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Golf Tidbits: Thompson not just one of those guys

The U.S. Open is great for giving us storylines, including the thought, "Who was that guy?"

The "Who was that guy?" has occurred in seven of the last eight Opens. Last year, it was Michael Thompson's turn.

Thompson led by three strokes after the first round, then blew up in the second and third rounds before closing with a 67 to share second place behind winner Webb Simpson.

After his impressive win on Sunday at The Honda Classic, Thompson isn't just "that guy" anymore. This is his third straight year on the PGA Tour, but in his first two seasons, he had collected just three top-five finishes prior to taking second at the U.S. Open.

Thompson had done nothing this year to make you think this victory was coming. In four starts, he had three missed cuts and a tie for 78th at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The 27-year-old had broken par in three of his 10 rounds. In challenging conditions at PGA National over the weekend, Thompson carded three under-par rounds, while posting an even-par 70 in the other round.

Thompson went just 1-under par (70-69) in chilly, windy conditions over the final two rounds and it was enough to give him a two-stroke victory. Luke Guthrie, who led Thompson by one after two rounds, went 4-over par for the final two rounds to drop into third place.

Among the rewards for Thompson: A spot in the field at this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship, a jump inside the top 50 in the world rankings and an invitation to Augusta National.

Thompson played the Masters and U.S. Open in 2008 after finishing second at the 2007 U.S. Amateur. When he appeared at last year's U.S. Open, it was his first appearance in a major since then. He went on to play the British Open and PGA Championship, but missed the cut at both events.

Sunday's victory helps Thompson shed the "that guy" label. But what about those who came before him?

Brendon de Jonge was "that guy" in 2010 when he shared the first-round lead and was three back after two rounds before fading at the U.S. Open. The Zimbabwean is still searching for that elusive first PGA Tour title, despite playing nearly every week.

In 2009, Peter Hanson was "that guy" for the first two rounds, while Ross Fisher rallied to finish in fifth place to become "that guy" at tournaments' end. Both were known commodities in Europe, but had done little here in the United States. They were teammates on the 2010 European Ryder Cup team, and Hanson played again in 2012.

Three names that might ring a bell now shared the "that guy" moniker in 2008. Justin Hicks and Kevin Streelman were tied for the lead after the opening round, but faded quickly. Neither has won on the PGA Tour, but Hicks won two weeks later, on the then Nationwide Tour.

Eric Axley was the third player in the group in '08. He rallied with rounds of 71-69 on the weekend to share ninth place. Axley did win the 2006 Texas Open, but has played just five tour events since the start of the 2011 season.

In 2007, England's Nick Dougherty led by one after the opening round of the U.S. Open and two strokes back was a little-known bomber named Bubba Watson. Dougherty was a steady pro in European with one win, but has struggled in recent years.

Watson had seven top-8 finishes before sharing fifth at the '07 Open. He has gone on to four victories, including last year's Masters, easily making him the most successful of this group of "that guys."

David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie had combined for six European Tour wins prior to the 2006 U.S. Open, but they were barely known in the United States. Howell shared second after the first round, while Ferrie was tied for third, first and sixth after the final three rounds. Ferrie was making his fourth appearance in a major, and his first start at the U.S. Open.

Finally, Jason Gore was "that guy" in 2005. He shared the lead after the second round and was three back after the third round. Gore blew up with an 84 in the final round, but he did all this mere days after his car had been broken into. Among things he lost were his car stereo, his computer and plenty of clothes.

Thankfully, Gore's caddie had his clubs or they would have been swiped as well. He bounced back from the disappointment at the Open to win three straight starts on the then Nationwide Tour, which earned him his PGA Tour card for the remainder of 2005.

Gore also picked up a PGA Tour win later that year, but has bounced back and forth between the PGA and Web.com tours since his exemption for that PGA victory ran out.

As you can see, there were plenty of "that guys" to go around. By winning a PGA Tour event, Thompson joins Watson and Gore as those who have gone on to win on the PGA Tour.

What's next for Thompson? Another PGA win? A spot on the Presidents Cup team? The 27-year-old has a lot to look forward to, that is quite obvious.

MCILROY'S WEAK DEPARTURE

After going 7-over par through eight holes Friday, world No. 1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy walked off the course at The Honda Classic.

He later put out a release saying he was suffering from a sore wisdom tooth and it was affecting his concentration. That came after quipping to reporters as he walked off that he "wasn't in a good place mentally."

Which was it, Rory? Were you in pain or focusing on something outside golf?

The cynic in me could come up with more than a few reasons for him not being in a good place mentally, but they'd just be speculation. Maybe he'll shed more light on the subject before this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship.

One thing we know is that he won't have the tooth fixed until after this week. That seems foolish to me. Why not get it done last Friday or Saturday and be almost fully recovered by the time this week's event tees off?

There are lots of questions about McIlroy's game right now. Let's remember this though, he struggled for a spell last year before racking up four wins and seven top-5 finishes after that rough patch.

Ailing or not, this is a big week for McIlroy, who needs to gain some confidence.

MINI-TIDBITS

* The European Tour finally announced Monday it would not oppose the anchoring ban put in place by the USGA and R&A. That leaves the PGA Tour and PGA of America as the only ones to oppose the ban. The two governing bodies will make the final ruling in the months to come. It will be interesting to see if they take the PGA Tour's feelings into account before that ruling is made.

* Stacy Lewis earned her sixth LPGA Tour title on Sunday in Singapore. She is clearly the best American player in the game right now. There may be three active Americans with more wins, but those three combine for one win since the start of the 2011 season, while all of Lewis's six wins have come in that time span.