MINNEAPOLIS - Michael Thompson arrived to TPC Twin Cities in Blaine on Sunday, looking to recapture the game that won him the 3M Open title last summer.
Circumstances were far different, and it turns out getting his second PGA Tour win wasn’t even the highlight of his 2020. When most of the world was in quarantine due to COVID-19, Thompson and his wife celebrated the birth of their second child, a girl who is now about 16 months old.
There were no fans at TPC Twin Cities last year, due to COVID-19 concerns. Even Thompson’s family wasn’t on the grounds, so he had to celebrate his second win with his caddie, and a select few from his team who could be there. That’s changed this week as his family and supporters are in the Twin Cities. Now that he’s a two-time PGA Tour winner, Thompson's 4-year-old son, Jace, is giving him grief and getting a little greedy.
"My son has been asking me when am I going to win another tournament because he wants to be there when it happens," Thompson said Tuesday. "There’s a lot of motivation there to have him experience being a champion and being a winner of a golf tournament."
Thompson has three top-20 finishes in the 2021 season, and in 253 career events played, has nearly $11 million in career earnings.
One of his biggest thrills this week will be seeing golf fans out on the course again. After playing on an empty course last year, the 3M Open will have full fan capacity at TPC Twin Cities. Last week, Tournament Director Mike Welch said he wants this week to be "the Minnesota event of the summer that happens to be wrapped into a golf tournament."
Fans starved to see the best in golf will get the chance to see some of the best in the game, hopefully at the top of their game. Thompson expects an electric atmosphere throughout the course.
"It’s going to be great. I think Minnesotans are excited about this week. It’s going to be pretty wild and raucous, so it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere," Thompson said.
Last year’s win got Thompson a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour. It was his first win since the 2013 Honda Classic, making for a seven-year gap between titles. He admitted Tuesday before winning the 3M Open last year, he wasn’t sure it would ever happen again.
He held off a slew of challengers with a 4-under par 68 on Sunday to win by two shots.
"When you get in that situation, the tendency is to put a lot of pressure on yourself to try to close out the tournament. It was just a special moment. Going through that struggle over seven years makes the win even more special and more important to me," Thompson said.
Thompson has already been on the course a few times as he gets ready to defend his 3M Open title. He played during the Media Day a few weeks ago, and played the back nine on Monday. He said the greens are smooth, the fairways are like carpet and the rough is healthy, despite much of Minnesota being in a moderate drought due to a lack of rain over the last month.
If Thompson is to defend his title, he’ll have to beat at least 23 of the top 70 players in the World Golf Rankings. The field includes Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau. Sergio Garcia, Jason Kokrak, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and 2019 champion Matthew Wolff among others.
It’s a deep field, coming off the Open Championship last week and the Olympics next week.
"I think that’s what makes this tournament great is that anybody in the field has a chance to win. Whether you’re a long hitter, a short hitter, a great putter or a great iron player, everybody can play well and hopefully that will lead to a bunched leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. That’s what the viewers want, that’s what the fans want," Thompson said.