BLAINE, Minn. — Without a gallery around him on the 18th green at TPC Twin Cities, Michael Thompson settled for a subdued celebration at the 3M Open with a FaceTime call home to his wife, Rachel, and children in Georgia.
The tears came from him and his wife as soon as they saw each other on the screen.
Thompson birdied two of the last three holes Sunday for a 4-under-par 67 and a two-stroke victory, with the former University of Alabama golfer finishing off his second PGA Tour win seven years after his first at the Honda Classic.
"It is a little sad that there wasn't anybody out there to cheer on some of the great shots that I hit toward the end, but I know everybody who's rooting for me at least was watching and screaming at their TV," Thompson said. "This is definitely a win for everybody who supported me throughout the years. It doesn't diminish the excitement."
Thompson finished at 19-under 265 to hold off second-place Adam Long (64). Former Georgia Tech player Richy Werenski, who had the lead after the first round and shared it with Thompson after the next two, shot a 70 for his worst round of the tournament and settled for a nine-way tie for third — three strokes back.
Also in that group was Tony Finau (68), who was the only one among the five players from the Official World Golf Ranking's top 30 in the field to reach the weekend, far outperforming fellow high-profile peers Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey.
Former University of Georgia golfer Harris English (69) tied for 18th at 13 under, and fellow Baylor School graduate Luke List (67), a former Vanderbilt player, shared 32nd at 10 under.
As for Thompson, he was more nervous than he anticipated, even without spectators.
"It means so much to get a win, and it gets you into so many different tournaments and solidifies your job for two more years. That's enough pressure for anybody, let alone having fans out there," said Thompson, who has a 3-year-old son and an infant daughter he and his wife adopted in March.
Nobody throughout the windy and muggy four days in Minnesota was steadier than Thompson, who entered the week 151st in the FedEx Cup standings but made just three bogeys in 72 holes as he rocketed up to 39th on the way to Tennessee for the FedEx St. Jude Invitational — now a World Golf Championship — that starts Thursday at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
He hit solidly out of the sand to set up a birdie on the 16th hole Sunday and take sole possession of the lead. He deftly steered around the water danger on the 18th, landing his approach on the back of the green within 15 feet of the cup.
With Long in the clubhouse, having played five groups ahead, Thompson had two putts to win. He needed only one, bending backward and thrusting his arms straight up in the air after the ball dropped in the cup.
Thompson's best previous finish in this stopped-and-restarted 2020 season was a tie for eighth at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, and he missed the cut in his last start at the Workday Charity Open in Ohio two weeks ago. For this win, he not only secured a spot in the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and next year's Masters, but a prize of $1,188,000. That's nearly 12% of his career earnings on the tour. The U.S. Open, rescheduled for Sept. 17-20, is at Winged Foot in New York, which Thompson called his favorite course "in the entire world."
In stroke play over the past four seasons, Finau has finished 35 rounds inside the top three, by far the most without a win on tour over that stretch. Fleetwood (20) has the second most.
"They don't give out second-place trophies, third-place trophies," said Finau, who shot a 78 in the final round of the Memorial Tournament last week to finish eighth after sharing the 36-hole lead. "I've learned that the hard way with lot of them coming early in my career, but I continue to just believe and hope for the best for my future."
Finau and Werenski were joined in third by Robby Shelton, who closed with a 64, as well as Charles Howell III, Emiliano Grillo, Max Homa, Alex Noren, Charl Schwartzel and Cameron Tringale.
Long, who needed to birdie his next-to-last hole in the second round Friday just to reach the weekend, missed the cut on three of his past five starts out of the pandemic pause. He shot a 63 on Saturday, the low score for the tournament that was matched five other times over the four rounds, and posted eight birdies on Sunday. His bogey on the par-3 17th stood out, leaving his first putt short, but he picked up the second available spot in the U.S. Open with his second-place finish.
Matthew Wolff, who won the inaugural 3M Open in 2019 for his first PGA Tour win, was in striking distance after his birdie on the 14th, but he followed three straight pars with a six-stroke bogey on the 18th. His tee shot was well wide of the fairway, and his fourth try from the rough did not reach the green. Wolff finished at 14 under.
"That last hole just got a funky number, but it is what it is. I feel like I played really well here, and I really like this course," said Wolff, who made an eagle on the 18th hole last year at TPC Twin Cities to beat Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau by one stroke.
This time, the finish was far less dramatic, though equally satisfying for Thompson.
"It solidifies kind of my presence on the PGA Tour and proves to my peers that I'm a threat every week," Thompson said, "and that's what I want to be."