Michael Thompson At The Masters
Tuesday at Augusta National found Alabama golf star Michael Thompson paired with two-time Masters Champion Phil Mickelson, a fellow Arizonian who invited Thompson to play the practice round with him and PGA player Hunter Mahan.
Originally the group was also to include Adam Scott, but on Tuesday instead they were joined by another amateur with Arizona connections, Trip Kuehne. (Scott was sick).
On Wednesday he will play in the Par 3 Contest with two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw then cap the evening at the Participants Dinner where all the men who are competing in the 2008 Masters will gather.
In the following interview, Thompson, upon returning to his home-away-from-home for the week at the Crow's Nest Tuesday night, shared his day and thoughts by phone as he experiences first hand one of the world's greatest sporting events.
Today you played a practice round of golf with one of the top golfers in the world, Phil Mickelson. So how were you on the first tee? Any nerves as he watched your swing?
"No. I wasn't nervous at all. He's just another player. He's really good. I wanted to hit it well and I actually hit it really good. I hit the first drive. I was almost all the way up to where he was. I was probably two or three yards behind him."
How many people followed your group around the course today?
"It was just like at the U.S. Am. There had to be four or five thousand people the whole day."
What are the conversations and small talk one exchanges with Phil Mickelson and those guys out on the golf course?
"When I was talking to Phil, I just asked him questions about playing professional golf and what was his routine. I found out that he never plays a practice round. I know a lot of the guys will play a practice round on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday. He doesn't usually play. He'll play maybe one day and that might be a Pro-Am. Other than that, he doesn't play."
Did he tell you why?
"Just because he'll get burned out too quickly. He'll get too exhausted, so you want to stay fresh for Thursday. So that was interesting. And then we also talked about the green and where to hit it and how to attack certain holes. And then he told a whole bunch of stories about college and things that he did. He and Trip Kuehne both played for Arizona State. Kuehne was there for a year, and so they had a whole bunch of stories from college and it was really funny listening to them talking. Phil was talking all day. He never stopped."
That had to be fun, three Arizona guys, hanging out together at Augusta National.
"It was. It was really cool."
What did you learn or observe playing a round with a golfer the caliber of Phil Mickelson?
"It was just good to see where his game is right now and for me to kind of see where my game can potentially go. Like he played very, very well today and hit some shots that were very impressive. And it just made me look forward to getting out and playing professional golf and practicing more. He was a great guy and we had a lot of fun."
You've played the course at Augusta National nine or 10 times now. How does the course suit your game?
"I think it suits my game very well. I really can't find anything that would really hold me back except for me making poor decisions. And that's the one thing that affects players most often is that they make poor decisions out there and they'll pay the price for it. So if I play smart, and Tom Shaw my caddy is going to be real key in keeping me on task and focused when I'm hitting the ball, then I think I'll do pretty well. I feel like I'm a good putter. So I have confidence on the greens. Although I have to be very cautious on the greens, I still can have some confidence and just kind of play it and see where I end up."
Any hole a key hole?
"No. There are certain holes out there that you can birdie, but the thing is that the greens are so tricky you still have to putt. It's not a cake walk on certain holes. Every hole is demanding."
You're spending the week, day and night, at Augusta National, sleeping, practicing, eating, and living the Masters. Are you somewhat cut off from the rest of the world? Did you even know who won the national championship at the Final Four last night when you woke up this morning?
"I didn't know because I went to bed. I fell asleep before (the game was over). I was tired. But, yeah, I'm kind of cut off. I'm just so focused on this whole week that I'm not really worried about anything else that's going on."
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is yet another big day for you at Augusta National. You'll play in the Par 3 Contest by day and then by night share a dining experience in a gathering of the greatest golfers in the world. And, by the way, who are you taking as your guest to the Participants Dinner?
"I'm taking Rachel (Emory student Rachel Thompson, his girlfriend). I'm just looking forward to having fun. The Par 3 Contest is supposed to be a blast. Everybody's supposed to be really relaxed, and, you know, people cheering, going crazy. Hopefully I can do well. If I win then I get some crystal, which would be wonderful. I'm just looking forward to having fun. I was originally going to play with Jerry Pate and Ben Crenshaw, but Jerry hurt his shoulder and is not playing anymore. So now it's just Ben Crenshaw and me. I'm looking forward to playing with him in the Par 3. That will be good because it will help prepare me for the tournament in terms of getting to know Ben, so it'll make Thursday and Friday very comfortable for me." (Thompson has been paired to play with Crenshaw in the first and second rounds).
A Note: Fans can perhaps catch a glimpse of the team of Thompson-Crenshaw in the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday. ESPN is televising the event from 2-4 p.m. CT.
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