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Traveling back across the pond, the PGA TOUR heads to the Twin Cities for this week's 3M Open.
There are only three events remaining in the regular season so it's crunch time for golfers that currently sit outside of the top 125 in the FedExCup standings.
The cutline returns to normal PGA TOUR standards this week (top 65 and ties) after utilizing the R&A's top 70 last week at The Open.
TPC Twin Cities has hosted all three years at the 3M and it returns to play that role again in 2022.
This Arnold Palmer design was opened in 2000 and renovated in 2018 by Steve Wenzloff. Before the renovation, it hosted a PGA TOUR Champions event on a yearly basis.
Looking at the scorecard, it's a par 71 that plays to 7,431 yards. That is relatively long but there are plenty of short par 4s mixed in (five par 4s that play under 425 yards). All five of those have yielded a birdie rate over 20 percent for the field, making them the easiest holes on the course along with the trio of par 5s.
Off the tee, golfers will see generous fairway widths to work with but roughly 8 percent of tee shots result in a penalty with water lurking around every corner in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
With so much water in play, driver is not always the preferred route. Instead, the time to be aggressive comes with your approach shots. Anytime you head to a Midwest venue in the summer, you know the greens will need to be heavily watered just to keep them alive. That means soft and receptive conditions, which means boatloads of birdies for these PGA TOUR pros.
The rough is generally grown up pretty high for this event but it's not a major factor given the soft and receptive greens. The main goal is to avoid the water hazards.
The bentgrass putting surfaces are prepped to run at 12 feet on the stimp. They generally get good reviews from the pros here which is another reason that golfers are able to get aggressive with their iron shots. The soft greens plus pure surfaces make the task of getting up-and-down that much easier.
The overall scoring environment is relatively easy. There are lots of birdies on the board, as long as you keep it in the fairway. The field averages around 80% GIR when attacking from the short grass. There are also lots of big numbers at TPC Twin Cities, with water on 15 of the holes.
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Quotes on the Course
Adam Long: "There's a lot of intimidating shots out there. There's room to miss and stuff, but there's a lot of water out there as we saw the first few days. It's kind of in your face, you can't avoid it. You just have to kind of step up and hit a golf shot a lot of times out there. So it provides a lot of birdies, but it's also pretty visually intimidating."
Phil Mickelson: “You can really make a lot of putts because the greens are in perfect shape. And you can get at the pins because they are soft and receptive. Even if you hit it in the rough you can get the ball to stop on the greens.”
Patrick Rodgers: "I think this golf course really suits length off the tee and good putting."
Tom Lehman: "Fairways here have always been wide and we narrowed them up some. They get narrower and narrower as you get out into that 310, 320 territory, which I’m not there. So my fairway is still a little bit wider. "
Lehman brings up a good point as to the comfort of laying up on some of the holes. It gives you a very wide landing area and still puts a mid-iron into your hand which is very manageable when the greens are receptive like they usually are here.
Let's look at the leaderboards over the last five years and see where the most crossover success can be found, when it comes to other courses played on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour:
TPC Deere Run
Silverado Resort and Spa
Deere Run and Detroit have the location factor, as well as a similar slot on the summer schedule. They share the same cool-season grasses, as does Silverado Resort and Spa. As for El Camaleon, it is another venue that has soft and receptive conditions and lots of big numbers for wide misses on the tee.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 89 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 90 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.
It's going to be hot and sticky this week before a chance of rain comes on Saturday.
Golfers to Watch
He opens as a 14/1 favorite this week on the odds board. That's a hefty price to pay for someone who has just two wins in over 200 career starts. Yet, the number makes sense when you consider his baseline stats compared to this week's field. He also has some family in Minnesota and has made the trip here in each of the three years, posting a trio of top 30s including a solo third in 2020.
He has top 15s in four of six starts since returning from a wrist injury (one on the Korn Ferry Tour). His game is clicking on all cylinders and now he heads home to the Midwest for the 3M Open. There is still work to be done after a slow start to the season, though, as he ranks just 132nd in the FedExCup race.
He cracked the field on Monday via sponsor's invite. He's become somewhat of a fan favorite and his results are starting to translate to the big stage. He posted a top 25 at the U.S. Open, a solo third at the Scottish Open, and made the cut last week at St. Andrews. The youngster continues to climb quickly in the world ranks as he finds himself 40th in the OWGR. He was outside of the top 100 to start the calendar year.
Speaking on rankings, Gotterup reached as high as 21st in the WAGR during his college days but was actually 1st on the Sagarin Golf Ratings for the 2021-22 college season. That talent has already translated to the pro game with top 10s at the Puerto Rico Open and John Deere Classic. He missed the cut in his most recent start, the Barbasol Championship.
He's another name that is comfortable in the Midwest. He grew up in Northern Iowa and spent some time at Winona State. Merritt posted a top 10 here during the inaugural 2019 edition (MC in 2020; 49th last year). Merritt has six top 25s this season but arrives with seven straight stroke-play events without a top 25. Perhaps a return home to his old stomping grounds can reignite his game.
Ranking the Field
1. Tony Finau
2. Sungjae Im
3. Hideki Matsuyama
4. Cam Davis
5. Adam Hadwin
6. Maverick McNealy
7. Sahith Theegala
8. Davis Riley
9. Nick Hardy
10. Cameron Tringale
11. Brendon Todd
12. Brendan Steele
13. J.T. Poston
14. Adam Long
15. Joohyung Kim
16. Troy Merritt
17. Christopher Gotterup
18. Adam Svensson
19. Jason Day
20. Ryan Palmer