Weekly PGA Recap: It's Thompson Time

Weekly PGA Recap: It's Thompson Time

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

If ever more evidence were needed that men's professional golf is getting younger and younger, look no further than the John Deere Classic.

Davis Thompson, all of 25 as of a month ago, looked like the elder statesman at TPC Deere Run on Sunday with 22-year-old Michael Thorbjornsen and 20-year-old Luke Clanton among those in hot pursuit. Thorbjornsen has been a pro for a matter of weeks and Clanton is still an amateur -- with two more years of college eligibility remaining!

In the end, Thompson, who looks like his next shave will be his first, was too formidable, defeating the two youngins and the avuncular, 32-year-old C.T. Pan by four strokes for his first PGA Tour win.

This was Thompson's 63rd career start on Tour, and he had been trending up even before emerging from the University of Georgia golf pipeline and turning pro three years ago. Heck, he finished tied for 23rd in his first PGA Tour start at the RSM Classic nearly five years ago as a 20-year-old amateur.

Thorbjornsen and Clanton did far better than top-25. More on them momentarily.

Thompson shot 63-67-62-64 to set the tournament scoring record of 28-under. He is the third straight Georgia Bulldog to win here, following J.T. Poston in 2022 and Sepp Straka last year. His immediate perk is a berth in the Open Championship in two weeks, along with Pan, who got the second of two available spots based on a higher world ranking than the other two runners-up.

Thompson won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022 in his first full season as a pro. That led him to the PGA Tour for 2022-23, and he finished runner-up at the 2023 Amex in his seventh start as Tour member. He finished a shot behind none other than Jon Rahm after his would-be tying putt on the 71st hole hit the stick and rolled away.

Thompson's rise had accelerated of late. He was runner-up at the Myrtle Beach Classic two months ago. Then, after tying for ninth at the U.S. Open, he was runner-up again last week at the Ricket Mortgage Classic.

"The goal I guess in May was to make the playoffs, and then next thing I know I finished second at Myrtle Beach and then ninth at the U.S. Open and second last week," Thompson told reporters.

"This week my goal was to just kick the door down and get a win, honestly. Then I was just able to play really well and thankfully I'm in a good spot for the rest of the year."

Yes, indeed. Thompson is now 22nd in the FedExCup Standings, guaranteeing him two playoff starts and giving him a shot at reaching the TOUR Championship. Who knows, he might even have an outside shot at making the Presidents Cup team if he does more damage in the weeks ahead. And then next year he's set for the Masters, PGA Championship and all the Signature Events. He's up to No. 38 in the world rankings.

The question now is, like with golfers who shoot lower than their age, can Thompson get to a world ranking lower than his age?

It's quite possible. After all, he doesn't have that far to go.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Michael Thorbjornsen
The PGA Tour University graduate tied for second for his career-best finish – but not by much! As an amateur at the 2022 Travelers, Thorbjornsen tied for fourth. So it's evident his future is right in front of him. It's a shame he didn't get to Royal Troon because his booming drives would've played very well at the Open. But Thorbjornsen will play this coming week at the opposite-field ISCO Championship. Would it surprise anyone if he won in an even weaker field than the Deere had?

Luke Clanton
Clanton is only 20 years old and he has left 800 grand on the table the past two weeks. Don't worry, he'll probably make it back quite quickly. The Florida State junior-to-be followed up his tie for 10th at the Rocket Mortgage with a shared runner-up. He thus became the first amateur to finish in the top-10 in consecutive starts on the PGA Tour in more than 75 years. As you'll recall, Billy J. Patton tied for eighth at the 1957 U.S. Open and again at the 1958 Masters. Like Thorbjornsen, Clanton will be playing the ISCO tournament this week.

C.T. Pan
Pan picked the perfect time to have one of the best weeks of his career. His tie for second got him into the Open Championship, secured his card for next year and went a long way toward getting into the playoffs. He's still not there yet, though. He's up to 84th in points and needs to get into the top 70.

Ben Griffin
Griffin is developing into a reliable golfer, someone who is good on approach and quite good on the greens. That's a good combination to have. Griffin tied for fifth, his seventh top-25 on the season. He moved inside the top-70 to 58th in the standings.

Carson Young
It hasn't been a great season for Young, who has missed the cut in almost half of his 18 starts (that would be eight). His tie for fifth was just his fourth top-25 of the season. But it might've been enough to secure his card for next season. Even though that won't be determined till the fall, Young moved up to 101st in the standings.

Denny McCarthy
McCarthy tied for seventh, which means he's still looking for his first PGA Tour win. This was a week and a field in which he could've done that. It's a good season for McCarthy, now up to 38th in points. But he didn't contend for the title when a lot of things aligned for him to do so.

Hayden Springer
Springer shouldn't be faulted for shooting a 59 and not winning. Almost everybody had low scores this week. Really, he should be thrilled with his tie for seventh, which came a week after his tie for 10th at the Rocket Mortgage. Because before that he missed six straight cuts.

Aaron Rai
Rai didn't have the Sunday he would've liked, shooting 2-under when there were lots of 7- and 8-unders on the course. But he continues to play excellent golf, fueled in large part by better putting. In fact, Rai led the Deere field in SG: Putting. He's gone T14-T19-T2 and now T7 in his past four starts.

Eric Cole
A subpar season for Cole has gotten a lot better the past two weeks, with a tie for sixth and now a tie for seventh. Those were just his second and third top-10s all season.

Andrew Novak
Novak tied for seventh, following a pair of top-20s in his two previous starts. He's making a push for the playoffs, now up to 80th in the standings.

Sungjae Im
Imagine getting to 20-under and not finishing in the top 10? Welcome to the John Deere. Im put up two 64s but wound up eight shots back. Like McCarthy, he should've been able to do better in this field. But Im does have six top-12 finishes in his past eight starts, making a very strong push with the playoffs not too far off.

Jason Day
Day tied for 23rd, just his sixth top-25 all season.

Jordan Spieth
Spieth tied for 26th, and not being able to even crack the top 25 in this field, much less the top 10 or even contend, tells you all you need to know about the way Spieth is playing.

MISSED CUTS

Maverick McNealy, Luke List, Neal Shipley. There weren't too many big-name guys to miss the cut, mostly because there weren't too many big names in the tournament. McNealy, still in search of his first win, can't be having bad weeks like this. Same for List. Shipley got a rude awakening in finishing over par while so many were going super low. He had finished T20 last week in his first PGA tour event as a pro. Just goes to show that even if these young guys are ready to play right out of college, there will be ups and downs for all of them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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