American Michael Thompson’s victory at the Honda Classic on Sunday certainly came out of the blue after his dreadful early season form.
On the West Coast, the 27-year-old resident of Birmingham, Alabama, missed three of four cuts and finished 78th in his other start.
In his last start before the Florida swing, he shot 78 and 80 at the Northern Trust Open, the worst record of any of the players to finish 36 holes and that prompted an evaluation of his direction.
“My coach, my wife and I, we all just kind of put our heads together and said: ‘What do we need to do in order to get better?’” Thompson told reporters.
“I was having thoughts that I was going to miss every cut this year, I’m going to lose my card and then what?’” he said.
“We started talking, well, if that happens, I’ll play in the Web.com Tour, or I’ll even go back to the Hooters Tour or the NGA Tour,” Thompson said.
Having decided that even the worst that could happen was not going to stop his passion for the game and his determination with his career, Thompson said he found some calm.
“As long as I have a place to play golf, I’m going to be happy,” he said. “And that gave me a lot of comfort and allowed me to just focus on what I like to do on the range, work a lot on my chipping, work on my putting and trying to hit that low fade that I love to hit.”
“The Northern Trust was a good thing in my life. It allowed me to focus on what I needed to do in order to play like I did this week,” Thompson said.
There were plenty of big names waiting to pounce if Thompson lost his nerve on the back nine at a windy PGA National, but he showed outstanding composure.
His closest challenger, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, turned up the pressure with a birdie on the 18th to force Thompson to make par on the last hole.
Thompson’s second shot on the 18th flew into the greenside bunker, leaving him with a tricky chip on to the downhill green toward the water.
However, there was no sign of nerves as he landed it perfectly to three feet and made the birdie putt to secure a two-stroke win with his final round of 69.
While he had never won previously on the tour, Thompson served notice of his talent with a joint runner-up finish at last year’s US Open.
“The big lesson I learned from the US Open was just to not look at the leaderboards,” he said. “I think I looked at a leaderboard one time today, and even then I just kind of blocked it out of my mind. I didn’t even give it any credit.”
Dawie van der Walt won his first European Tour tournament on Sunday by finishing two shots ahead of fellow South African Darren Fichardt in the Tshwane Open.
Van der Walt fired a five-under-par final round 67 for a total of 267 over the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate, while Fichardt closed with a 69.
A 2m-tall, 110kg giant, western Cape-born Van der Walt was one shot ahead of four-time European Tour winner Fichardt at the turn and extended it with a birdie at the par-five 15th.
Both title challengers parred the last three holes and Van der Walt collected a 237,750 euro (US$310,690) check and a three-year exemption from qualifying for European Tour events.