RIDGELAND, S.C. — Those who know of Davis Thompson as a University of Georgia star golfer and one of the world’s top amateur players could not have expected to see him stumble so badly to start the first round of his professional debut.
Five bogeys in his first eight holes. Just think how Thompson felt.
“I kind of see myself as a very consistent player, which kind of shocked me what I did (Thursday),” he said Friday at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree. “It’s golf. You can’t predict anything.”
This was new territory for Thompson, currently No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and a highly decorated player over four years at UGA, now his alma mater.
He closed out the front nine with a 4-foot, 10-inch birdie putt to get to 4-over par, but gave it back with a sixth bogey at No. 11.
“My course management just wasn’t very good,” he said. “I don’t know if I was nervous or I wasn’t making the right decisions. I think it was a combination of both.”
Instead of folding, the 22-year-old told himself he still had seven holes to play, and he wanted seven good chances for birdies.
Maybe that’s the kind of mindset followers of Thompson’s career expect of him. He certainly does.
Thompson birdied the par-5 No. 12 from 15 feet, 1 inch, his longest made putt of the day. He mixed in a couple of pars, then closed out the topsy-turvy round with four straight birdies to climb all the way out of that crater he dug and finish 18 holes at even par.
“I’ve gotten off to bad starts before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been 5-over and brought it all the way back to even,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy to think I was 5-over through eight holes during this tournament. That’s all in the past.”
Right, because he still had to play the second round Friday at Congaree Golf Club, located north of Ridgeland near Gillisonville in Jasper County, South Carolina.
On Thursday night, because of the mighty comeback, he received encouraging texts telling him “great finish” and “keep it rolling” and avoided the well-intentioned “you’ll get them next time” after poor results. Thompson said he’s got great support around him, especially from his family in attendance this week.
On Friday, he started on the back nine and followed his 31 on Thursday with a 33, which would make an eye-catching 64 if he exclusively played Nos. 10-18. He vastly improved on the front nine, bettering the 40 on Thursday with a 36 on Friday.
He shot 2-under-par 69 on Friday with four birdies and just two bogeys, plus 12 pars to make the cut at 2-under. He played the third round on Saturday afternoon.
“Pars are good out here,” Thompson said Friday after the second round. “I’m usually a pretty good player, make a lot of pars, but (Thursday) was a different story.”
As he has closed out his collegiate career with All-Southeastern Conference and All-America honors (including Golfweek’s 2021 first team), and was a finalist for every major award, Thompson was asked Tuesday before his pro debut to reflect on his Athens days.
“I really don’t think it’s set in yet,” said Thompson, who attended UGA after an outstanding high school career as a state champion in Auburn, Alabama. “When I don’t have classes in the fall, I think that’s when it will kind of set in. But, no, I mean obviously like just the relationships that I formed there with my teammates and coaches, formed some great memories, had a lot of great laughs, great tournaments.
“… just the thing I’m probably most proud of there is I think I just got better every single year and that was kind of my goal going into school. But, yeah, I’m just excited to get my professional career started.”
Thompson has played in pro events as amateur, twice at the RSM Classic on St. Simons Island, where he and his family reside. He tied for 23rd at 10-under in 2019, and missed the cut in 2020. He also missed the cut at the Puerto Rico Open in February 2020 and at the U.S. Open in September 2020, when he opened with a 69 and followed with a 78.
Davis Thompson looks over the eighth green with his caddie Todd Thompson during the first round of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club – West. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)
Now he’s starting a new chapter as a pro, and plans to play in the Travelers Championship on June 24-27 in Connecticut, and the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 1-4 in Detroit.
“If I have a few good finishes here and there, maybe I’ll get some status out of it,” said Thompson, who got his first look this week at the Congaree course, where he’s playing on a sponsor exemption. “Right now, I’m trying to have as much fun as I can. I’m 22 years old. I’m having fun with it and trying to learn a lot and grow and just mature as a player.”
He has status on the PGA Tour’s developmental Korn Ferry Tour through a new initiative called PGA Tour University to reward four-year college players for outstanding careers. Thompson, as No. 2 in the ranking behind national player of the year John Pak, is exempt into all open, full-field events on the Korn Ferry Tour through season’s end.
“It’s definitely a great path for guys like myself and John who stayed in college all four years and have played well to kind of earn that,” Thompson said Tuesday. “But I’m in a very lucky spot where I kind of have options where I’m, obviously hoping and trying to get some PGA Tour starts, but at the same time I can play Korn Ferry. So I think it’s a great deal by the PGA Tour and I’m lucky enough to be the first class to kind of use that.”
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at email@example.com. Twitter: @NathanDominitz
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