TUSCALOOSA - Michael Thompson, a senior on the University of Alabama golf team this past season, shot 1-over par, 72, in the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday to medal as the tournament's low amateur. The Tucson, Arizona native who is the 2008 Southeastern Conference Golfer of the Year and the SEC Champion shot 74-73-73-72/292 to finish the tournament at 8-over par. He finished T-29th overall in the standings at Torrey Pines. An 18-hole playoff Monday between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate will determine the tournament's champion.
"Oh, this is fantastic," Thompson said in his post-match press conference when asked about making the cut, his finish and his upcoming trip to Scotland for the Palmer Cup. "Played well in the U.S. Open, my very first U.S. Open ever. To play this well is incredible. I'm just happy to be here and then in a couple weeks playing for the U.S., the Palmer Cup is, that's going to be the time of my life. These three tournaments, the Masters, this one, and Palmer Cup is going to be awesome. It's a great way to finish my amateur career. I can't ask for anything better."
Thompson's final round on Sunday began with a bogey at No. 1 and would conclude with birdies on holes 3, 4, 7 and 11,and bogeys on 1, 6, 8, 12 and 16. He made nine pars in the round. Thompson was at even par Sunday after 15 holes before he bogeyed No. 16, a par 3. In all in his 72 holes of play, which began with the first round on Thursday, he made a total of 12 birdies, 42 pars, 16 bogeys and two double bogeys.
He will receive a U.S. Open medal as the low amateur, finishing five shots ahead of Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler and seven strokes ahead of 2008 Louisville senior Derek Fathauer who both also made the cut on Friday.
He was asked Sunday if he learned anything from his experience playing in this weekend's U.S.Open.
"I did," said Thompson who played in the 2008 Masters as an amateur in March, compliments of his finalist finish at the 2007 U.S. Amateur. "I learned that I have a lot more composure than I thought I did. I really, I never gave up this week and I'm very proud of that. The last couple days I've gotten off to some pretty bad starts and played 1‑under there on in. And I think that's, I mean that speaks more than if I would have finished second, you know, to me, I learn more from that.
"And I was hitting the ball pretty decent, but not my best, so I think for the way I played, I've got some good things to look forward to."
After playing next week as an amateur at The Traveler's Tournament, Thompson will be joined by Fathauer and Fowler as teammates on the United State's eight-man Palmer Cup Team competing against Europe's eight-man team June 26-27 in Glasgow, Scotland. Thompson will turn pro following that tournament, probably sometime in July, though he has not named a particular event where he will embark on his professional career..
"I've wanted to play Palmer Cup," said Thompson whose U.S. teammates will go up against a European team coached by former Alabama golfer Marten Olander. "I want to play for a U. S. Team. I narrowly missed out on Walker Cup last year and I want to have that chance to play for my country. That's been something that I've, that's been one of my big goals this year."
Thompson's past year has been a successful one, from helping lead Alabama to its first SEC Championship in 29 years and ending a season for the first time in program history at college golf's No. 1 ranked team to his play in the U.S. Amateur, the Masters where he finished fourth in the Par 3 contest, winning the SEC's individual championship, and a string of successes in summer tournaments in 2007, among others.
"I really couldn't have asked for a better year in terms of my amateur golf and the tournaments that I've played in," said Thompson. "I played a great summer schedule, played for a great school, had a chance at the NCAA's, played in the Masters, now come here, finish off the U.S. Open, it's just great to go out and play well in my second Major and second pro tournament I've ever played in. So this is very, very cool. "
Thompson graduated from Alabama in May with a degree in accounting. His learning now is coming on a golf course where he hopes to make a successful professional career. When asked if he learned anything about himself from this experience at the U.S. Open this weekend, Thompson told the media, "Just the fact that I still have a lot to learn and I look forward to that. To me I don't want to be at the peak of my game right now. I know that I can get better. I think for any player, any athlete that's always a good sign. Because the harder you work, the better you're going to get and I'm just going to go out and work hard and enjoy that I don't have to study for any more tests and write any more papers or anything. But I'm just going to enjoy golf, play golf all day, and just enjoy it."
Wearing Alabama gear in his tournament play, Thompson talked about his affection for the University of Alabama and particularly Alabama golf to the media following his final round. Thompson transferred to Alabama last season, as a junior, from Tulane where he was a two-time All-Conference USA golfer who suddenly found himself without a team when Tulane dropped golf and several other sports in the economic wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"I will miss Alabama. I had some great teammates, made some really good friends there that it will be hard to getting everybody back together again. I'm hopefully going to be able to go to some football games in the fall because those are incredible. But I am going to miss being in that atmosphere and playing for a school playing on a team. But at the same time I'm ready to start my life," said Thompson.