PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Just who are these two guys? Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson aren’t exactly household names in golf, but there they sit atop the Honda Classic leaderboard through three rounds.
Nice job, guys.
There’s only one problem. Look down that leaderboard right beneath your names and you’ll see some pretty well-known golfers waiting to show you that experience usually wins out. Those names would include Lee Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy, Rickie Fowler, Charles Howell III, Y.E. Yang, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose.
Whether a new face or a slightly more wrinkled, sun-weathered visage prevails in the Honda will be decided Sunday as the tournament comes to a conclusion on the Champion Course at PGA National Golf Resort & Spa.
Guthrie shot a 1-over-par 71 on Saturday, and Thompson finished with a birdie on the par-5 18th to shoot a 70. Both are at 8-under 202, with Westwood (70) and Ogilvy (70) the closest pursuers, two strokes back at 204.
Guthrie, in particular, seemed to not be intimidated by leading the tournament and the big names chasing him. Maybe, at 23 years old and with less than a year on the PGA Tour, he doesn’t know better.
“You come out here, you want to compete, you want to play against the best,” Guthrie said. “Hopefully, they are all there and we are all battling.”
In fact, Guthrie said he will be keeping track of those big names Sunday.
“I’m a leaderboard watcher,” he said. “I want to know what I’ve got to do.”
Thompson also said he’s looking forward to whatever awaits him.
“I let things happen and never get down on myself, never get upset,” he said. “That’s kind of who I am, and that’s the way I like to play golf. It helps out a lot to have a good attitude.”
Thompson thought the Champion Course was extremely tough, but that wasn’t a complaint — in fact, he likes that toughness.
“The rough is definitely exactly like a U.S. Open,” Thompson said. “You just have to take your medicine and make your bogey. But we also have the wind of a British Open out there.”
Guthrie and Thompson will be playing in the final twosome Sunday, same as they did Saturday.
And Saturday, neither seemed to feel the pressure. Of course, there are a lot more nerves involved in the fourth round of a golf tournament than in the third round.
Neither Guthrie nor Thompson has won on the PGA Tour. In fact, neither has played all that much on the PGA Tour.
Guthrie, born in Illinois, attended the University of Illinois and less than a year ago was winning the Big Ten championship before turning pro in June of 2012. His payday for that Big Ten title was a big, fat zero. If he should win the Honda, he will walk away with $1,080,000.
Even Guthrie’s brother Zach would walk away a little richer because he’s Luke’s caddie.
Guthrie’s best finishes this year, his rookie season on the tour, were ties for 21st at the Famers Insurance Open and Northern Trust Open.
Thompson, 27, has played a few more years of professional golf than Guthrie.
In college, Thompson played two years for Tulane before the team was disbanded after Hurricane Katrina. Thompson then transferred to Alabama and became the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and also made it to the U.S. Amateur final. That second-place finish in the Amateur gave him a spot in the 2007 Masters (missed the cut) and 2007 U.S. Open (tied for 28th).
His best effort as a pro was leading the 2012 U.S. Open after the first day and being the clubhouse leader on the final day before Webb Simpson won the championship with Thompson finishing in a tie for second one stroke back.
Thompson and Guthrie both said they are ready for Sunday.
“Just have to go out and see what happens,” Thompson said.
Said Guthrie: “I’m kind of pumped.”
Woods eight back
One big golf name Guthrie and Thompson should not have to worry about is Tiger Woods, who is realistically out of contention.
Woods has shot three consecutive even-par 70s in the tournament and is in a tie for 32nd at 210, eight strokes back of the leaders.
That’s too many people to overtake with too few holes left to play.
But Woods would not dismiss the improbable happening.
“Hopefully, I’ll get it going early,” he said of Sunday’s final round. “I’ll go out there and execute, simple as that. Same thing I do every day.”