‘Have the b**** to say I’m doing this for money:’ Justin Thomas opens up on LIV

Justin Thomas hits a shot late last month at the U.S. Open.

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Justin Thomas, he would like you to know, is exhausted. And annoyed. And “over it, for sure.”

And yet …

“It’s tough,” the world’s fifth-ranked player said this week on the No Laying Up podcast. “And I never thought I would be lying in bed so many nights thinking about this fricking tour and what’s going on and all this stuff.”

If you’ve been following your golf news, even loosely, you know to what he speaks of without us even naming the subject. You may be weary of it all, too, and that’s understandable. But the LIV Golf Series presses on — it’s playing its second-ever event this week in Portland — and the controversy that comes with that makes central figures like Thomas trying to make sense of it all both to himself and to others, no matter how much he would rather not. 

No, JT is not going to play on the upstart, Saudi-backed series anytime soon; he’s as pro-PGA Tour as they come, But that, along with his lofty status — he’s also won his second major this year, the PGA — makes him a go-to source for his thoughts on the golf topic du jour, and No Laying Up podcast host Chris Solomon asked a thoughtful question to that:     

How does Thomas view this role? 

Good point. It’s a lot to take on. He answered, while also deep-diving into more LIV thoughts. (It’s here where we advise you to listen to the entire podcast, which also touches on Thomas’ win at the PGA, his relationship with his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, and Will Zalatoris.)

“I go back and forth about how involved I should be, how involved I shouldn’t be, what I should say, what I shouldn’t say, what I want to say and what I know I can’t say and back and forth of all these different things,” Thomas said on the podcast. “When it first happened and when it came out, guys, they’re going to do what they want to do, and yeah, do I wish they wouldn’t have, but they’re entitled to their own opinion and decision and so be it kind of thing. And I still do think that way, but Jimmy Dunne — did you read the article? — I thought he summarized everything that’s been going on in here for me in that. 

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“I understand that they’re being fed everything on what to say and all this stuff, but it’s just, for them to say that is all for the betterment of the game and for them — I just, to be perfectly honest, I just wish one of them would have the balls to say I’m doing this for the money. Like, I personally would gain a lot more respect for that. But it’s just the more the players keep talking and saying that this is for the betterment of the game, the more agitated and irritated I get about it. Because I can’t imagine for someone like me, who’s only on his seventh or eighth year on Tour and how important the Tour is to me, versus look at someone like a Rory McIlroy, who I’m sure had other opportunities to do something like this. You look at Tiger, who’s had god knows how many opportunities and things to do something like this. But their loyalties and everything that they’ve stood for and pushed have been with this Tour. 

“Like I know I feel that way so I can’t imagine how strongly they feel. I’m sure they feel betrayed and hurt because again, I do a little bit. So the more and more I think about it, just the more annoyed and agitated I get with the guys that have done it. Again, so be it; they took their money and the Saudis reached their number, but like I’ve said, I’ve grown up my entire life wanting to play the PGA Tour and play on Ryder Cups and Presidents Cup and any kind of thought of that not being what it is, is sad, to be perfectly honest in my eyes. And I just never want it to get to that point, so that’s why I feel like I have been vocal.”

There’s a lot to unpack there — Thomas hearing and blasting the LIV talking points (you’ve no doubt a lot about “growing the game”); Thomas wondering what other stars are thinking; Thomas wondering about a lesser Tour. And betrayal, something you don’t hear much about in golf, and Solomon asked where that would come from.

“Well, because it hurts our Tour,” Thomas said on the podcast. “And it hurts us. So I mean that’s the thing of — I heard someone that brought up a good point is they’re saying that I’m sure at some point, you know, some sort of lawsuits will be going and if any of those guys that left to go play the other tour sue the Tour, they’re suing me, they’re suing Rory, they’re suing Tiger, they’re suing every single one of us that they’ve looked in the face, looked in the eyes and played rounds of golf with, played on Cup teams with, shared moments, whatever, with and they’re suing us. 

“So like, to me, that’s where a little bit of the betrayal and the upsetting and sad feelings come from. Again, they’re doing what they clearly feel is best for them so they’re going to continue to go down that route in terms of lawsuits and whatnot, but when someone said it that way, it kind of hit home of like damn, they are doing that to the Tour, but they’re also doing that to me because I’m a part of that Tour.”

Say what you will on any of this, but Thomas is sincere here. You could even say brually so. 

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With that being said, Solomon then brought up another interesting question: 

“Do you think there is more bad blood that is kind of simmering underneath the surface on a lot of these things?”

At the Canadian Open, Thomas was asked something similar — and he answered, in part, that “I don’t dislike DJ [Dustin Johnson] now — but more LIV events are being played, more Tour players are leaving and the conversation doesn’t appear to be slowing down. 

“I think it’s just one of those things where maybe if I walked past that person earlier and said, hey, or asked how they were doing, I maybe just won’t do it anymore,” Thomas said on the podcast. “It’s not like something where, you know, I’m flipping them the bird, or I’m trying to make their life miserable by any means.

“I’m just, you know, it’s one of those things, you just, some people might not feel like they need to give the time of day anymore, is would be my only guess.” 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.