|ESPN.com: Golf||[Print without images]|
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Sweaters had to do what sunshine could not. The wind, typically a balmy breeze, became a blustery nuisance. Heat and humidity would have been welcomed rather than scorned.
Welcome to Florida.
The PGA Tour made its annual trek east this week and winter broke out at the Honda Classic, where Sunday's conditions at PGA National were not what golfers have come to expect when visiting this part of the country.
It was raw, and it was uncomfortable and it was a day when many less hearty would have said no to golf and yes to an afternoon in front of the TV.
"It was getting stronger and stronger toward the end and it's getting cold, too, which is not what we come to Florida for," Geoff Ogilvy said.
And yet, it seemed to suit Michael Thompson, a third-year PGA Tour player who had accumulated all of one FedEx Cup point this year, having missed four cuts in five starts.
No matter. The former University of Alabama golfer who was runner-up at last year's U.S. Open handled the major-like conditions quite well, shot 1-under-par 69 and was one of just five players to break par during the final round, en route to winning his first PGA Tour title.
His final-hole birdie assured a 2-stroke win over Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion who found some form just in time to qualify for next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship -- which means a Masters invitation remains a strong possibility.
Thompson, 27, had locked that up by finishing second to Webb Simpson last year at the Olympic Club, one of three top-10 finishes on the year and an indication that perhaps is best golf comes in the most trying conditions.
"Absolutely. I love the big events," Thompson said, who moved to 45th in the world and also qualified for this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. "I'm already in the Masters and U.S. Open, British Open hopefully, and you know, it's just another step in my career. I'm on a long journey, and I don't know where it's going to take me, but I'm here for the ride."
It was some ride Sunday. The temperature was in the 40s as the final round began and never got above 50 until afternoon. Even when the sun came out, it didn't feel very warm. The course scoring average for the final round was 73.7, the highest of the week.
|Prior to the Honda Classic in 2013, Michael Thompson carded as many rounds in the 60s (one) as the 80s. He shot even-par or better in all four rounds at PGA National en route to his first PGA Tour victory.|
And there were plenty of players who struggled in the conditions. Tiger Woods lost a ball for the second straight day, had two balls in water hazards and had a 3-putt to shoot 74 and tie for 37th. It was a long way from his riveting final-day duel a year ago with Rory McIlroy.
"It's really hard to shoot a low number today," Woods said. "The wind is blowing and it's even affecting chip shots, bunker shots, you put it up in the air and it's moving it. So it's tough out there."
Three players shot in the 80s and the lowest score of the day was a 68 by Matt Jones, shot early in the day. Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler, both in contention at the start, each shot 74.
"You don't move up very often on tour over par on the weekends, except for a place like this," said 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who tied for fourth after shooting 72-70 on the weekend, his first top-10 finish in nearly two years. "And just the golf course in general is hard. And then to compound it with the wind and the pressure of a Saturday and Sunday on tour. I'm very pleased with how I finished."
Same for Erik Compton, who achieved his highest finish ever on the PGA Tour, a tie for fourth.
"This has a major feel to it, all the best players in the world playing," Compton said. "It just played tough."
Thompson was helped by an eagle at the third hole, and although he made four bogeys after that, he also added three birdies and enough deft par saves to stay out front the rest of the way, at one point building his lead to 4 strokes before Ogilvy briefly narrowed it to a single stroke on the final hole.
"You saw by the evidence by the rest of the scores, it's a very hard golf course and it seems to get progressively harder in some ways," Ogivly said. "You turn around on 14 and you turn into the wind; there's a disaster waiting everywhere. It's a pretty impressive effort. There's a lot of golf courses on tour that it might be easy to close out a golf tournament, or easier, but this is not one of them. This is probably one of the hardest."
Thompson had played four tournaments prior to this week, missed the cut in three of them and tied for 78th in the one. Now he's a tournament winner, which brings starts in the other World Golf Championship events this year as well as a two-year exemption. For a guy who had barely made a paycheck this year, that is quite significant.
And the weather? For Thompson, it was all sunshine, all warmth.