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June 14 2012

9:32 PM

Olympic has familiar feel for Thompson

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Michael Thompson fired a 66 on Thursday to earn the lead at the U.S. Open.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Michael Thompson has a sense of deja vu this week at the 112th U.S. Open.

He and his wife Rachael are staying in a home on Lombard Street, otherwise known as the crookedest street in the world, with the same family that hosted him when he played in the 2007 U.S. Amateur. And like the U.S. Open which began today, that USGA event was contested at the Olympic Club.

Thompson is hoping for a better outcome than 2007, too. Not that a runner-up finish to Colt Knost was anything to be ashamed of -- but after a first-round 66 on Thursday, Thompson finds himself setting the pace, leading the best players in the world by three strokes when the morning wave finished.

Oh, and did we mention he beat Knost, one of his playing partners, by 11 strokes?

"Today was fun with Colt," Thompson said. "We talked about the U.S. Amateur and the changes with the golf course from then ‘til now. And just joking and just enjoying, I guess, each other's company. I know Colt's a strong competitor and he's going to fight back."

Of course, Thompson has enough to worry about with the likes of Tiger Woods and David Toms, both major champions, among the players lurking at 1 under. He teed off at the same time on the opposite nine from the marquee group of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, and he estimated his threesome's gallery at several hundred to 20,000 for the other trio.

“It was really relaxed out there,” Thompson said. “… It's nice, one, to play well in front of family and friends, but also just to hear them cheering and screaming and enjoying themselves, as well. It was just fun.

“The Tiger, Bubba, Phil thing, that's exciting. That's typical USGA, putting the big three together. I think it's great for golf.  Hopefully one of these days in the future I'll be part of that group.

For now, though, Thompson is content. He came out with a U.S. Open mindset – “You've got to go in and expect to make bogeys and expect to make tough putts for par,” he said – and played his final 12 holes in 6 under to earn his spot at the top of the pack.

"Well, the way I look at it is I've always kind of flown under the radar," Thompson said. "Obviously my name's in the spotlight, but a lot of people don't know who I am. And I'm totally okay with that because I've always been a player that just kind of hangs around. I don't give up very easily and I'm very proud of that. 

"Give Tiger the spotlight. I don't care. I'm going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today I'll be in contention."

Thompson, who has been in San Francisco since last Friday preparing for the U.S. Open, thinks that his familiarity with the Olympic Club works in his favor. The last time the U.S. Open was played here was in 1998 when Lee Janzen beat his good buddy Payne Stewart.

"There's a lot of guys out on TOUR - especially some of the older guys -- (who) haven't seen the course since '98 and it's very, very different from then," Thompson said. "And to be able to have that experience, I almost played, I guess 11, rounds in nine or ten days and you play a golf course, any golf course that many times you're going to know where to hit it.
   
"I don't know, I just fed off those vibes. I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of good putts that week, and obviously off to a great start this week."

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