Thompson returns to Masters five years after penalizing himself

By Jason SobelApril 9, 2013, 1:40 pm

The ball rests on the 15th green at Augusta National Golf Club, an uneasy rest if there ever was one. It isn’t that windy on Friday afternoon of the 2008 Masters Tournament, about a one-club breeze, but with the ball precariously perched on a downslope after having been carefully placed there by its owner, it begins to oscillate. With 10, maybe 12 feet separating it from a much-needed birdie, this is no time to be dancing a little jig.

Putter in hand, the player approaches the ball, sees that oscillation and freezes. It’s akin to a red traffic light for a driver. When the ball is quivering like that, you don’t slow down. You stop. Immediately. Not until he is sure that the ball is done oscillating does he step in and begin his usual putting routine.

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But it happens again. The ball moves, ever so slightly, and the player backs away again. He’s been in this position before and knows the punishment. It was back in a junior golf tournament when he first placed his putter on the ground behind the ball, then noticed it move. He had to call a penalty on himself for no reason other than poor timing and worse luck.

With that thought, he again watches the ball come to rest and again begins his routine. He’s extra careful this time. A penalty in a junior tournament is a valuable lesson; a penalty in the game’s most exalted major championship is a mistake that is never forgotten.

He places his putter behind the ball, its Titleist logo pointing in the direction he is aiming to hit the putt. He sneaks one final look at the hole, then looks down again. The Titleist logo has moved. Maybe a quarter-inch. Maybe less. No one else sees it. Not the nearby television cameras nor the thousands of anxious fans nor his two playing partners. He does, though. And he understands that he has to make a decision.

If you know him, though, you know that it isn’t a decision at all. And as Michael Thompson returns to Augusta National this week as a Masters competitor for the first time since 2008, he unhesitatingly says “I’d do it the same way.”

IF COMPETING in the Masters just before his 23rd birthday was a dream come true, then finding himself on the precipice of the cut line was his pinch-me moment, an affirmation that the dream was indeed reality.

Eight months earlier, Michael arrived at The Olympic Club like so many other young hopefuls, allowing himself to think about winning the prestigious U.S. Amateur Championship. Playing some inspired golf, he rolled into the match-play portion of the tournament, even beating Webb Simpson, who would go on to win the U.S. Open on that very site not many years later.

When Michael won his semifinal match against Casey Clendenon, he hugged his parents and cried, “We’re going to Augusta!” Though he lost the next day to Colt Knost in the final, that Masters invitation remains as perhaps the sweetest consolation prize in sports. It was even sweeter for a kid who’d always dreamed of the opportunity.

“I grew up telling everyone I played golf with, if we were practicing 8-footers, that mine was to win the Masters,” he explains with a smile. “To have that come true was just so exciting.”

There haven’t been many players, before or since, who took as much advantage of the invitation. During the second semester of his senior year at the University of Alabama, he made five road trips – pilgrimages, if you will – to Augusta National, playing two or three rounds each time and “loving every minute of it.” He still remembers the first birdie he ever made there, a 3-wood approach into a two-club wind on the 11th hole that culminated in a curling 25-foot putt that touched down in the bottom of the cup.

2013 Masters practice round

Click on the photo for a gallery of pictures from Augusta National

Those frequent visits didn’t mean he was any more prepared once tournament week started. Michael had never before competed in a professional event, let alone a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, let alone a major championship. And now here he was, alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as a Masters competitor.

His nerves hit an all-time high on Wednesday, one day before the tournament even started. Competing in the venerable Par-3 Contest, he found himself hitting that first wedge shot with a trio of legends named Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player watching nearby. His hands trembling, he somehow caught enough of the ball to find the fat part of the green and not embarrass himself in front of that conglomeration of 13 green jackets.

While his family – parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and anyone else who could make the trip – stayed in a big house in Augusta during the week, Michael took his traditional place in the famed Crow’s Nest with the other amateur competitors.

Now, there are some hard-and-fast rules about staying in the Crow’s Nest, which have been met by varying degrees of acceptance over the years. Players have been known to explore the bowels of the mammoth clubhouse, sneaking through all the nooks and crannies of the adult playground. More than a few have practiced their night putting on the space adjacent to the first tee and final green. And those are only the stories they’re willing to share. We can only imagine those which remain unspoken.

Michael left nothing to the imagination. He dressed neatly in a coat and tie for invited dinners, referred to everyone he met as “sir” or “ma’am” and when it came time to retire to his quarters each night, he simply turned off the light, went to sleep and dreamed of what the next day would bring on the course.

“I’m a rule-follower, especially at that place,” he says. “You just don’t want to break any rules.”

That sentiment is a common theme throughout Michael’s life. While most PGA Tour professionals spent their formative years trying to dig secrets out of the dirt, he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, ascending to the position of Eagle Scout. When he was 14 and weighing about 120 pounds soaking wet, he embarked on an 80-mile backpacking trip over 11 days, lugging a pack that weighed nearly half of what he did.

He still credits life as a Scout for helping prepare him for other situations. One of those occurred in August 2005. While practicing for his upcoming season at Tulane University in New Orleans, Michael heard about a major hurricane that was on its way. They were calling it Katrina. Instead of panicking or stalling, he used those lessons learned as a Scout to pack up a few sets of clothes, grab a buddy, get in the car and start driving as far away as possible. Rather than get stuck in the city’s devastation, they actually turned it into a vacation of sorts, stopping along the way to play a little golf.

Loyal almost to a fault, Michael stayed at Tulane and with the school’s golf program for as long as he could – until the team was told that it would need to disband. He transferred to the University of Alabama, just another speed bump in his life that seemed less bumpy because of a childhood spent preparing for the unexpected.

Even today, he credits those lessons learned for his resiliency as a professional golfer. Perhaps it explains how last year, with some of the game’s greatest players wilting under the final-round pressure of the U.S. Open, Michael battled his way to a second-place result, earning a return invitation to the Masters on the very course where he first hugged his parents after receiving one five years earlier. And maybe it explains how two weeks after finishing last among the 138 competitors who completed two rounds at the Northern Trust Open earlier this year, he bounced back to win his first career PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic.

More than anything, though, the lessons explain how a kid one week shy of his 23rd birthday, playing in the tournament he’s always dreamed about, on the verge of making the cut to ensure two more rounds, notices the logo on his ball moves maybe a quarter-inch and knows exactly what he needs to do.

THERE ISN'T even a decision to be made. Michael sees the Titleist logo askew on his ball, steps away and announces to his playing partners that he has to call a penalty on himself. It’s a rule that has since been altered by the USGA, an acknowledgment that it wasn’t fair if an outside agency moved the ball, even after the putter had made contact with the surface of the green.

One of those playing partners, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, tries to talk him out of the ruling. He’s been rooting for the amateur throughout the day and now, with a potential spot in the weekend rounds on the line, he doesn’t want to see the young man lose that opportunity. Michael knows it is the right thing, though. Instead of putting for birdie, he winds up making bogey on that hole, then follows with bogeys on the next two, as well. A second-round score of 78 leaves him four strokes shy of making the cut.

Afterward, he maintains he is disappointed, but not devastated. Mostly about the two bogeys that followed. Not for the ruling. He doesn't second-guess that and never has.

“I think that’s one of the things that I love about golf, that there is a defined set of rules and it’s a gentleman’s game,” he says. “It’s based on honor and I think what sets golf apart from every other sport is that you hold yourself to higher standards than anybody else does.”

Apparently, Michael isn’t the only one who thinks this way. It isn’t long before he starts receiving letters in the mail about his admirable decision. From the University of Alabama president and its athletic director. From church pastors and teachers. From professors who used his situation as a positive example in classroom discussions about business ethics.

And then there is the bridge. Boys' and girls' teams from Holy Spirit Catholic High in Tuscaloosa, Ala., are in the process of constructing a 35-foot bridge at the time, connecting tee boxes on the 14th hole at Ol’ Colony Golf Course. Upon completion, they name it “Michael H. Thompson Bridge,” not because he had been the SEC champion, nor because he had a PGA Tour future ahead of him. Because of what happened at Augusta.

As Michael prepares to compete in the Masters for the second time, exactly five years later, he reflects on that scenario. He was never devastated, but the disappointment long ago faded, too. It is the byproduct of so many others acknowledging his honesty and paying tribute to a decision that for him was never decisive.

“That penalty was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “I got a lot of good press from it. It helped solidify my reputation. I like to keep my word, be honest about what I do. I just think it created more good for me than anything.”

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Fleetwood: Carnoustie course record won't help at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, but he’s skeptical that his past experience will help him at The Open.

Last fall, in the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, Fleetwood birdied six of his last eight holes to card a bogey-free, 9-under 63, the lowest score ever at what is widely considered to be the most difficult course in the Open rota.

No one expects a repeat this week at Carnoustie – not with the conditions this brown, firm and fast.

“It’s a completely different course,” Fleetwood said Monday. “Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It doesn’t do any harm to have played it for a few years. It doesn’t do any harm to have a course record, but it’s a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”

Fleetwood took a much-needed two-week break after the French Open, deciding to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open for a bit more time in his own bed. (He said it was his last full week at home until mid-October.) Since his sparkling 63 to nearly steal the U.S. Open, the Englishman said that he’d “run out of steam” but now feels energized.  

“There’s not really a good reason why I couldn’t do it (this week),” he said. “It really doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. The only thing they could do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do – examples that you can end up there, and you have the game to compete.”

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NBC Sports Group Kicks Off All-Encompassing Coverage From The 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 16, 2018, 1:25 pm

Five Past “Champion Golfers of The Year” Highlight Broadcast Team

Technology Enhancements: Links-Optimized Toptracer, Wind Gauges and Bunker Cams, Including “Johnny Miller Bunker” Along 18th Fairway

NBC Sports Group’s all-encompassing coverage from The 147TH Open kicked off today with Golf Central Live From The Open, which throughout the week will deliver nearly 50 hours of news and analysis on Golf Channel from Carnoustie Golf Links on the east coast of Scotland. The network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage will feature another 50 live hours being broadcast on linear television (Golf Channel, NBC), spanning from the opening tee shot at 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday through the final putt on Sunday. An additional 170 complementary hours of streaming coverage will include featured holes and groups, bringing NBC Sports’ overall production to more than 350 total hours surrounding The Open.

“The Open is unique. Golf’s original championship isn’t just steeped in nearly 150 years of tradition; it features a multitude of storylines that fuel our comprehensive coverage plan,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “Fans look forward to the best players in the world conquering nature’s elements – this year at iconic Carnoustie Golf Links – in their quest to become the Champion Golfer of the Year. Our extensive approach utilizes a deep roster of commentators to set the stage leading up to our unprecedented coverage from the first tee shot early Thursday morning through the last putt on Sunday evening.”

Led by the deepest and most-experienced roster of analysts, hosts, reporters and personalities in the game, coverage will set the scene for golf fans with a focus on key storylines and showcase the unique traditions synonymous with golf’s original championship, culminating in the winner being awarded the iconic Claret Jug and introduced as the Champion Golfer of the Year.


NBC Sports’ live tournament and news coverage will utilize several past “Champion Golfers of the Year,” including NBC Sports’ lead analyst Johnny Miller (1976), as well as Nick Faldo (1987, ’90, ’92) and Justin Leonard (1997). David Duval (2001) and Tom Lehman (1996) are in the field as past champions, and also are scheduled to contribute to coverage. *Full broadcast teams outlined below*

THE MOST LIVE COVERAGE FROM ANY GOLF EVENT: NBC Sports’ 50 hours of live tournament coverage will utilize more than 100 available cameras and employ several technology enhancements to showcase Carnoustie’s distinct characteristics:

  • “Links Toptracer”: A reverse ball flight configuration optimized for links golf will showcase not only where shots land, but also – given players’ strategic use of the ground in links golf – “Links Toptracer” will track how shots roll out.
  • “Bunker Cam”: Coverage will feature NBC Sports’ popular “bunker cam” technology in a total of eight bunkers on Holes 5, 8, 12, 13 and 18, including in several of Carnoustie’s challenging pot bunkers. For the first time, the network will use the embedded camera technology in the face of fairway bunkers (Holes 12 & 18), including the “Johnny Miller bunker,” positioned along the right side of the fairway on the par-4 18th hole. The bunker is named in his honor after it took him two shots to get out of it during The Open in 1975.
  • Influence of Wind: Wind indicators will be utilized around the course to measure changes in wind conditions in real-time, providing immediate ultra-precise data so viewers can easily distinguish what a player is facing over a given shot.
  • “Playing Through” Returns; Callaway to Feature Custom Creative Content: Enhancing both the viewership and commercial experience, NBC Sports’ popular “Playing Through” split-screen commercial format returns for The Open, ensuring viewers don’t miss key stretches of the action during commercial breaks. For the first time at The Open, Callaway has produced an innovative “Playing Through” 30-second spot featuring 2013 Open champion Phil Mickelson. During NBC Sports’ coverage of The Open at Royal Birkdale last year, an additional 200 shots of live golf were shown via “Playing Through.”

MORE THAN 170 HOURS OF COMPLEMENTARY LIVE STREAMING COVERAGE: Complementing traditional linear broadcast coverage, NBC Sports will showcase more than 170 hours of live tournament feeds being streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms and These feeds also will be available as part of DirecTV’s featured mosaic coverage of The Open. The four feeds will include a simulcast of tournament coverage; a “Marquee Group,” for both the morning and afternoon waves of competition; a “3-Hole Channel,” featuring tournament play on Holes 8, 9 and 10; and “Spotlight,” (also available in 4K) showcasing competition taking place on Holes 1 and 18, along with competitor interviews on the range and inside the press center.

Additional Highlights Surrounding NBC Sports’ Coverage of The 147TH Open:

  • NBC News’ Dylan Dreyer to Contribute from Carnoustie: Golf enthusiast Dylan Dreyer of NBC News’ TODAY will offer contributions from on-site at Carnoustie. Given the extensive influence weather tends to have on The Open, Dreyer’s experience as a weather anchor and a golf fan will provide a unique perspective.
  • NBC Universo Airing Simulcast of The Open: NBC Universo will deliver live Spanish-language coverage of the third and final rounds of The Open, Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22. Third round coverage will air live from 1-3 p.m. ET on Saturday, and final round coverage will air live from Noon-2 p.m. ET on Sunday. Coverage will be led by play-by-play host Miguel Gurwitz alongside analyst Edgar Lopez.
  • Conor Moore, Vernon Kay to contribute to NBC Sports’ Digital and Social Media Platforms:After grabbing the attention of the golf world leading up to the Masters earlier this year, social media influencer Conor Moore has partnered with NBC Sports to contribute to the network’s digital and social media platforms surrounding The Open, including a series of impersonations of top players in the field. Additional social media efforts throughout the week will offer expanded original content, including: a collaboration with British television host Vernon Kay, reports from Golf Channel social media correspondent Alexandra O’Laughlin, and a Lego recreation of Jean Van de Velde’s collapse in 1999.

NBC Sports Live Tournament Broadcast Team

Tom Abbott, Notah Begay, Billy Ray Brown, Curt Byrum, Nick Faldo, David Feherty, Jerry Foltz, Terry Gannon, Dan Hicks, Peter Jacobsen, Gary Koch, Justin Leonard, Todd Lewis, Jim “Bones” Mackay, Roger Maltbie, Johnny Miller, Frank Nobilo, Jimmy Roberts, Mark Rolfing, Tim Rosaforte, Steve Sands, Mike Tirico

Golf Central Live From The Open Broadcast Team

Cara Banks, Notah Begay, Steve Burkowski, Brandel Chamblee, Jaime Diaz, Rex Hoggard, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard, Rich Lerner, Todd Lewis, Frank Nobilo, Mark Rolfing, Tim Rosaforte, Ken Schofield

Morning Drive

John Cook and Damon Hack on-site at Carnoustie

Complementary Streaming Coverage Broadcast Team

Tom Abbott, Cara Banks, Steve Burkowski, Ryan Burr, Curt Byrum, John Cook, Damon Hack, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard

NBC Universo Broadcast Team

Miguel Gurwitz, Edgar Lopez

Golf Channel Digital

Mercer Baggs, Jay Coffin, Rex Hoggard, Ryan Lavner, Bailey Mosier, Ryan Reiterman, Brandon Tucker

Social Media Contributors

Vernon Kay, Conor Moore, Alexandra O’Laughlin

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What's in the bag: John Deere winner Michael Kim

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 1:11 pm

Michael Kim won his first career PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic. Here's a look inside his bag:

Driver: Titleist TS2 (10.5 degrees), with Aldila Rogue Black 60X shaft

Fairway wood:  Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Rogue Black 70 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (21 degrees), Graphite Design Tour AD DI-85 X Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4), 718 AP2 (5-PW), with True Temper XP 115 shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GSS Newport 350 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 12:20 pm

Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Other notable groupings:

  • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
  • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
  • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
  • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
  • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
  • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon