Michael Thorbjornsen records best finish by amateur on TOUR since 2016
June 26, 2022
By Kevin Prise , PGATOUR.COM
- June 26, 2022
Michael Thorbjornsen buries a 20-footer for birdie at Travelers
Last week, Michael Thorbjornsen hit the opening tee shot of the U.S. Open in his native Massachusetts. If that were the summer highlight for the rising Stanford junior, it would have sufficed.
The 20-year-old wasn’t done, though. Not even close. Playing on a sponsor invitation at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut, just 100 miles from his hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts, he contended on Sunday in a bid to become the first amateur to win on TOUR since Phil Mickelson in 1991.
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Thorbjornsen nearly pulled it off. When he made a 20-foot birdie on the par-3 11th Sunday to go 6-under on the day, he had pulled within a stroke of leader Xander Schauffele. The fans roared. Historians began to contextualize where he might fit into the record books.
The spry New Englander cooled off down the stretch en route to a 4-under 66 and 15-under total, but his eventual solo fourth-place finish marked the best showing by an amateur on TOUR since Lee McCoy’s solo fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship. (Braden Thornberry finished T4 at the 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic.)
Thorbjornsen was showered with adoration from the crowd at TPC River Highlands as he made his way up the 18th fairway Sunday, before two-putting from 20 feet a closing par. He beamed, waved his hand and raised his putter.
"I'm not surprised," said Stanford men’s golf coach Conrad Ray while watching the final round. "He's a super-athletic player, a long hitter on a short course, and he's having a great putting week, obviously. He's one of the longest on our team.”
Thorbjornsen has proven throughout his amateur career that he isn’t one to shy away from the moment. He won the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt (Boys 14-15 Division) at Augusta National. He won the 2018 U.S. Junior at the Upper Course at Baltusrol, beating favorite Akshay Bhatia in the final, despite being hospitalized with a 104-degree fever right before the tournament. He made the cut at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach as a 17-year-old.
And here he was Sunday at TPC River Highlands, making four birdies and an eagle in a six-hole stretch around the turn to give himself a genuine chance at a PGA TOUR victory.
“It was incredible. It was surreal,” said Thorbjornsen after signing his scorecard Sunday afternoon. “It’s better than how I dreamt about it. It’s so loud. It was very welcoming.
“I can’t wait to come back next year and the following years.”
Thorbjornsen plans to return to Stanford for his junior year, but he’s not done scratching the itch of elite competition. He’s flying to London for an Open Championship qualifier on Tuesday, aiming to tee it up in a second major championship of the summer.
Earlier this week, Thorbjornsen played a practice round with Collin Morikawa. He picked the five-time TOUR winner’s brain on what it takes to perform at the highest level of the game.
“He said to try and do whatever it takes to be comfortable out there and understand that it’s just another round of golf,” Thorbjornsen said. “That everyone’s human, basically. Those guys are just really good. Try and forget about it and just play your game.”
Across four rounds at the Travelers Championship, Thorbjornsen did just that.