Michael Thorbjornsen gave a sneak-peek into why he is believed to be a future star on the PGA Tour.
After a birdie at the 11th hole in the final round of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, the 20-year-old amateur and rising junior at Stanford was alone in second place, just one stroke behind Xander Schauffele.
Thorbjornsen, who grew up 90 minutes away in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was bidding to become the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.
He carded an eagle at the par-5 sixth hole, belting his second from 260 yards to just more than a foot, and added four birdies in a six-hole stretch to put some heat on Schauffele.
“I think I saw his name at the U.S. Open. I don’t know too many young guys. I saw a few that played in Arizona in the NCAA finals. I think just the talent coming out is going to be incredible and I think he’s one of those guys that will be up there leading the pack,” Schauffele said of Thorbjornsen after the third round.
For Thorbjornsen, seeing his name on the leaderboard at a PGA Tour took a little getting used to.
“It’s kind of weird seeing my name up there,” he explained. “I’m not really looking for my name. I’m looking for the other guys. I’m used to looking at the PGA Tour app to see how like the best players in the world stacking up. It’s kind of cool to see my name above some of those guys.”
Schauffele will know about the former U.S. Junior Amateur winner now. At the time, Thorbjornsen wasn’t aware that he was threatening the lead.
“I figured I was around there, but I was thinking,’ Okay, well, let’s go. Let’s keep it going. Let’s try and hit some good shots,’ ” he said before making back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13 to sidetrack his pursuit at victory. “It got a little difficult there, two holes straight into the wind, mishit two drives there. But overall it was a lot of fun.”
Thorbjornsen posted a final-round 66 and a 72-hole aggregate of 15-under 265 to finish alone in fourth place. It marked the best finish by an amateur at the Travelers Championship, erasing Jim Grant, who was T-6 in 1966, from the tournament record books. It also was the best finish in a Tour event by an amateur this season, eclipsing Chris Gotterup, who finished T-7 at the Puerto Rico Open, and the second-best finish in a Tour event by an amateur since 2000 (only Robby Shelton, who was T-3 at the 2015 Barbasol Championship as an amateur, did better).
What did Thorbjornsen think of his hero’s welcome as he and his caddie, high school classmate Drew Cullen, walked up to the 18th green on Sunday?
“It’s better than like how I dreamt about it,” he said. “It’s so loud. It was very welcoming. I can’t wait to come back next year and the following years.”
Thorbjornsen had run out of steam on the back nine Sunday but gave every indication he’ll have more chances with a little more seasoning. Next up: a flight overseas to represent the United States at the upcoming Palmer Cup. And no rest for the weary either as he’ll try to qualify for the British Open on Tuesday.
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