The Honda Classic interview: Michael Thompson

March 02, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: The Honda Classic transcripts archive

DOUG MILNE:  We would like to welcome Michael Thompson after a successful third round here at The Honda Classic.  The birdie at the last gets you to the top of the leaderboard and in prime position for Sunday.
With that we'll take a few comments on how you're feeling and looking forward to tomorrow's final round.

Yeah, finishing with a birdie is always nice, and hit a great putt, just left it a little bit short.  Hard to believe downwind, downgrain, but today was a struggle obviously.
My short game saved me; my putting saved me.  I just fought through it.  Just stayed positive, stayed patient, let things happen, and never got down on myself, never got upset and that's kind of who I am, and that's the way I like to play golf.  So on a day like today, it helps out a lot to have a good attitude.
And it's fun playing with Luke.  It's the first time I ever played with him, and even really met him.  So, nice to play with a fellow PING guy, as well as just a good player.  So we kind of fed off each other today and trading blows here and there, and hopefully we can do that again tomorrow.

DOUG MILNE:  You mentioned before your round, you mentioned U.S. Open, condition‑like.  After you've played, do you still stand by that reference to the U.S. Open‑esque conditions?

Yes, the rough is definitely exactly like a U.S. Open.  You hit it in the rough and you know, as you saw me, I'm not the strongest guy in the world but I'm not a weakling, either.
I can't even advance it to the green, especially hitting it over water and so you just have to take your medicine and make your bogey, just try to eliminate the doubles out here and just try to play smart golf and know that you're going to make a couple birdies.  I got lucky with a hole‑out from a bunker on 6, I believe.  And you know, just keep pushing on.
So that's what I've done this week, just played really smart golf and you know, try to continue to do it tomorrow and hopefully I can hit the ball a little bit better tomorrow, but you know, it is what it is, and I'm excited to have another opportunity to play in the final group.

Q.  Going like you were with Luke and then against the course, was it kind of like, man, this is a great match we're having here, or is it more like, God, I can't put this guy away?

No, I enjoyed it.  Almost looked at it kind of like a match‑play.  We were just going back and forth, and both kind of, I don't know, kind of hitting it all over the plates and struggling to make pars.
We both hit a lot of really good shots and we both hit a lot of bad shots.  I think on a day like today, we fed off each other.  We were both I think pretty positive.  Luke's mild‑tempered, which is always good for me.  Kind of helps me stay calm and just keep plugging along.
You know, I think it's a good match up.  I think we have a great pairing to be in the final group again tomorrow.  We kind of‑‑ even though we are out in front with the lead, we are kind of under the radar.  We are not marquis players, quite yet.  But we'll just go out there and play golf and see what happens.  It's a good field, and obviously a great golf course and you know, we'll just see what happens. 

Q.  How much of your adventures today were self‑inflected and how much was it the different conditions?

I think a lot of it was, I would say probably half and half.  The conditions caused the self‑infliction.
The wind just so tough to judge, coming across most of the holes, a hair into, a hair downwind, it's just hard to judge.  I wasn't quite comfortable with the front nine.  I was a little nervous, a little off my edge, so to speak.  Just wasn't hitting the ball very well, and thankfully, I left it in places where I can get up‑and‑down and my short game was‑‑ I mean, that's the best I've ever chipped, I think ever.
So it just really‑‑ that saved me, my chipping and then hit some good putts in the wind.  In this kind of wind, it's hard to make putts, and it's hard to hit it close to the hole, especially with some of those pins.  For example, 11, that pin is impossible with the wind like today.  So it's just‑‑ I don't know, it was all in all a good day.  I'm very pleased with how everything went.

Q.  How do you rank this course with the majors that you've played?

  When we get the rough up like this, this is right up there with them.  It's got the Florida flair with all the water hazards everywhere.  And you know, to me, it's almost like the conditions of the grass are like a U.S. Open, but we have the wind of a British Open.  You know, with the quality of the field, too, this is a great field.  It just makes for a good tournament.
So as y'all know, I like playing in U.S. Opens and that's kind of the way I'm treating it.  So we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q.  You're a high‑ball hitter, do you have to adjust your ball flight?

Yeah, I actually grew up playing the ball really low, so I know what it feels like to play a lot of low shots.  It wasn't working for me on the front nine.  On the back nine I started to hit it more like I wanted to.
You do have to play for the wind, even if you do hit it low, because the wind is going to move it, even about the new balls that don't move very much in the wind, this is strong enough to where it's still going to move.  So you just have to be careful into the wind, because if you get it up in the air, it's coming back at you.  And it really doesn't matter what club you use.
So, you know, I'm going to spend some time tomorrow morning on the range hitting some balls, because it's getting dark now, but see if I can kind that groove again.  The first two days, I was hitting the ball beautifully, so I kind of want to find that again.

Q.  Did the cold affect you much?

  No, no, not at all.  It was cold when I first got out to warm up, and then I think I took my sweater off in the first few holes on the front nine.  Once the sun got behind some clouds, then it got cold.  But the adrenaline's flowing, juices are flowing, so it's just, that keeps you warm, kind of numbs you to the cold, so to speak.
I love playing in sweaters, so it's no big deal.

Q.  Did I understand you right that you made an adjustment, front nine to back nine, from being a low‑ball hitter to a high‑ball hitter?

  No, it was really more just trying to find a comfort zone.  I was hitting it high on the front nine, it felt like, just because I was coming out of it and wasn't making good swings at the ball.  I think the last three holes on the front nine, I started to make better swings and kind ever got into a groove a little bit in terms of just hitting the ball solid.
If you hit the ball solid in this kind of wind, you're going to hit a lot of good shots and the wind is not going to affect it as much.  That was really my goal and when I start hitting it solid, that's when I started hitting it lower, so that's kind of what happens.
And I got into a really good groove coming down I guess the last 13 holes or so.

DOUG MILNE:  Last thing, if we can just run through your birdies and bogeys for some clubs and yards, starting with your birdie at 3.

Yeah, hit a decent drive, not anything special, but downwind.  The ball is going to go straight, I don't care what you do.  I think I had about 212 to the front of the green, and was kind of in between a 4‑ and a 5‑iron, and I figured if the ball just goes over the back edge of the green, it's just a little chip and a putt.
So I went with a 4‑iron and even missed that iron, but because it's downwind, it flew straight and carried on to the green, and somehow softly, and easy 2‑putt for a birdie.
4, that hole has plagued me all week.  Today I finally hit a good tee shot and then I just made an error in judgment in terms of the miss on that hole with that pin was long; and my caddie and I, we played for at the pin, if not just a little short, and I don't know why we did that, but it plugged in the bunker and couldn't do anything with it.  Hit it over the green, hit a great chip to five, six feet and then another great putt.  So again, just trying to eliminate the doubles.  If I can do that, I'm going to play well.
6, that was nice.  I hit my drive well right, didn't do a great job but hit the cart path twice.  I think it ended up with a great lie and a great angle into the green.  Tried to hit a 9‑iron kind of down the middle of the green and the wind just carried it into the bunker, thankfully had a good lie and it was in the upslope.  So I just, you know, wanted to hear that thump when you hit out of the bunker and just hit it absolutely perfectly, and as soon as it landed, I knew it was in.

DOUG MILNE:  And a hiccup on 10 and 11.

I was walking down 11 talking to Mark Rolfing and he said if you make two 5s on those holes, you're not losing any ground to the field.  Those are two really hard holes.
I think I had like 224 to the front of the green on 10, and I pounded my drive right down the middle of the fairway.  Tried to hit a little cut 3‑wood off a downslope that just didn't work.  Made a good bogey there.
Then 11, I just flared my tee shot right, ended up in the rough, buried basically had to lay up, hit a wedge to the middle of the green and actually lipped‑out about a 35‑footer for par.  So very happy to run away with bogeys on those two holes.  I knew I had some birdie holes coming up.
12, that hole sets up well for me.  I like to play a fade and just hit a good tee shot down the middle of the fairway, and 9‑iron, I figured to at least carry it to the flag and it just cut the wind a little bit, went a little bit left.  Went I think 20 feet or so.  Hit a great putt, last roll right in the hole.  Nice to get a birdie like that when you make a putt, 20 feet or so, especially in this wind because it's hard to hold your balance when you're on the putting green and you never know if the wind is going to move your ball at all.
16, hit a great tee shot, just striped my 3‑wood right down the middle of the fairway, and then second shot, I just didn't aim far enough left.  Kind of came out of it, hit a 5‑iron, let the wind push it right to the hole.  The pin placement was set up perfect for that wind, and I just didn't execute the shot.  Again, the ball plugged in the bunker and didn't really have anything, and, you know, was lucky enough to make my 5.
Then 18, I hit the best drive of the day on that hole.  There's the shortest I've had in all week, and then the ball was actually sitting down a little bit.  It was almost like just an impression in the ground from a ball or a club or something like that.  I decided to go for it and try to hit a 5‑wood.  I had 240 kind of to ten paces on the green.  With it downwind or off the left and a little bit downwind, I figured 5‑wood was perfect for that.  I aimed well left of the green, just to let the wind push it and hit a perfect 5‑wood, landed on the green and rolled up to about 20 feet.  Then the putt was straight downwind, downgrain, and I figured it really didn't matter how soft I was going to hit it and I didn't want to gun it because then it was going to go by eight feet, and it stopped three inches dead short.