As I avoided another cold spring Saturday last weekend, I repaired to my rocker and flipped on the Heritage at venerable Harbour Town. Watching today’s players trying to fit shots between the narrow fairways is a refreshing change from the bombing runs usually found on Tour. It is an AP (Advanced Placement) exam of sorts with the winner having to successfully “place” a variety of shots.
The weather Saturday down on the coast was a bit “blowy”. Players fought the conditions inside the tree lined fairways until they caught sight of Calibogue Sound at the 16th green. The last two holes, the par-3 17th and the exposed 18th, presented challenges with an imposing north wind. Those finishing hole played right into the teeth of that wind.
Nicholas Thompson came to his fifty-fourth hole in contention at -6. Better known as Lexi Thompson’s big brother, he had a chance to get his round in the house, get his head together for a run on Sunday and solidify his current standing on Tour. From 196 yards to the hole into a twenty mph breeze Thompson chose a six-iron.
Many who are familiar with the 18th at Harbour Town know that short is not a good option for one’s second shot. Of course that is precisely where Thompson’s ball landed. He gouged his third short of the green, hit an indifferent fourth twenty feet past the hole and the oil was leaking. Somehow he managed to coax the putt in for bogey but the damage had been done. The poor decision on club selection doomed his Sunday.
No doubt Thompson is a strong player. His whip-saw swing generates plenty of speed. Yet when I see others playing strong hybrids into the same hole, I have to wonder what the young man was thinking?
Young players only get so many chances. The ones that break through manage their games and their decision making wisely. Thompson’s choice of club was foolish. His caddie should have stopped the process. A five iron gets him on the putting surface with a solid par or potential birdie. He was lucky to make bogie. He finished his round at -5.
The next day Thompson’s 72 sent him south on the leaderboard as Matt Kuchar grabbed the championship. Yes, the young man cashed a triple-figure check, but he needed more. You see, while I consider him young, he has passed into the thirty-something realm.
A professional since 2005, Thompson is getting squeezed. The older Kuchar’s of the PGA Tour are still winning and the Jordan Spieth’s are coming on. He’s caught in this game-within-a-game scenario and as the calendar pages fly by, Mr. Thompson will realize every opportunity is crucial for furthering his fledgling career. He needs a win and wins aren’t easy to capture in this shark tank. The decision making he displayed last Saturday will make his journey to the winner’s circle a bit longer. Hopefully he’ll engage in a better thought process to capitalize on his other talents. I’m rooting for him to break through and capture his first title.