I'll get into Thompson's victory over some pretty stout competition, and the toughness he showed. But last week was also about Rory McIlroy, who withdrew midway through his second round, citing a bum wisdom tooth that’s been bothering him for three months.
On top of that, McIlroy has also been playing under a higher profile and more scrutiny since moving to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and switching equipment in the offseason.
One person who can understand what McIlroy is going through, in relative terms at least, is Graeme McDowell, whose own profile was elevated after his 2010 U.S. Open win.
He also switched equipment that offseason and admitted he wasn't fully comfortable with everything, which included his new-found stardom, until the following August. It showed in the results with six missed cuts in his next 16 starts, including three in a four-tournament stretch at one point.
"I'm sure the guy has got a lot on his mind," McDowell said of his good friend McIlroy. "When you start trying to prove things to other people and stop playing for yourself, it's a very dangerous place to be. You need to get the monkey off your back."
McDowell was making the point that while any player in the game would have done the same thing McIlroy did in terms of switching equipment and becoming a more global brand, there is an adjustment period.
"It doesn't matter how many great shots you hit in practice, we all need to see them in competition to gain that confidence and momentum," McDowell said.
And momentum is something McIlroy has lacked after a missed cut in Abu Dhabi and a first-round exit at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he ran into a hot Shane Lowry.
Then came the withdrawal at PGA National.
"He's going to walk away from here having gained nothing," McDowell said. "It's just the hurdle of getting over playing for other people and getting back to playing for Rory McIlroy. Once he starts believing in himself again, he’ll be back."
McDowell noted that McIlroy isn't swinging the club the way he was last year with the right-to-left shape we're used to seeing. The point being it’s not the equipment, it's, as McDowell put it, his confidence, which is something McIlroy has acknowledged.
"His demeanor looks a little different," said McDowell, who warmed up next to McIlroy on the range Friday and noticed it wasn’t the same level of "flushery" as he was used to seeing. "There were a few moans and groans coming from the bay next to me and that’s not like him. It's normally a display, it's normally a clinic. It's normally superlatives being thrown out from the coach and the caddie. It was a little silent. That's a sign to me of a guy who’s lacking a belief in his game and a little belief in his technique."
Not that McDowell is about to dole out advice.
"When little brother starts beating up on big brother, I'd feel a little out of place giving him advice," he joked. "But we all experience moments of this in our career. This is only a mini crisis. We're 2.1 events into the season for Rory. There’s a lot of golf left."
And that's what we need to remember.
THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. What was the most important shot Michael Thompson hit Sunday? "That's a good one," he said, pausing briefly to think about it. "I would probably say the second shot on 18." Thompson was 243 yards from the hole on the par-5 with sand left and water right. He hit what he called a "piercing" 5-wood into the bunker and got up-and-down for birdie. "Even though that's pretty comfortable for me, you still need to pull it off," he said. "It's like at Alabama, our motto when I was there was 'Finish strong' and I did that today."
2. Thompson has certainly had his ups and downs since his days at Alabama, which included shooting 78-80 at Riviera to finish dead last at the Northern Trust Open earlier this year in what was his third missed cut in four starts. A few weeks ago, Thompson was practicing with his alma mater's team when the coach there, Jay Seawell, pointed something out. Seawell reminded Thompson that when he was there he hit the fewest number of fairways and greens but made the most birdies. "I think I've always been a scrappy player," Thompson said. "That's a perfect example of just who I am." That scrappiness was needed on Sunday.
3. The move to the U.S. in the offseason by Lee Westwood seems to have helped his game, but he struggled on Sunday, shooting a final-round 74 to tumble six spots into ninth. "I haven't won enough over in the States," Westwood said. "I've put myself in position a lot but just haven't finished it up. Having moved here and giving myself more opportunities to play here, I can start winning more." Easier said than done. Westwood is 15th in scoring average before the cut, but he ranks 155th in third-round scoring and 137th in final-round scoring. He has two wins on the PGA TOUR compared to 22 on the European Tour. Said Westwood, "I need to try and change that."
4. The bad news for Geoff Ogilvy was that he needed to do laundry and didn't have a hotel room Sunday night because he figured he would be going home after the final round. The good news is his runner-up moved him inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and got him into the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship -- a tournament he’s won before and feels good about. As for the other stuff? "Half the TOUR lives in this area, so I'm sure I can find somewhere to stay," he said.
5. Thompson also got into this week's event at Trump Doral, moving to 45th in the Official World Golf Ranking after his victory. It will be his first WGC event. Others who got in by virtue of being in the top 10 in the FedExCup standings who otherwise weren't eligible: Russell Henley, Brian Gay, Charles Howell III and John Merrick.
6. Whenever someone mentions Erik Compton, often the first thing that comes to mind is the two heart transplant surgeries he’s had. After a career-best tie for fourth on Sunday, he’s hoping to change that perception. "It's hard for me to get too sentimental about it, because I've turned the corner on my story," he said. "I really want to be one of the top 50 players in the world, and I have to the game to do it." It's still one of the best stories out there, however, and impossible not to root for guy given all Compton has gone through.
7. Stat of the Week I: This one is actually a couple of stats, starting with the number five. That's how many players broke par Sunday. The other stat? One, which is the number of bogey-free rounds over the weekend at PGA National, including zero on Sunday.
8. Stat of the Week II: The toughest hole of the week at PGA National? It wasn’t any of the three that make up the Bear Trap (in part because they played downwind). Nos. 10 and 11 ranked first and second.
9. Stat of the Week III: Thompson is the first American to win The Honda Classic since Mark Wilson in 2007. I'm not sure what to make of that other than maybe it just being a statistical anomaly.