3M Open defending champion Michael Thompson excited to have fans back

Michael Thompson of the United States celebrates with his caddie, Damian Lopez, on the 18th green after winning the 3M Open on July 26, 2020 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images))

Michael Thompson had one of the biggest moments of his professional golf career last July, shooting a final round 68 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine to win the 3M Open by two shots at 19-under par.

It turns out it wasn’t even the highlight of his year. Thompson and his wife, shortly after the PGA Tour shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrated the birth of their daughter earlier in the year. Because of the pandemic, no fans could watch Thompson finish off his win in-person, and his family couldn’t be in Blaine.

He was left to celebrate with his caddie and a few people from his team that could be there. That won’t be an issue this year, as at the tournament’s Media Day on Monday, Executive Director Hollis Cavner said the event will have full fan capacity for its third year in Blaine.

"Any time we have a great moment in our lives, we want to be able to share it with the ones we love the most, right? Not having them there was a bit sad, even though I had tears of joy for winning," Thompson said Monday. "My family will be here, my daughter is now 15 months old and aware of what’s going on. It’ll be exciting to experience this tournament as a past champion and defending champion."

Last year was Thompson’s second tour win, and it gave him a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour. He’s got three top 25 finishes this year, has more than $800,000 in earnings this season and is currently 122nd in the World Golf Rankings.

He’ll be back to defend his title next month, and at Media Day recalled some of his top moments from last year’s win.

In the third round, he hit his tee shot on No. 18 into the water and was left with a decision to make. He could lay up on the par-5, try to get a wedge close and save a par, or hit an approach from the drop area near the green. After a conversation with his caddie, he chose the latter.

"I was incredibly nervous because if I hit it in the water I make a big number. He told me ‘alright pro, time to step up and play the game.’ That just totally relaxed me, it showed me that he had full confidence in my ability and sure enough, I pulled off the shot," Thompson said. "That kept the momentum going into Sunday."

Thompson got a nice pay day out of the win, but it didn’t feel the same without fans on the grounds. Even a few hecklers, and he admits he’s chirped back at a few this season all in good fun. He’s looking forward to what fans will bring this time around after playing without them for several months.

"I remember the first year being here, walking down 18 on Saturday it was just lined with people. I know the community here loves golf and they love coming out to support their favorite golfers and come and see some great golf," Thompson said. "I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like this year, I think it’s going to be amped up just a little bit more."

The early commitments for the 3M Open include Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen, Steve Stricker, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink. Minnesota’s tour stop is one of many sporting events returning to full capacity in July, and it’s music to Cavner’s ears.

"The excitement is off the charts for us. After going through what we went last year, this is such a godsend to have fans back. There is such a pent up demand in Minnesota for golf, it’s incredible," Cavner said.

Cavner will reveal more names for the 3M Open as the tournament draws closer. He’s hoping to get more players from those who miss the cut at The Open Championship in England, and other players who have either declined invites or not qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo the following week.

Thompson says with the depth of talent that the PGA Tour has, it’s anybody’s tournament to win.

"There’s 100 guys on any week that can win a golf tournament, so we’re going to get good golf either way," Thompson said.