Michael Thompson closed with a one-under 69, one of only five sub-70 rounds recorded Sunday on PGA National’s Champions course, to seal a two-stroke victory over Geoff Ogilvy (69). Thompson finished at minus-9, a startling improvement over his 16-over-par performance two weeks ago at the Northern Trust Open outside Los Angeles, the highest score among those who completed two rounds.
“The Northern Trust was a good thing in my life,” Thompson said. “It allowed me to focus on what I needed to do to play like I did this week.”
The missed cut was Thompson’s third in four starts. With two months of the shortened 2013 season gone, he had made $10,919, which was not enough to cover his expenses. Upon returning to his home in Birmingham, Ala., Thompson spoke with his wife, Rachel, and his longtime swing coach, Susan Berdoy Meyers. He shared with them his worst fear: that he wouldn’t make another cut this year and would lose his PGA Tour playing privileges.
They helped him to see that if his worst fate was to play golf next year on the Web.com tour, he still had an enviable life. Asked what led to Thompson’s turnabout, his wife said: “I don’t know other than him being completely at the bottom and being utterly broken down, and feeling like he had nothing going for him and just being able to focus on enjoying the game again and practicing and feeling like he was playing for himself and the passion he has for golf, rather than trying to please people and everyone around him.”
There is maybe a lesson for McIlroy in the story of Thompson’s turnaround. McIlroy’s friends say he is putting too much pressure on himself to prove to the world that he is worthy of the megamillion dollar deal he signed this year with Nike.
In an interview with NBC, Jack Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion and someone whose counsel McIlroy has sought in the past, described McIlroy’s withdrawal as unfortunate and said, “If he had thought about it for five minutes, he wouldn’t have done it.”
Nicklaus added, “He’s a good kid; he’s a sharp kid; and I just think he is so frustrated with what is happening and the way he has played for the last month or so that it just got to him.”
Thompson’s first tour victory overshadowed other resurgent performances. There was Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who closed with a 70 to tie for fourth, his first top-10 finish in 61 tour starts. And Ogilvy, whose finish earned a spot in this week’s World Golf Championships event at Doral, outside Miami, and put him back in the mix for a Masters invitation.
Ogilvy, playing in the penultimate group, narrowly missed an eagle putt at 18 that would have turned up the pressure on Thompson, 27, who got up and down from a greenside bunker for a birdie to make his victory more emphatic. Before that, he had par putts lip out on 16 and rim in on 17.
“Today I did a really good job of not thinking about all the things that happen after a win or after I get done playing,” Thompson said. “I just kept telling myself, even on the last hole, just stick to what you’ve been working on.”
Summing up the conditions, Thompson said it was a United States Open course with a British Open wind. In other words, it was a stage tailor-made for him. In 57 previous tour starts as a pro, his best finish was a tie for second last year at the United States Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
“Michael plays really difficult golf courses well,” Berdoy Meyers said by telephone from Arizona, “because he knows he doesn’t have to hit it perfect. I think when he tries to be too perfect is when he puts too much pressure on himself.”
Woods’s goal coming into the day was to apply pressure on the leaders by posting a low number, like his 62 in the fourth round last year. He had to settle for a 74 that included a lost ball, two water balls, a three-putt and an eagle.
When Thompson emerged from the scoring trailer, a tournament official was waiting to lead him to the award ceremony on the 18th green. Thompson made him wait while he signed golf balls and distributed them to each volunteer and security officer who had walked with him during the round. Even after the triumphant end, he would not let anybody take him out of his routine, would not get ahead of himself and think of all the things that happen after a win.
WHAT'S IN MICHAEL'S WINNING BAG?DRIVER: Ping i20, 9.5 degree, 45", Aldila Tour Green 65X
FAIRWAY WOOD: Ping G25, 3 Wood 15 degrees, Grafalloy ProLaunch Red Fwy-X, 5-WOOD: Akira, Grafalloy ProLaunch Red Fwy-X
IRONS: (3-9): Ping S56, +1/2", True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
WEDGES: Ping Tour-S (47 degree),+1/2", Ping Anser Forged (52 degrees, 58 degrees), +1/2", all with X100 shafts
PUTTER: Ping Anser 4
BALL: Titleist Pro V1X 2013
You Can Score Michael's Winning Gear at Deep Discount Prices at Great Golf Deals.com - Discount Golf Equipment