SAN FRANCASCO - Agence France-Presse
Michael Thompson emerges as a dark horse to win the US Open after making a strong start to the tournament, where he faces big names, including Tiger Woods. AFP Photo
Michael Thompson refused to buy in to the tension of the US
Open atmosphere, and his laid-back approach paid dividends as he seized the first-round lead at The Olympic Club on June 14.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Thompson, playing his second US
Open and his third major championship as a professional.
“This is just a bonus in my career. I’m not guaranteed into all the majors as a professional, and to be able to have the opportunity to play is just a wonderful experience.”
The 27-year-old from Alabama made the most of it, firing seven birdies with just three bogeys for a four-under total of 66.
His morning round stood up for a three-shot overnight lead, but his closest pursuers might give him pause -- a group of five led by 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.
While the likes of Masters champion Bubba Watson and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, world number one Luke Donald and defending champion Rory McIlroy wrestled unsuccessfully with Olympic’s Lake Course, Thompson returned in style to the layout where he finished runner-up in the 2007 US
“I’ve been working hard since Friday and I think that really calmed me down ... I just went out and enjoyed the experience. I didn’t really care what happened today.” Thompson, who said qualifying for the tournament was more stressful than his opening round, shook off a bogey at the par-four first with a birdie at the par-three third.
Back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth were followed by birdies at seven and nine as he made the turn at even par.
As he gained steam, attention on his group increased.
“Got a little nervous there once all those cameras showed up,” he admitted. “But I really held it together -- 16 was playing really difficult into the wind today and then 17, I thought I hit a great third shot and then almost putted it in from just off the back of the green.”