Michael Thompson stood over his third shot on the par-5 18th hole at TPC Twin Cities on Saturday. His first stroke had found the water. His second was the penalty. His previous swing was a tap-in for bogey on the 17th. He was leading the 3M Open at that moment. He was leaking, too.
A shot short and to the left was an option. He could get up and down from maybe 100 yards and make his par. A shot at the green and over the water that swallowed his previous ball was another option. He could get up and down from much closer. He could also go back-to-back in the drink.
Thompson grabbed his fairway metal from his bag.
“Time to step up. Play the game,” his caddie, Damian Lopez, told him as he walked toward his ball.
Thompson cleared the water. He made his par. He entered Sunday tied for the lead.
Time to step up. Play the game.
Thompson birdied the 5th hole to jump back into a share of the lead after an early bogey. He birdied the 6th hole to take his first outright lead. He birdied the 16th hole to take the outright lead for good. He birdied the 18th to finish off a 4-under 67, a 19-under total and a two-shot victory over Adam Long.
“This has been my dream ever since I was 7 years old, to play on the PGA Tour,” Thompson said. “It was a shootout today. I mean, anybody could have won. It just means the world to me because it solidifies in my mind that I’m one of the best golfers in the world and that I can compete every single week out here.”
The win is Thompson’s second on the PGA Tour, and first since the 2013 Honda Classic. It secures him a spot on the PGA Tour for the next two years. It secures him a spot in next week’s World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, the PGA Championship in two weeks, the U.S. Open in September, next year’s Players Championship and next year’s Masters.
He stepped up.
He played the game.
“Oh, man, it’s job security for two more years, it’s benefits of the sponsors that I have, and it gives me the confidence to know that I can compete on the biggest stage in the world in this game and that I can do it again,” Thompson said. “To have the opportunities to play in some of the bigger tournaments, to finish the year and put myself in a chance to make Atlanta (for the Tour Championship), I’ve never been in a better position, I think, than right now on the PGA Tour. Man, I am champing at the bit to go prove myself again really.”
Michael Thompson wins
Before Thompson stepped up, he tripped. Three-putt on the 3rd. Bogey. Tony Finau was the leader.
Thompson didn’t trip again.
He birdied the 5th to move back into a share of the lead. He birdied the 6th to take his first outright lead. He won the tournament on the final three holes.
He took the outright lead for good on the 302-yard, par-4 16th. He followed a drive in the left greenside bunker with a 36-yard sand shot that trickled to within 3 feet and an eventual birdie. He protected the lead on the 171-yard, par-3, 17th. He managed the water protecting the hole and two-putted for par. He won the tournament on the 599-yard, par-5 18th. Drive down the middle. Lay-up second shot. Approach to within 15 feet. Then a birdie when all he needed was a par.
“To hit those shots coming down the stretch, those last two holes are not easy,” Thompson said. “I mean, you’ve got to step up and hit a good tee shot and even the layup you’ve got to hit a good shot, and then to put myself in a position to have a 15-footer where all I have to do is lag it up there, uphill right-to-left putt, I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect scenario to finish a tournament. To see that go in was just relieving.”
Thompson and Richy Werenski led to start the day. Finau led outright at one point. Adam Long had a share of the lead at various points. All 10 players who finished at least three shots back all shot under par; nine of the 10 shot under 70. Thompson wasn’t the only one to step up.
Long, who nearly missed the cut after starting with a 68 and a 72, shot a 7-under 64 for a 17-under total. Nine players were at 16-under – Finau, after a 68; Werenski, after a 71; Robby Shelton, after a 64; Charles Howell III and Emiliano Grillo, after 65s; Alex Noren and Cameron Tringale, after 66s; Max Homa, after a 67; and Charl Schwartzel, after a 68.
Matthew Wolff, the defending champion, was in the group five shots back.
Tony Finau falls short
Finau hadn’t won since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, also his first victory. He had finished in the top 10 without winning 29 times, the longest streak on Tour.
Each streak continued.
Finau birdied 2 and 3 to take the lead. He held a share of the lead after a birdie on 10. He lost the lead after Thompson, playing in the group behind him, also birdied 10. Finau shot even-par from there.
“I had some great looks down the stretch,” he said. “I didn’t make the putts I needed to.”