The tournament that ended here Sunday at PGA National, which began the Florida swing and, some would say, really opened the golf season in earnest, will be remembered most for the pounding that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy took for giving up and walking off during his second round.
To a lesser extent it will be recalled for the gritty win in blustery, British Open-type weather by Michael Thompson, an Eagle Scout who still takes to heart the persistent themes in the scouting oath and motto: "Be prepared" and stay "Mentally awake." Thompson was the direct opposite of McIlroy this week, securing his first PGA Tour victory by shooting a 1-under-par 69 Sunday to finish at 9 under, two better than Geoff Ogilvy (69).
Thompson had not given up hope despite missing three of four cuts in 2013.
Perhaps the most profound symbol of persistence for the week was Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who had his best career finish, a tie for fourth at 3 under.
In any case, it all was a good setup for the rest of the season, a reminder that nothing is guaranteed or predictable. For instance, Tiger Woods needed an eagle on the last hole to finish the day and tournament 4 over.
Thompson best showed the value of hanging in there. It is a trait he inherited from his grandfather, who was losing his sight when Thompson was a teen. For his Eagle Scout project, the golfer built a garden with plants designed to appeal to other senses of visually impaired people.
Thompson was inspired by his own big failure -- miserable rounds of 78 and 80 at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago. "I do believe the Lord has different plans, and the best way He can humble us is by allowing us to experience a low point. The Northern Trust was a good thing in my life. It allowed me to focus on what I needed to do in order to play like I did this week."
McIlroy remained the headliner, even in absentia. Did the switch to Nike have him flummoxed? Said Jack Nicklaus Sunday on NBC: "I always felt that it was your talent that plays, not the clubs . . . I think if he had waited five more minutes, he wouldn't have [withdrawn]. He's a good kid . . . "
Compton's never-give-up story was the most dramatic, even though he declined to wax sentimental. "My heart is not outside my chest, it's still in there," he said after a 70. Still, he added, "I think my persistence comes from my dad. I remember when I was a kid, my dad pulled me out of the car. We were on the way to [a junior] event and he shook me pretty good and asked if I wanted to feel sorry for myself the rest of my life. If I ever whiffed a putt or walked off a course, he was walking off. I guess that wasn't a good thing, if your dad leaves the course."
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