Justin Thomas won the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, beating Marc Leishman on the second playoff hole. The victory in South Korea was the seventh of Thomas’ young career, and moves the 24-year old into the third spot in the Official World Rankings.
Afterwards, a tired, but happy, Thomas took 13 questions – some good, some stupid – from the media.
1. THE FEELING
QUESTION: Justin, a historic win here at the first PGA tour event in Korea in Jeju Island. I know it has been as long season, it has been a long week but it must feel great to cap it off with a victory on the 18th green.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Yes, it’s an unbelievable honor to win the inaugural CJ Cup. It was tough out there today, for these last three days it was extremely difficult condition with the wind but, I’ve stayed really patient this weekend and patient today.
It felt really good to hit two really good shots there on 18 in regulation and I had to putt with a chance to win it. I hit two great 3-woods there at that second play-off. It’s a great way to cap off the year. I’m really excited to do nothing for a while.
2. THE TROPHY
QUESTION: Congratulations. It’s an unusual trophy. Do you like it?
JUSTIN THOMAS: The trophy is really cool. It’s very unique. When I first saw it earlier this week when I did photocall with Adam, we both thought that it was a really cool trophy. I’m glad that my name is in gold so I know where it is.
At least now I can memorize how to write my name in Korean. It’s awesome, it’s a really cool trophy and a great memento.
3. THE 11TH HOLE
QUESTION: And please talk us through the situation at the 11th hole, and your thoughts on the Korean crowd.
JUSTIN THOMAS: On 11th hole, I hit a driver down there pretty close to the green and I guess someone kicked my ball. When we were walking up there, we weren’t there yet. It’s an easy rule you just drop it as close as you can back to where it was and I wedged it up there to 5, 4-feet or so and made for birdie.
But the fans were awesome this week, they were very supportive. They definitely helped me get through the end of the day as I was starting to lose some energy. I felt like I had a lot of support out there, which was cool.
4. THE SCORING
QUESTION: You predicted 20-under par as the winning score but your day 1 score has become the winning score on the final day. What’s your impression on the winds of Jeju Island after this week?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I think when I got asked that question earlier in the week, I said that if the wind was up there it could be 8 to 12-under and if there wasn’t any wind, it could be up to 20-under. So the wind did pick up obviously and the scores were a lot higher. It does not matter what course you play with the way that is when you get winds like that it’s going to play a lot more difficult.
5. ASIAN SUCCESS
QUESTION: This is your third win in Asia. Is there anything special about Asia for you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I’m not really sure. It’s crazy how that works out. I don’t know if it’s the time of the year while I’m here or what it is but, I don’t know. Obviously I have a lot of success, which is great. It’s kind of an added bonus I think.
The fact of the matter is that I just happened to play well on those weeks. But definitely the fact that I have three of the seven wins in Asia, it definitely has a pretty good vibe every year.
6. LEISHMAN’S CONTROVERSIAL RULING
QUESTION: What was going on in your mind at the 18th in the first play-off? Did you easily accept the ruling? You didn’t seem to be agreeing with what was going on.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It was confusing to me because, where I was standing you couldn’t see the grass. Initially, you would think something that far off line, a big wall like that would be out of bounds. I thought it was out of bounds. But then, I walked up there and once I saw him taking a drop I was curious as to why.
He was on grass so he was taking a relief from the rock wall and then he was taking a relief from the cart path. To me, I just did not understand why he was getting relieved from the rock wall. ‘If that’s in play there, why is it not in play here?’ But I’m not a rules official, I’m just a golfer so I didn’t know.
I was asking Slugger ‘why did he get a drop from this?’, ‘why did he go where he did?’ and this and that because, I just wanted an explanation as to why because it didn’t make sense to me. When a rock wall is just there and not a boundary for out of bounds and in bounds, then you get relieved.
That’s where my knowledge of the rules, I wasn’t just sure. Once he cleared that up, it all made perfect sense. He had a rules official there. He wasn’t cheating. It was just to me, I was confused at first.
7. THE WIND
QUESTION: You got to nine-under very quickly. Can you describe just how difficult it was to stay there, just to maintain that score?
JUSTIN THOMAS: It’s bizarre that it happened. I never would have guessed that, especially after the first round. It really was so difficult out there. These last two days, especially when if it’s cold when you into the wind the ball just goes nowhere. I hit a 7-iron from 128 yards yesterday.
Hitting driver and lob-wedge on 10 today, I think that hole is 480 or something like that, I had 95 yards in. The wind is so strong and because of all the trees, it bounces around and swirls so much. Really the hardest thing that people don’t understand is putting.
The gusts, when the wind picks up, when it dies, it literally makes a difference if you can make a putt or not. You just have to time it so perfectly that it’s just so difficult to make putts. Like the putts I had on 17 and 18 in regulation, they are breaking the direction of the wind is going.
I’m playing into the little extra in case the wind because, if it gets low and has no chance. At least you want to be high enough to where if it goes it goes in. But there, I guessed wrong. It’s just so difficult to putt when you get that kind of wind.
8. FUTURE PLANS FOR ASIA
QUESTION: It seems like you are off to a good start with this win. What is your goal for this season? And with such a packed schedule you have, will you be coming to the tournaments in Asia next season again?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I do have goals for the season but, I do not share them with anybody. I keep them within my team and myself because, I constantly would get reminded of them throughout the entire year. So, we keep them pretty personal.
In terms of the Asian swing next year, I have no idea. It’s so far away I am so excited about just not playing golf and taking some time off. I’m really tired and fatigued right now. When the time comes, we’ll think about it because, I don’t know whether I am going to be playing at all next year.
I’ve obviously had a lot of success playing on it but, you just don’t know what is going to happen. Like I said, I’m just more excited about getting home right now.
9. AGRESSIVE PLAY
QUESTION: You played very aggressively, for example on the 8th hole you tried to make it on one in all four rounds but with not much success. Do you regret your choice of strategy?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I had the opportunity to reach the green because of the length that I have. It was so windy that it’s extremely difficult to judge your distance for wedges. I feel I’m a very good wedge player but I also feel I’m a great chipper and a putter.
I felt first off I could hit good driver and hit it on the green so, every time you can have a chance of eagle, it’s great. As long as I left it at the right place around the green it was going to be relatively easy up and down. I put it in great spots every day off the tee, I just did really poorly from there.
I don’t regret it one bit. If I have the opportunity, I’m usually not one to lay up. I’m going to go for it. I don’t regret it even though I played the hole poorly.
10. JORDAN SPIETH
QUESTION: If you were to come back next year would you convince your good friend Jordan Spieth to come with you?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I don’t care what he does.
11. HOW TO HIT IT LIKE JUSTIN
QUESTION: I think you really showed Korean fans what a long hitter is. As a gift to Korean fans, could you give them a tip on how to hit far?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I’m sorry I don’t know hitting it solid is the most important, if you could somehow do that. It’s so hard to just tell you one thing and you just start hitting it further. I’m sorry I really don’t know what to say. It’s just, hitting it solid is the most important thing to maximize your distance I would say.
12. NO LAYING UP
QUESTION: On the second play-off hole, after Marc went in the water, did you have any thought to potentially laying up?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I really didn’t. I figured that I could make it two if I layed it up, and I could make it two if I went for the green. I didn’t travel all this way to make this a three shot hole. I figured it be easier if I just went for two. Thanks for the question.
13. FINAL HOLE
QUESTION: In the final round, 18th hole, you were one off the lead and you shot a fabulous second shot. What goes through your mind in situations like that and how do you deal with the pressure and burden during a shot like that?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I was a little frustrated going to 18th being tied. I felt like I really didn’t hit a bad shot on 17th and it made a bogey. I wanted to have it all in my own hands to where if I made a birdie on the 18th I went out right. It was just a bad bogey, I guess you could in reality on the 17th I had to make birdie.
I knew Leishman went in there close and I needed to hit a good tee shot there. And I hit it probably the best 3 wood I hit all week, just set it perfect down there a little in the neck. It was kind of between clubs a little bit but those are the moments you play for.
That’s why I chose to play professional golf, that’s why I love to win. It’s so fun when you have the opportunity to hit that shot to make that putt to win a golf tournament. I was excited to have the opportunity to hit one in there. It was a lot better shot that I thought I was going to hit.
I was obviously very pleased with the way I played that hole other than the putt.
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