Early arrival reaps reward

 

THE OLD adage about the early bird catching the worm probably crossed Michael Thompson’s mind as he signed for an opening 66 that left more seasoned players salivating. In just his second season on tour, and competing in just his third Major, the 27-year-old American – helped by using his putter on just 22 occasions – claimed the early clubhouse lead with all the assurance of an old pro.

Thompson – a beaten finalist to Colt Knost in the 2007 US Amateur championship on this course – arrived last Friday for a pre-practice schedule that enabled him to become more familiar with its nuances and its difficulties than anyone. All that time spent reconnoitring the course paid dividends.

For sure, Thompson discovered he was doing something right when the TV cameras picked him up. “I got a little nervous there, once all those cameras showed up. It’s a bit of an adjustment. I kind of wish I was Phil or Tiger, because you get the cameras from the beginning . . . but I really held it together,” said Thompson, who took an early three-shot lead over Tiger Woods and David Toms who signed for 69s.

“I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Thompson of the carefree attitude he took into the first round. “This is a bonus in my career. I’m not guaranteed into all the majors as a professional, and to be able to have the opportunity to play is just a wonderful experience. And then to have it be on one of my most favourite golf courses in the world, even better.”

China’s Andy Zhang signed for a 79, which should be put into context as the 14-year-old started with a triple-bogey followed by a double-bogey and was eight-over on his round through eight holes.

Others fared worse. Veteran Steve Marino had back-to-back triple-bogeys en route to an 84 which made Thompson’s effort all the more impressive!