Friday, July 20, 2012

'I'm glad I came over'

by Roz Roberts III

Michael Thompson missed the cut at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's after posting rounds of 74 and 73 on the par 70 links course but just making it into the field defied the odds.

Before the week began, Michael sat as the second alternate behind Ben Crane but the field was oversubscribed due to some of the odd qualification rules.  Before the tournament began 159 spots had been handed out.  The field is intended to be 156 players and alternates would not get in until the number of players dropped below the magical 156 player limit.  Last week both Jason Day and Web Simpson withdrew which left the field at 157 players.  Undeterred by the long odds of getting into the field, Michael decided to head to England after the John Deere Classic on a charter for PGA players.
I decided [to come to England] the moment I found out I was right behind Ben.  It was kind of weird this year in that the field was basically overbooked.  I just basically said that it's an opportunity to come over here and practice, prepare, just like any other tournament.  And for a British Open, that's experience that I need for the future.  If I didn't get in we'd go sight‑seeing, because it's fun as an American to be over here. 

It was known that Russ Cochran's back was giving him trouble which left his status uncertain but in a surprise move, Robert Karlsson withdrew on Wednesday and that left Michael two spots short of getting in.  However, Ben Crane, who was the first alternate, hadn't traveled to England.  Under somewhat controversial circumstances, Ben Crane was removed from the alternate list and Michael was instated as the first alternate.  Michael said,
Robert Karlsson's withdrawal kind of surprised me.  I wasn't really expecting anybody besides maybe Russ, but I knew he wouldn't make a decision until early morning Thursday. 
So on Thursday morning, the first day of the tournament, Michael headed over to the golf course in hopes of getting some good news.  He still needed one player to withdraw.
We heard through other caddies that Russ' back was hurting him, and so it was just kind of an outside chance [that he'd withdraw] and so I got here anyways at 5:30 in the morning.  I've been waiting around for a while and found out at 9:00 a.m. that I got in.  So that gave me a little bit of time to prepare mentally for the day.
But, you know, it was a great opportunity, a great chance.  I'm glad I came over.  This is a great opportunity with my first British Open and hopefully the first of many.
I played 18 [practice holes] on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday, so I was prepared, just as getting ready to play any Tour event.  The only downside was having to get here at 5:30 in the morning. 
But, you know, that's what I had to do and I did it and everything worked out.
So, you know, it was just good luck, God's will, whatever you want to call it, that it all worked out in my favor.
Unfortunately for Michael, limited practice time translated into a missed cut as Michael had some difficulty adjusting to the links greens.
 It's very different for us Americans coming over here and playing just with the speed of the greens because we're used to 12 on the Stimpmeter, and these are 8 or 9, and so it's definitely an adjustment.  It reminds me a lot of playing on the Hooters Tour, the speed of the greens.  These are a little smoother than playing on the mini‑tours.   But it's just all about getting a good mindset, having a good feeling, seeing the ball go in the hole before you hit it.  And the better you're able to do that, the better you're able to visualize that happening, the easier it is to make putts.  And these greens are a little different, a little interesting in that there's a lot of little mounds.  And so you're putting over a lot of little mounds, which makes reading the greens a little difficult.
I couldn't make any putts.  I gave myself some good looks.   And a few wayward tee shots on this golf course and you're in deep trouble, literally.  And I guess that's the way Open golf is, and you've got to keep it in the short stuff.  It doesn't matter if it's the fairway or there's intermediate rough.  As long as you have a swing at the ball you can score well.
So after a great experience with his first British Open, Michael will be catching the charter back next week to the Canadian Open where he will tee it up all over again.

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