Thompson Bridesmaid Again At Olympic
By Dave Shedloski
San Francisco – Call him the Silver Son of The Olympic Club.
Michael Thompson has an unrequited love affair with the Lake Course at Olympic. It is one of his favorite courses. In return, it rewards him with, well, not exactly the finish a golfer is after.
Thompson shot a final-round 67 Sunday, the low round of the day, and ended up tying for second place, one stroke behind winner Webb Simpson in the 112th U.S. Open. Thompson, who also had the low round of the championship Thursday, a 4-under-par 66, completed 72 holes in 2-over 282, his career best finish since turning professional in 2008.
Thompson, who tied with 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, also was runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic, losing to Colt Knost, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final. He is believed to be the first player to finish runner-up in two different USGA championships at the same venue.
“I’m happy with the way I played, but not with finishing second,” said Thompson, 27, of Birmingham, Ala. “Coming up short leaves a really bitter taste in your mouth, but at the same time, being in contention and having a chance to win is what we are out here playing for. And that's why we love the game. [It’s] why we love to compete and [why] we love to be in that spotlight and have a chance.”
Thompson was in the spotlight plenty, particularly after taking the first-round lead – by three shots – with that sterling 66, thanks to 22 putts on Olympic’s treacherous greens.
“The things that I can learn from this week are just, one, learning to play with the lead, after any round,” he said. “I have to figure out how to go out the next day and stick to my game plan and not get so consumed with everything that's going on. [Dealing with] the media, my friends, having 50 text messages waiting on my phone when I get done. That's all new to me.”
“Yeah, I think that the first round and having to play with that the next day, that was probably very difficult for him,” added 2001 PGA champion David Toms, who played the final round with Thompson and shot 68 to tie for fourth. “I know it was difficult for me [on Saturday], so you battle a lot of emotions and put a lot of pressure on yourself to keep up. And it seems like we both went out there today kind of [with] a little freer attitude … because we didn't feel like we had a chance and we both went out and played well.”
In his second year on the PGA Tour, Thompson had four top-25 finishes in 15 starts prior to the U.S. Open, which he qualified for via the Rockville, Md., sectional, where he shot 74-68. In his only other U.S. Open, in 2008 at Torrey Pines, he finished tied for 29th and was the low amateur, so he did come to The Olympic Club with that experience as well.
From the get-go, Thompson enjoyed good vibes on a difficult layout that prevented any of the 156 players to finish under par. His experience five years ago, even after changes to the Lake Course, certainly was a benefit, he believes.
“I think it helped me a ton,” Thompson said of his narrow loss in 2007. “One, because through the U.S. Amateur I learned to love the golf course. I play a fade or at least I try to. That's the shot that I like, and I think this golf course sets up perfect for a fade. Being able to remember those moments during the U.S. Amateur, I made a 50‑footer on 5 for birdie to go 1 up on Colt in the final match. Just shots like that, I don't know, can't help but make me smile. Any time you're smiling on the golf course is a good thing.”
In the end, he had a lot to smile about, like an invitation to next year’s Masters and U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, plus $695,916 in his pocket, his biggest paycheck to date.
“I'm excited because now I know I can do it,” said Thompson. “I love USGA events. I honestly have fun during USGA events because they're so challenging. It's easy for me to get prepared mentally. And then, I don't know, I just did really well at going out with a proper mindset and I stayed patient, the chances will come. I believe in myself.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.