Thompson's triumph comes the hard way
Michael Thompson plays his bunker shot on the 18th hole on the way to a two-shot victory at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Golf:American Michael Thompson's victory at the Honda Classic on Sunday certainly came out of the blue after his dreadful early season form.
On the West Coast, the 27-year-old resident of Birmingham, Alabama, missed three of four cuts and finished 78th in his other start.
In his last start before the Florida swing, he shot 78 and 80 at the Northern Trust Open, the worst record of any of the players to finish 36 holes and that prompted an evaluation of his direction.
“My coach, my wife and I, we all just kind of put our heads together and said, ‘what do we need to do in order to get better?’” he told reporters.
“I was having thoughts that I was going to miss every cut this year, I’m going to lose my card and then what?
“We started talking, well, if that happens, I’ll play in the Web.com Tour, or I’ll even go back to the Hooters Tour or the NGA Tour.”
Having decided that even the worst that could happen wasn’t going to stop his passion for the game and his determination with his career, Thompson said he found some calm.
“As long as I have a place to play golf, I’m going to be happy,” he said. “And that gave me a lot of comfort and allowed me to just focus on what I like to do on the range, work a lot on my chipping, work on my putting and trying to hit that low fade that I love to hit.
“The Northern Trust was a good thing in my life. It allowed me to focus on what I needed to do in order to play like I did this week.”
There were plenty of big names waiting to pounce if Thompson lost his nerve on the back nine at a windy PGA National but the Arizona native showed outstanding composure.
“I did a really good job of not thinking about all of the things that happen after a win or after I get done playing. I just kept telling myself, even on the last hole, just stick to what you’ve been working on,” he said.
His closest challenger, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, turned up the pressure with a birdie on the 18th to force Thompson to make par on the last hole.
Thompson’s second shot on the 18th flew into the greenside bunker, leaving him with a tricky chip on to the downhill green towards the water. But there was no sign of nerves as he landed it perfectly to three feet and made the birdie putt to secure a two-stroke win with his final round of 69.
“The lie was fine. I just knew that I had to get it out and the wind would really just push it the rest of the way,” he said. “I really didn’t make it any more complicated than that, so I just said ‘just get it out of the bunker and just see where it ends up’. And to end up inside three feet or whatever, it was awesome.
While he had never won previously on the tour, Thompson served notice of his talent with a joint runner-up finish at last year’s US Open.
“The big lesson I learned from the US Open was just to not look at the leaderboards,” he said.
“I think I looked at a leaderboard one time today, and even then I just kind of blocked it out of my mind. I didn't even give it any credit.”
Graeme McDowell could only manage a level-par 70 on the final day to finish in a tie for ninth position on two under. Lee Westwood’s challenge also failed to materialise after he carded a 74 to also finish on two under.