Michael Thompson is well traveled, having grown up in Tucson, Ariz., attended Tulane in New Orleans, La. for two years, and starred for the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2007 and 2008. But it is in Birmingham that he feels most at home and this is the place he has called home for the last few years.
Commenting about how his Honda Classic win might change things, he said " 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, 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."
When not on tour, Thompson works on his game at Hoover Country Club, Shoal Creek and Greystone Golf & Country Club and lives off of Highway 280.
Sunday was a special day for Thompson as during trying conditions he shot a final-round 69 to claim his first PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic at PGA National.
"I am so proud of Michael," Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said following Thompson's victory on Sunday. "He has worked so hard and this is a great moment for him and his wife Rachel. He has always represented Alabama golf with class."
In words reminiscent of the legendary Ben Hogan, Thompson talked about how he "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.
"I wanted to just stick to a game plan just like I'd been saying all week. This week was magical, just find a groove, keep believing."
Thompson was a finalist at the 2007 U.S. Amateur and the low amateur at the 2008 U.S. Open while playing for Alabama. He then posted his previous-low finish on the PGA Tour at the 2012 U.S. Open, finishing tied for second with former UAB standout Graeme McDowell behind champion Webb Simpson.
So, he has been steadily building his golfing career, but, after solid years on the PGA Tour in 2011 and 2012, he had hit a roadblock thus far this season having made only one cut - just barely - and was out of sorts with his game. That made his dream win all the more unlikely.
"This is everything, this is a childhood dream come true. I dreamt of playing out here since I was seven years old and to win, it's just unbelievable. I just can't put it into words. The whole day was awesome. I just enjoyed the ride, and you know, glory to God for the time He's given to me and all of us out here, it's just awesome."
He beat a Who's Who of golf too.
"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."
Thompson can also adjust his schedule now, starting this week as his win got him in the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship at the famed TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Fla.
He was already in The Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship given his high finish in the U.S. Open last year, and now hopes to make the field for the Open Championship.
He looked back on his rough start to the year, which must now seem but a blip.
"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 for 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 NGA/Hooters Tour. As long as I have a place to play golf, I'm going to be happy. And that gave 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."
He also felt that the tough course and challenging playing conditions helped him.
"...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, that 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, but I think I'm pretty good.
"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 a mindset of just go get it done. Get the ball in the hole."
Finally, he talked of his closing birdie that sealed his two-shot victory over Geoff Ogilvy.
After a fine drive and solid fairway wood approach into a greenside bunker on the final hole, a par five..."And you know, that for me kind of sealed the deal. It allowed me to kind of walk 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."
Yes, he most definitely did.
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