3M Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
WHEN Michael Thompson FaceTimed his wife Rachel after winning the 3M Open last year there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
He won the Honda Classic in 2013 but had to wait seven years for his second victory. The road to his second PGA Tour win had been a long and brutal one for the 35-year-old. And for the better part of the 2,702 days that have passed since he won the 2013 Honda Classic, Thompson lived on the fringes in a constant battle to keep to his card.
All that changed last year, though, when Thompson made a 15-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole for a two-stroke victory.
It gave him full playing rights through until the end of the 2022-23 season and a gave him a huge amount of confidence to go with it as he moved from 151st to 39th in the FedEx Cup standings.
And there were plenty of other bonuses. For starters he got into the field for the following week’s World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational where he made only his fourth WGC start on a course he says he “absolutely loves.” And for the first time since 2013, he secured a place in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Rachel Thompson is a doctor of physical therapy whom he met when both were students at Tulane and she had been with him all the way.
“She knows the work that I've put in, the early mornings going to the gym, the time I've spent with Justin Parsons, my swing coach, practice, being away from the kids,” Thompson said. “This is what we do all that work for and so it's just so exciting that I now get to celebrate that with them. What a week.”
The week after The Players Championship was cancelled after just one round in 2020, the couple and their son Jace went to Kansas to adopt their second child, a daughter who they named Laurel Marie.
Thompson and his wife were in the delivery room, as they had been when Jace was born. The new dad even got to cut the umbilical cord. They spent the next 27 days in Kansas waiting on the paperwork to be completed as the pandemic shutdown prompted legal delays.
“But it was really a joy for me to be able to stay home those first three months of her life and really get to care for her and learn her little nuances and see her smile,” he said. “It definitely puts perspective in your mind when you have kids because golf is very important and it's what I love to do, but our kids are what we live for. I'm very, very thankful that I had that time with her.”
Thompson never stopped working on his game, though, and the payoff came in Minnesota, 1,400 miles away from their Sea Island home. He made just three bogeys all week, playing what he called some steady “Michael Thompson golf.”
A brilliant shot to three feet from the left greenside bunker at the reachable par-four 16th gave Thompson the lead. And then he played the par-five 18th – where everyone’s last gasp at eagle kept coming up short – conservatively. “You can only dream of making a putt on the last hole to win a tournament,” said Thompson, who led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting at +7.275. “Definitely nice to know that I had a one-shot cushion, so I only had to two-putt, but I had such a good read, it was an uphill right-to-left, exactly what any right-handed golfer wants.
“And I've been putting good all day today, so I just said -- I said to myself before I hit it, ‘Best putt of the day here, best putt of the day,’ and sure enough I hit it absolutely perfect and it went right in the middle.
Thompson wanted to play on the PGA Tour since he was a seven-year-old boy who spent hours hitting bunker shots at Forty Niner Country Club in Tucson where he grew up. And even with the seven years between victories, “you couldn’t have written a better script for where I’m at right now,” he said.
“This validates the first win,” Thompson said. “It solidifies kind of my presence on the PGA TOUR and proves to my peers that I'm a threat every week and that's what I want to be.”
Thompson will be back to defend his 2020 crown. The field will also feature five-time PGA Tour winner Rickie Fowler, who is making his first appearance at the 3M Open as he strives to return to winning form, and Dustin Johnson, who withdrew after the first round last year with a back injury. Also making their first start in Blaine is U.S. Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen. Another first-time player is 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin native.
Charl Schwartzel, who tied for third last year, will also be back. Other players include eight-time PGA Tour winner Stewart Cink, 2013 PGA champion Jason Dufner, and Sergio Garcia. Bubba Watson, who was forced to pull out of The Open because of a close contact with a Covid victim, has also entered. Scotland's Robert MacIntyre is a late entry as he looks to secure a PGA Tour card.
This is only the third playing of this tournament. It was won in 2019 by Matthew Wolff and last year by Thompson.
Dustin Johnson started the season in sensational style but missed the cut in defence of his Masters title, but there were encouraging signs at the US Open, Travelers Championship and The Open. It may surprise you to learn that Bubba Watson has enjoyed nine top-25 finishes this season, including a tie for sixth at the recent Rocket Mortgage Classic. He is due another victory. Since his surprise victory at the Sanderson Farm Classic back in October it has all been something of a struggle for Sergio Garcia. He missed four cuts on the trot but finished in the top 20 at both the Charles Schwab Challenge and US Open. Don’t write off his chances of making the European Ryder Cup team.
TPC Twin Cities is located in Minnesota. It measures 7,164 yards and is 900 feet above sea level, which means the ball will fly even further than normal. It is an inland course featuring lots of water and cavernous bunkers. The greens will be soft.
Bubba Watson. Always good value for money
Sergio Garcia. Struggling with the short stick again
Louis Oosthuizen. Looking to put his Open disappointment behind him
Players to Follow:
Bubba Watson. Course suits his game
Sergio Garcia. Needs to kick on if he is to make Europe’s Ryder Cup team
Louis Oosthuizen. Playing some beautiful golf but needs to find a way to win
Dustin Johnson. Withdrew after 18 holes last year - looking for something better this time
Steve Stricker. One of the straightest hitters in the game and remains a wonderful putter
Michael Thompson. Will return with great memories
Charl Schwartzel. Tumbling down the rankings but still a class act
Rickie Fowler. Desperately seeking something - anything
Matthew Wolff. Former winner is struggling, but it won’t last
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)