PALM BEACH GARDENS -- It was a up-and-down day for two of the local players Saturday at the Honda Classic.
Nicholas Thompson, who grew up in Coral Springs, charged up the leaderboard with a bogey-free, 4-under-par 66 at PGA National Resort & Spa, his first bogey-free round of the season. He ended the day at 6-under for the tournament and sits in a tie for ninth, six shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.
Thompson struggled to find the mowed grass off the tee early in the round, missing four of seven fairways on the front nine, but he still went out in 33 thanks to birdies on the fourth and seventh holes.
On the closing stretch, he hit five of seven fairways and made two more birdies, including one on No. 18. His final putt was set up by a wonderful wedge shot from 131 yards away that left him in perfect position 6 1/2 feet below the cup.
The 31-year-old had only made three cuts this season entering this week, but he seemed to find his groove Saturday. His average putt made was just short of five feet and his longest was a 10-footer for par on No. 10.
“I played a good round of golf,” Thompson said. “When I did hit a squirrely shot, I found a way to get it up and down or make a putt.”
For all of the positive energy radiating from Thompson after the round, Erik Compton, who hails from Coral Gables, exuded just as many negative vibes. The 33-year-old, who has had two heart transplants, could not get anything going after an early birdie and missed the secondary cut by a stroke.
He had a chance to squeak into a Sunday tee time, but he left a 60-foot birdie putt on the lip of the cup on No. 18. It was a merciful end to a round with only the single birdie to counteract three bogeys and a double-bogey.
“I wasn’t feeling great,” Compton said. “I was just going through the motions. It was just a Band-Aid round.”
Tiger Woods might have stolen the headlines in the morning, but his playing partner wasn’t too shabby himself.
Playing for the first time with the world’s best golfer, Luke Guthrie matched Woods’ 5-under 65 to enter into a tie for 17th at 5-under, seven shots back of the leader.
“I was looking forward to the day,” Guthrie said. “I was definitely comparing [our scores]. I wanted to come out here, learn a lot, obviously play well and hopefully beat him.”
With the large crowds that follow Woods, Guthrie said he wanted to be more focused and not let the little movements in the crowd distract him like they occasionally have in the past. He added he was much more decisive when he pulled the club from his bag and played at a quicker tempo, both mental adjustments that paid dividends.
The changes in the mental aspects of the game helped Guthrie navigate the course with five birdies and no bogeys after posting a 73 on Friday. He put his ball in good positions, and his short game was great, particularly on the 18th hole when he flipped a shot out of the sand onto the green just 19 inches from the pin.
“I play better when I play faster and not be indecisive,” Guthrie said. “I don’t know why, but I was a little indecisive [Friday], some negative thoughts crept into my mind … I just got into a better rhythm and thought better [Saturday].”
Guthrie has had success at PGA National before, finishing third at last year’s Honda Classic, saying the course sets up well for his cut shots. He will be paired with Woods again in Sunday’s final round and will tee off at 12:23 p.m.