PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — 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.
He 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 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," Thompson said. "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 Doral, and qualifies for two more WGCs this year at Firestone and in Shanghai. 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.