Pinehurst, N.C. His appetite whetted for the big-time, Chris Thompson flew back to Kansas City on Friday night. On Sunday, he’ll drive back to the minor leagues of professional golf, so that he can be in position for Monday qualifying for the web.com tour event in Wichita.
Thompson improved his score by six strokes Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, but his 80-74, 14-over par didn’t put him anywhere near the cut line.
“The course was difficult,” Thompson said. “It was challenging. I loved how hard it was. I wish I could have played a little better. In any profession, you want to be tested. This course tests you as well as any course I’ve played. I didn’t pass the test this time, but hopefully I’ll have another chance in the future.”
Thompson’s best nine holes of golf at the Open were his last nine holes, when he carded a 1-over par 36 on holes 1 through 9.
“It was frustrating, but I feel like today was a little bit better,” Thompson said. “Maybe it can build a little momentum for the rest of the year, but overall, still a little bit disappointing.”
Thompson didn’t earn any of the purse money, but everyone who qualifies for the U.S. Open receives a $2,000 check to cover expenses. Now it’s back to making arrangements to get himself to Monday qualifiers, which require entry fees and stand at the opposite end of golf’s glamour meter from the four majors.
Thompson, 37, made it to the U.S. Open field via a local qualifier and then a sectional one. In between those two pressure-packed Mondays, he had another, qualifying to play in the Byron Nelson Championship. He made the cut in his first PGA Tour event.
As a player who must take the difficult path to tournaments, Thompson has numbers decisions to make that have nothing to do with which iron to pull out of the bag. He must weigh the expense of traveling to events against the earning potential of playing in them.
He plans to try to get into Web.com events in Wichita, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo. He said he is considering trying to qualify for PGA Tour events in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (The Greenbrier Classic, July 3-6)) and the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois (July 10-13).
On weeks he does not qualifiy, he said, he will look into playing in mini-tour events, where his next victory will be the 10th of his career.
“It might be a little harder,” Thompson said, comparing the chances of qualifying for a PGA Tour event to one on the Web.com Tour, “but if you get in a PGA event, you’re playing for 10 times the money.”
Thompson needed a miracle round Friday to go low enough to make the U.S. Open cut and he didn’t get one. He did make an eight-foot putt on his second hole of the day, No. 11. Then he ran into the four holes that gave him fits for both days, Nos. 13, 15, 16 and 17. In two days, he lost 11 strokes to par on those holes and was 3-over on the other 14 holes.
Thompson called Pinehurst No. 2, “visually intimidating.” Many players talked about the difficulty they had picking out target lines off the tee box. They knew where they were supposed to hit it, but couldn’t make their eyes choose the right lines to get there.
“I just could not get comfortable on the course,” Thompson said. “I wish I knew why. If I did, I would have fixed it.”
He said he was not dogged by any such discomfort at the prospect of playing in such a big event.
“I’m really glad I got into the Byron Nelson,” Thompson said. “It helped me to feel comfortable here. I felt comfortable for 36 holes. It wasn’t nerves. It was just bad golf.”