PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Michael Thompson’s dream of winning his first PGA Tour event was walking up the final fairway with a big lead and very little stress.
The reality was much different Sunday in The Honda Classic.
Thompson, 27, had a one-shot lead as he stood in the 18th fairway, some 240 yards from the flag with trouble in the way in the shape of a large lake. The motto from his golf team at Alabama was to “finish strong,” and Thompson did just that.
Instead of laying up, he drilled a 5-wood into the bunker left of the green, setting up a simple sand shot and a birdie he didn’t even need. He closed with a 1-under 69, one of only five rounds under par on a punishing day at PGA National to finally become a PGA TOUR winner.
“That for me kind of sealed the deal,” said Thompson, who picked up 500 FedExCup points to move to 11th in the standings. “It allowed me to walk up the fairway and enjoy the experience, see the crowd and … just finish strong.”
The start wasn’t bad, either.
Thompson holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the third hole, relied on a superb short game around the toughest part of the golf course to build a four-shot lead, and hung on for a two-shot win over Geoff Ogilvy that takes him places he always wanted to be.
He gets into his first World Golf Championship next week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral, and qualifies for two more WGCs this year at the Bridgestone Invitational and at the HSBC Champions. He’s in the PGA Championship, gets to start next year in Hawaii and earned a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
And to think just two weeks ago he was so down after a 78-80 performance at Riviera that he wondered if he would ever make another cut.
“This week was magical,” Thompson said. “Just had a groove and kept feeling it.”
It turned out to be a big week for Ogilvy, too.
The former U.S. Open champion missed his past four cuts and had plunged to No. 79 in the world ranking. He already missed the Accenture Match Play Championship and was ready to miss another WGC next week at Trump Doral until putting together four solid rounds.
He chipped in for birdie behind the 16th green and two-putted for birdie on the 18th for a 69 to finish alone in second, moving him up to No. 47 to get into Doral.
“I kind of penciled in a week off,” Ogilvy said. “So it’s nice, and it gets me back in the mix for the Masters.”
Ogilvy has to stay in the top 50 by the end of the month to return to Augusta National. For now, he has smaller problems — he only packed enough for this week.
“I’m going to have to go do some laundry,” Ogilvy said. “I haven’t got a hotel room for tonight. But half the Tour lives in this area, so I’m sure I can find somewhere to stay.”
Luke Guthrie, tied with Thompson for the 54-hole lead, fell behind with a bogey on the second hole and closed with a 73 to finish third.
Tiger Woods was never in the picture. He started the final round eight shots behind, and whatever hopes he had of a rally ended on the sixth hole when he hit his drive so far to the right that the ball was never found.
Woods took double bogey, and only an eagle on the final hole kept the damage to a minimum. He closed with a 74 — his first time since the Masters last year that he failed to break par in any round of a 72-hole tournament — and tied for 37th.
It was the second straight year Woods closed with an eagle at PGA National — the difference was last year, it gave him a 62 and a tie for second.
“I think I passed 62 somewhere around 12,” Woods said.
Despite a bogey on the final hole, Erik Compton had a 70 and was part of the five-way tie for fourth. Compton, who already has had two heart transplants, earned his first top-10 finish.
Thompson finished at 9-under 271, a strong performance considering the difficult course and the weekend wind. He was among three players who never shot over par at PGA National.
“You don’t have to do much wrong to be making a bogey out there, so it’s pretty impressive,” Ogilvy said of Thompson’s final round. “It’s a great effort, really. As you say by the rest of the scores, it’s a very hard golf course and it seems to get progressively harder in some ways. There’s a disaster waiting everywhere.
“There’s a lot of golf courses on tour that it might be easy to close out a golf tournament — or easier — but this is not one of them.”
Leaderboard: Michael Thompson 67-65-70-69—271 (-9); Geoff Ogilvy 68-66-70-69—273 (-7); Luke Guthrie 68-63-71-73—275 (-5)
— Thompson made birdie-4 on the last hole to win by two shots over Geoff Ogilvy. It is his first career title in his 61st PGA Tour start at the age of 27 years, 10 months, 18 days.
— Thompson moves to 11th in the FedExCup standings.
— Thompson is the first American to win The Honda Classic since Mark Wilson in 2007. International players have won The Honda Classic seven of the last nine years.
— American players have now won the first nine events of the Tour season. In 2012, U.S.-born players won the opening nine events of the 2012 season before Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy broke that streak at The Honda Classic.
— In his only previous start at The Honda Classic, Thompson finished T47 last year.
— Thompson converts his first 54-hole lead in his second attempt. At the 2011 McGladrey Classic, he finished third after holding the lead after three rounds.
— Thompson records his sixth career top-10 finish (3/2012 and 2/2011).
— Thompson’s previous best finish was T2 at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, which earned him a spot in the 2013 Masters and a return trip to the U.S. Open in 2013. His win today also puts him into the 2013 PGA Championship.
— Thompson is the Tour’s third winner this year in his 20s (Dustin Johnson and Russell Henley) and the second first-time winner (Henley).
— This is Thompson’s first top-10 in five starts in 2013. He missed three of his previous four cuts this season coming into this week (T78/Farmers Insurance Open).
— Thompson joins Y.E. Yang (2009), Mark Wilson (2007), Padraig Harrington (2005), Todd Hamilton (2004) and Matt Kuchar (2002) as players to earn their first TOUR win at The Honda Classic since 2000.
— Thompson finished last in the field at the Northern Trust Open with rounds of 78-80 before taking last week off.
— Ogilvy’s last runner-up finish was T2 at the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship. His last win was the 2010 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
— Ogilvy made his seventh start in The Honda Classic this week and first since 2006. Below are his results:
— Ogilvy followed a T27 at the Humana Challenge in his first start of the season with four straight missed cuts headed into The Honda Classic.
— Ogilvy’s lone top-10 finish of 2012 came in the form of T9 honors at last year’s British Open.
— Guthrie, a 23-year-old native of Quincy, Ill., finished a career-best third at 5-under at The Honda Classic. His previous best finish on Tour was T5 at the 2012 John Deere Classic.
— Guthrie made his seventh start in 2013 this week and has five top-30 finishes and two missed cuts.
— A year ago, Guthrie finished No. 2 on the 2012 Web.com Tour money list with back-to-back wins at the Albertsons Boise Open and WNB Golf Classic.
— As he is each week, Guthrie had his brother Zach on his bag this week. The last player to win with his brother as a caddie was Bill Haas at the 2012 Northern Trust Open
— Erik Compton (T4) records his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in his 61st career start.
— David Lynn (T4) records his second career top 10 in eight starts on the PGA Tour. His other top 10 is second at the 2012 PGA Championship.
— Lucas Glover (T4) records his first top 10 since winning the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship.
— In tournament history, only one winner has come from outside the top 10 on the final day to win. In 2005, Padraig Harrington was T21 after three rounds, seven strokes off the lead, and carded a final-round 63 to eventually win in a playoff over Joe Ogilvie and Vijay Singh.
— Tiger Woods (T37) had one birdie (No. 14 in round two) and one eagle (No. 18 in round four) on the back nine the entire week. For the week he had one eagle, 11 birdies, 47 pars, nine bogeys and four double bogeys.
— Past Honda Classic champions participating this week: Mark Wilson (T37), Y.E. Yang (T18), Ernie Els (T46), Tim Herron (MC), Camilo Villegas (MC), Rory Sabbatini (MC), Stuart Appleby (MC), Justin Leonard (MC), Jesper Parnevik (MC) and Rory McIlroy (WD).