3M Open: Look to Vegas in Matchups

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The PGA Tour heads to Blaine, Minnesota for the third edition of the 3M Open. Having debuted in 2019, the inaugural event was one to remember. With Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, and Matthew Wolff all battling down the stretch on Sunday, it was Wolff who would come away victorious. Finishing at 21-under thanks to a dramatic eagle on the 72nd hole, Wolff got the better of Morikawa and DeChambeau by a single stroke.

The following season was a bit less memorable, but still produced a worthy champion. Michael Thompson rode hot iron-play and a red-hot putter to 19-under, good for a two-stroke victory. Adam Long, Max Homa, Tony Finau all were in contention on Sunday, with Finau most notably stumbling down the stretch.

When looking at the list of players outlined above, a few things stick out. Strong drivers of the golf ball appear to thrive at TPC Deere Run. In birdie-fests, which the 3M Open is, approach play typically takes the wheel. However, seeing the bombers that have littered the leaderboard in recent years, I don’t believe off-the-tee can be dismissed.

Whenever Morikawa finds his way onto a leaderboard, you know approach play is critical, specifically from 175-200 yards. If he was just a touch better on the greens in 2019, he would’ve been the winner, but I reckon he’s rather content with where his career has gone since then.

With ball-striking a clear necessity at TPC Twin Cities, short-game can be underweighted a bit. Wolff and Homa typically struggle from around-the-greens and while Finau is much improved recently, last season he was quite poor in that part of the bag.

Simply put, the name of the game this week is ball-striking and putting. Putting is always the most difficult aspect of the game to predict, but we'll try our best to do so. We’ll be targeting those players in our head-to-head matchups that have the potential to flourish on the greens at TPC Twin Cities.

Head-to-Head Matchups (Odds Via PointsBet Sportsbook):

Charl Schwartzel (-121) over Gary Woodland:

We’ll begin our matchup selections with a South African who finished third. No, not Louis Oosthuizen in The Open, but Schwartzel in last year’s 3M Open. Since that outing, Schwartzel has had a mixed bag, but has been sneaky good as of late.

Following a disappointing playoff loss to Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman at the Zurich Classic, Schwartzel has since captured five top-30 finishes. These performances include a tie for third at the AT&T Byron Nelson and a top-20 finish at the U.S. Open.

Having played in the Barbasol Championship last week, Schwartzel gained +6.6 SG: Ball-striking en route to another strong outing. That type of play should translate to TPC Twin Cities much like it did last season when Schwartzel had a real chance to win in the final round.

Woodland on the other hand has been a tough cookie to crack. Now fully healthy, he’s been on a bit of a skid as of late. While many liked his chances at the U.S. Open, all Woodland could muster up was a T-50 finish. Since then, he’s added two missed cuts to his resume including last week at Royal St. George’s.

Jhonattan Vegas (-114) over Lanto Griffin:

I am all aboard the Vegas train this week at the 3M Open. The former Texas Longhorn has been playing some of the most underrated, consistent golf on the PGA Tour this summer. With his start at the John Deere Classic, he’s now made seven consecutive cuts and comes to TPC Twin Cities in a great position to capture his fourth PGA Tour title.

Having posted north of five Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in his last three outings, Vegas is clearly in a great spot with his game. On the shoulders of strong ball-striking, Vegas’ short-game tends to hold him back from reaching even greater heights. As mentioned, we’ll be putting less emphasis on that part of the bag this week, which makes our case for Vegas that much stronger.

As for Griffin, while I believe he could make the cut, I can’t envision him making too much of a run at the 3M Open title. Griffin played great last week at Royal St. George’s and likely returned to the United States sometime Monday morning. The fatigue factor is very much a thing the week after The Open, especially after one’s debut. Vegas is not only the superior player at the moment, but also the more rested, which should give him the edge in this one.

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Tony Finau (+125) over Dustin Johnson:

I love myself a plus-money matchup and believe Finau could go well once again around TPC Twin Cities. Coming off a disappointing third place finish last year in this tournament, he should come to Minnesota this season plenty motivated. Having had a strong first-half of the 2021 season, he has since struggled in the summer months.

After missing back-to-back cuts at the U.S. Open and the Travelers Championship, Finau got back on track with a top-15 finish at The Open. Not only that, but it is officially crunch time for Finau’s Ryder Cup hopes. Sitting 12th in the U.S. Team rankings, he is on the outside looking in for September’s squad at Whistling Straits.

Finau was one of the few bright spots for the American team in France in 2018. Having had an experience like he did at Le Golf National, he’ll surely want nothing more than to compete for his home country on home soil. A few more strong finishes would go a long way for his chances and a memorable push to wrap up his season could be in store.

While Johnson has steadied the ship in recent weeks after missing the cut at the PGA Championship, I am not sure of his prospects at TPC Twin Cities. This could be a lull in his calendar as he is coming off a strong finish like Finau at The Open. His eyes may be looking to a week off before gearing up for the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. It’s always a difficult task to decipher Johnson’s motivation levels, but at plus-money I’m willing to wager they’re a bit lower than Finau’s.

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