"Roll Tide!" Heard At the Masters
Since he arrived in Augusta on April 4, Alabama senior Michael Thompson's stay has included daily highlight after highlight. On Tuesday he played a practice round with fellow Arizonian and two-time Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. On Wednesday he finished in a tie for fourth at 2-under par in the Par 3 Contest, paired with two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw.
Thursday, Thompson lived his dream and played his first official round of The Masters and performed like a veteran. He shot 73 which is 1-over par. Thompson is among a tie for 33rd, five shots back from leader Justin Rose. After bogeying the first hole, Thompson birdied No. 2. His round would include two birdies, 12 pars and four bogeys.
His caddy was his former Tulane coach Tom Shaw---now head coach at Vanderbilt---who Thompson chose for their similar demeanor on the course and as a thank-you for pointing Thompson to Jay Seawell and the University of Alabama golf team where he transferred and has flourished these past two seasons after Tulane was forced to drop golf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Among those there at Augusta National to cheer and follow his play was Seawell and some of his Alabama teammates.
Each night Thompson calls "home" to Tuscaloosa to share his experience. Following is an interview with Thompson Thursday night after he returned to his Augusta home-away-from-home, the Crow's Nest at the Augusta National Clubhouse.
Here is today's conversation:
You're all ready to start your big day—and there's a one hour fog delay. Where you already on the course when they called it?
"I was having breakfast and I heard that there was a delay. I kind of knew that there was going to be one because when I woke up and went outside there was just fog everywhere. You couldn't see. You couldn't see down nine fairway or 10 fairway. And 10 fairway you could barely see the tee box from the clubhouse so it was a pretty good fog."
Was hitting off the first tee today any different than any of the other times you've done it?
"It was a little different in that this time, it's the tournament. It's a tournament day. The score is going to count and I hadn't played for a score in such a long time that it was a little nerve racking. But before on the driving range when I was warming up I hit several really good drivers, so I felt pretty confident and just stepped up and just killed one. It was just right down the middle of the fairway and perfect. So I got off to a good start."
How would you assess your play today?
"I feel like I played really well for the situation. It wasn't my best golf but I definitely played very well. I had a couple of poor decisions that I made but for the most part, I did everything that I wanted. I had no three-putts today. I was committed to every single shot whether I pulled it off or not. And I just gave everything my all. My score turned out to be good because I was able to do everything that I wanted."
Did you look out into the crowd at any point today and see a face or faces that tugged at you maybe a little, that it was special to see them there and have them share this experience with you?
"Oh yes. I saw Coach (Alabama golf coach Jay Seawell) and his wife and Ben (Moody, a UA teammate) and Stew (UA golfer Stewart Whitt) and then my parents and my brother. It was good to see my brother again. I hadn't seen him in a while; and my girlfriend Rachel. It was just good to see all those people. It was fun to walk down and try to pick them out of the crowd."
So have you heard any "Roll Tide" shout-outs?
Lots and lots of them?
"Oh, yeah. A whole bunch."
Speaking of, there are two Tide golfers in the field. Steve Lowery was playing in the group right behind you. Did you get a chance to meet him?
"I did. I had lunch with him in the locker room and I got to talk with him a little bit, ask him how he was doing. And he asked me about what I'm planning to do after graduation and how my day went today. He was very nice."
Yesterday you played with Ben Crenshaw in the Par 3 Contest and today and tomorrow you've been paired with him. Was he different today when he was competing than yesterday?
"Yes, he was. He was a little bit more intense today, but he was still having fun. He was trying hard because he wants to do so well, but he was also enjoying it, too, especially when he hit good shots, he'd talk with the crowd and be a showman. He was urging me along and congratulating me when I hit good shots. He was good."
What did you do after you finished your round this afternoon?
"I signed my scorecard first. Then I had to do an interview and then I went and had lunch. I hit balls. I didn't go back out. There's no point in walking that course again. But I watched it on TV tonight." (Thompson spent the evening with his family who has rented a house in Augusta).
Phil Mickelson was quoted this week as saying that when he was an amateur staying in the Crow's Nest where you are staying, he used to sneak downstairs into the Champions Locker room and look around. Have you done anything like that?
"Not this week. I've been in the Champions Locker room before so I've seen it. And I don't want to get in trouble, so I'm not going to do that."
What was today's best moment?
"When I made my birdie on nine. I made a 30-footer that broke about eight feet and there were a whole bunch of people around the green and the crowd went crazy. It was one of Augusta's roars that is so famous. It was awesome."
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