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Future Now More Certain for Thompson
Michael Thompson's Honda Classic win Sunday made his future a lot clearer. Not only was it his first Tour title, but he earned $1.026 million and 500 FedEx Cup points. It also secured his PGA Tour card and earned him a spot in golf's major championships.
Before the Honda Classic, the 2013 season hadn't been kind to the 27-year-old. Thompson had missed the cut in three of his four prior starts, with his low point a 16-over 36-hole tally two weeks ago at the Northern Trust Open, the highest score among players who completed two rounds.
But all that was forgotten Sunday after he closed with a 1-under 69 at a very difficult Champion course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for a two-stroke victory over Geoff Ogilvy.
After accepting the winner's check and the Honda Classic hardware, Thompson met with reporters and discussed what the win meant to him. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Michael Thompson, winner of the 2013 Honda Classic, I know that's got a good sound to it, congratulations on your first PGA Tour victory. With that, you earn your spot into the field next week. Just some comments overall on the week. It was an incredible field that you beat under some pretty stressful conditions today.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: No, today was unbelievable. I went in, I woke up this morning, and I had a really good feeling. I got some good sleep last night, and I knew what I wanted to do today. I knew what I wanted to work on, and I knew kind of how I wanted to approach the golf course. It's pretty much the exact same wind as we had yesterday, so that helped. I don't know, it just all really worked out. I think the Big Man upstairs was watching over me today and allowing me to get some good lies in the rough, and you know, helped me make some of those putts. So, I don't know, couldn't have gone any better.
Q. The bunker shot on 18, how tough was it, and then how tough was it given everything that was at stake?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, today 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, was just stick to what you've been working on. Kept telling myself, really, go find it in the dirt. Just go find it in the dirt. That bunker shot, it wasn't the best lie, or best stance. The lie was fine. I just knew that I had to get it out and the wind was would really just push it the rest of the way. I really didn't make it anymore 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.
Q. And can I ask a follow, since you don't watch video of your swing, will you even watch highlights of any of this round?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I think I'd like to have a record just really for memory's sake. It's kind of like a photo album or something like that. You know, it would be nice to kind of relive this tournament, and especially this round. I've never felt so good on the course while in contention than I did today. I just felt real calm, real smooth. Was hitting the ball so well. And I don't know, it was just awesome.
Q. The third shot on 10?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I was in the pine straw. First off, how I got there, apparently there was more mud on the ball than I thought there was. I hit a 3 wood and hit it right where I was looking and then it went straight right. So that was unfortunate. But I was in the pine straw, had a good lie. I just know that in pine straw, you've got to hit it really clean. I had 69 yards to the flag, and I figured if I carried it probably 55 or so, then it would release a little bit and end up somewhere around the flag. I really was pretty much just trying to make bogey, no worse than that. And I caught it really cleanly, but a lot lower than I thought. I actually thought I hit a bad shot and it was over the green, and then I heard everybody clap. So I walked up there and it was, you know, five feet or so.
It was - I don't know, I was just as surprised, or probably more surprised than everybody else, to see that ball that close to that hole after that shot. You know, I went through my process, did everything I needed to do to hit the shot, and hit the shot and, you know, wherever it goes, so be it (shrugging shoulders). It just worked out.
Q. Along those lines, the par saves on 10, 11 and 14, which is another tough hole, how much comfort did that give you going into the stretch there?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Those were huge. The one on 10 was big to get some momentum again after kind of a bad bogey on 9. And 11, I hit a great tee shot. Any time you can have a chance to even try to hit that green, I think you've done well, because if you're in that rough, you've got no chance carrying the water. I thought I hit a great second shot, just came up short. Easy little pitch, had a good lie in the rough. And then 14, hit a great drive down the middle of the fairway and hit a 3 iron that only went 185 yards, a big gust of wind came up in my face, and then the chip, I hit it absolutely perfect. And that's kind of the way I've been chipping this week and this weekend, particularly, is that I've just given myself good chances to make par. And on a course like this, that's all you can ask for.
Q. You know you had only a 5 on the last to win?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I did.
Q. What was your thought playing your second shot there?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I had just gone for that hole every time I played this week, and I actually had less than I had in all week, and it's a perfect 5 wood for me. And I like to fade the ball, so the wind is off the left, pin is on the right. I just figure if you aim 40 yards left of the green and just hit it, the worse it can do is get in that front right bunker and just get it up on the green and 2 putt. I was actually playing to hit it into that bunker that I was in, because I knew that it was going to be an easy bunker shot, just get it on the green and let it go.
Q. In your dreams, your first Tour win, was it two putts from four feet?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: No. (Laughs). I would have liked the five shot lead. But I'll take whatever I can get. To have three or four feet to win a golf tournament, and just to 2 putt, was awesome. And that wasn't an easy putt, either. It was downwind, a little left to right, and those sometimes give me trouble. I just kept telling myself, just go through your process, just keep sticking to your guns, and when that ball went in, y'all saw my emotion. It was a great feeling.
Q. Not only did you win, you won The Honda Classic, one of the best fields of the year, that has to mean a great deal.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Absolutely, guys like Tiger, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy coming down the stretch making birdie on the last to put pressure on me, it's just awesome. It really kind of solidifies in my mind that I'm one of the guys now, and that's a special feeling.
Q. This is going to be a little life changing now, you'll be in a lot of majors and a lot of big events coming up, are you looking forward to that?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Absolutely. I love the big events. I'm already in the Masters and U.S. Open, but British Open hopefully, and you know, it's just another step in my career. I'm on a long journey, and I don't know where it's going to take me, but I'm here for the ride.
Q. You said earlier, you never felt so good or so calm being in contention before. Just wondering what you attribute that to maybe, and secondly, did that all change coming down the front nine -
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, I guess what the calmness I can attribute to is the past experiences that I've had being in contention. I remember McGladrey two years ago, I got pretty nervous coming down the stretch. And then the U.S. Open, the big lesson I learned was just to not look at the leaderboards. 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. I know in the fairway on 18 was the only time I asked my caddie, what do we need to do. He went over and talked to Mark Rolfing about what Geoff was doing up ahead, but it didn't change our game plan, even before he hit his eagle putt, we were going for the green.
I think all of the past experiences, all of the tournaments that I've won in the past, playing in front of crowds and just learning how to be Michael Thompson, you know, that all kind of led to what happened today.
Q. Your wife suggested that also that hitting rock bottom at the Northern Trust might have allowed you in a weird way, freed you to get back to the basics in your thinking and your passion. Could you talk about that?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: The start of the year wasn't great for me. I thought I would come out and play great. As a golfer, that's what you want to believe. But however I do believe the Lord has different plans, and the best way He can humble us is by allowing us to experience a low point; whether it's rock bottom or just the bottom of wherever you are, to me, I've always had a lot of pride I guess in my game, and a strong identity in who I am as a golfer. I wasn't living up to those expectations that I set on myself. 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. You know, I was having thoughts of, I'm going to miss every cut this year. I'm not going to play great at all; 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. As long as I have a place to play golf, I'm going to be happy. And that give 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.
Q. The course played very tough this week, tough today; obviously U.S. Open setups are very tough. Can you explain what suits you about that?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I don't know, I think I've always been a scrappy player. I remember I went down to Tuscaloosa to practice with the Alabama golf team a few weeks ago, and one thing Coach Seawell said to me was while I was at Alabama, which was just two years, I hit the fewest number of fairways and the fewest number of greens compared to the rest of the team, but made the most birdies. That's a perfect example of just who I am. I'm not a great ball striker. I think I'm pretty good. I was pretty good this week.
But my putting is what saves me and then I've really improved my chipping since being out on Tour. I think those changes have kind of rounded off my game so to speak. I think I've always been very good of having mindset of go struggle, just go get it done. Get the ball in the hole. I remember telling myself when I was 14, 15 years old, just get the ball in the hole, and all your playing competitors are going to be mad at you for that. That's just what I do.
Q. Winning for the first time can be a life altering experience. What do you expect to change and what do you hope will change?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: The things I expect to change are probably just more attention, I guess, on me, from the media, from fans, all that, and that's something I'm going to have to get used to. I'm not a Rickie Fowler. I'm not a Tiger Woods or anybody like that, at all. I've never drawn a big crowd, which I think is a good thing. I like to kind of be sneaky in a sense of just kind of plotting along and just playing my own game and hopefully I'll be at the top at the end of the week. In terms of my life, I hope nothing else changes. I still want to be myself. I still want to go hang out with the Alabama golf team, go to Alabama football games. I love living in Birmingham, Alabama, and you know, I'm still the same guy. I'm from Tucson, Arizona, who transplanted to the southeast, and I love the game of golf. That's just who I am. So I hope nothing else changes.
Q. You just spoke about increased attention after this victory. Obviously there were many big names in the field this week. Is it easier for you to fly under the radar when there's so many big names in the field?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think that's the case for most of the guys out here. You know, everybody wants to see the marquis players, the guys who are exciting or wear the bright clothes and all that. I've always kind of treated my golf game or kind of lived by the motto as, I'm going to let my clubs do the talking. If my clubs talk, and they are saying a lot of good stuff, then good things are going to happen to me. And so, you know, I don't think that's going to change. I'm not a flashy player. I'm not dramatic or anything like that. I just kind of plod along, made my pars, eliminate the big mistakes and make a few birdies here and there. If I keep doing that and I stick to that game plan, I'm going to have a great career.
Q. On 16, you lipped out for par, and then 17, just dropped that one in. Was it the crowd at the Bear Trap, the noise, was that bothering you, or just getting a little anxious?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: No, I think maybe just getting a little anxious. I actually hit a really good putt on 16. I just hit it a little bit too firm. And you know, it was a hard lip out and that kind of got my juices going. I hit a great tee shot on 17. All four days, I've hit the green there which is something to be said for that. And then the putt, the par putt on 17, I was just a little nervous, I guess. Dead into the wind, that late in the day, the greens starting to get a little bumpy, you just never know. I just said to myself, just hit a putt. It's just like hitting a putt on the practice green. And you know, it was just good enough.
Q. Why did you point at the hole? Did it say something to you?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I was basically just telling the ball to, you know, go to the hole (laughter) get in there, you know. Don't even think about missing that (indicating pointing to ball in authoritative fashion). A little bit of frustration I guess.
Q. You get in three WGCs the rest of the year, the PGA, the two year exemption; what to you is the best perk about winning?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: All of it. I think that will provide a level of comfort knowing that I've got job security for two more years. I get new experiences this year to play in the WGCs. That's been a goal ever since I got out on Tour. And to do it in this fashion is unbelievable. You know, it just all part of the process, all part of my journey. My journey is very different from everybody else's, and you know, I just want to enjoy it and learn from it, be excited, struggle through it. There's going to be more down times that I'm going to have to fight through, and that's just the nature of golf. It's here one week, gone the next. Just keep working on what I'm working on and enjoy the process.
Q. You were already in Augusta, and probably have to feel a little more confident now about your playing. Just your thoughts on going back there and reliving 15 in 2008?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I hope my ball doesn't move again. But really excited to go back to Augusta. Brings back a lot of really fond memories. That was my first real PGA Tour event, so to speak, professional event, that I got to play in. What a special one that was. So I feel like I know how to play the golf course a little bit better. My game is a lot better than what it was senior year in college. You know, just looking forward to the opportunity. My family is going to be there, and be able to share it with everybody; who doesn't love Augusta National.
Q. What was the most important shot you hit today?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: That's a good one, I hit a lot of good ones today. I would probably say the second shot on 18. Even though that's pretty comfortable for me, you still need to pull it off. You still need to hit it solid and I hit just a piercing 5 wood, and it rode the wind just like I thought. Didn't get on the green, but it ended up in the spot where I was hoping it would. And you know, that for me kind of sealed the deal. It allowed me to kind of walking up the fairway and enjoy the experience, get to see the crowd, and, I don't know, just finish strong. It's like at Alabama, our motto when I was there was "Finish strong" and I did that today.
Q. You studied accounting in college, and I think having watched you play in the U.S. Open last year and here, it seems like accounting sort of maybe fits your personality and approach as a golfer. Is that at all accurate that you're conservative, play the percentages?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I think so. That's just my personality. I'm good with numbers and you know, thankfully I won't ever have to use accounting as my career (laughter).
Q. Well you've got $1million now.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, I'll let my wife deal with that. And I don't know, it just fits my personality. I'm very slow, methodical, and just I guess smart in the sense of the way I approach each hole. I want to play smart golf. I want to have good course management, and on a course like this, you have to.
MODERATOR: Michael, congratulations.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.