PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Two weeks ago, after shooting 78-80 at the Northern Trust in California and missing the cut, Michael Thompson took stock of his golf game.
Instead of worrying about missing more cuts or losing his Tour card, he realized that if things didn’t work out, he could always play the Web.com Tour or even the NGA Tour.
“As long as I have a place to play golf,” Thompson said, “I’m going to be happy.”
Thanks to his victory under challenging conditions Sunday at the Honda Classic, a very happy Thompson has guaranteed himself a spot on the PGA Tour for the next two years, plus he earned $1.08 million.
The victory also moved Thompson up to 45th in the world rankings, which puts him in this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Doral’s Blue Monster.
Starting the day tied for the lead with Tour rookie Luke Guthrie at 8 under par, two shots ahead of veterans Geoff Ogilvy and Lee Westwood, Thompson fired a 1-under 69 for a total of 9-under 271 and his first PGA Tour win.
Ogilvy also shot 69 to finish at 273. Guthrie ended up third at 275 after his 3-over 73, the best finish of his short PGA Tour career. Five players tied for fourth at 277 including Erik Compton, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose. Tiger Woods shot a 4-over-par 74 to finish in a tie for 37th place at 284. Matt Jones had the low round of the day at 68 to finish at 280.
Despite temperatures in the high 50s made colder by winds that gusted up to 25 mph and blew shots off-line, Thompson said he woke up with a “really good feeling.”
“I knew what I wanted to do today. I knew kind of how I wanted to approach the golf course. It just all really worked out.”
Thompson, 27, whose previous best finish was a tie for second at last year’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Club near San Francisco, made a number of crucial up and downs after taking a two-shot lead over Guthrie on the front nine.
On the difficult par-4 10th, his third shot from 69 yards stopped 5 feet from the hole. On the even harder par-4 11th, he pitched to 2 feet after coming up short on his approach. At 14, he hit a 3-iron from 210 yards that went only 185 because of a gust of wind, but he hit an “absolutely perfect” chip to 3 feet to stay at 9 under.
By then, Guthrie and Ogilvy were both at 5-under. Ogilvy birdied 16 and Thompson, playing behind him, three-putted for bogey. At 17, Thompson’s par putt dropped in on the edge of the hole.
“The par putt on 17, I was just a little nervous, I guess,” Thompson said. “I just said to myself, ‘Just hit a putt.’ It’s just like hitting a putt on the practice green. And it was just good enough.”
When Ogilvy birdied the par-5 18th, Thompson’s lead was down to one. But he hit a good drive and his 5-wood landed in a bunker to the left of the green, 85 feet from the pin. Thompson said he just wanted to get on the green and two-putt. His shot ended up 3 feet away and he rolled it in for birdie to beat Ogilvy by two.
Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, played an Open-like round. He parred his first 13 holes, bogeyed No. 14 and birdied 16, missed a birdie putt on 17 and birdied 18.
“I played really well,” Ogilvy said. “It was frustrating with the putter, but I never really was that close to the hole.”
Thompson showed a steady hand early, parring his first two holes and then making a stunning eagle on the par-5 542-yard 3rd after reaching the green in two with his 236-yard second shot and rolling in a 49-footer for a 3. That gave him a 2-shot lead over Guthrie, who had bogeyed No. 2 and birdied No. 3.
A bogey on No. 4 when he missed the green made it a 1-shot difference, but Thompson birdied No. 5 and Guthrie three-putted for bogey to make Thompson’s lead three shots. Thompson added two bogeys and a birdie to go out in 1-under 34.
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