Yes, JT admits, Tiger did carry his …
February 12, 2020
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas on competing with Tiger before Genesis
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Yes, Justin Thomas is well aware of what Tiger Woods said this week about their undefeated partnership at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
“I carried his ass in Australia,” a smiling Tiger said Tuesday during his press conference for this week’s The Genesis Invitational.
A few hours later, JT saw Tiger and offered a response.
“All I know is,” he told Woods, “if I didn’t make a putt, you’d have a one next to your halve column.
So you’re welcome for that.”
You may recall that it was Thomas, not Woods, who buried a 17-foot putt on the 18th hole to win their Foursomes match against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An on that Friday in mid-December. Afterwards, Thomas shouted, “I love me some me” as he and Woods celebrated.
Playing captain Woods eventually ended the week as the only American to win each of his matches, going 3-0-0. Thomas actually contributed more points to the team with a 3-1-1 record, his only loss coming in Singles to Australian Cameron Smith.
Still, Thomas couldn’t really disagree with Woods’ assessment.
“He did, he played well better than I did,” Thomas said. “… He carried my ass.”
The fact that Woods and Thomas were having this friendly, public – and yes, a bit edgy – banter is indicative of just how close the two golfers have become. Not only do they live near each other in South Florida, but they play lots of golf together.
That will include the first two rounds this week, with Tiger’s foundation hosting the event at Riviera. The other member of the threesome is another of Woods’ close playmates, Steve Stricker, a Presidents Cup assistant who was the de facto U.S. captain when Tiger was playing.
For Woods and Thomas, it’s the third straight year they will play the first two rounds together at The Genesis Invitational. They only other times they’ve been paired at a stroke-play event on the PGA TOUR? The 2018 U.S. Open and the 2018 PGA Championship, each time in the first two rounds.
Thomas was asked if he’d prefer to play the Genesis and not be paired with Woods – who, at 44, is 18 years older than JT.
“I don’t care. It’s fine,” he said. “I’m fine with it. I’ve had some good rounds with him. I’m very, very comfortable around him.
Justin Thomas talks about success without winning before Genesis
“You know, I think maybe playing with him at a Masters or Phoenix or something else would be a little different. That would be a little more chaotic than here.”
While Woods and Thomas have never been paired together on the weekend at an official PGA TOUR event, they were recently playing partners in the final round of Tiger’s 18-man Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
They entered the round tied for third, two shots back of 54-hole leader Gary Woodland. Woods shot 69 in the final round to Thomas’ 70, but neither could keep up with Henrik Stenson, who shot 66 to win the tournament.
Thomas learned a valuable lesson that day.
“Being where I was, I should’ve been more worried about the field, and I wasn’t,” Thomas said. “I just was trying to beat Tiger so bad because I felt like … I had to beat him to win the tournament. Then he kind of stalled and I kind of stalled with him and then had a bad finish on 18.
“I was really, really pissed after that event. I feel like I should have won the tournament handily and I didn’t because I didn’t handle the situation very well. But I learned from it.”
Thomas, one of the many golfers on the PGA TOUR who grew up cheering for Woods, was asked about the challenge of trying to beat a childhood hero.
“It doesn’t matter how close I am with someone, I want to beat them so bad that they want to quit golf,” Thomas responded. “I don’t care if it’s Tiger, if it’s Jordan [Spieth], if it’s Rickie [Fowler], if it’s whatever. If it’s Jack Nicklaus, I don’t care. I’m out here to beat everybody – that’s what I’m trying to do.”
That’s the kind of take-no-prisoners approach that has helped Woods reach 82 PGA TOUR wins. If he wins No. 83 this week, he breaks the tie with Sam Snead atop the all-time wins list.
No wonder Woods has a fondness for Thomas, who has 12 career wins.
“JT always wants to win,” Woods said. “He's highly motivated and extremely competitive and we compete in everything we do together. That's one of the things that I loved about him when I exited the game for a little bit and he was kind of coming onto the scene.
“He's so interested and thirsty for knowledge. We became really good friends and I got a chance to get to know him and Mike and Jenny [Thomas’ parents] really well. It's an amazing family. From there, our relationship has blossomed …we've had a great relationship and we're going to be extremely competitive come Thursday to Friday.”
Unlike Royal Melbourne, Tiger doesn’t plan to carry anybody this week. Particularly his young friend.