Michael Thompson hit several magnificent golf shots on Sunday at the 3M Open where he shot 67 to beat Adam Long by two and win for the second time in his career. It's been a journeyman's road for Thompson, who finished second behind Webb Simpson at the 2012 U.S. Open, but he did not look the part of any journeyman for large stretches this week at TPC Twin Cities.
The name "Michael Thompson" is about as average as sports names come. His game and his look match his name. Average length, average career, average earnings (for the PGA Tour). Everything is very middle of the pack. So when he hit the shot of the tournament on the 16th hole and followed it with another doozy on the 17th to essentially put the event out of reach (and then capped those with a lights-out birdie at the last!), it wasn't exactly as expected as, say, Jon Rahm rolling to the No. 1 spot in the world last week.
First, let's talk about No. 16. Tied with Long, who was finishing ahead of him, Thompson went for it all out of a bunker on the par-4 after nearly driving the green. The outcome was breathtaking. You aren't supposed to get a golf ball to do this. He kicked it in for birdie and a narrow one-stroke lead. A par-birdie finish, and that's a wrap on his first victory since the 2013 Honda Classic.
"I love bunkers," Thompson said. "That was the one thing I did when I was a kid after I got home from school was I would go sit in a bunker for a couple hours and just hit bunker shots. So I have really good feel in the bunker and good visual for how I want the shot to come off, and for that to happen on the 70th hole, you know, potentially give me a one-shot lead if I make birdie there, it was perfect timing."
That Thompson popped this week after racking up just seven top 10s worldwide over the last four years speaks to how insanely good everybody on Tour is and how unbelievably unpredictable this entire sport can be. The first is a testament to the long road of endurance for players like Thompson and the second is what makes every week -- even weeks with mediocre fields like this one -- so much fun.
The craziest thing about pro golf is you get guys that you don't know a lot about ... guys that aren't stuffed down our throat weekly ... who have so much game and present it down the stretch. Thompson is hitting GOLF SHOTS. Wild considering his winless streak. Dudes are good.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) July 26, 2020
The average name with the average career had one of the weeks of his life in Blaine, Minnesota, this week. He knew it, too as tears flowed following the last putt. If you're Michael Thompson, you only get a handful of shots at doing something like this over the course of your career. He had plenty of opportunities to get run down on Sunday, to eject from one of the five or six events over a 20-year career that he actually had a chance to win. He refused to do it, instead stepping up to the plate and hitting some big-boy golf shots over the last few holes.
It was awesome to watch and a thrill to see the emotion overflowing from him over the last two days.
"Yeah, I'm a little calmer now, kind of come down from the high," Thompson said after picking up the win. "I actually just FaceTimed my wife and before we even said anything we both started crying.
"This has been my dream ever since I was 7 years old, to play on the PGA Tour," he added. "I never got past maybe winning one time, and to have it happen and to have it happen at such a great event on such a great golf course under these conditions with the field that we had this week, 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."
Everything about Thompson's career might be right in the middle, but for him in this week his game was as about as stellar as it gets. Grade: A+
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Adam Long (2nd): After sitting outside the cut line through 34 holes, Long played his last 38 holes of the tournament 16 under par and shot 63-64 on the weekend to nearly steal the tournament at the very end. This is why we hoot and holler about cut lines on Friday afternoon, because once you make the weekend with the field cut in half pretty much anything can happen. Long would have been the first player in four years to win after making the cut on the exact number (he was 2 under after two rounds). Grade: A+
Players to win since 2010 after making the cut on the number:— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 26, 2020
2016 Brandt Snedeker - Farmers
2010 Carl Pettersson - Canadian
2010 Rory McIlroy - Quail Hollow
Adam Long made the cut on the number Friday.
Tony Finau (T3): Well, it wasn't exactly a disappointing Sunday after a 68 from Finau, but it never really felt like he put his foot on the gas (which has become a bit of a theme). He played his last eight holes in even par after putting himself in a real position to win the golf tournament after making birdie at No. 10. My biggest issue with him right now is that there seems to be a bit of a lack of a plan off the tee. Finau was by far the longest player in the field off the tee, but he didn't even finish in the top 25 in strokes gained off the tee. It seems as if he should be overpowering some of these holes, but he often plays them like he hits it 270 off the tee instead of potentially 370. Maybe that strategy changes in the weeks ahead (he mentioned it at the Memorial Tournament last week), and it should. When given the opportunity, Finau should be using his biggest weapon as his greatest advantage. Grade: B+
Matthew Wolff (T12): A worthy title defense for young Wolff, who shot 67 on Sunday when he needed something in the low 60s. He lost his shot at two straight 3M titles Saturday when he shot 70 as the field went low, but another top 25 in a nice string of them (three in four events) is impressive heading into the WGC event next week and PGA Championship the week after that. Though he didn't hit the ball quite as well this week as he did last week at Muirfield Village, he's run enough events together in a row now that I'm convinced he's gotten over whatever ailed him following that first victory at this event last year and a run of 11 months without a top 10. He'll be problematic, not every week, but in a lot of events for a long time. Grade: A
Brooks Koepka (MC): It's not good that a Koepka made the cut but it wasn't Brooks. That's two missed cuts in three events for the four-time major winner and more questions than answers as we descend into a major championship season. I'm not a believer that he'll bounce back for the big-boy battles over the next few months, but he's proved that notion wrong many times before. If you're looking for good signs here, Koepka did hit the ball pretty well over the 36 holes of this event where he was involved, but he lost five strokes to the field with his putter, which is the primary reason he missed the cut. Grade: F