Four months after his 3M Open victory, 35-year-old Michael Thompson remains a man changed by a second tour victory that came seven years after his first one at the 2013 Honda Classic.
His two-shot victory last summer won him $1.2 million and passage to September’s U.S. Open (48th), August’s PGA Championship (missed cut) and next spring’s Masters. Twelve years a pro, his 2021 season’s start includes a tie for 15th at last month’s Houston Open.
He spoke Tuesday from his home in Sea Island, Ga., on a Zoom call with 3M Open officials, corporate partners, volunteers and media about hard work, surrounding himself with a winning team that includes his wife Rachel and two young children, his awaited return to Augusta National and life as a late bloomer.
Q. 3M Open champion, has that grown old yet?
A. It will never get old. There are a few more time demands on me, a few more phone calls, Zoom calls. A few more appearances. A little bit more media, which is always a great thing. One thing my four-year-old son said to me about a month after, `Dad, next time you win, I want to be there.’ That’s more motivation to do it again.
Q. How does your world change when you win a second time seven years later, compared to the first one?
A. The biggest change is self-belief. The first time it happened out of nowhere, really. I knew I was a good golfer. To give you perspective, before I won the Honda Classic I had one FedEx Cup point. If anybody would have bet on me, they would have been betting in the dark. That win was great and helped propel me to places I didn’t think I’d get to. Winning the 3M Open was validation the hard work I put in has paid off. It’s proof that when I stay diligent and disciplined, the success will happen.
Q. The 3M Open victory got you into the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open this year, but not the Masters until 2021?
A. That was a nice bonus to get to play those two, especially the U.S. Open at Winged Foot because that is my favorite course in the whole world. To go back and play a major championship there was really special for me.
I’m most looking forward to the Masters. I hadn’t been there in seven years. That place is magical. You drive up and walk inside the grounds and you feel like you’re in a whole other world. I’m actually excited I get to play in the April Masters and not the November Masters just because the tournament is made by the fans. The roars you hear down in Amen Corner when you’re making the turn, just the atmosphere, it’s probably some of the best fans in golf. They know what a good golf shot is and we don’t get that every week.
Q. What other goals do you have, what motivates you?
A. More wins because wins are awesome. In general, I’m looking for more consistency. I want to be one of those players in contention — or at least talked about — more often. I know I can do it. I’ve gotten to that every stage of my career.
I’m probably more of a late bloomer, i.e. kind of like Steve Stricker or Matt Kuchar. That’s what I’m working toward. I want to be more relevant more often. I would love to get five to 10 wins in career and hopefully play until I’m 50.
Q. What did you learn most from winning a second time?
A. This time around, I celebrated a lot. I wasn’t prepared mentally to play the WGC event in Memphis the next week and didn’t play very well. In the future, I’m going to have put the win out of mind if I have an event the next week. The thing about golf, when you’re playing well, you want to ride the wave. That’s staying mentally focused and Tiger (Woods) probably is the best ever at doing that.
It’s hard because you want to celebrate so bad. You want to open some champagne, watch the video (highlights) and spend time with family and friends. That will be the thing I change the next time around.