(CBS Local/CBS Minnesota)- The PGA Tour rolls into Blaine, Minnesota this week for the second edition of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities. The course, a par-71, 7,468-yard links course, was designed by Arnold Palmer and Tom Lehman to originally hold a PGA Tour Champions event.
Following the final 3M Championship in 2018, the course underwent renovations to be lengthened and made more difficult to challenge the PGA Tour golfers who would be taking it on starting with the 2019 3M Open.
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Though the course was renovated, it proved to be golfer-friendly during last year’s event with the winner, Matthew Wolff, carding a 21-under to edge out Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa for the win. That said, the low scoring didn’t allow anyone to run away from the field and in fact, provided for a dramatic ending. After Dechambeau eagled on 18 to go up one stroke, Wolff carded an eagle of his own to win.
AMAZING! 🏆@Matthew_Wolff5 makes EAGLE to win! 🦅
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 7, 2019
One can only hope for a similarly dramatic finish this time around. Wolff is back to defend his title while DeChambeau and Morikawa are taking the week off. However, world No. 4 Dustin Johnson and No. 6 Brooks Koepka will tee it up this week as will No. 12 Tommy Fleetwood who returns to the course for the first time since the Player’s Championship.
“It’s exciting to have Fleetwood back on the PGA Tour. I know he’s been quarantining the last few weeks and I’m sure during that quarantine he has been playing a lot of golf, which can only help him coming back and going against this talented field at the 3M Open,” said Andrew Catalon, who will be on the call in the 18th tower this weekend for CBS Sports. “I think everyone is grateful to have his presence out there this weekend.”
It’s tough to predict what Fleetwood will look like after a four-month layoff. Some golfers have come back from their extended off periods playing great golf. Others, like Tiger Woods last week, have had some rust to shake off. But, the oddsmakers seem to like the Englishman’s chances of taking the win, installing him just behind Johnson and Koepka as the third-favorite entering the weekend.
>>STREAM: 3M Open
Favorites aside, the course lends itself to that dramatic action that we saw last year. The par-5 596-yard 18th hole certainly provides challenges with a pond running along the right side of the fairway, it offers opportunities for eagles like the ones we saw DeChambeau and Wolff finish with last year. It was the third-easiest hole on the course during last year’s tournament giving up 62 birdies and three eagles.
“I was in the 18th tower last year for the inaugural 3M Open and what an incredible show it was down the stretch. That course yielded the most birdies of any other tournament last year, close to 2,000,” said Catalon. “And, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t have a lot more again this year. The way that it’s set up with the 18th hole, we saw Matthew Wolff with the eagle to win it at the end. I think this golf course is really set up for fireworks at the finish and I expect it again this year.”
Aside from players going low, the story lines heading into this week are what has Catalon excited for the action at TPC Twin Cities.
“Dustin Johnson coming off of back-to-back rounds in the 80s at The Memorial. How will he bounce back? Brooks Koepka is in the field again still battling a left knee injury,” said Catalon. “Tony Finau, he was in the hunt last weekend and then did not get it done down the stretch. I look at a guy like Lucas Glover. He played in the 3M Open a year ago, shot a 62 on the weekend. He is a guy that goes low a lot, makes a lot of birdies. You have a lot of good candidates that could emerge this weekend and of course, you can’t forget about Matthew Wolff and his history with this course and the good feelings that go along with it.”
Catalon notes that the course lends itself to those players who are on point with their iron play, calling it a “second shot” course.
“These guys are so dialed in with their irons from inside 200 that you seed them getting good positions on the green and that makes all the difference,” said Catalon.
While the course did fit players’ eye in last year’s tournament. It wasn’t to be underestimated either. Catalon notes that there were over 260 balls put in the water in 2019’s 3M Open making it the tournament with the 3rd-most shots ending in the water on tour last season. Keeping it in the fairway will be key, but it doesn’t always guarantee a good result as evidenced by the par-4, 502-yard 9th hole which was the hardest hole on the course last year regardless of where your first shot landed.
Further adding to the drama of the week is another two spots in the U.S. Open up for grabs to the top two players who are not already exempt that finish inside the Top 10. The same incentive was available last week and saw Ryan Palmer and Mackenzie Hughes lock up spots for the tournament at Winged Foot in September.
“That is certainly a big carrot for a lot of guys who would not otherwise be in the U.S. Open in September,” said Catalon. “I definitely think that is a part of the storyline heading into the weekend and I credit the U.S. Open for them developing this U.S. Open qualifying series that these golfers can take advantage of here in Minnesota.”
Those spots will only add to the drama of Saturday and Sunday. Here are the players the oddsmakers see as favorites this week:
Dustin Johnson (10-1)
Johnson did card those back-to-back 80s last weekend at The Memorial, but that was the first tournament back since winning the Traveler’s Championship at the end of June. So maybe it was just a bit of shaking the rust off. We saw Johnson miss the cut at the Charles Schwab before then going on to post a T-17 (-15) at RBC Heritage and then the win at Traveler’s. Biggest question will be whether he gives himself enough chances. He ranks 107th in Greens in Regulation to this point.
Brooks Koepka (12-1)
Dealing with the injured knee doesn’t seem to be scaring the oddsmakers away from Koepka at all. He struggled at The Memorial as the weekend went on posting progressively higher rounds in each of the four days. But, he played well at this course last year (-6) though not well enough to reach the top of the leaderboard. Like Johnson, putting himself in good position to be on the green in regulation will be key. Koepka is 179th in that category this year hitting just 64%.
Tommy Fleetwood (14-1)
First tournament back for Fleetwood and high expectations come with it. The season has been a bit of a mixed bag for him prior to the pause with a T-18 at the WGC Mexico Championship, a 3rd at the Honda Classic and then a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Still, there’s plenty to like about the 29-year-old who has been right on the cusp of winning at several tournaments over the last couple of years.
Watch the 3M Open Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST on CBS.