What they said: Michael ThompsonJune 20, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: Travelers Championship transcript archive
JOHN BUSH: We'll get started. We'd like to welcome Michael Thompson into the interview room here at the Travelers Championship. First of all, let's look back at last week. Runner-up finish. Just talk a little bit about that experience.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah. It was just a great week. I got there early. I got there Friday before the tournament, and just practiced with my coach on site, you know, getting used to the rough out there, the weather, the temperature, getting familiar with the golf course in terms of reading greens and the speed of the greens and the firmness of the golf course. And all of that really helped in terms of my preparation getting ready for Sunday, gaining confidence knowing that I can get up-and-down when I need to and make putts when I needed to.
And then going into the week I had no expectations. Just wanted to go out and play. I felt like just getting into the Open was a bonus for me in terms of my schedule. My goal really this year was to get into all the Invitationals and maybe sneak into a WGC or a major and be able to qualify for the U. S. Open, let alone for one of my favorite golf courses was pretty special.
And I guess Thursday I just had an unbelievable round. Everything seemed to go right. I hit a lot of fairways. I obviously made a lot of putts and left myself in the proper positions below the hole, which is what you gotta do on a course like that, especially in the U. S. Open. Then had to learn how to I guess deal with all the pressure of the media and friends and family and 60 text messages after I got done and all of that stress and go out and play the next day, and it was something new for me.
And obviously I struggled with it, but the only way you're going to learn is by going through it. And I felt like I hung in there, made a birdie to close the day, and then on Saturday holed out on No. 1 for an unbelievable birdie and just thought I was going to get it going. But the course was playing really difficult, and I struggled to make putts, and especially hit the fairway, which is what you have to do.
It was kind of good for me in a way in that I was more determined on Sunday to go out and play my game, hit the fairways, hit the greens, make a putt or two and see where it all ended up at the end.
And just went out and played like I did on Thursday. Just played an unbelievable round of golf at just an opportune time and got to sit in the clubhouse with the clubhouse lead and just kind of watch and see what happened. I felt like I had an outside chance of maybe sneaking into a playoff, but Webb played great coming down the stretch and making some good up-and-downs and really not getting into a whole lot of trouble.
JOHN BUSH: And now you carry that momentum into your third career start here at the Travelers which included a Top 4 last year in the final round 62. Talk a little bit about this tournament and what it means to you.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: This is probably the most special tournament I have on my schedule just because it's where I, I guess, got my first official PGA TOUR start besides the Masters and U. S. Open when I was an amateur. But just from the get-go I've loved this golf course. It sets up great for me. And I think when I was an amateur and got a sponsor invite, I was tied for fifth going into the weekend.
Just having that experience, playing in the last couple groups really helped me for last year in terms of I know I can make birdies out here. I love the greens. Feel like I can make a lot of putts, and it's just a fun course. The last few holes are really exciting, and anything can happen. And I feel like based on last year I gained a lot of momentum and more experience in terms of how to play this course and set myself up to make a lot of birdies, because coming off the U. S. Open, you kind of have to switch gears here in that you're not just trying to make par. You actually gotta make some birdies to be in contention.
So I just love this part of the country, the Northeast. I have family who live up here and used to visit all the time when I was younger up in New Hampshire and Maine. You know, I just look forward to coming back every year. So again, just really looking forward to it.
JOHN BUSH: All right. We'll open it up to questions.
Q. You said you really didn't have any expectations going into last week. What did you maybe learn most about yourself after going through anything like that??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: The biggest thing is I'm just getting better at doing my process under pressure. I got a really good dose of experience last year at the McGladrey when I had the lead coming down the last 18 holes, and I guess with a three-shot lead with nine holes to go it really -- that taught me a lot about what I needed to do in order to continue to play well when I'm under the most pressure I've ever been under.
And on Sunday I felt like I handled myself a lot better than I did then. Obviously it was close, but still not good enough, and so I still have room to improve. And in terms of just overall confidence and just -- it shows me that I can compete under a lot of stress, but also against top players in the world.
I mean last week was a major, and it was my third major, and to finish second, if you told me that ten years ago, I wouldn't have believed you, especially by the age of 27, you know. I still feel real young, and I'm always still learning, and you know, it's just going to help me in terms of my whole career in learning how to finish off a tournament. I feel like I'm just that much closer to doing it. I just have to get myself in that position again.
Q. Michael, last week's finish, how did that change your expectations, your goals for this year??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, you know, it helped out a lot because one, it secures my card for 2013, which obviously every year for every player out here, the ones who aren't fully exempt for life, that's a huge goal. And for me at such a young point in my career, you know, that's still an obvious goal on my to-do list.
But on top of that it also kind of guarantees me into the FedExCup, especially almost the second FedExCup event. I got in last year, barely, and I almost got into the second one, which I really wanted to do. So those are going to be new experiences for me, and my goal this year is to get into the TOUR Championship and finish out the year.
I kind of almost feel like I have a free ride now to go out and just do whatever I want, and it doesn't mean slack off by any means, you know. I understand that I'm going to have to work harder now in order to continue to be competitive, just because there's a lot more obligations of me now, a lot more responsibility. So you know, it's all new. It's all great. Great problems to have, and I'm just going to enjoy the ride and see what I can do.
Q. 2008, did you ask for a sponsor exemption? Did they offer it to you? Did they give it to you? I know you were the low amateur in the Open, but how did that come about.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, I think it kind of came about based on the U. S. Open and the year I'd been having. I might remember writing a letter for invitation, but I don't -- it wasn't high on my priority list. It's just if the opportunity presents itself, than it'll be there, you know. I'm not one to -- I don't like to ask for help. I've never been one to like to ask for help. I always want to feel like I earned my way, and that was a nice olive branch that they offered me, and I was just happy to kind of take advantage.
And again, that week that was no expectations, my first PGA TOUR event, I just wanted to go out and have fun. And I remember I shot 5-under the first round and holed out for eagle on 10. So it was just an incredible start to my career, my professional career. Right after that I guess is when I turned pro.
But they're just great memories. It's just like the U.S. Amateur at Olympic, a lot of really great memories, and it's very easy to build on those when you have good feelings going into a place.
Q. You answered two of the questions I was going to ask, but I always remember eagle by eagle scout. Having had those experiences here that have been good, and you have last week also, you're going to come into this thing with a lot of expectations this week. Which one carries more weight, the weight of having the course here or having played so well under pressure??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, the key to playing good professional golf is you can't think about what everybody else wants you to do or expects you to do, and I have trouble in terms of falling into that trap of trying to live up to the expectations that I believe others are putting on me. It's not that people actually tell me go win or that we expect you to do this and that, but we as golfers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to begin with.
We don't need all that extra pressure from the outside world. In a sense we kind of almost need to distance ourselves and really stay focused on what we want to do as individuals and our goals and stick to our process and keep it one shot at a time, one day at a time. And the more I can do that, the better off I'm going to be.
Last week's over for me. You know, the moment I showed up for the charter Monday morning I was already trying to get my mind ready for this week because it's a new week, it's a new opportunity. I've gotta go in this week with no expectations. Just because I finished well last week doesn't mean I'm going to play well this week. It's very easy for people to make connections base on how you're playing or whatever, but the guys who do play well every week, Rickie Fowler when he won, he finished second at the PLAYERS. The reason why he did that is because he stuck with what he does every day. He didn't change anything. He didn't have any expectations. He just wanted to go out and play golf and really see how he could do at the end and that's what I have to do this week.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: I haven't talked to any players, so to speak, but just based on what I've seen, you know, other guys do, obviously I talked to my coach a lot, Susie Myers. We talk about, again, staying in the process, continue to do my routine.
Also, it's really important for me while I'm here Tuesday and Wednesday to do my little maintenance drills. Every player, we have our own little routine that we do in our practice, and if we focus on those and don't forget about them, it'll allow us to maintain our feel, allow us to continue to hit good shots.
And you know, golf is a game where there's a lot of ebbs and flows, and you really want to try to ride the flows as much as you can, you know. But you also have to understand that the low points are going to happen, and I might have a terrible week this week. I have no idea. But if I go out and do my drills on the driving range and on the putting green and focus on my chipping and really learn the feel of the golf course, then most likely I'm going to have a good week. And a good week to me might be different than a good week that you expect of me or that somebody else expects of me. So again, I have to keep my expectations in check and just go out and play.
Q. I have two different questions for you. At what point last week did you feel like you could win, and kind of what was that experience like? Will you kind of take us through that, and then secondly, sort of how much will be coming off that to this course in obviously much different conditions?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: You know, I thought obviously Thursday put me in a great position to be in contention, even at the end of the week. I knew that even if I went out and shot three, four, five over par the next couple days, I'd still have an outside chance. And that's kind of exactly what happened.
Obviously at a U. S. Open I'm really just looking at keeping it to two over par or less. You know, you do that, you're going to be in contention come Sunday. And I thought -- I had some friends of mine just say, you know, it would be nice if you could finish it off the way you started and make the beginning and ending of the tournament real special, and they didn't say it in a way that they expected me to do it. They just said that would be really cool.
So it just got my mind thinking in a positive way, and again, start's round really helped me almost get more determined on Sunday to go out and play my game because I know I can play well on that golf course. I did during the U.S. Amateur. I remember playing Webb Simpson in the first round of Match Play and I beat him 5 and 4, and I was 5-under through 14 holes, and I think he was one or 2-under. So I know I can play that course well.
Obviously I played well on Thursday, and you know, I was more relaxed because the pressure from the media and friends and family was kind of off me at that point because I wasn't in the spotlight anymore.
And then on top of that, getting to play with David Toms, who's just probably one of the calmest people out here really just helped me stay focused on my game. We talked about SEC football. We talked about his kids. We talked about travel on TOUR. It was just like an every-day Sunday round at a country club. That's what it felt like. So all those factors together really combined and allowed me to go out and play the best golf that I could.
Q. Michael, you had mentioned you thought your score might be good enough for a playoff. While you were waiting to see what happened and players are coming back to you with scores, what goes through your mind as you're waiting to see what happens??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Mostly just can't believe I'm that close to the lead at the U. S. Open. I can't believe I shot 67 in the final round at the U. S. Open. I mean you can't dream of that stuff.
And it really just kind of enjoying the moment. I had 23 family members and friends who came out to watch me play, and since turning pro I've learned to love the fact that I've got family who actually want to come watch me play, you know. It's a good thing.
And it's just special I got to share that moment with them, and then the family I stayed with that week were the same couple that I stayed with during the amateur down on Lombard Street, and to have them be able to experience those experiences with me, you know, watch me finish runner up in the U.S. Amateur and then have me come again and finish second in the U. S. Open, I mean I can't imagine how they're feeling, you know.
I just enjoyed it. It was nice that I didn't have to kind of keep myself geared up for a playoff after that, you know, that night. If there was going to be a playoff, it would have been the next day, so I could relax and just kind of enjoy and take in the moment and just watch to see what those guys could do because I knew the course was playing tough.
If you're hitting sideways at any point, then you were done. And I don't know. It was just a great experience. I hope I can do it again.
Q. You had a rather traumatic college career, and Katrina would never be considered a blessing, but the way things worked out and transferring and all that, did it end up helping your career??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah, no. It definitely did. I refer to Katrina in my instance, in my case, a blessing in disguise. And the reason why that is is because if Katrina had never happened and I stayed at Tulane, I wouldn't have developed as quickly as I did had I -- you know, when I transferred to Alabama.
It was a great move for me because it allowed me to learn to play almost a more aggressive or more competitive style of golf against better players on better golf courses. And the coaching was very similar. Tom Shaw at Tulane was a great coach. He was very positive, up beat, never critical or mean really to you; and Jay Seawell was the same way at Alabama. But it was just a lot more fun getting to play for Alabama than it was playing for Tulane, even though I loved being there and I love the city of New Orleans. My wife and I still go back every chance we get.
But you know, it was something I don't wish anybody to ever go through, hurricane Katrina, but at the same time it was something that worked out really, really well for me.
Q. And the competition was different??
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Yeah. Competition was better. The players on the team were all better. I remember I played in the amateur at Hazeltine before I went to -- in '06 before I went to Alabama. So I got into the first tournament at the farm in Dalton, Georgia, and I played well there, got into the next tournament, and then I didn't play well so then I had to go back and go to qualifying basically to get a spot on the traveling squad. And we went to qualifying and there was five guys for two spots, and the top -- I finished second, and the top scores were 9-under was first. 8-under, which is what I shot, was second. 7-under was third. So that was the competition level at Alabama. And you know, when you play under those circumstances, you're going to get better because you really have to.
JOHN BUSH: All right. Michael, we appreciate your time, and good luck going into this week.
MICHAEL THOMPSON: Great. Thank you.