For the second consecutive week, a long-starved golf-hungry state is holding an inaugural PGA Tour event. A week ago, it was Michigan, which successfully hosted the first edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, ten years after their previous regular stop ended.
This week, it’s Minnesota debuting the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, an Arnold Palmer design, which hosted the senior circuit’s 3M Championship from 2001 until last year.
Despite it being contested during a holiday weekend (4th of July), an impressive group of players will be teeing up in Blaine, Minnesota, headlined by Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, and the newest darling of the PGA Tour, Nate Lashley – the popular winner of last week’s tournament, who tugged at the heartstrings of the sports world with his captivating story of triumph through hardship.
Tournament: 3M Open
Dates: July 3-7, 2019
Where: Blaine, Minnesota
Course: TPC Twin Cities
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
2018 Winner: New Event
Winning Share: $1,152,000
TV Network: GOLF/CBS
For the second consecutive week, being a new event means there is not a great deal of history to report, but the 3M Open is definitely not completely devoid of past intrigue.
This tournament is the graduated 3M Championship, an event that ran on the PGA Champions Tour from 1993-2018, and running continuously at TPC Twin Cities since 2001. That inaugural event was won by the popular Chi Chi Rodriguez.
The event victory record for the long-running stop was three apiece, held by Hale Irwin and Kenny Perry, the latter of whom won the final tournament a year ago. The only other player to win multiple times was Bernhard Langer, who took the title in 2009 and 2012.
TPC Twin Cities was established in 2000 and is a design of the late, legendary Arnold Palmer, with an assist from Minnesota native Tom Lehman, who will be in the 3M Open field this week as a sponsor invite.
Minnesota has not had a regular PGA Tour stop since 1969, but has been the site of some very important golf tournaments, most notably the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships, and the 2016 Ryder Cup, all contested at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska.
Stat of the Week
61% – The amount which Nate Lashley’s winning paycheck ($1,314,000) at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic represents towards his career PGA Tour earnings ($2,152,152).
It was truly a life-changing victory for Lashley, who went from struggling to qualify for events to suddenly being exempt for the next two seasons, being a lock for the FedExCup Playoffs, and having spots in the next Open Championship, Masters, and PGA Championship.
He also saw his world ranking jump from 353rd to 101st. It would be surprising to see him get into serious contention again after such an emotional, exhausting week, even with his propensity for defying the odds, but if he does, expect it to happen early; Lashley now ranks 2nd on Tour in round 1 scoring average.
This week’s power rankings have no real surprises. Bryson DeChambeau is ranked No. 1 with Jason Day and Brooks Koepka rounding out the top trio.
The biggest omission is probably Tony Finau, who is the third-highest ranked player in the field, but enters in a serious slump (see storylines).
Top-10 at TPC Twin Cities
World Rank | Odds To Win | Last 5 Starts
- Bryson DeChambeau
8th | 14-1 | 8, 35, 22, MC, MC
- Jason Day
18th | 11-1 | 8, 21, MC, 23, 24
- Brooks Koepka
1st | 7-1 | 57, 2, 50, 1, 4
- Hideki Matsuyama
31st | 10-1 | 13, 21, 6, 16, 23
- Joaquin Niemann
82nd | 33-1 | 5, 5, 31, 27, 31
- Rory Sabbatini
84th | 33-1 | 3, 43, 27, 6, 5
- Keegan Bradley
29th | 40-1 | 2, MC, 44, MC, 29
- Patrick Reed
25th | 22-1 | 5, 30, 32, MC, 63
- Scott Piercy
63rd | 50-1 | 52, MC, 19, 41, 2
- Kevin Na
32nd | 40-1 | 6, MC, 1, MC, 35
Top Sleeper Pick
MacKenzie Hughes, a 28-year-old Canadian, found success early in his PGA Tour career with a win at The RSM Classic in just the fifth start to his 2017 rookie season – the highlight of a year where he made $2.3 million, and finished 36th in the FedExCup Standings.
Unfortunately for Hughes, he experienced a dreadful sophomore season in 2018, where he opened the season with 12 missed-cuts in his first 14 starts, including an eight-straight stretch, and did not post a top-40 finish until his 23rd start of the season in July.
His 2019 season did not start much better (seven missed-cuts in first 10 events), but it appears that a T13 at the Valspar Championship in March kick-started better form for Hughes.
Since that week, he’s made nine cuts in 11 starts, with his best finish coming during the past month, with three starts of T21 or better, and in the one where he finished lower, he still shot a first-round 64.
At last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, his all-around game was on display as he finished 13-under-par for the week. Hughes has been relatively streaky in the past, and he seems to be trending towards another week in contention. Do not be surprised to see the far northerner shine in one of the Tour’s most northern starts.
The Golf Course
Name: TPC Twin Cities
Owner: PGA TOUR
Architect (Year): Arnold Palmer (2000)
Redesign (Year): Steve Wenzloff (2018)
Distance: Par 35-36-71, 7468 yards
Avg Green Size: 6,500 sq. ft.
Avg Tee Size: 1,000 sq. ft.
Acres of Fairway: 28
Acres of Rough: 59
Number of Sand Bunkers: 72
Number of Water Hazards: 27
Greens: Bentgrass .100”
Tees: Bentgrass .285”
Fairways: Bentgrass .325”
Rough: Bluegrass/Fescue 3”
No.7, TPC Twin Cities
Par 4, 381 yards
Dubbed “Tom’s Thumb” in reference to PGA TOUR player and course consultant Tom Lehman, the green on this 381-yard par-4 may be reached with a long and accurate tee shot that carries the lake on the left side and avoids Palmer’s signature beach bunkers to the right of the green.
A conservative tee shot into the fairway will often render an approach of less than 100 yards to the two-tiered green.
More Featured Holes:
No. 6, 594-yard, par 5 risk/reward doubledog leg… No. 9, 502-yard par 4 with difficult long-iron approach… No. 14, 437-yard par 4 dogleg around Cavner’s Cove
1. Koepka Motivated in Minnesota?
This week’s headliner is undoubtedly Brooks Koepka, the 29-year-old World No. 1 who shines brilliantly when the stage is biggest, with four of his six career victories coming in major championships.
However, and no disrespect to the 3M Open and TPC Twin Cities, the stage is not exceptionally big this week. So, which version of Koepka can we expect to see?
His last four starts have included two majors and two non-majors. His results in the two majors were a win (PGA Championship) and a solo runner-up (U.S. Open).
His results in the two non-majors were a T50 (RBC Canadian Open) and a T57 (Travelers Championships). That is one stark difference.
What could help those hoping to see the best in the world shine in Minnesota this week is that few players appear more motivated by outside sleights. At some point, Koepka has to be getting sick of the criticism of his non-major performances, which are justifiably louder as of late. Maybe the bear has finally been poked one time too many.
2. Pressureless Phil?
If this were still a PGA Tour Champions event, Phil Mickelson would be less than a year away from getting to play it. While Phil has looked ageless in recent years, it cannot be denied that he is slumping badly as of late.
In 11 starts since his three-stroke victory at February’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Mickelson has missed five cuts and has just one result of better than T37: a T18 at The Masters.
Two starts ago, in a return to Pebble Beach, he disappointed with a T52 at the U.S. Open, an event he has put enormous pressure on himself for a long time to win, as it would have completed the career Grand Slam.
However, with the U.S. Open getting further in his rear-view mirror, can he get his game back on track? He did miss the cut the following week at the Travelers Championship, an event he had not played in 13 years, but he took last week off, and his experience could be a difference-maker in a brand new event.
3. Lashley’s Encore?
The sports world is now conversant with the name Nate Lashley. After very limited success on the PGA Tour, the 36-year-old absolutely dominated last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, reaching 25-under for the week and winning by six, despite being the last man into the field and not even knowing he was going to play until Wednesday.
His captivating story has made him a fan favorite, and now the man who had to fight tooth and nail for a job security over an extremely difficult decade-and-a-half has his Tour card locked up for the next two seasons.
It was a very emotional victory, but that will not be keeping him out of the field for this week’s 3M Open. Now the question is, what can he do for an encore? Can he make it two-for-two in new events? He may be facing new distractions and new challenges, but his confidence has to be soaring.
4. Youth Battle: Hovland, Niemann
This week’s field features two of the hottest young international stars in the game: 21-year-old Norweigan Viktor Hovland and 20-year-old Chilean Joaquin Niemann, two players who spent considerable time atop the world amateur rankings before shining early as pros.
Hovland has been something of a flavor of the month, although he is obviously no flash in the pan. Hovland set the all-time U.S. Open amateur record last month, a record previously held by Jack Nicklaus, in a phenomenal T12 performance. He turned pro immediately after, and after an up-and-down performance at his pro debut at the Travelers Championship, he was T13 at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, propelling 39 spots up the Sunday leaderboard with a final-round 8-under 64.
Now the question is how much gas does he have left in the tank as he prepares to make his third career professional start, and his fourth straight PGA Tour start.
Niemann looked like an ultimate wunderkind with three top-8s in his first five professional starts last year as a 19-year-old. Niemann had been struggling most of his sophomore season, but seems to have sufficiently busted out, as he posted finishes of T5 in each of the past two weeks. With 12 consecutive rounds of 70 or better, the field at TPC Twin Cities should be especially cognizant of his presence. Niemann is now No. 82 in the world rankings and trending sharply upward.
5. Is Patrick Reed Back?
It got surprisingly little press last week, but one of the once-brightest stars in the game might finally have his better stuff back. Patrick Reed racked up six victories from 2013-2018, along with 35 top-10 finishes, realized his potential as a team-event icon, and became a Masters Champion.
However, since a fourth-place finish at the 2018 U.S. Open, Reed has been ordinary at best. He ended last season with a T19 as his best result in his final eight starts, and he was shockingly awful at the Ryder Cup. He opened the 2019 season with a T7 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but then failed to notch a top-10 in the eight months since… that is, until he finished T5 at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, reaching 17-under-par for the week.
The 28-year-old does have a history of being streaky, and now he hopes his re-found confidence and elite short game can make the difference in a new event.
6. What’s Wrong With Finau?
In his past eight starts, Tony Finau has mixed two excellent results (T5 at The Masters, and a runner-up at the Charles Schwab Challenge) with six horrendous finishes of T60 or worse, including three-straight missed cuts, which matches his total MCs of the 2018 season.
It’s gotten so bad, that the 29-year old Ryder Cupper, who was a top-10 machine last season, will arrive in Minnesota seeking his first finish under-par in four starts, while still in search of his first victory on Tour since the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open more than three years ago (2016), surprisingly his only win.
Full Field and Odds
“I’ve played a number of major championships here over the years at Hazeltine, the PGA Championships, the Ryder Cup in 2016.
“The way this community supports golf, how well they come out and support this great game… I wanted to see this event get off on the right foot because they deserve to have a tournament every year.”
– Phil Mickelson
Credit: Getty Images, PGA TOUR Media, TPC Network