Michael Thompson spent Sunday afternoon at Hillcrest Country Club with two momentous goals on his mind.
When it was time to hit shots, he was trying to regain his PGA Tour card after a disappointing season — and perhaps win a golf tournament for the first time in three and a half years.
When he was walking the fairways, chatting with friend and fellow third-round co-leader Scott Stallings, he focused on his quest to adopt a child with wife Rachel, who watched from the gallery.
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It was a winning combination, as Thompson torched the back nine to win the Albertsons Boise Open by three shots at 23-under-par. The $180,000 winner’s check guaranteed him a spot on the PGA Tour for 2016-17 through the Web.com Tour Finals money list.
“I actually used (trying to start a family) today a lot when I felt myself getting nervous,” Thompson, 31, said. “I told myself there are greater things at work today and, for me and Rachel, that’s the adoption. However that plays out ... we don’t know that story. But that really put everything in perspective for me.”
Thompson has played on the PGA Tour for the past six seasons. He won the 2013 Honda Classic and tied for second at the 2012 U.S. Open.
But he has struggled the past two seasons, landing in the Web.com Tour Finals both years to play for his tour card.
“I’m just so proud of his perseverance, and I’m just so proud of his positive attitude through it all,” Rachel said. “I know this is what he’s always wanted to do since he was a little kid, and I’m so thankful to see him be able to do it.”
Thompson quietly posted rounds of 67 and 66 in the first two rounds at Hillcrest, then burst into a tie for the lead with a 7-under 64 on Saturday thanks to lights-out putting.
He fell two shots behind Miguel Angel Carballo of Argentina on the front nine Sunday. Carballo, who began the day one shot back, made a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 2, hit a wedge tight for birdie on No. 3 and dropped a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 4.
“Man, this guy is on fire,” Thompson told Stallings.
“I just tried to stay within myself and play my own game,” Thompson said. “I didn’t want to get wrapped up in what he was doing. He was playing great, and it felt like he couldn’t miss.”
Carballo cooled after a birdie on No. 6 (Thompson birdied there, too), and Thompson replaced him as the hottest golfer on the course on the back nine.
Thompson birdied Nos. 10 and 11, then holed a bunker shot for birdie on the par-3 13th. He and Carballo both hit it close on No. 14, but only Thompson converted.
The two-shot deficit at the turn suddenly had become a one-shot lead. The bunker shot was the key moment.
“It was going a little fast, but it was on a great line and it hit (the flagstick) dead center and dropped,” Thompson said. “Stuff like that has to happen in order to win. You never know when it’s going to happen, but you love it when it does.”
Thompson’s lead grew to two when Carballo bogeyed No. 15. Stallings, who had slipped out of contention, waited for Thompson at the 16th tee box and offered a fist bump.
“Let’s finish strong,” he told Thompson. “I’m here for you. Let’s go.”
Thompson yanked his drive deep into the left trees on the par-5. A fan stepped on his ball, so he was able to take a drop that improved his lie slightly. Still, all he could do was put the ball back into play — and his shot went slightly too far, into the rough on the other side.
Meanwhile, Carballo put his second shot on the green and was putting for eagle.
Thompson, unfazed, landed his approach shot at the front of the green, ran it back within 20 feet of the back-left pin and sank the birdie putt to leave little doubt he would win. Stallings gave him another fist bump.
“He had some adverse situations and to end up making a four was pretty awesome,” Stallings said. “Great guy. Great champion.”
Thompson made two easy pars to close out Carballo, the runner-up.
The victory increased Thompson’s world ranking from No. 343 to No. 213. The 16 world-ranking points he received was the fourth-highest total of his career — an indication of how strong the field was.
“It’s a huge confidence boost, to know you can do it on such a big stage,” he said. “These four Web(.com) Finals events mean a lot to all of us.”
Thompson grew up in Tucson, Ariz., and decided he wanted to play pro golf when he watched Davis Love III on TV as a child. He started his college career at Tulane and transferred to Alabama after Tulane dropped the golf program in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Rachel was a soccer player at Tulane, and that sport was cut, too.
They recently moved to Sea Island, Ga. After four years of trying to have a child, they’re three months into the adoption process.
Rachel worried about the overlap between the pressure of late-season golf and trying to adopt but says their family plans have served as “a good distraction.”
“Thinking about that kind of stuff makes the golf seem not as huge as it actually is,” she said. “It just frees you up to hit the shot and not worry about what happens.”