By Tom LaMarre
For the second straight week, the PGA Tour introduces a new event, this one the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities http://tpc.com/twincities in Blaine, Minn., on the middle stop of what has developed into something of a Midwest Swing.
Last week it was the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, where Nate Lashley claimed his first victory on the tour, and next week it will be the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., which leads to the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Ireland.
Although the PGA Tour hasn’t stopped in the Twin Cities area since the last Minnesota Golf Classic was played in 1969, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has had its share of professional golf.
The 3M Open basically replaces the 3M Championship, which was a fixture on the Champions Tour for 26 years, with winners such as Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd, Bernhard Langer, Tom Kite Jay Haas, Dave Stockton, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Tom Pernice Jr., Paul Goydos, David Frost and Kenny Perry, who last year tied Irwin with three victories in the event.
The Twin Cities also have hosted nine major championships, eight at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., where the United States captured the 41st Ryder Cup in 2016 with a 17-11 victory over the Europeans.
Phil Mickelson, who contributed to that victory, is in the field this week along with top-ranked Brooks Koepka, Jason Day of Australia, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Tony Finau, Jimmy Walker, Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia, Keegan Bradley, Martin Laird of Scotland, Jonas Blixt of Sweden, Si Woo Kim of Australia, Charles Howell III and Lashley.
“It is exciting to see our tour coming back to the Minneapolis area; I want to see this tournament be successful,” said Mickelson, who was low amateur in the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine, where he tied for seventh in the 2008 PGA Championship. “The way the community supported major championships over the years, this place deserves to have an event here every year. … It has given me some of the most memorable moments in my career, specifically the Ryder Cup.
“I’ll never forget that feel on the golf course. It’s something I’ll always cherish and they’ve done that in every event I’ve competed in at Hazeltine going all the way back to 1991. The people are going to support this tournament like no other place will and it just elevates the status of this event.”
To review the Twin Cities’ major championship history, Chick Evans captured the 1916 U.S. Open at Mimikahda Club in Minneapolis, and at Hazeltine, Sandra Spuzich claimed the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open; Tony Jacklin of England won the 1970 U.S. Open; Hollis Stacy took the 1977 U.S. Women’s Open; Billy Casper won the 1983 U.S. Senior Open; Hale Irwin captured the 1991 U.S. Open; Rich Been took the 2002 PGA Championship and Y.E. Yang of South Korea claimed the 2008 PGA, and Hannah Green of Australia won the 2019 Women’s KPMG PGA Championship a few weeks ago.
When the PGA Tour played in the Twin Cities with the St. Paul Invitational (which became the Minnesota Golf Classic) beginning in 1930, the winners included Sam Snead, “Lighthorse Harry” Cooper, Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, Cary Middlecoff, Tommy Bolt, Mike Souchak, Ken Venturi, Don January, Doug Sanders and Floyd.
Minnesota native Tom Lehman, who won the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, was on the original design team at TPC Twin Cities and was brought back to help upgrade the course to PGA Tour quality.
“I’m looking forward to playing here,” said Lehman, who is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption. “I’m looking forward to how they receive the course.”
Based on Twins Cities’ history, they don’t figure to be disappointed.
- Jason Day, Australia – Although he hasn’t won since claiming his 12th PGA Tour title 14 months ago, Day has been close this season with six finishes in the top 10 and a total of 11 in the top 25. His best results were a tie for fifth at Pebble Beach and ties for fifth in the Masters, the Farmers and the CJ Cup. He tied for eighth in last start at Travelers.
- Brooks Kopeka, United States – After winning the PGA two months ago for his fourth major title in the last three seasons and finishing second in the Masters and the U.S. Open, Koepka promised to get better in regular tour events. Then he went out and tied for 57th in the Travelers. He can take the lead in the FedEx Cup standings this week.
- Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – Winless since claiming three victories on the PGA Tour in 2017, Matsuyama seems to be back on his game with five straight results in the top 25 and a total of 12 this season. His best finishes this year were a tie for third in the Farmers, sixth in the Memorial, a tie for eighth in the Players and tie a for eighth in the Genesis.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Ended a slump that stretched back to early this year when he tied for eighth two weeks ago in the Travelers. DeChambeau started the wrap-around season with his fifth PGA Tour victory in the Shriners and played well in Hawaii by finishing seventh in the Sentry TOC and tying for 10th in the Sony Open.
- Patrick Reed, United States – It’s been a struggle for the 2018 Masters champion this season, but he got back on track last week by tying for fifth in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, shooting 65 in round three. It was his first top-10 finish since he tied for seventh to start the season in the WBC-HSBC Champions, but he does have eight top-25 results.
- Keegan Bradley, United States – The 2012 PGA champion seems to be back on top of his game, posting his best result since winning the 2018 BMW Championship by tying for second in the Travelers two weeks ago. His other top-10s this season were solo sixth in the WGC-HSBC Champions and a tie for 10th in the WGC-Mexico Championship.
- Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia – Hoping to land a spot in the Olympics next year after taking Slovakian citizenship, Sabbatini opened with a 65 and was solid all the way in a tie for third in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, his fifth top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since April. He has won six times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2011 Honda Classic.
- Phil Mickelson, United States – Lefty has said he is looking forward to getting back to TPC Twin Cities after helping the U.S. win the 2016 Ryder Cup and playing in two PGA Championships there. His best finish since claiming his 44th PGA Tour title at Pebble Beach was a tie for 18th in the Masters, but Mickelson’s best could reappear at any time.
- Sungjae Im, South Korea – Almost quietly, Im has put himself in strong position for the upcoming playoffs at 26th in the FedEx Cup point standings. A two-time winner last season on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, he has six top-10 finishes and 12 in the top 25s on the PGA Tour this season, topped by a tie for third in Arnold Palmer Invitational.
- Nate Lashley, United States – It might be difficult for Lashley to bounce right back after claiming his first PGA Tour victory in at TPC Detroit last week, but nobody knew the guy was good enough to win by. Six shots. His best previous finish on the circuit was a tie for eighth in the 2018 Puerto Rico Open, but he won 10 times on the lower tours.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Charles Howell III, United States; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Martin Laird, Scotland; Aaron Wise, United States; Jonas Blixt, Sweden.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – The former No. 1 amateur in the world has posted ties for fifth the last two weeks in the Travelers Championship and the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
- Viktor Hovland, Norway – Low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open, Hovland posted best finish in four pro starts by closing with 64 to tie for 13th last week in Detroit.
- Troy Merritt, United States – A two-time PGA Tour winner after playing at Winona State in Minnesota, Merritt had a T-4 in Safeway and a T-10 in Heritage this season.
- Wyndham Clark, United States – PGA Tour rookie tied for 15th in Travelers and tied for 17th in Rocket Mortgage, and has two top-10 finishes plus six top-25s this season.
- Sepp Straka, Austria – Closed with a 67 to tie for 11th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Straka’s best result this season. Also had T-13 in Farmers, T-16 in Puerto Rico.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html