Golf’s 5 biggest winners this week, from Finau’s next caddie to American golf fans
Who won the week in golf? First of all, hopefully some of you, dear readers, who got out to the course for some much-needed fresh air and competition. You’re all winners in my book! From the professional ranks, however, these five winners really stuck out. Let’s break ’em down.
1. Michael Thompson, super-closer
As sports fans, we want a win to really mean something to the winner. Simply put, it helps us feel good about our emotional investment if the competitors we’re watching are themselves emotionally invested, too. Well, look no further than Michael Thompson’s post-round interview after clinching a two-stroke victory at Sunday’s 3M Open.
Thompson, who played rock-solid golf down the stretch and clinched his win with birdies at 16 and 18, won for just the second time in an up-and-down 10-year Tour career. He was bursting with excitement about the win — and he was emotional, too.
“It’s been a long time,” Thompson said, choked up. “I’m really sad my wife and kids aren’t here to celebrate this with me. I can’t wait to see them. Babe, I love ya. I don’t know what else to say, this is so exciting.
He explained, too, what it meant for the future of his career.
“It’s the world,” Thompson said. “It’s what makes this game so unbelievable. We have to play for our job every year. To know that I have security for two more years, and to get in to all those tournaments. One of my biggest goals was to get back to Winged Foot. That was my first U.S. Amateur. It’s my favorite golf course in the whole world. To get into the PGA [Championship] and get into next week (WGC-FedEx St. Jude) is just a huge bonus. I have to get my mind right for sweating next week [in Memphis], but, uh, oh man. It’s just so exciting.”
You can see the full interview below:
2. Tony Finau’s next caddie
After Tony Finau split with his longtime caddie Greg Bodine following last week’s Memorial Tournament, he called on coach Boyd Summerhays to provide fill-in duties this week in Minnesota. There was some unplanned adversity midway through the event when Summerhays suffered some severe calf sunburn, but apart from that things seemed to roll along pretty smoothly: Finau opened 65-66 and seemed very much in control of his game for the second week in a row.
Midway through Sunday, the move really looked smart as Finau sat, for a short time, in sole possession of the lead. He didn’t finish there — he stalled out on the back nine while the field made birdies around him, slipping to T3 — but he did instantly make his bag the most desirable available loop in golf. Which brings me to my point about this big winner: Whoever eventually gets to take over gets a hot hand. Even if, as we know, Finau himself still hasn’t re-entered the winner’s circle himself.
So who’s it gonna be? Finau will stick with the theme of familiar temporary caddies for the next two tournaments, he said after his round. While Summerhays was one-and-done, Tony’s brother Gipper will take over for WGC-Memphis and the PGA Championship, he said. After that, it’s decision time.
3. Adam Long’s determination
On Friday, Adam Long bogeyed his 15th and 16th holes to slip to 1 under for the tournament — a shot outside the cut line. Our Sean Zak, who happened to be caddying from Long’s group, reported the understandable exasperation from Long. He had played well for two days and would be rewarded with just an MC?!
But that’s not what happened. On the 210-yard par-3 8th hole, he stuck a long-iron to 5 feet and rolled in the putt. Then he played a nifty chip from the greenside rough at No. 9, his final hole of the day, and rolled in another 5-footer to punch his ticket to the weekend.
All Long did after that was shoot scalding rounds of 63-64 on Saturday and Sunday, best in the field, and jump from the cut line into solo second place. That’s second as in, the second-best finish of his PGA Tour career. It’s also second as in a $719,400 payday. In all, grinding out those 35th and 36th holes was a heck of a smart move.
As always on the PGA Tour, once you make the weekend, anything can happen (“you” here only refers to whichever readers are capable of shooting 63-64 on a PGA Tour setup).
4. Future Brooks Koepka
You might be saying to yourselves, “Wait a minute. Brooks Koepka?! He missed the cut this week! He’s gone MC-T62-MC his last three starts!” To which I would say: Fair point. However!
We’re headed to Memphis, which is where the world No. 6 should catch some seriously good vibes. The last time he went walkin’ in Memphis was at last year’s WGC here, when he throttled Rory McIlroy in the final group on Sunday and walked away with a statement victory. Now he’ll be back!
If that feeling isn’t enough to get Koepka swinging freely, he needn’t wait much longer for some more good feelings. It’s hard to imagine someone better suited for the action at TPC Harding Park in two weeks’ time than Koepka, who you’ll recall has won the last two editions of the PGA Championship. He’s got one in the Midwest, at Bellerive in 2018. He got one on the East Coast, at Bethpage Black. Can he make it a cross-country trifecta with a triumph in the Bay Area?
Finally, Koepka came out of this weekend a winner despite not playing because another Koepka picked up the slack. You’ll remember that at the Travelers, supportive brother Brooks and his caddie Ricky Elliot went to cheer on his brother Chase as he Monday qualified into the field.
Well, that backfired when Elliot subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus and both Koepkas were forced to WD. Brooks felt guilty that his brother had pulled out after working so hard to earn the spot, but his good-faith WD was rewarded with sponsor’s exemptions into the Workday and the 3M Open. After making the cut, Chase fired a Sunday 63 to roar into T26, surely a good enough result to make he and his brother feel better about the whole saga.
5. Ohio golf fans
More importantly, golf fans everywhere! The LPGA is back this coming week for the first time in nearly six months, and absence only makes the heart grow fonder, as the golf world has distinctly missed the rhythm of its women’s tour trekking along week by week.
One subplot of the LPGA’s return is that damn, there has been some serious professional golf played in the Buckeye State in recent weeks. The cancellation of the John Deere Classic — and subsequent move to Muirfield Village — meant that the greater Columbus area would host the PGA Tour in back-to-back weeks. Now, the LPGA is headed to an “improvised tournament” at the Inverness Club for this week’s Drive On Championship. The following week, the Marathon Classic will take place at Highland Meadows — both in the Toledo area.
It’s important to note that Ohio fans won’t actually get to witness the action in person, as spectators still won’t be allowed on site. But knowing the action is taking place down the road should add to some local Toledo pride.
The field at Inverness will be heavy on American talent, with the top nine U.S. players, led by No. 2 Nelly Korda and No. 5 Danielle Kang, signed up to play. On the other side of the coin, the top eight South Korean women in the Rolex rankings won’t be teeing it up the first event back.
As for Ohio’s golf faithful? They’ll get more pro tournament action when the Bridgestone Senior Players (Akron Aug. 13-16) and Korn Ferry’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (Aug. 20-23) come to town. Good news for all of us.
Until next week!