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Thompson, Werenski gain momentum heading into the final round at the 3M Open

5 Min Read


    Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour

    Michael Thompson’s Round 3 highlights from 3M Open

    BLAINE, Minn. – The fist pump said it all.

    Minutes earlier, Michael Thompson had deposited the 101st golf ball of the afternoon into the pond that hugs the right side of the fairway and guards the green on the 18th hole at TPC Twin Cities.

    His lead at the 3M Open was down to a stroke after a careless tee shot led to a bogey on the previous hole, and Thompson knew he needed to step up on the par 5.

    So, he took his drop in the intermediate rough some 267 yards from the green. While his third shot didn’t hold the short grass and bounded into a bunker, Thompson came up with a great save, blasting out to 7 inches and draining the putt for par.

    After he picked the ball out of the cup and walked to the side of the green, the understated Alabama grad clinched his fist in modest celebration.

    “To finish with that par on 18 is huge,” Thompson said later as the raindrops started to fall. “I really wanted that par. I didn't want to compound the mistake I made on 17. I think that's going to bode well for me tomorrow.”

    Thompson will start the final round of the 3M Open tied with Richy Werenski, who made an 8-footer for birdie, his third in the last four holes, just before that par save. With his win at the 2013 Honda Classic well back in his rear-view mirror, it’s hard to imagine a bigger momentum boost for Thompson.

    “To be able to do that, hit a good, quality golf shot that almost held the green and then to get that up and down with that bunker shot, I mean, I'm honestly just proud of myself for stepping up,” said Thompson, who shot 68 on Saturday to finish at 15 under.

    Despite the fact that the 28-year-old Werenski said he just “plugged along” on Saturday, he has momentum, too, after that torrid finish. The Georgia Tech product has held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds and is primed for his first win in his 99th PGA TOUR start.

    Werenski, who will be playing with Thompson again on Sunday, has four top-three finishes during his career, including a playoff loss at the 2017 Barracuda Championship. He thinks the strong finish to the third round will give him a boost, too.

    “I think it's an advantage,” Werenski said. “I feel really good this week, everything feels solid. There's still a lot of golf left. I just kind of want to keep hanging around and hopefully something happens.”

    Behind Thompson and Werenski, though, is an interesting mix of players who also have something to prove.

    Two strokes in arrears is one the game’s hottest players in Tony Finau, who has had more top-eight finishes in the last four years without a win – 24 -- than any other player on TOUR. But the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup veteran can’t quite seem to get over the hump and win for the second time.

    Last week at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide was another example when Finau held a share of the 54-hole lead but ended up finishing eighth. On Saturday, he felt he didn’t have his best stuff, hitting just seven fairways, but he still ranked first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Approach The Green.

    “I'm definitely proud of myself on just being mentally strong and emotionally strong,” Finau said. “It was a tough finish last week, but every week is a new week. Every week you have an opportunity to prove yourself. That's what I love about the game.

    “Doesn't matter how well you played the last week or how terrible you played, you have a new week to prove yourself and I've gotten another opportunity to try to prove myself tomorrow.”

    Finau says getting off to a quick start will be key on Sunday.

    “I think I've been a little slow out of the box in some of my round fours,” he said. “I think if I get off to a good start, get some momentum, I've got the ability to put the gas on the pedal and make some birdies.

    "As long as I don't shoot myself in the foot early, I think we're going to have a shot tomorrow.

    “I'm excited to put myself in those positions. Disappointing at times when you can't get the job done, but for me, I have to welcome it at this point and just keep fighting and hopefully the door comes down eventually.”

    Charl Schwartzel, the South African with an immaculate resume that includes the 2011 Masters, is tied with Finau at 13 under after shooting 66 on Saturday. The wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2018-19 season is a non-issue but he’s just now starting to score.

    “I don't know if I'm hitting it on all cylinders, but I'm managing to put a score on all cylinders,” said Schwartzel, who came to Minnesota on the heels of four missed cuts. “There's a lot more to this game than just hitting it well. I feel like I'm managing my way around the course pretty good.”

    Schwartzel has really prospered on the par 5s this week. He’s the only player in the field to make birdie or better every time he’s played one in the first three rounds – playing them in 11 under – a first for his career. He likes the course, shooting 63 in a practice round, and is primed for a strong finish.

    “I think I'm definitely going to rely on my past wins and the experience I've got,” he said. “You don't win it on the first hole, you're going to have to hang in there for 18 more holes and keep with the process, and if I'm doing what I'm doing now, there's no reason why I can't post a good score.”