Seldom is a third-round 6-over-par 77 a cause to celebrate at any golf tournament on any level. The result guarantees a swift trip down the scoreboard and out of championship contention.
Then again, the poor performance occasionally can be a positive, and Kyle Thompson’s experience the first few days of June provides the evidence.
“Really, a blessing,” the former South Carolina All-American said in recounting an adventurous three days -- a downer with the 77 on Saturday and the ultimate upper on Monday in Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open.
Thompson began the June 1-4 Rex Hospital Open, a Web.com tourney in Raleigh he has won three times, with rounds of 66 and 72. The 77 on Saturday ended his title hopes -- but his tumble gave him an early tee time for Sunday’s final round.
He wrapped up his fourth round -- a 5-under 66, by the way -- before the leaders teed off, and the early finish enabled him to get a Sunday evening preview of the site of the June 5 Open qualifying in Maryland.
“I just rode around the golf course in a cart,” he said. “I didn’t play, but I got a little familiar” with what to expect.
That’s without mentioning the importance of a good night’s rest prior to the grueling 36-hole challenge, appropriately called professional golf’s longest day.
The combination of reconnaissance and rest -- the “blessing” -- worked out fine. Thompson, 38, posted a no-frills 7-under-par 135 for two rounds over the Woodmont Country Club course in Rockville, Md., to place second in the field of 50 and pick up one of the three Open berths available at the site.
He called his play in Sectional qualifying “nothing really exciting. The score could have been a lot better. I made a double (bogey) after getting a bad lie, but that brought me back to reality.”
The 36-hole grind takes its toll on a lot of pros, but Thompson did not mind.
“In those Monday qualifiers (for regular events on the PGA and Web.com tours), you have to shoot really low, and that’s not me,” he said. “I’m more of a marathoner. You might beat me for 18 holes, but I’ll be steady over 72. I have learned the importance of patience on the golf course.”
Patience and experience served him well in the Web.com’s first tournament of the year. The wind howled and some rivals panicked. Thompson persevered in the Bahamas event and he alone broke par for four rounds.
That victory put him on track to return to the PGA Tour for next season; he is 10th in Web.com earnings after Sunday’s tie for 22nd in the Web tourney near Chicago, and the top 25 earn promotions to golf’s major league. And the formula from the Bahamas -- patience, patience and more patience -- will be his strategy this week in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
“My game’s in good shape,” Thompson said. “I have fought my putter a little bit this year, been a little streaky, but I feel good about my game.
“I know that I have to be patient; nobody overpowers an Open course. I will pick my times to be aggressive and see what happens. The older I get, I don’t know how many more opportunities I will have in majors, and obviously I would like to play well.”
Thompson, a member of USC’s athletic hall of fame, struggled in his previous two years on the PGA Tour (2008, 2012) and he’s not looking ahead to next season. For the moment, the player who resurrected his golf career two years ago by winning in Raleigh, will focus on increasing his position on the Web.com money list -- after the Open.
A negative -- if there’s such a thing as a negative about qualifying for the U.S. Open -- is his schedule adjustment that means he will miss son Raleigh’s first birthday.
He is headed to Wisconsin, where he will be joined by wife Emmi. After the Open, it’s off to Cleveland for a Monday exhibition and on to Springfield, Ill., for another Web.com tourney.
“I’ll make it up (to Raleigh) for missing his first birthday party,” Thompson said.
The ideal way would be to play well in the Open, an opportunity that resulted in part from a forgettable 77 that turned into a blessing.