PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Michael Thompson needed to find a spark in the run-up to his first Masters Tournament appearance as a professional. The former Alabama golfer got the ultimate boost on Sunday – a victory in the Honda Classic.
Thompson, who had already qualified for next month’s Masters by virtue of finishing tied for second in last year’s U.S. Open at Olympic Club, had a disappointing start this season with three missed cuts and a tie for 78th in his four starts.
That all changed Sunday as he kept his composure and won for the first time on the PGA Tour. The 27-year-old, who had earned only $10,919 this season, pocketed $1,080,000 with his two-shot victory over Geoff Ogilvy at the windswept PGA National Champions Course. Conditions were so difficult that Thompson and Ogilvy, who both shot 1-under-par 69, were among a group of only five players who broke par.
Thompson played in the 2008 Masters as an amateur, missing the cut by a shot after calling a penalty shot on himself when his ball moved on the 15th hole in the second round.
“I hope my ball doesn’t move again,” Thompson said.
Now he returns for his first Masters appearance as a pro with a new attitude after the victory.
“I’m really excited to go back to Augusta,” Thompson said. “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.”
Thompson, who shared the 54-hole Honda lead with Luke Guthrie, finished at 9-under 271. The Birmingham, Ala., resident kept a streak of American-only winners going through nine PGA Tour events this season.
He also earned an 11th-hour spot in this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship down the road at Doral in Miami by moving into the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking (he’s 45th).
So did Ogilvy, a former Doral winner, and Augusta native Charles Howell.
Ogilvy, who started the week 79th in the World Golf Ranking, moved to No. 47 with his finish. If Ogilvy can stay in the top 50 through the Houston Open on March 31, he’ll receive an invitation to the Masters. He has played the past seven years at Augusta National Golf Club.
“It’s nice,” Ogilvy said of his finish, “and it gets me back in the mix for the Masters. Obviously I would have loved to have won here and sealed that, but at least I’ve gone the right direction, made a decent jump in the World Ranking. And if I can play well at a course next week (Doral) that I’ve played well at before, hopefully I can make more of a move up and get back to Augusta.”
Howell made it into Doral at the last minute despite a final-round 78 which left him in a tie for 29th place. He still earned a spot at Doral by virtue of being in the top 10 in FedEx Cup points.
Thompson led by at least three shots starting the back nine on Sunday until suffering a bogey on No. 16. That moved Ogilvy, who had chipped in for birdie on that hole while playing ahead of Thompson, within two shots. That’s how it ended as both Thompson and Ogilvy parred No. 17 and birdied No. 18.