The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, closed out July with tour journeyman Michael Thompson winning at 19 under par, two shots ahead of runner up, Andrew Long. The win was Thomson’s second tour victory, the first one at the Honda all the way back in 2013. The 2020 season has been difficult for Thomson, making the cut in only 8 of 17 events, but a top 10 at the Heritage in June was a sign that his game was starting to come around. Proving that hard work and fortitude can pay off, Thomson secured a two-year tour exemption along with entry into this week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. In an emotional interview following the final round, Thomson credited his wife, Rachel, for keeping his confidence up and believing in him when things got tough, saying “My wife has been a rock for me.”
August opened up with the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and saw Justin Thomas mount a dramatic come from behind charge to victory with the legendary ‘Bones’ Mackey on his bag. Everyone expected the hard as nails Brooks Koepka to come away with the win, but the pressure Thomas applied seemed to shake a normally unflappable Koepka and he ended with a double bogey six on the last hole, finishing runner-up. This victory gave Thomas a 713-point lead in the FedEx Cup standings over Webb Simpson, currently in the second spot.
After a rocky showing at the Memorial Tournament, questions have again started to bubble up with regard to Tiger’s back. Before starting the Memorial, Tiger put the kibosh on speculation about the condition of his back when he said that his delayed return to tournament play was strictly due to an abundance of caution concerning COVID-19. While Tiger didn’t appear to be in obvious pain at any point in the tournament, his swing didn’t have the fluid freedom we saw at the end of 2019, and a pair of 76’s only add fuel to the rumor mill. Tiger says that he just needed to knock off some rust, and we’ll get to see for sure when he continues his pursuit of Jack’s major championship record this week at Harding Park. Stay tuned.
As with all major championships, The PGA Championship will include a tremendous field of top-ranked players, each hoping to bring home the Wannamaker Trophy, awarded to the winner by the PGA of America. In addition to Tiger, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson will all be teeing it up this week. The player to watch is most certainly the reigning two-time PGA Champion, Brooks Koepka. Koepka gained momentum at the FedEx, in spite of the hiccup on the final hole. After poor finishes at the Workday, Memorial, and 3M, Koepka turned up his game with a blistering 62 in the opening round, and recorded solid rounds of 68 and 69 over the weekend. With his explosive display at the FedEx, Justin Thomas (also a former PGA Champion) is another player to watch closely this week. Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantley, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, and Patrick Reed have all been playing well of late, and each would dearly love to add the Wannamaker to his trophy case. And don’t be surprised if Dustin Johnson suddenly jumps in the mix and walks away with his second major victory. Of course, The PGA has been known to deliver the unexpected, suddenly launching an unknown name into the spotlight (John Daly, Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang, Shaun Micheel, Jeff Sluman, and Wayne Grady come to mind). One thing is for sure, this is going to be a great week for watching golf.
TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California will be hosting a professional major championship for the first time in its venerated history. Harding Park was originally designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, opening in 1925. A municipal course, owned by the San Francisco Department of Parks & Recreation, Harding Park hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1937 and in 1956, and the Lucky International Open on the PGA Tour until 1969. Due to budget cuts, Harding Park’s condition had begun to decline and the tour was ultimately forced to end their relationship. For the next thirty years, Harding Park was largely forgotten, with the most humiliating moment coming when it was used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open that was played at The Olympic Club. 2002 brought about a revival, however, when Arnold Palmer Golf Management was brought in to operate the park. Former USGA President Sandy Tatum played a key role by enlisting the assistance of Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour, with PGA Tour course architect Chris Gray tasked with returning Harding Park to Watson’s vision—and he did a masterful job. 2005 proved to be another groundbreaking year for Harding Park, as it hosted its first World Golf Championship event (The American Express Championship). Ten years later, the course hosted the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Both World Golf events at Harding were thrilling nail-bitters, with Tiger Woods narrowly defeating fan-favorite John Daly in a playoff at the American Express, and Rory McIlroy defeating the hard-charging Gary Woodland at the Cadillac Matchplay. Harding Park also hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and is scheduled to host the 2025 Presidents Cup. In 2010, Harding Park became a member of the TPC network, and is now operated by PGA Tour Golf Course Properties. Joining Bethpage, Torrey Pines and Chambers Bay among municipal courses that have hosted a major championship is yet another fitting tribute to Harding Park, and a testament to how far the game has come in making great courses available to everyone.