot, but the shots that didn’t go where I wanted, they still were hit really well, and I felt like they were good shots. But it was just the fact of the matter today, I had so many bull pins and so many pins that I needed and I should have hit close to, that I hit to 30 feet. I guess the long way to answer your question, yes, I did hit it well this week.

Q: After a week of seeing it this soft, would you like to see it firm and fast in April?
JUSTIN THOMAS: 100 percent. I’ll take firm and fast over soft any day.

Q: You see D.J. at 20. What do you think? Pretty incredible?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it is. I don’t think it will ever happen in April, but if we have another pandemic and it plays in April, I think it’s in play.

Team USA

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas Speaks To The Media Prior To Making 6th Start at The Players Championship

PGA Tour professional and FedEx Cup number two Justin Thomas addresses the media ahead of The Players Championship, speaking on the May to March change, building his schedule for the year and being paired with friends.

PGA Tour: Justin Thomas previews The Players Championship ahead of making his 6th start on Thursday

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We’d like to welcome Justin Thomas to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Justin is making his sixth start at THE PLAYERS Championship, comes into the week No. 2 in the FedExCup standings on the strength of two wins this season. Justin, get your thoughts on coming into the week here.

JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a place I love. I love the golf course. I think it’s just a very well-designed course, tee to green, forces you to work it both ways off the tee and into the green, and obviously it’s an extremely deep field with all the top players here, so it’s a tournament that when I first came here, I felt like I could have some success at this place, and yeah, came out and practiced yesterday. It seems to be in pristine shape as usual, so I’m excited to get out there today on the course and see how it is.

Q. You’ve had some really good low rounds here and some not so good. When you play well out here, what are you doing right, and when you don’t play so well, what’s kind of been your stumbling blocks out here?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, I think honestly, I think it’s a testament to a well-designed course. You look at, obviously Mexico is very different or Riviera, but every day you have those 64 to 67s and you have some 78s, and like that just doesn’t happen every week.

I think it’s because this place rewards good golf and penalizes bad golf. I would think that — I mean, obviously it depends on the weather and you can get some cold, windy and some firm weeks in March, but some of my high numbers have been in May mostly. When it gets firm like that, it puts even more of a premium on hitting the fairway, and those days where I had some high numbers, I was not playing well, and I didn’t really have any control of my ball versus when I was playing well. If you get the ball in the fairway you have a lot of wedges and 9-irons into these greens, and I feel like that’s a strength of my game. I just have been able to take advantage of that a couple times when I’ve been hitting it well.

It’s a place where you can get it going, you just kind of have to stay patient and wait for your spots.

Q. We always get this mentality that’s kind of like win or nothing else, and I’m just curious if you ever finished like in a top 10 that wasn’t a win but that was a satisfying week for you. Can you get satisfaction out of a non-win top 10, for instance?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Absolutely. I mean, we all say that and we all think that, but it’s not reality. We’re not going to win every week. We’re not going to win — I don’t know the percentages of the top players’ wins in their career, but I can’t imagine that anybody except for one person is above 10 or 15 percent. You have to be realistic in senses like that.

I mean, a week like Phoenix this year for me was huge. I did not play very well. I was not driving it well. My irons were very average. I got it around the course very well and ended up — I had a good Sunday. We got it going a little bit, and ended up finishing third, and I think weeks like that are sometimes more confidence boosting than anything else because realistically I could have won that tournament if I just could have got something going remotely the first couple days, but I just could never — I was never hitting it well enough to make that five, six birdies in a nine-hole stretch or whatever it was. I’d make a couple and then I’d just make some more pars on some easy holes. I just could never get momentum going.

But for not playing very well and not hitting it very well, I think I made four bogeys over four days so managed my game well and got it around that course well. I’d take the win, but sometimes it’s just as confidence boosting.

Q. With the change back to March and the fairways being softer, do you think we’re going to see someone shoot a 62 here? The 63s have both been in March, I believe.
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think Colt Knost shot 63 here when it was in May. I think you can. The thing about it being in March, I’ve never experienced it, I mean, I’ve heard some horror stories from guys in the past of you get in Jacksonville this time of year you can get some cold, cold days, you can get a strong north wind where we’re hitting 6-, 7-, 8-iron on 17. I would imagine if that’s the case then you won’t be seeing any. But if you get weather like it looks like it could be this week, generally one or two of the days they’re going to have the pins set up a little bit easier, someone could get hot and do it. You can do it on any golf course, I think when you give us the soft conditions it’s definitely going to be more likely, but at the end of the day 10-under par, that’s a low score no matter where you’re playing. But I definitely think that it is doable.

Q. It seems like just a blink ago you were considered one of the young guns out here. I want your thoughts on this current crop of young players that come out here and they not only think they can win, they expect to win.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Am I officially out? Am I thrown out of the young —

Q. Yeah, you’re out.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Damn, that’s rough. (Laughter.)

No, it’s impressive, and I think it’s cool what the TOUR is doing this week is pairing Viktor, Matt and Collin together. The fact that those three guys have won already is unbelievable. I don’t think — they probably don’t even realize how impressive it is.

But they also understand how talented they are, and we do, too, and they’re going to be out here for a long time.

You can’t compare their group versus our group or another group or whatever it is. You just kind of have to respect what’s coming out, and they’re unbelievable players, they’re very, very mature for being thrown into the spotlight. I think that’s something that goes very under-mentioned and underrated is that it’s easy to forget that they’re 21, 22 years old, I think at least, and they’re handling all this very well because they’re very much in the spotlight just like any of us are. They’re still playing some pretty good golf and being comfortable out here.

I think they’re going to continue to do great things, and it’s great to have them out here.

Q. This question is from a Chinese fan, so obviously you’re one of their favorites. He wants to know before your round if you’re not mentally ready, what do you do to snap yourself out of it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: There’s plenty of times. You wake up some days and some mornings and you just don’t have it, you’re tired, you don’t feel well. I don’t have a good warmup or whatever it might be. I think those days I rely on my caddie Jimmy. He knows if I’m not feeling well. We know each other so well to where we can figure out just by being around each other for 20 minutes if the other one isn’t in it that day. I’ll just tell him walking to the tee, Hey, man, I need you today, I don’t quite feel well or I don’t have it and we need to stay extra patient today, and we might talk through things a little bit more. Yeah, I don’t know, he does a great job in situations like that, and we’ve actually had some pretty good rounds doing that.

Q. You referred to it a little bit ago about the top 5s and how that top 3 was a positive moment for you. When you look at Rory right now and the run he’s on with all these top 5s, which is pretty remarkable, how do you view that stretch because obviously he’s frustrated he hasn’t won yet, which I’m sure you would be, as well, but where do you weigh that on the positive side versus the negative side, not closing them out when he’s had chances?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think you definitely have to look at it as a positive. The thing about it is you keep — when you’re as talented as Rory is, you keep putting yourself there, it’s going to happen eventually, and he has the capability to do what he’s done a couple times where he might win four events in six weeks or win a couple in a row. I know he knows that, I know we all know that, and he’s playing some unbelievable golf, but he’s just — it’s cool because I respect Rory as much as I like him. I just respect what he does because he works really hard. He takes it extremely seriously. I mean, I would say, along with myself, he is someone that I see practicing more than anybody else. We put a lot of work in.

I think he had some times there where he was expecting more of himself and he wasn’t sure what he had to do, and he just kind of had to dig it out of the dirt and kind of just get back to the basics and just, not start over, but be like, I need to be me, I need to be Rory McIlroy and get myself back to what made me great, and he’s obviously doing that, and the wins will come.

Q. The guy to chase in the FedExCup at the moment is Sungjae Im. What are your thoughts on him?
JUSTIN THOMAS: He’s unbelievable. I remember the first time I played with him at the CJ Cup, it was really windy, as is often is there, and the way he was hitting his drives, we’d have this huge crosswind and he would hit this little low bullet hold and when it would be the other way he would do the same thing, we’d have a downwind into the green he’d throw an iron straight up into the air. I’ve never seen somebody that young with so many shots. I know it took me a while to learn all those and feel comfortable doing them in a golf tournament, for one, but he obviously is very comfortable doing it, and he definitely plays enough to get comfortable with it in a tournament. It’s impressive. I think every person that I know that has played with him for the first time walks off and is like, wow, he’s good. He knows what he’s doing. He can make his way around a golf course, and yeah, I don’t think we’re — anybody who’s played with him, I don’t think we’re surprised that he’s won, and I’m sure he’s going to win a lot more times.

Q. Regarding the grouping with you and Jordan and Rickie, how hard or easy is it to turn off the friendship when you start off the first tee and get competitive like you need to be? What’s that dynamic like to play with two such close friends?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it can be tough, but I’ve had some really good rounds with some great friends. You definitely have to find the, I guess, the happy medium of we’re going to talk between shots, and it’s just a matter of, okay, when do I cut that off and I need to get back into my focus, because I have a lot of times that I hit it up there close and I’m kind of counting my putt, it’s like a four-footer and I’m kind of laughing and joking around with the guys on the green and next thing you know it’s my turn to putt, I’m not focused and I miss it. I’m walking off the green going, how many times do I have to do to this learn that I’ve got to stop doing it. But because of that I obviously have learned, and I know that I have to take it into consideration.

We’re going to have fun. I mean, not any more fun than we would with anybody else. We just happen to be some group of guys that are really good friends and hang out quite a bit and we’re out here competing trying to win a golf tournament.

We’re all going to be trying to play as well as we can and beat each other, but in between shots just kind of yuk it up and have some fun.

Q. How hard is it to build your entire schedule for the year, and is it subject to change ever? And also, what did you do the last couple weeks?
JUSTIN THOMAS: In terms of scheduling, it can be tough. I feel like it’s going to take a couple years to kind of figure out. The Florida Swing is very difficult for me at least living here. It’s like there’s so many tournaments I want to play, and there’s so many tournaments I feel like are good for me, but at the end of the day, I need to do what’s best for me, and I need to do what’s going to make sure that my body is in the best shape throughout the year, going to be fresh and ready for the majors, and most importantly fresh and ready for the FedExCup Playoffs, because I felt like last year was kind of strange because obviously I didn’t want to miss a month, month and a half with the wrist injury, but come the Playoffs time, everyone is tired and I’m ready to go. I took a month, month and a half off, and I’m like, all right, let’s do it, let’s keep playing.

I almost learned a little bit from that because it’s like, I don’t need to play. Yeah, sitting at home and watching the Honda and watching Bay Hill and being like, I know that I can do this and I’ve had success at Honda and Bay Hill is a tough course, ball striker’s course, I know that I can compete there. But I can sit at home every week and do that.

I probably did watch more golf than I have in a while because of just how — not entertaining but just how good the golf courses we’re playing. I thought it was enjoyable to watch. I guess that answers the question, I did watch a lot of golf.

It does take a little bit to figure out the scheduling. But no, I took it easy. I didn’t do very much at all. I wanted to get some rest for these next three events coming up in a row, and one of my best friends from high school got married this past weekend in Louisville, so I went home Thursday, got to see my friends and my family that I don’t get to see very often and spend a nice fun weekend with them and then came back Sunday morning and went out and played with dad Sunday afternoon and then came here yesterday.

Q. It’s been kind of an odd start to the year in terms of winning Kapalua, missing the cut at Sony, being there at Phoenix, missing the cut at LA, being there in Mexico. What’s going on?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I hope that trend doesn’t continue now that you say that.

No, Sony was weird. The conditions were so brutal. I don’t know if it just took a lot out of me winning in Kapalua or what it was, but I played poorly, but I didn’t — I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole at Sony. I had a hard time putting in that wind, and the golf course was so different than any year I’ve ever played it where, honestly, I feel like it almost hurt me playing there — not that five times is that many — but playing there as many times as I have, because I’m used to, when you hit it in the rough on No. 1, you’re trying to land it 15 yards short of that green on the right and run it up there. Whereas, you’re in the rough, straight downwind, you had to fly it in the middle of the green because it was so soft that the ball was just going to basically plug where it was. I think it took me about 20-something holes to figure that out, and by that point it was a little too late and didn’t matter.

But in LA I just drove it bad, and when you drive it bad out there, you’re pretty much behind the 8-ball, and I could never get the ball close enough to the hole to make any birdies.

I actually played all right on Friday. I played good enough to post a score well enough to make the cut, but I just played so poorly on Thursday that I didn’t really have much. Just kind of been a little bit of up and down.

Q. Secondly, have you or any of your people sat down or talked with the Premier Golf League, and when do you have to make a decision if there’s one to be made?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don’t know, in terms of the decision. I’ve tried to keep it as far away from me as possible because I’m focused on playing out here and taking whatever week I have next, focusing on that as opposed to focusing on whatever it is. We haven’t really talked about it. I mean, it’s just something that kind of gets brought up quickly, and I kind of let them handle it. Like I said, that’s not my part. I’m out here to try to get ready to play on the PGA TOUR, and that’s my main focus right now, and once that opportunity ever presents itself to actually sit down and talk about it, then we can.

Q. Davis Riley is having a great start to the year on the Korn Ferry TOUR. Can you speak to your relationship with him and following his progress and what stands out to you and impresses you with his game?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, Davis is a stud, man. He’s one of the guys when I’d go back and visit the guys at school, I just hit it off with him so well. He kind of reminds me a lot of myself. He’s a good player, but he’s laid back, he’s easy going. He’s a great teammate. Got along with all the guys. I just really, really like him. I do. I kind of wanted to take him under my wing a little bit and try to help him as much as I could, whether he wanted the help or not, just present it to him that I’m here to help if he wants. He’s impressive. I mean, there’s a handful of guys or a group of guys I feel like in college and amateur golf, there’s obviously going to be a lot of kids that come out and are very successful, but he’s someone that you sit and watch hit balls, and it’s like, that’s a different sound than everybody makes, it’s a different ball flight than everybody makes and he just needs to stay focused and keep doing what he’s doing. Whatever he’s doing right now is working pretty well and hopefully he’ll have continued success and we’ll have a lot of years out here together.

Q. From this point on until through the TOUR Championship, the schedule seems a little unrelenting. You’re never more than a few weeks away from a really big event. How do you go about compartmentalizing to avoid burning out from THE PLAYERS through the TOUR Championship?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a good question, but I think I just try to take everything I’ve learned over the past five years from it. It’s like, I don’t play more than three in a row. Nobody, including my caddie, wants me to ever play four in a row. It just doesn’t bode for a good Justin. Not fun to be around. Using the Mondays through Wednesdays how I need to use them and using the off weeks how I need to use them, and I feel like I’m definitely young enough and do the proper training to where I should not get burnt out. Certainly there’s going to be weeks where maybe you’re a little bit more excited when you get to the course or tee it up on Thursday than others, but that’s why I do what I do. I came out here and I wanted to play professional golf so I could be playing all these tournaments and playing from THE PLAYERS to the TOUR Championship. There’s definitely — it definitely beats the alternative of not having to worry about burning out, that’s for sure. That’s what I do all of my work on the off weeks and training for, so that doesn’t happen.

Q. Speaking to your pairing, the spring break reunion tour this week, can you just talk about that pairing, and can that be advantageous playing with buddies? Is that something that can be a help during a tournament, first two rounds of a tournament?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yeah, it’ll be a good time. We’ve had a lot of rounds of golf together, probably more fun rounds than competitive rounds. I don’t know. At the end of the day, we’re going to play well because of us, not because of the people we’re with. I mean, there’s obviously times where you’ll have everyone in the group is 4- or 5-under, you can kind of feed off each other. Sometimes the group is a little bit flat. But at the end of the day, if we all get off to a good start, then we might play well. It’s not like I’m going to play great today because I played with Jordan and Rick. I would like to hope that I have a little bit more confidence in myself, that I’m a good enough player to play without them. But that being said, it is nice knowing — I was going to say it’s not like I can really catch up with them. I pretty much know everything about them already, and vice versa, but it’s just — I like their caddies, I like their families. It’s easy for us. It’s something we’re very, very accustomed to.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports