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Justin Thomas on the 2019 Presidents Cup: 'We just want the best teams out there'

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Mr. Go Low — aka PGA Tour phenom Justin Thomas — is itching to throw up another W as a member of his second Presidents Cup team.

“I am at a time right now where I have had time off, and for me that’s something I feel like I have gotten better at. I used to not be as good at taking time off and hanging the clubs up. So I had the last week or two to just get away from the game. Once Monday starts, I will be back into grind mode. I am still doing things to get my body in shape and making sure I am ready in that aspect,” Thomas, 26, told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

The major champion winner known for his uncanny knack for shooting insanely low scores (in six of his 11 wins on tour, he has shot one round of 63 or better) enters next month’s Presidents Cup in Australia fresh off another sterling year. Thomas made the Tiger Woods-led Presidents Cup team outright, ending up third in the 2019 FedExCup rankings after notching one win and seven top 10 finishes. Thomas is currently ranked the fourth best golfer in the world.

Thomas notched a 3-1-1 record as a member of the winning 2017 Presidents Cup team. This time around, he says he’s excited to visit Australia for the the first time. Besides teeing up with Tiger & Co. at Royal Melbourne, Thomas is serving as Citigroup’s ambassador in helping to expand the First Tee program in Australia. The First Tee program looks to educate young people in the game of golf and its tried-and-true value system.

Yahoo Finance chatted with Thomas to discuss the Presidents Cup and his knack for shooting very low scores on tour. What follows is an edited and condensed version of the interview.

Yahoo Finance: You didn’t need to be picked by Tiger as a captain’s pick. What’s it like to just make this team?

Justin Thomas: It’s great. I think it’s a known goal for a lot of us — you want to be part of the team that year, either the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. It’s going to be awesome. I have never been to Australia before so to not only go there to play to represent my country, that is a bonus.

Yahoo Finance: How do you prepare for this type of team tournament?

Thomas: It’s very similar to any other event. I am at a time right now where I have had time off, and for me that’s something I feel like I have gotten better at. I used to not be as good at taking time off and hanging the clubs up. So I had the last week or two to just get away from the game. Once Monday starts, I will be back into grind mode. I am still doing things to get my body in shape and making sure I am ready in that aspect.

But also playing the week before the Presidents Cup in the Bahamas is going to be nice, I hate to say warm-up, but it will be nice to have some competition before going to Australia.

Yahoo Finance: Your teammate Tony Finau mentioned how good it is to get some time off before the Presidents Cup. Tour players are always traveling. How important is it to rest before a Presidents Cup?

Thomas: Well, I don’t have the big family, so I am sure it’s even nicer for him. It’s so nice to just take time off. If I want to go on a vacation I want to go some place I don’t have the opportunity to see normally. I think you take it for granted sometimes when you don’t have the rest, so it is nice.

Yahoo Finance: What’s the strategy preparation look like for the Presidents Cup?

Thomas: What Tiger is doing, we just want the best teams out there. We want to feel like every team we put on that first tee is a winning point. That’s the goal. We have such a great team, we are so deep that we have the opportunity to pair a lot of guys with different guys and everyone gets along so well. It makes it easier, but it also makes it harder because you have so many options. So you have to keep asking guys who they want to play with and what format do they want to do.

It’s pretty much trying to dial everything in and make sure everyone is ready to go.

Yahoo Finance: Tiger as a playing captain, quite the big gig.

Thomas: It is. There are not many people that could pull it off. But I know that he is excited. It’s really cool to be part of the process of how serious he is taking the captaincy and just wanting to be in touch with all the guys. But he also has to put himself in the matches. So when is he going to be ready to win points. I would have to imagine it’s going to be a very tough balance just in terms of being a player and a captain.

I know his number one priority is making sure he captains a great team and has all of us ready. That’s why he is such a great team player.

Justin Thomas tees off during Saturday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 30, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Yahoo Finance: Any added pressure on trying to also win for Tiger the captain? Who wants to lose Tiger Woods-led Presidents Cup? It’s Tiger Woods.

Thomas: I don’t think it adds pressure. And that’s why I think he is going to be a great captain. He makes us all comfortable where we don’t look at him like that. Obviously he is Tiger Woods, but he is a teammate and our captain. It’s not bow down and worship whoever it is. It’s about winning points.

The good thing is that he has all the experience in the world and we can ask him about anything we want. He has done it all. That’s always good to have.

Yahoo Finance: You were on the winning 2017 Presidents Cup team. Is this year’s team better?

Thomas: It’s hard to say. Every team, doesn’t matter if it’s international or U.S., all the teams are great. It’s so funny to me to get these comparisons because these are the best players in the country. You can’t get any better than this. So there is no such thing as a weak team. At the end of the day, you have to hit the shots and make the putts and just play well that week.

Yahoo Finance: You played well at the 2017 Presidents Cup. How do you repeat that this time around?

Thomas: The only way you can determine success is just by winning points. It doesn’t matter if you have your best game or your C game, you have to go out there and win a point for your team. That’s the only thing I am worried about. That’s what is so fun about these team events is that it is bigger than us. It’s not about us, or how good I am. You are playing for your country and that’s the number one priority.

Yahoo Finance: Explain your freakish ability to shoot some very low scores on tour consistently.

Thomas: I enjoy it first off. That is cliche, but half the battle is that you have to want to go low. I struggled with it in college on easy golf courses and shooting a really low number. You have to want to go low, if you are nine under you want to get to 10 under. It’s easy for guys to let up and not want to make mistakes as opposed to wanting to put the hammer down and wanting to make more birdies.

Justin Thomas of the United States watches a ball from a bunker on the 9th hole during the pro-am event of the Zozo Championship PGA Tour at Accordia Golf Narashino C.C. in Inzai, east of Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Yahoo Finance: You have won a lot on tour and you are only 26 years old. What sets you apart from others in the game?

Thomas: I work really hard. I don’t take what I do for granted. I don’t settle, I am always one to get better. Just being where your feet are and understanding that OK, I won that’s great, celebrate and enjoy it and all you are trying to do is get better for the next event. That is the mentality I have taken throughout my career.

Yahoo Finance: What’s your message to the international team ahead of the Presidents Cup?

Thomas: I don’t know if I have one. It’s going to be fun. It’s such a great opportunity to represent your country. It’s going to be cool for them. They will have a team that doesn’t speak the same language and sometimes can’t even talk to each other, it’s crazy. That is something we obviously don’t run into on the U.S. team. It is fun playing in this type of tournament. It will be cool for all of us.

Hopefully we will give them a tough fight.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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