Honda Classic: Tucson native Michael Thompson wins first PGA Tour event

Ex-Rincon/Univ. star Thompson gets 2-year PGA Tour exemption
2013-03-04T00:00:00Z Honda Classic: Tucson native Michael Thompson wins first PGA Tour eventThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tucson native Michael Thompson's dream of winning his first PGA Tour event was walking up the final fairway with a big lead and very little stress.

The reality was much different Sunday in the Honda Classic.

He had a one-shot lead as he stood in the 18th fairway, some 240 yards from the flag with trouble in the way in the shape of large lake. The motto from his golf team at Alabama was to "finish strong," and Thompson did just that.

Instead of laying up, the former Rincon/University High School star drilled a 5-wood into the bunker left of the green, setting up a simple sand shot and a birdie he didn't even need. He closed with a 1-under 69, one of only five rounds under par on a punishing day at PGA National to finally become a PGA Tour winner.

"That for me kind of sealed the deal," Thompson said. "It allowed me to walk up the fairway and enjoy the experience, see the crowd and ... just finish strong."

The start wasn't bad, either.

Thompson holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the third hole, relied on a superb short game around the toughest part of the golf course to build a four-shot lead, and hung on for a two-shot win over Geoff Ogilvy that takes him places he always wanted to be.

He gets into his first World Golf Championship next week at Doral, and qualifies for two more WGCs this year at Firestone and in Shanghai. He's in the PGA Championship, gets to start next year in Hawaii and earned a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

And to think just two weeks ago he was so down after a 78-80 performance at Riviera that he wondered if he would ever make another cut.

"This week was magical," Thompson said. "Just had a groove and kept feeling it."

It turned out to be a big week for Ogilvy, too.

The former U.S. Open champion missed his past four cuts and had plunged to No. 79 in the world ranking. He already missed the Match Play Championship and was ready to miss another WGC next week at Doral until putting together four solid rounds.

He chipped in for birdie behind the 16th green and two-putted for birdie on the 18th for a 69 to finish alone in second, moving him up to No. 47 to get into Doral.

"I kind of penciled in a week off," Ogilvy said. "So it's nice, and it gets me back in the mix for the Masters."

Ogilvy has to stay in the top 50 by the end of the month to return to Augusta National.

Luke Guthrie, tied with Thompson for the 54-hole lead, fell behind with a bogey on No. 2 and closed with a 73 to finish third.

Tiger Woods was never in the picture. He started the final round eight shots behind, and whatever hopes he had of a rally ended on the sixth hole when he hit his drive so far to the right that the ball was never found.

Woods took double bogey, and only an eagle on the final hole kept the damage to a minimum. He closed with a 74 - his first time since the Masters last year that he failed to break par in any round of a 72-hole tournament - and tied for 37th.

It was the second straight year Woods ended with an eagle at PGA National. But last year, it gave him a 62 and a tie for second.

"I think I passed 62 somewhere around 12," Woods said.

Despite a bogey on the final hole, Erik Compton had a 70 and was part of the five-way tie for fourth. Compton, who already has had two heart transplants, earned his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Thompson finished at 9-under 271, a strong performance considering the difficult course and the weekend wind. He was among three players who never shot over par at PGA National. Thompson, who turns 28 in April, was at his best in the middle part of the final round.

He hit a tough chip off the pine straw to 3 feet for par on the 10th, and then hit flawless chips for easy par on the 11th and 14th holes to build a four-shot lead. Not even the late run by Ogilvy was enough to stop him.

"This is everything," Thompson said. "This is a childhood dream come true. I've dreamed of playing out here since I was 7 years old and to win, it's just unbelievable. I just can't put it into words. The whole day was awesome."

By the numbers

$1.08 million

Money earned by Michael Thompson, a former Rincon/University High School star, for winning the Honda Classic.

$2.4 million

Thompson's combined total earnings, not counting endorsements, between 2008 and 2012. Thompson earned just $22,000 as a member of the Hooters Tour in 2009.

17

Number of years since a Southern Arizona high school product won on the PGA Tour. Willie Wood, a Sabino High School graduate, won the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in 1996.

2

Southern Arizona high school graduates - Thompson and Wood - to ever win on the PGA Tour.

4

Career tournament wins by longtime Tucsonan Don Pooley. The former UA star won PGA Tour events in 1980 and 1987, and Champions Tour stops in 2002 and 2003.

5

Number of LPGA Tour wins by Cindy Rarick, Southern Arizona's reigning golf champion. The former Sahuaro High School and University of Hawaii standout won all five tournaments between 1987-1991; she added a Legends Tour win in 2005.

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