Justin Thomas on the unique challenge of match play and looking ahead to the Masters

As he prepares for this week’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, Thomas was candid about the format, his friendship with Tiger Woods and a return to Augusta National in April.

Justin Thomas has been handed a brutal draw in the first round of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, but that didn't stop him talking a good game ahead of Wednesday's opening games.

The 27-year-old, who won THE PLAYERS Championship two weeks ago, was in a happy mood as he discussed the pitfalls of the format ahead of his quest to emerge safely from the Group of Death.

Thomas will open his account against 2019 runner-up Matt Kuchar before taking on the defending champion Kevin Kisner on Thursday.

If all goes well he'll still be in with a shout of making the weekend when he completes his Group 2 action against Louis Oosthuizen, another former tournament runner-up, on Friday.

Thomas, who made the semi-final at Austin in 2018 and has a 8-7-1 record at the course, is 8/13 to get off to winning start against the horribly out-of-form Kuchar, 6/5 to win the group and 11/1 to win the tournament outright, all prices with Paddy Power.

He spoke to the media on Monday.

Thomas on this week's match play challenge

Does he like the course?

"It's a cool golf course. Its firm and fast, and there's some serious wind coming off that lake. It's fun."

Thomas is 1-for-4 at making the knockout stages at Austin CC.
Thomas is 1-for-4 at making the knockout stages at Austin CC.

Is the group stage a tricky one?

"Well, I've only made it to Saturday once, so that was fun. But it's kind of weird and different just because your match is most important and it doesn't matter what everybody else does, but it does matter at the same time.

"That's something I've struggled with in the past, looking too much at other matches, worrying about what else is going on or playing to my opponent too much.

"If I was teeing it up in a 72-hole stroke play event here, I would feel good about my chances of beating a lot of these guys. But sometimes I try something different.

"I really need to stick to my game plan."

What is his match play strategy?

"My thing is, I shouldn't try to not make birdie because of what my opponent's doing. If I have a wedge in my hand and he misses the green, I shouldn't all of a sudden like try to hit it to 20 feet.

"That's when I end up hitting it to 20 feet and then he maybe holes a bunker shot or hits it close, and then I either lose or halve the hole.

"Next thing I know I get to the next tee and wonder what was I doing."

Is he more combative in match play?

"Sure, absolutely. I mean, I hope everybody I go up against plays the worst round of golf they have ever played in their life!

"I mean, I don't care how much I like the person or how great they have been to me, if it's match play, all I got to do is beat that guy and selfishly I hope they don't play well."

Thomas on winning THE PLAYERS

Did he receive messages from Tiger Woods?

"Yeah, for sure. I had some texts from him. I got to FaceTime too. It was cool.

"He was in great spirits and my dad said he was texting him the whole final round, giving him grief about what was going on, so it was good to see he was watching.

"First and foremost, I want to make sure he's doing all right and feeling well, but we're just talking like we always do.

"He told me that I toed my tee shot on 18, which I didn't. He's adamant, but I hit it right in the middle, I just overturned it a little bit."

Thomas on his approach play strength

Does he think a lot about it?

"Really, if you ask Rory what he tries to do with a driver and how he tries to swing it, he'd probably tell you, I don't know, I just aim there, hit it as hard as I can and it goes where I want.

"Or Jordan with his putting. Like, say, hey, how do you stroke it or how do you roll it? And he's like, I don't know where I'm aiming, I just kind of hit it and it goes in a lot.

Thomas is good friends with Jordan Spieth.
Thomas is good friends with Jordan Spieth.

"I'm fortunate to get on a run where I've hit my irons well since I've gotten out on Tour.

"I'd say a lot of it is hard work that my dad and I have been doing, making sure it's something that I can repeat. As long as it's repetitive, then it's as good as it needs to be."

Thomas on Augusta National

How did it play in November?

"To be honest, I thought it was a different golf course.

"I think DJ would have won whether it was November or April. He played far and away better than everybody else.

"But, it might sound bad to say and I don't mean to take anything away from them, but I don't think it's a coincidence that some first-timers or younger guys played well.

"Why? Because a lot of the past experience was very different. Veterans (at Augusta) that are so used to fast conditions found that wasn't the case. I had a hard time getting used to that.

"At the end of the day, everyone had the same amount of time to prepare, everyone knew what the golf course was, and it just was about execution.

"But it was definitely differently to firm and fast in April."

Thomas on playing at the Olympics

Is he debating going to Tokyo?

"I hope it happens and I hope I qualify. It would be one of the coolest honors that I've ever had, probably one of the only tournaments I would brag about playing in.

"Playing for Team USA in the Olympics? I would be honoured."

READ MORE: First round group by group analysis of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play

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