The tough conditions at the Champions Course at PGA National in Palm Beach, Fla., saw most of the field at The Honda Classic fall apart on the final day. But through it all, one player held on.
Alabama alum Michael Thompson held off a strong field which included world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Tiger Woods to capture his first PGA Tour title. It took 61 starts for the former SEC Player of the Year to get into the winner’s circle, and with this victory, he is granted an invite to The Masters.
Thompson finished the tournament with a 9-under 271 total, firing a 69 in the final round and being one of only four players in the field to shoot under par on Sunday. He entered the day tied with Luke Guthrie for the lead at 8-under.
As Thompson flourished under Sunday’s tough conditions, Guthrie faltered. He stumbled home with a 73 and finished third — shooting 5 under — to give him the best finish of his young career.
Geoff Ogilvy made a late charge, shooting 1-under Sunday, and finished second at 7-under. He earned a spot back in the top-50 in the Official World Golf Rankings as well as a tee time at next weeks WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
After starting with pars on the opening two holes, Thompson took the lead from Guthrie with a 50-foot eagle putt at the par-5 3rd. His front nine was up and down from there, with three bogeys and two birdies to go out in 1-under 34. But he settled down with pars on Nos. 10 through 15 before a bogey on No. 16 and a final birdie on the par 5 No. 18 to seal the win.
“I wanted to just stick to a game plan just like I’ve been saying all week,” Thompson said. “This week was magical, just find a groove, keep believing.”
Besides the more than $1 million that comes with winning the tournament, the win gives Thompson some other benefits. He earns exempt status through 2015 Tour season and moves to No. 11 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Thompson’s win marks the first time an American has won the Honda Classic in eight years, joining 2007 winner Mark Wilson. It is Thompson’s sixth career top-10 finish (three coming last year, two in 2011).
Next week the PGA Tour descends upon “The Blue Monster” at Doral Resort and Spa in Miami, Fla., for the WGC Cadillac Championships where defending champion Justin Rose will battle with the limited field of 60 for the $8.5 million dollar purse. The field contains the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings and Rose will contend once again against the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson.