Champ captures third career title at 3M Open

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Cameron Champ stuck to his game plan Sunday and came up big, carding a bogey-free, 5-under 66 to finish at 15-under 269 for a two-stroke victory and his third career PGA Tour title at the 3M Open.

But Champ’s final-round foray around TPC Twin Cities was far from effortless: He started the day two shots off the lead, battled dehydration on his back nine during the triple-digit temperatures, then had analysts everywhere scratching their heads when he hit driver off the tee on 18, the treacherous par-5 finishing hole, which he pulled far left. When his second shot went just 56 yards, failing to reach the fairway, and his third shot left him 126 yards from the hole, announcers suggested clubhouse leaders Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas and none other than South African Louis Oosthuizen might want to warm up for a possible playoff.

That’s when Champ stuck a gap wedge to 2 feet 7 inches, rolled it in for a par, and told media immediately afterward that he’d do it the same way all over again.

“I’m gonna hit driver there every time no matter what,” said the 26-year-old Champ, who became the fourth player on Tour age 27 or younger to win in each of the last three seasons, joining Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau. Champ also won the 2019 Safeway Open and 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship.

“It’s a very difficult driving hole for me, but again, it’s one of those holes where if I hit it left over there … I’ll have a chance to punch out, and the times I do hit it in the fairway, it’ll be an easy par-5 to get in two, but obviously I made it a little interesting.”

Champ, who came into the tournament listed at +12500 via PointsBet Sportsbook and +1400 heading into Sunday, started the week No. 119 in the world rankings, No. 142 in the FedExCup standings and had made just 11 cuts in 22 starts this season. He said he hit a breaking point earlier this month following the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, which capped a stretch of four missed cuts that started with the PGA Championship, where he shot 82-77 at Kiawah Island, and also included a withdrawal at the Memorial after a first-round 82.

“I think after Detroit, I really had to take a step back and just really realize who I want to be, not so much as a golfer but off the course,” said Champ, who was projected to move to No. 49 in the FedExCup standings. “I’ve always said I’d rather be remembered as an amazing father and as an amazing husband to my wife, a grandfather, friend, stuff like that. I had to figure out how to balance golf and life. Everybody peaks and learns it at different times, and I’ve always been a late bloomer, unfortunately.

"...I had to figure out how to manage everything and how to manage my own expectations and what I want to do in life. I was just putting a lot of stress on myself and doing things that I usually wouldn't do and acting certain ways that I usually wouldn't act on the course. So I just had to take a step back and say, ‘You know what, this has to stop.’ I've got to be more true to myself no matter what happens.”

The win marked just second top 10 of season for Champ, who finished the week ranked first in Strokes Gained: Putting (8.477). It also meant yet another runner-up result for Oosthuizen, whose tally now stands at 12 second-place finishes on Tour against just one win at The Open in 2010.

Coming off a heartbreaker at the 149th Open where he finished in the top three in his third straight major, Oosthuizen birdied three of his last four holes on Sunday to post a 5-under 66 to reach 13 under for his fifth top-three finish in his last seven Tour starts and his fourth runner-up within the same stretch.

“I was happy to play this week,” said Oosthuizen, who was listed at +1300 to win starting the week and +4000 going into the final round. “I sort of didn't really want to just think about last week, about not playing great on that Sunday and immediately quickly go back into tournament mode and then play this tournament. So, great track. We had a good time here this week and I'm just trying to see if I can go one better than all these seconds and thirds.”

Vegas, listed at +6000 starting the week and +1400 ahead of Sunday, shot 68 to also reach 13 under and picked up the third runner-up finish of his career, with the others also coming this season. He finished second at the Puerto Rico Open in February and T-2 in June at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.

“I had a dream start making three birdies in five holes,” said Vegas, who will play for Venezuela in the Tokyo Olympics. “Kind of slowed down a little bit through the middle of the round, couldn't really buy a putt. Gave myself a little bit of a chance at the end, but solid week. That's all you want. You want to play good under pressure and feel like I did that.”

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Odds & Ends: DJ’s early exit, Mitchell’s record-tying Saturday and more

World No. 2 Dustin Johnson entered the week as the betting favorite, listed at +700 by PointsBet, but headed home before the weekend after shooting 70-72 to miss the cut by two shots. It marked just the third missed cut in 16 starts this season for Johnson, who made three bogeys over his final seven holes Friday including a bogey at 18 after putting his tee shot in the water. … Rickie Fowler (+4000 entering the week), jockeying to keep his position inside the top 125 of the FedExCup standings and looking for his first win in more than two years, continued his trend of better play after opening with a bogey-free, 7-under 64 in the opening round in Minnesota. After sharing the first-round lead, Fowler faded to T-34 following rounds of 73-70-71, which were unfortunately highlighted by a triple bogey at 18 on Saturday and a bogey-bogey finish on Sunday. … World No. 174 Keith Mitchell, listed at +20000 entering the week, stopped a skid of five straight missed cuts at the 3M Open and worked his way onto the leaderboard over the weekend after starting his third round with seven consecutive birdies. The 29-year-old Georgia alum, who won the 2019 Honda Classic, tied a PGA Tour record that had not been done since Joe Durant in the final round of the 2005 Honda Classic. Starting on the back, Mitchell made a 7-footer for birdie on the 10th, then proceeded to make birdies from 31, 8, 10, 9, 11 and 4 feet to move into a share of the lead. After making bogeys on Nos. 1 and 3, Mitchell carded a 66 on Saturday and a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to finish solo fifth for his second top-five result this season.

Rahm, DeChambeau out of Olympics; Reed gets nod

In a stunning streak of breaking news over the weekend, world No. 1 Jon Rahm and No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau withdrew from the upcoming Olympic competition after testing positive for COVID-19.

DeChambeau was the first to make headlines on Saturday, when USA Golf released a statement confirming the positive result occurred during final testing protocols before he was scheduled to leave for Japan. He will be replaced by world No. 13 Patrick Reed, who also competed for Team USA in the 2016 Rio Games, and finished T-34 in Minnesota.

News of Rahm’s positive test came less than six hours later, also during the final testing period according to a statement from the International Golf Federation, and is less than two months removed from his positive test at the Memorial Tournament. Refresher: Rahm held a six-shot lead through three rounds at Muirfield but was forced to withdraw after a positive test on June 5. Rahm revealed later that he was vaccinated but was still within the 14-day waiting period.

“I’ve been fortunate to represent my country and win a championship for Spain around the world as an amateur,” Rahm said in a statement on Twitter. “Playing in Tokyo would have given me a chance to win an Olympic gold medal for my country. I would have loved to have been the first Spanish Olympic gold medalist in golf, but unfortunately destiny had other plans. This is a great reminder for all of us that we’re still in a pandemic, things are not over, and we still need to fight together to get through this the best we can.”

The Spanish Olympic Committee initially announced that Rahm would not be replaced due to inadequate timing to comply with the necessary health protocols, but subsequent reports indicated that Jorge Campillo will now join world No. 166 Adri Arnaus next week for Spain. Reed will join world No. 3 Collin Morikawa, No. 4 Justin Thomas and No. 5 Xander Schauffele on Team USA in the 60-player men’s competition.

“Anytime I can represent my country and go play for my country, I'm going to do it no matter what, no matter where it is, no matter what time zone or how I have to get there or anything,” said Reed following his even-par round of 71 on Sunday. “When they gave me the name ‘Captain America’ -- the fans did -- it feels like an obligation and a duty of mine to go out and play for our country whenever I can and whenever I get the call. To be able to call myself not just an Olympian but a two-time Olympian is pretty sweet.

“I look forward to going over there and playing. I know things are going to be a little different this time than the first time we were at Rio where we were able to go and experience all the other venues and things like that, but to be able to go in and represent our country with a small group of guys and go out there and try to bring home gold is just an honor I can't pass up.”

Along with Reed, four other players heading to the Olympics teed it up at TPC Twin Cities: Venezuela’s Vegas, Chile’s Mito Pereira, who finished T-6 for his second top 10 this season, and Puerto Rico’s Rafael Campos, who shot 76-74 to miss the cut by 10.

Next up: Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament

A gold medal is up for grabs for just the fourth time in history when the Olympic men’s golf competition kicks off this week at the Tokyo Summer Games. The East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama, will host the 72-hole stroke-play competition that begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Sixty players representing 35 countries will participate in the tournament, although no previous medal winners qualified for Tokyo. In Rio in 2016, Justin Rose of Great Britain won the gold medal, while Sweden’s Henrik Stenson took silver and USA’s Matt Kuchar won bronze. Among notables in this year’s field, which includes USA’s powerhouse trifecta of Morikawa, Thomas and Schauffele, is world No. 11 Viktor Hovland playing for Norway, world No. 15 Rory McIlroy playing for Ireland and reigning Masters champion and world No. 20 Hideki Matsuyama, who in April became the first Japanese male golfer to win a major.

Matsuyama won the 2010 Asian Amateur at Kasumigaseki CC, located approximately 25 miles northwest of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The club dates back to 1929 and has two golf courses -- an East and West course – which have hosted the Japan Open four times, the Japan Amateur twice, a Japan Women’s Open and the Canada Cup (now the World Cup of Golf). The East Course was redesigned by Tom and Logan Fazio in 2016 in preparation for the Games.

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