After a seven-year drought, Michael Thompson is back in the winner’s circle, staying composed and hitting clutch shots down the stretch to win the second 3M Open by two strokes.
Now 35 years of age, Thompson was a former No. 1 ranked amateur, who made himself known to the professional world when he surged into early contention at the 2012 U.S. Open, where he went on to finish runner-up. Two years later, he earned his first victory, taking the 2013 Honda Classic.
From there, though, things got more difficult. A lot more difficult. In each of the four seasons ranging from 2015 to 2018, Thompson failed to finish the regular season inside the top 125 of the FedExCup Standings, keeping him home for the playoffs. The 2019 campaign was better, but now after an inconsistent 2020 season, Thompson again has job security, getting into the mix early at TPC Twin Cities and staying out front til the end.
After a steady Saturday where he bogeyed just one hole in a 3-under 68, Thompson shared the 54-hole co-lead with Richy Werenski, a highly-motivated player himself looking for a first career victory. With some bigger names closely behind, like 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and a top-20 player in Tony Finau, Thompson was under considerable pressure to shoot a fourth-straight round in the 60s.
Early on, Thompson had to shake off some nerves as he played his first four holes in 1-over, and with Finau notching birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, it looked like it might finally be the week for Finau – a man who has been a top-10 machine since his sole victory more than four years ago.
But Thompson did not stay down long. While none of his immediate competitors were able to make an early run, he birdied Nos. 5 and 6 to re-establish himself as the tournament favorite. He made the turn at 1-under, guaranteeing a thrilling back nine for the second straight year of the Minnesota-based event.
Thompson showed nothing resembling nerves during the second half of his round. Suddenly, Adam Long propelled himself from barely making the cut into the lead with a mid-round flurry of birdies. Thompson birdied 10 and then reeled off five straight pars to set up a thrilling close.
An impressive up-and-down for birdie on No. 16 moved him from co-lead to sole ownership of the top spot. Then came the shot of the tournament: On the par-3 17th, Thompson hit his tee shot into the far side of a greenside bunker, but despite staring bogey – or worse, given that there was water on the other side of the green – he calmly knocked his shot within three feet of the hole. Suddenly, someone else would have to do something heroic for Thompson to not win the tournament.
And nobody did.
On the par-5 18th – a hole that saw last year’s winner, Matthew Wolff, eagle to win by a stroke over Tour heavyweights Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa, Thompson calmly hit his drive into the fairway. Needing two putts from 15 feet to win, he nailed his first attempt, locking up his second career victory.
With a Sunday 4-under 67, Thompson finished at 19-under for the week, two better than Long. A group of nine players were three shots back, sharing third, with Werenaki, Schwartzel, and Finau all among them.
Thompson was justifiably emotional after his victory, sharing mild disappointment that his wife and children were unable to join in on the celebration, given the PGA Tour’s spectator ban in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that forced a three-month layoff. His family will not get to join him in any recent upcoming events, but they will get to watch him in some very big ones: after qualifying for just one of the past 24 majors (2019 PGA Championship where he missed the cut), Thompson’s win put him in the field for three of the next four.
Also, after not qualifying for a World Golf Championship (WGC) event in more than seven years, he will be in the field for next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Final Top-10 Finishers
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Michael Thompson -19 (-4)
2. Adam Long -17 (-7)
3. Robby Shelton -16 (-7)
3. Charles Howell III -16 (-6)
3. Emiliano Grillo -16 (-6)
3. Cameron Tringale -16 (-5)
3. Alex Noren -16 (-5)
3. Max Homa -16 (-4)
3. Tony Finau -16 (-3)
3. Charl Schwartzel -16 (-3)
3. Richy Werenski -16 (-1)
Final Stat Leaders
Driving: Luke List (315.4)
Fairways: Kyle Stanley (47/56, 83.9%)
Greens: Ryan Moore (61/72, 84.7%)
Putts/GIR: Brian Harman (1.489)
Birdies: Dylan Frittelli (25)
How Michael Thompson Won the Memorial
Thompson shot a 7-under 64 in the first round – a round that saw many low scores, which was just a stroke off the lead. While many faltered from there, Thompson shot a 66 on Friday, and a Saturday 68 got him into the final grouping – and his best chance to get to the winner’s circle in a long time.
Thompson has his putter to thank most for his victory. He led the field in strokes gained: putting, with nearly a seven-stroke advantage over four rounds. It was a big reason why he bogeyed just three holes the entire week, which tied for the lowest in the field, and his 22 birdies ranked seventh.
He was tied for third in greens in regulation for the week, hitting all 18 in round 1 and 16 of 18 during the final round. He was fourth in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
Michael Thompson’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 292 (97th)
Fairways: 67.9%, 38/56 (33rd)
Greens: 83.3%, 60/72 (4th)
Putts/Per GIR: 1.72 (33rd)
Scores: 22 Birdies, 47 Pars, 3 Bogeys
Off the Tee: -0.449 (88th)
Approach the Green: 7.427 (4th)
Tee to Green: 5.940 (24th)
Putting: 7.275 (6th)
Total: 13.215 (1st)
What Winning Means For Michael Thompson
Most of all, this victory means job security. After struggling to hold onto his card in the years following his first victory, Thompson had something of a resurgence in 2019, finishing 89th in the FedExCup standings while setting career highs in top 10s (four) and top 25s (eight), but he had mostly been struggling in the 2020 season. In 11 events before the coronavirus layoff, he had made just four cuts, with an early T23 his best by a considerable amount.
In his first event after play resumed, Thompson managed a T8 at the RBC Heritage, but finished T46, T64, MC in his next three starts, meaning he was trending in the wrong direction coming into this week. With a significantly weaker field (only one top-10 player was in the field when play began), Thompson took advantage, and late on Sunday, he showed the kind of composure that would have kept him in the mix at an event of any strength.
Thompson was 151st in the FedExCup standings coming into the week, a troubling spot given the upcoming playoffs, but with the win, he is now 39th. He also jumped from 218th in the world rankings to 99th, his first time in the top-100 since midway through the 2014 season.
Michael Thompson’s 2019-20 Season
Cuts Made: 8
Wins: 1 (3M Open)
Additional Top 10: 1
Earnings: $1,519,872 (46th)
FedExCup Pts: 641 (39th)
World Rank Before/After: 215/99
Adam Long made the cut on the number, shooting 68-72 on the first two days, but his 16 weekend birdies put him firmly into contention on the final day.
The 32-year-old made himself known to the Tour when he chased down Phil Mickelson from behind to win last year’s Desert Classic, and made himself known to the leaderboard on Sunday when he birdied Nos. 6, 7, and 8 to hit the turn at 4-under. He then birdied 11 and 12 to tie for the lead before cooling off some down the stretch, but was still good enough to shoot a 7-under 64 and hold the clubhouse lead for a significant amount of time.
Little known Robby Shelton got into the T3 mix with an unbelievable back-nine that saw him birdie six of his final eight holes. This was a much-needed week for the 24-year-old Alabama product, as he had missed the cut in all four events he had played since Tour play resumed. Shelton began the day in 19th place.
Sunday’s biggest mover was the lesser known of a man with a very well-known last name. Chase Koepka, the younger brother of world No. 6 and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, finished his 3M Open with a round that could give him some moderate bragging rights. With six birdies on his back nine, Koepka shot a bogey-free 8-under 63 that rocketed him 30 spots up the final leaderboard from T56 to T26, easily his best finish in the U.S.
Ranked 1564th in the world coming into the week (now No. 1156), he finished ahead of Brooks, who missed the cut entirely. The 63 tied for the Sunday low with Bo Hoag and Sepp Straka.
Richy Werenski had high hopes after getting himself into the 54-hole co-lead, but was unable to get the kind of start he needed, making the turn in 2-over. He did birdie three holes down the stretch to shoot 1-under 70 and get into that enormous T3 mix, but it was too little, too late in regards to getting a victory.
The Massachusetts native did get himself to 70th in the FedExCup Standings, however.
Another Sunday in contention, another Sunday disappointment for Tony Finau, who is still looking for his second career victory, with the first coming at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, an opposite-field event.
Finau was in contention at last week’s Memorial Tournament before fading badly on Sunday, but had a shot at redemption when he found himself in third place, just two strokes back of the 54-hole lead. However, Finau again did not have his best on the final day. He shot a 3-under 68 and failed to make the late push he needed, staying in third place.
Over the past four seasons, Finau’s 30 top-10 finishes without a win is 14 more than the next highest player. He has shown tremendous talent, but at some point, the high finishes have to be getting beyond frustrating.
At No. 17 in the world rankings, Finau was the highest-ranked player in the field to play the weekend.
Sunday’s biggest drop came from former Tour winner Robert Garrigus, who shot a 2-over 73 to plummet 34 spots from T19 to T53. However, playing his first event since February, the 42-year-old could be encouraged that he finished inside the top 60 in an event for the first time since the opening weeks of the 2018 season.
“I don’t know what to say; this is so exciting. I just played such good golf today, and staying within myself, believed in myself… I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
– Michael Thompson, 3M Open Champion