Michael Thompson bested a trying PGA National layout and a star-studded field to earn his first PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic on Sunday, his 9-under 271 two strokes clear of Geoff Ogilvy. Here are 5 Things you need to know from Thompson’s victory:
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1. On a roll: Thompson’s best results have come on tough golf courses. He was runner-up at last year’s US Open and the 2007 U.S. Amateur, both at Olympic Club in San Francisco. He was one of just 17 players to break par at PGA National this week.
“I think I’ve always been a scrappy player,” Thompson said. “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. … I think I’ve always been very good at having the mindset of go struggle, just go get it done. Get the ball in the hole.”
Thompson said that during his career at Alabama, during which time he won SEC Player of the Year in 2008, he was last on the team in hitting fairways and greens, but always led in birdies. “That’s a perfect example of just who I am,” he said.
Thompson holed three putts of 13 feet or longer on the first six holes in his final round, including a 49-footer for eagle at the par-5 third. He was 1 under on the weekend (70-69) despite hitting just 20 of 36 greens. He shot 1-under 34 on the front nine Saturday after hitting just three greens.
2. On top of the world: Thompson already was exempt for this year’s Masters and US Open by virtue of his performance last year at Olympic Club. But his Honda victory came with plenty of other perks, too. It moved him to a career-high 45th in the Official World Golf Ranking, earning him a spot in his first career World Golf Championship, next week’s Cadillac Championship. He also earned spots in the PGA Championship and Bridgestone Championship.
The win also turned around a dismal start to the season. He had missed three of four cuts and finished T-78th in his other start. He shot 78-80 in his last start before the Honda Classic, the Northern Trust Open, to finish last among players who completed 36 holes. Thompson said he envisioned being demoted to the Web.com Tour, or lower, at the year’s end. Now he has a two-year exemption.
“The start of the year wasn’t great for me,” he said. “I thought I would come out and play great. As a golfer, that’s what you want to believe. But 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.”
3. Oh, so close: Ogilvy didn’t win his first PGA Tour title in three years, but his runner-up finish also came with its share of perks. He climbed 32 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking to No. 47, earning a start next week at the Cadillac. Ogilvy won the 2008 Cadillac and was tied for third at that event the previous year.
Ogilvy also is seeking an invitation to this year’s Masters. He ended 2012 at No. 51 in the Official World Golf Ranking; the top 50 earned Masters invitations. The world’s top 50 on April 1 also earn invitations to Augusta.
Ogilvy chipped-in for birdie at the 16th to pull within three shots. He was two back when Thompson three-putted the same hole from 39 feet, and briefly pulled within a shot after making birdie on the par-5 finishing hole. Thompson also made birdie at 18, though, getting up-and-down from a bunker left of the green.
Ogilvy left PGA National without a hotel reservation, and in need of clean laundry, before making the unplanned 90-mile drive south to Doral. “Half the Tour lives in this area, so I’m sure I can find somewhere to stay,” Ogilvy said. And he’ll feel right at home at Doral.
4. Rookie’s ride: Luke Guthrie started the final round tied for the lead but shot 73 to finish third, four shots back of Thompson. Guthrie birdied the 13th to pull within two shots of Thompson, but hit his tee shot out of bounds on the next hole and made double-bogey. The third-place finish was the best of Guthrie’s career and worth $408,000. He had four top-30 finishes in six previous starts this season.
“It was brutal out there,” Guthrie said. “I didn’t have my best stuff. Hung in there, fought hard.”
Guthrie, the 36-hole leader after opening with 68-63, shot 4-over 144 on the weekend (71-73). He and Thompson played in the final group both Saturday and Sunday. He moved to 64th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
5. Short shots: David Lynn, Lucas Glover, Erik Compton, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose tied for fourth at 3-under 277. … Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood tied for ninth along with Graham DeLaet. … Monday qualifier Darron Stiles tied for 13th. Stiles, who regained his card via last year’s Web.com Tour, had made just one cut in four starts this year (T-56, Humana). Russell Henley also finished 13th, his best finish since his Sony Open win. … The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings after the completion of Sunday’s play earned starts in the Cadillac Championship. Henley, Brian Gay, Charles Howell III and John Merrick earned Cadillac starts via that category. … Tiger Woods finished T-37 (70-70-70-74). … Scott Stallings finished 29th in his first start since the birth of his son, Bradley Finn.