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Confined to a bed nine months ago, Michael Thorbjornsen now headed to PGA Tour

Confined to a bed nine months ago, Michael Thorbjornsen now headed to PGA Tour

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Confined to a bed in New York City last August, Michael Thorbjornsen was about as far away as one could get from the PGA Tour.

Sure, the Stanford senior was still leading the PGA Tour University rankings, but after surgery on his left ankle and already trying to heal a stress fracture in his back, Thorbjornsen didn’t know when he’d play golf again.

“I didn’t leave that bed for two weeks,” Thorbjornsen said. “It was kind of disgusting, but I couldn’t do anything.”

Nine months later, and Thorbjornsen isn’t just back on the course; he’s a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour after finishing atop the Class of 2024 rankings and earning full status through the 2025 season.

“PGA Tour U is, I think, one of the best programs in all of sports,” Thorbjornsen said Monday morning upon receiving his card. “What they’ve done, creating a pathway to the PGA Tour and to these different tours underneath it, it’s huge. It gives students and us golfers reasons to stay for four years, and you can’t really pass up on the opportunities that they present to you. … Finishing in that No. 1 spot is massive, so just doing everything you can every single day, making sure you’re getting 1% better every single day, is huge.”

Thorbjornsen was enjoying a stellar summer last year – qualifying for the U.S. Open, tying for 17th at the John Deere Classic and reaching match play at the Western Amateur – when his back injury forced him out of the U.S. Amateur. Already needing to rest his back, Thorbjornsen decided to fix his ankle issue; doctors removed a loose bone and repaired a tendon that was keeping his foot from properly supinating.

He was in a back brace, crutches and a walking boot for six weeks. The crutches lasted two more weeks, and after two additional weeks, he transitioned from the boot to an ankle wrap for about two months. Then the back rehab could actually begin.

“It was all kind of a blur,” Thorbjornsen said. “I played a lot of video games. I went to all my classes. I was definitely a better student.”

Stanford head coach Conrad Ray visited Thorbjornsen often when his star player returned to California a few weeks post-operation.

“I made sure that I saw him because he was playing a lot of video games and feeling sorry for himself a little bit – and rightly so; he had a tough deal there,” Ray said. “But he shook it off, and weirdly, he’s better for it. If he can stay healthy, he’s learned a ton about his body, he’s way more regimented with his preparation and practice. Some of these challenges can teach you a lot of lessons. Everyone will say, well, you don’t want a back injury, and yeah, of course not … but I think he’s going to do fine playing pro golf.”

Thorbjornsen returned to action in January, making a start on the DP World Tour and sharing 11th at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. Though he hit a few speed bumps in his first two spring college starts (T-71 at the Amer Ari Invitational and T-17 at The Prestige), Thorbjornsen won the Cabo Collegiate in late February – and the same week that Georgia Tech’s Christo Lamprecht passed him in PGA Tour U.

Lamprecht was the only player at the NCAA Championship with a chance to dethroning Thorbjornsen, but Lamprecht, who needed to win and Thorbjornsen finish outside the top 10, withdrew after just 18 holes because of his own back injury.

Thorbjornsen shot 11 over in 54 holes at Omni La Costa and, along with his team, missed the 54-hole cut. But he still showed up Monday just off the 18th green to receive his consolation prize.

Thorbjornsen still isn’t quite 100% – he says it’ll be another six months or so. “But it feels good to be back playing, and every day I’m seeing progress,” he said.

As for his pro debut, Thorbjornsen is teeing it up in next week’s U.S. Open final qualifier in Canoe Brook, New Jersey. If he doesn’t qualify, he is hopeful to receive a sponsor exemption into the following week’s Travelers Championship. And if that falls through, he’s eligible to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic in late June.

Ray believes Thorbjornsen is more than ready for the next level.

“He’s way more into thinking about what he can control and less about what his score is,” Ray said. “I walked with him the final round at regionals (Thorbjornsen shot a bogey-free 64), and he didn’t even think about score. He was so into every shot, and that’s a skill that the top players on the Tour have.”

Here is a look at the 2024 PGA Tour U graduates (information courtesy of PGA Tour):

FIRST TEAM

By virtue of finishing No. 1, Thorbjornsen earned PGA TOUR membership for the remainder of the 2024 season and 2025 season.

Players who finished Nos. 2-5 in the final PGA Tour University Ranking earned fully exempt Korn Ferry Tour membership for the remainder of the 2024 season, as well as an exemption to Final Stage of 2024 PGA Tour Q-School presented by Korn Ferry, and the ability to accept unlimited PGA Tour sponsor exemptions for the remainder of 2024 and 2025.

1. Micharl Thorbjornsen, Stanford
2. Christo Lamprecht, Georgia Tech
3. Austin Greaser, North Carolina
4. Matthew Riedel, Vanderbilt
5. Nicholas Gabrelcik, North Florida

SECOND TEAM

Players who finished Nos. 6-10 in the final PGA Tour University Ranking earned conditional Korn Ferry Tour membership for 2024, fully exempt PGA Tour Americas membership for 2024, as well as an exemption to Second Stage of 2024 PGA Tour Q-School presented by Korn Ferry.

6. William Moll, Vanderbilt
7. Cole Sherwood, Vanderbilt
8. Frederik Kjettrup, Florida State
9. Gustav Frimodt, TCU
10. Karl Vilips, Stanford

THIRD TEAM

Players who finished Nos. 11-25 in the final PGA Tour University Ranking earned fully exempt membership on PGA Tour Americas for 2024, as well as an exemption for Second Stage of 2024 PGA Tour Q-School presented by Korn Ferry.

11. Mats Ege, East Tennessee State
12. Michael Brennan, Wake Forest
13. Ben Lorenz, Oklahoma
14. Sampson-Yunhe Zheng, Cal
15. Dylan Menante, North Carolina
16. Jonas Baumgartner, Oklahoma State
17. Ryggs Johnston, Arizona State
18. Canon Claycomb, Alabama
19. Herman Wibe Sekne, Purdue
20. Maxwell Moldovan, Ohio State
21. Petr Hruby, Washington
22. Bryce Lewis, Tennessee
23. Santiago De la Fuente del Valle, Houston
24. Ben Van Wyk, Georgia
25. Johnny Keefer, Baylor