Justin Thomas discusses struggles with media: ‘You just can’t win’

May 30, 2019

DUBLIN, Ohio — To some extent, it’s a dilemma every professional athlete faces: the pressure to be honest but not necessarily too honest. On Wednesday, Justin Thomas opened up on the fine line between forthrightness and “spoiled brat” and how he has tried to find a middle ground during media sessions in recent months.

The question arose because of Thomas’ comments earlier this year criticizing the USGA and its’ rules changes. At his pre-tournament press conference at the Memorial, Thomas was asked about his relationship with the USGA now and how he would advise other outspoken players to speak up on issues they care about. He had mixed feelings on the subject.

“You know, it’s tough, because I feel like you just can’t win, you know? You say what’s on your mind, and then you’re a spoiled brat for complaining about something,” he said. “You don’t say what’s on your mind, and you’re told you’re ‘too quiet.’ You show your emotion, you get too mad. It’s a ‘What-am-I-supposed-to-do’ kind of thing.

“You all know that I’ve always said what I felt. And I think the most important thing is I never am or at least I hope to never be disrespectful.”

Justin Thomas knows it's a fine line between honest and too honest.
Getty Images

Thomas added that he has found a productive outlet for his feelings as a member of the Player Advisory Council (PAC), where he feels like he’s “in a position where I can change stuff.”

But he remains keenly aware of the delicate balance that has burned him before.

When Thomas kicked a fan out of the crowd last year, he faced criticism for being thin-skinned. When he called the USGA’s rules changes “terrible,” he took more heat. Even for a player as popular as Thomas, there’s plenty of backlash to be found. And Thomas handles much of his own social media, giving him a front-row seat to all of it. Which brings him back to the point of wondering just how honest players should be.

“I think there’s a very fine line on guys saying stuff because you don’t want to be disrespectful. That’s not the point of it. But you also do need to — there’s nothing wrong with saying what’s on your mind. It’s hard nowadays, as you know. You just feel like you can’t win.”

Thomas is making his first start since the Masters, where he finished T12. The World No. 6 sat out the PGA Championship and took several weeks of rest to heal an injured wrist that’s plagued him off and on for months. Time off meant lower body workouts, travel and boredom, Thomas said.

“I learned very quickly there’s not a lot to do in South Florida when you can’t golf or fish,” he said.

Thomas tees off at 8:15 a.m. Thursday alongside Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.