Michael Thompson (Thursday Media Center)
BETH MAJOR: We're very happy to have joining us Michael Thompson who opened with a sparkling 66 today. Can you talk a little bit about your round and how you were feeling out there?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Feeling really calm and relaxed. I had a game plan going in. I've been here from Friday practicing, so I felt really comfortable on the course.
Just going in, I know it's a U.S. Open, so you've got to go in and expect to make bogeys and expect to make tough putts for par. I got off to a ‑‑ I guess a pretty good start. I made bogey on the first hole but made a good par on the second from the back, left bunker and hold out from the bunker on 3 for birdie.
I felt like I was sticking to my game plan and really just trying to be patient and know that the chances were going to come. I guess I made a couple of bogeys on the 5 and 6 and then birdied 7 and 9 to get back to even par. And then on the backside the putter just ‑‑ I mean seems like every putt went in the hole. I think I made five 3's in a row, and then was cruising.
Got a little nervous there once all those cameras showed up. It's always a little bit of an adjustment. In that sense, I kind of wish I was Phil or Tiger, because you get the cameras from the beginning.
But really held it together. 16 was playing really difficult into the wind today. And then 17, I thought a hit a great third shot and then almost putted it in from just off the back of the green. Then 18 I was just trying to hit a good putt and made I guess a 10‑footer or so for birdie to finish off the round.
It was just fun. I love this golf course. It's the U.S. Open and I told my caddie a couple of times, I said, man, this is so awesome being here. I've been looking forward to hopefully playing in this event for over two years, since the U.S. Amateur in '07. I just can't be more thrilled.
BETH MAJOR: Speaking of the 2007 Amateur, you were the runner up that year. You have a lot of experience. You've played a lot of rounds here. How nice is it to have that familiarity as you head out playing in The Open?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I think it's a real advantage. There's a lot of guys out on Tour who ‑‑ especially some of the older guys haven't seen the course since '98 and it's very, very different from then. And to be able to have that experience, I almost played, I guess 11, rounds in nine or ten days and you play a golf course, any golf course that many times you're going to know where to hit it.
I don't know, I just fed off those vibes. I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of good putts that week, and obviously off to a great start this week.
Q. The first thing you said was you were calm and relaxed. How do you stay calm and relaxed in the first round of a U.S. Open?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: This is my third major now. I got to play, too, as an amateur, where basically you have no expectations, no ‑‑ there's no real pressure on you playing as an amateur, because you have nothing to lose. I kind of just try to go in with the same attitude. I've got nothing to lose. This is just a bonus in my career. I'm not guaranteed into all the majors as a professional. And to be able to have the opportunity to play is just a wonderful experience.
And then to have it be on one of my most favorite golf courses in the world, even better. I just ‑‑ I've been working hard since Friday, and I think that really calmed me down in terms of I have something to focus on other than what's going on around me. And I just went out and enjoyed the experience. I didn't really care what happened today. I know what I'm working on right now is going to benefit me further on into the future.
Q. Because you wanted to get here so badly and this is kind of a bonus for you, was there actually kind of more pressure on you, in the sectional you wanted to advance and that was the big round for you?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Oh, yeah. It's like the second stage of Q‑School. Second stage is really tougher than the final stage. Being able ‑‑ one, being exempt into the sectionals was a huge benefit. But my game wasn't near what I wanted it to be going into sectionals. I teed it up that day really wanting to qualify, but at the same time really not having a whole lot of confidence in my abilities.
And I went out and played great ‑‑ played okay in the first round, I was just real conservative. I got upset at myself. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, had 20 minutes in between rounds, and went straight to the driving range and pounded 6‑irons for 15 minutes.
I was so determined I was going to get my swing to where I wanted to be to actually go out and play and be competitive. And the wind kicked up, which has always been good for me. I always have felt like I'm a good wind player. My putter got hot, as well. When I got done that day I couldn't believe I finished second. I had no idea where I stood and I felt like there was enough good players that I'd be right around the cut line. It just all worked out.
Q. You know that people are going to look at the leaderboard and see Michael Thompson at 4‑under and look right past you to Tiger Woods at 1‑under. Make the argument why they shouldn't look past you, that Michael Thompson's name could stay in this mix over the weekend?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, the way I look at it is I've always kind of flown under the radar. Obviously my name's in the spotlight, but a lot of people don't know who I am. And I'm totally okay with that because I've always been a player that just kind of hangs around. I don't give up very easily and I'm very proud of that. Give Tiger the spotlight. I don't care. I'm going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today I'll be in contention.
Q. You talk about your experience on this course. Have you played here much since the U.S. Amateur; and same question, are you enjoying a little friendly revenge against most, at least for today?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: You know, actually I haven't been back to San Francisco since '07. I've been meaning to come and visit the family that I'm staying with, I'm staying with the same family I did during the U.S. Am. Jim and Joanne Hickman. They live on Lombard Street, on the crookedest street in the world. It's been a joy to be able to spend time with them, kind of reminisce on days past and just enjoy this new experience.
Today was fun with Colt. We talked about the U.S. Amateur and the changes with the golf course from then till now. And just joking and just enjoying, I guess, each other's company. I know Colt's a strong competitor and he's going to fight back. I know he didn't have a great round today, but I don't expect him to be out of this by any means.
Q. This is event is so magnified. People are going to see your name and want to know more about you. How would you describe Michael, the person, not the player?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, I like to ‑‑ my parents raised me real well in that I was very well rounded. I played soccer all the way through high school, obviously played golf competitively and loved golf. I played basketball until I was 12. I'm an Eagle Scout. I love giving back. I try to do as many junior clinics as I can. I go down and practice with the Alabama golf team all the time trying to instill what little wisdom I have. They're so good they don't need any.
I've gone up and talked to the Vanderbilt golf team. I'm a strong Christian. I miss going to church at the church in Birmingham where I live. I have a couple really good friends in Birmingham that it's always nice to go home to, because we don't talk about golf, at all. And good friends of mine, Ben and Beth Moody, and they are not afraid to tell me how it is. As a golfer, especially on this stage, it's really nice to have people like that.
But I'm married to a wonderful woman, Rachel. She's out here every week supporting me. I wouldn't be here without all the people around me. I'm not Michael Thompson without my team. I owe a lot of credit to them.
Q. You said early on that as the crowd started ‑‑ to be more cameras as the round went on you felt more nervous. What is your anticipation tonight for tomorrow? Are you a guy that visualizes about things it's going to be like?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: The good thing is that I can refer to a lot of past memories, playing in the Masters as an amateur, playing in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines as an amateur. I can look back on when I had the lead at McGladrey last year, when I was tied for the lead at the Canadian Open last year. I'm going to look back on those memories and how I felt during those rounds, post lead and all that stuff and try to just learn from it.
I know tomorrow is Friday, just go out and do my best. Anything can happen. It's a U.S. Open, I could get bad bounces tomorrow. That kind of stuff is out of my control. But I can do the visualizations and build on the confidence that I gained today to go out tomorrow and have fun.
And as far as tonight is, tonight is going to be relaxing, because my wife and I are going out to dinner. I'm taking her on a date. That will be a good night.
Q. Do you have a spot picked out?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: We're going to a restaurant called Kokkari in downtown San Francisco and have eaten there already this week. It's a fabulous restaurant.
Q. Your group started concurrently with the Tiger, Phil, Bubba group. Did you know that before? Did you realize that? What was your atmosphere early on, maybe compared to theirs?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Very different (laughter). It looked like they probably had 20,000 people watching their group. And I think we might have had a couple hundred. It was really relaxed out there. I've got a bunch of family here, so it's nice that ‑‑ it's nice, one, to play well in front of family and friends, but also just to hear them cheering and screaming and enjoying themselves, as well. It was just fun.
The Tiger, Bubba, Phil thing, that's exciting. That's typical USGA, putting the big three together. I think it's great for golf. Hopefully one of these days in the future I'll be part of that group.
Q. You are 2‑over after 6 which means you are 6‑under the rest of the way. How do you do that?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I don't know. You know, again, just the mindset of the U.S. Open is just hang in there. You get 2‑over par, you're really not playing that poorly. I knew 7 was a short par‑4, that if I hit a good tee shot, which I ended up in the front right bunker, I could at least give myself a chance for birdie. 8, obviously just make par.
That's a totally different hole than '07. And then 9, I hit a great tee shot and a great second shot to 15 feet past the hole. And one of those downhill, left‑to‑right putts that just happened to catch the edge of the hole.
And then from then on I just kept playing solid, fairways and greens, fairways and greens. That's really huge out here. In any U.S. Open, especially here at Olympic, because the fairways are very difficult to hit because they're sloped and they're angled in weird ways. On top of that, just getting my putter hot. I think I had five or six, 1‑putts on the backside and it was just fun.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I think for the first six holes, yeah. 1, 5 and 6 are really difficult par‑4s in that they're just so long. You've just got to survive those holes. And the experience that I've had playing in the U.S. Amateur and then being here since Friday, just getting to see the golf course multiple, multiple times, allows me to find the right lines off the tees and allows me to figure out how I want the ball to come into those greens.
I can't tell you how many times today we were just trying to hit it front edge, if not five shy of the green, and letting it bounce up. And that's just the way you've got to play a U.S. Open. I like USGA events. They're fun.
BETH MAJOR: Well, we congratulate you again on your great play today. Thank you for joining us, and we wish you well the rest of the way.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Thank you.