it was a disappointing week for us at the Open as three of our team including strong fancies Tyrrell Hatton and Branden Grace failed to make it through to the weekend. In the end our headline pick Brooks Koepka produced a Sunday charge to bag a full place return for us and limit the damage, however it certainly wasn’t the week we were looking for.
The Claret Jug as we know was won in the end by Collin Morikawa who produced a faultless Sunday display to fend off the charging Jordan Spieth and luckless Louis Oosthuizen. No superlatives are too great for Morikawa’s achievement who has now won two of the first eight Majors he has played in and becomes the first player in history to win both the Open and PGA on debut. With two Major’s now under his belt at 24yrs old the sky is the limit for The American.
Over at the Barbasol Championship all four of our selections played solidly but none unfortunately were able to hit the frame with Josh Teater faring the best with his 15th place finish.
The trophy was taken home by Seamus Power who was the beneficiary of a late collapse by JT Poston who looked to have the event sewn up before he double bogeyed the easiest hole on the course the par five 15th.
After Poston’s collapse the event went to extra holes between him and Power and the Irishman triumphed to bag his first PGA Tour title.
So after it’s trip to the UK and for some to Kentucky the tour heads to Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb north of Minneapolis, for the third edition of the 3M Open.
Not unsurprisingly on the back of the Open and with the Olympics and a WGC to come over the next couple of weeks the field takes a bit of hit and with only two regular events and an opposite field event to come on the PGA Tour before the play-offs the focus will turn more to those needing some big performances to make the top 125 and retain their cards.
There is still some star power on display however with the field headed up by Dustin Johnson in addition Louis Oosthuizen, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia are all set to tee it up.
TPC Twin Cities is a Par 71 measuring around 7450 yards.
The greens are bentgrass.
The course was designed by Arnold Palmer in consultation with Tom Lehman and was opened for play in 2000.
One possible reference here therefore could be Bay Hill, which was subject to an Arnold Palmer redesign in 2009, while it may also be worth looking at another Palmer design TPC Boston, which hosted the Dell Technologies Championship [formerly the Deutsche Bank] until 2018.
While TPC Twin Cities is only in its third year of hosting a PGA Tour event it was used for many years to host the 3M Champions Tour event.
It should be noted though that prior to the first6 staging of the 3M Open last year the course underwent renovation, which was overseen by Minnesotan native Tom Lehman [who will tee it up this week].
The changes made included adding trees and sand traps, enlarging lakes, particularly the one in front of the 18th green, levelling mounding and expanding the rough.
In addition and perhaps most significantly, length was added to the course and instead of a par 72 playing to just under 7000yds, which historically greeted the Champions Tour, the PGA Tour players are faced by a 7450yd par 71.
As a result of this the par 5 sixth can play to over 600yds, the par 5 18th to 597yds and what was the par 5 third will now be a par 4 playing to over 500yds.
Conversely though the course also boasts three driveable par 4s, which can be set up to play between 280 & 315yds. These are the 7th, 10th and 16th holes.
So with only two years history let’s take a look at last years top ten.
1 Matthew Wolff
T2 Bryson Dechambeau & Collin Morikawa
4 Adam Hadwin
T5 Carlos Ortiz & Wyndham Clark
T7 Lucas Glover, Brian Harman, Sam Burns, Joey Garber, Troy Merritt, Hideki Matsuyama.
1 Michael Thompson
2 Adam Long
T3 Tony Finau, Emiliano Grillo, Max Homa, Charles Howell III, Alex Noren, Charl Schwartzel, Robby Shelton, Cameron Tringale, Richie Werenski.
The suspicion when the event first came on tour was that with the extra length added to the course the setup it would favour bigger hitters and with Matthew Wolff triumphing in 2019, Bryson finishing in a tie for second [he was still pretty long prior to his bulking out!], and other big hitters like Wyndham Clark and Sam Burns performing well this certainly appeared to be the case. Having said that as Harman and Merritt showed there was room for a shorter hitter to perform well here as well. All in all though length certainly appeared to be an advantage.
Last year however of the top dozen home only Tony Finau could be put in the ‘bomber’ category and with Michael Thompson winning it would seem that everyone has a chance here.
Digging a bit deeper and while we know the 2019 winner Matthew Wolff is no slouch off the tee it was his overall tee to green game that got the job done for him last year as he finished the week second for Strokes-Gained-Tee-To-Green and first in Strokes-Gained-Approach-To-The-Green. Meanwhile the putter seemed less important as he finished the week 39th with the flatstick, and on Sunday despite shooting 65 he lost just under two strokes to the field with the putter!
Looking at the others who finished prominently on the board in 2019 and Dechambeau produced a strong all round week both from tee to green and with the putter while Morikawa predictably lead the field in approach play but ranked only 47th for the week with the putter.
Meanwhile looking at the 2020 statistics and Michael Thompson only ranked 88th off the tee but fourth in approach play and sixth in putting while runner up Long after struggling in the opening two days caught fire with his approaches over the weekend gaining over 6.5 shots over Saturday and Sunday. It would seem then that TPC Twin Cities is very much a ‘second shot’ course.
With the event taking the spot straight after the Open Championship for the first time the other obvious thing to mention is ‘Major fatigue’, with, as we regularly see, players who were in the hunt in the big event the week before struggling to perform the week after.
If we look though at the five winners to date this season in the events directly following a Major they have been Hudson Swafford, Robert Streb, Stewart Cink, Jason Kokrak and Harris English and of these both Cink and English had performed well the week before with English notably finishing third at Torrey Pines.
Delving further though and if we look at the last ten winners of the RBC Canadian Open when it was the most recent regular PGA Tour event to be played directly after the Open and we will see that of the six winners of the event to have played in the Open the week before only two of them had performed well in the event.
Here is a list of how they fared on the Links the week before;
2018 Dustin Johnson MC
2017 Jhonattan Vegas MC
2016 Jhonattan Vegas DNP [Finished 4th at Barbasol]
2015 Jason Day 4th
2014 Tim Clark DNP
2013 Brandt Snedeker 11th
2012 Scott Piercy DNP
2011 Sean O’Hair MC
2010 Carl Pettersson DNP
2009 Nathan Green DNP
As we can see then with only Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker having been any kind of factor at the Open it is quite possible to conclude that understandably the long week of ‘Major pressure’ on top of all the travelling it entails is not the ideal preparation.
From the point of view of form coming in to the week of the two 3M Open winners to date 2019 Champion Wolff had only very recently joined the pro ranks however while big things were expected finishes of MC and 80 at the Rocket Mortgage and Travelers over the previous weeks had hardly telegraphed a big week here.
As for 2020 winner Thompson while he had shown a glimpse of form with an eighth place finish at the RBC Heritage a month before he arrived on the back of a run of MC 64 46 and had not posted another top 20 in the calendar year so he was certainly not arriving in strong form.
Finally with regards to the winning score Wolff triumphed on -21 in 2019 and Thompson with -19 last year and I would expect similar again this week.
We are set for a week of really high temperatures with the thermometer potentially topping a 100 over the four days. Fortunately though the storms, which often accompany such temperatures are not in the forecast at the moment at least.
Wind does not look to be a big issue although we could see some gusts of around 15mph across the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
RYAN MOORE – 50/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
I will start things off this week with Ryan Moore.
As longer term readers will know I am a big fan of Ryan Moore’s particularly in the way that he has always beaten to his own drum.
Of late however Moore has been suffering from his longest lull since he joined the PGA Tour and as a result of, which he is in serious danger of losing his 100% record of qualifying for every edition of the Fedex Cup play off’s.
A large part of Ryan’s problem this season is that he picked up a back injury last August at the Wyndham Championship, which resulted in him having to miss all of last year’s fall events and he didn’t make his seasons debut until the American Express in January.
Since then, Moore’s back by his own admission has still not been a 100% and as a result of him having to manage a more limited schedule the results have been hard to come by.
Prior to the John Deere Classic a fortnight ago it looked likely Ryan would be having to resort to either the Korn Ferry finals or a Major Medical Extension to earn his playing privileges for the 21/22 campaign however at the John Deere things clicked in to place and he notched a much needed second place finish.
To be fair to Ryan while his results had not been great this year they had not been dreadful either in that he had made seven of his previous nine cuts before he arrived at TPC Deere Run, but he had finished no better than 26th.
At TPC Deere Run though the two areas that had been letting Moore down this season, his approach play and putting both clicked in to gear and he ranked 15th and 11th respectively in these categories.
As a result of his high finish the five time tour winner earned himself a place in The Open Championship however a combination of a planned family vacation and not wishing to risk his back on the long flight lead to Ryan sticking to his schedule, which brings him to Minnesota this week.
Whilst choosing to miss a Major is a decision, which will always raise some eyebrows the fact that Ryan chose to do this and focus instead on this week is a big clue to his thoughts on this weeks tracks suitability to him and this is something borne out by his 12th place finish here last year.
Looking at Ryan’s stats here last year and he drove the ball as well as ever and also putted well however his approach play was poor, so if he can bring his improvement in this front from the John Deere he has to be a threat.
Moore has always been a player who has telegraphed his wins with solid play leading in and arriving here in a confident mood I can see him delivering another big week and threatening his sixth tour win while pushing himself upwards from his current 137th place in the Fedex standings.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL – 55/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 2nd
The fact that Charl Schwartzel was having to watch his good friend and fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen’s bid for a second Claret Jug from his hotel room in Kentucky while he tee’d it up at the Barbasol, is a sign of how far the former Masters Champion has fallen over the past few years.
To be fair to Schwartzel a big part of his downturn can be pinpointed to a wrist injury which kept him out of action through the vast bulk of 2019, which when added to the covid hiatus meant he was unable to gain any real momentum through 2020 when he was trying to rediscover his form.
This season however has been a different story for Charl as he has rediscovered consistency missing only one cut in 11 starts since March, at the PGA Championship, whilst posting five top 25 finishes including a third place at the Charles Schwab and a runner up alongside Louis at the Zurich.
After a really strong 19th place finish at the US Open at Torrey Pines as mentioned Charl returned to action last week at the Barbasol following his break with a solid 26th place, a performance which saw him post his best round of the week on Sunday in, which he gained over 3.5 strokes from tee to green.
With the rust knocked off the South African now returns to a venue, which was the scene of his only bright spot in 2020 when he posted an out of the blue third place finish.
That week Charl arrived in Minnesota on the back of four missed cuts and really struggling and despite his strong finish he struggled with his approach play. This year though the contrast couldn’t be much greater as he arrives in really solid form and his approach play at the Barbasol was eye catching as he ranked 16th for the week.
On this basis you would have to think that the 36yr old will be relishing a return to a course, which clearly fits his eye and I believe he has a great chance of returning to the winners enclosure this week.
DOUG GHIM – 60-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Another player who produced a strong performance out of nowhere at TPC Twin Cities last year was Doug Ghim and with the 25yr old arriving here in solid form this year I am happy to chance him this week.
Last years performance, an 18th place finish, came on the back of two missed cuts on the PGA Tour following its resumption in June and with his score improving every day he clearly took a liking to the track.
The fact that Doug performed well here last year should not been seen as a huge surprise as his strength lies from tee to green, particularly in his approach play, and as noted earlier this has been the key to unlocking this venue in its first two years on tour.
Currently ranked 16th in strokes-gained-approach-to-the-green on tour this season Ghim returns on an eye catching progressive run of form, which has seen him finish 54, 32 and 18 in his last three starts and at the John Deere last time out where he finished 18th he ranked second in approach play and sixth from tee to green for the week.
As is often the want with solid ball strikers the area that lets Ghim down is the putting however he has seen a slight upturn in that department of late and as we saw with Lucas Glover at the John Deere [or indeed Morikawa at the Open!] if a strong ball striker who tends to putt poorly finds an improvement with the flatstick then look out.
Furthermore we have encouragement from the fact that the 2019 winner Matthew Wolff only ranked 39th for the week in putting showing us that a big performance on the greens isn’t necessarily the key here.
At 79th in the Fedex Cup standings Ghim has solidified his status on tour and the next step is for him to threaten a win an and I believe he can do so this week.
KYLE STANLEY – 80/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
If we are going to take our chances with strong ball strikers who struggle on the greens then pretty much the first name on the list is Kyle Stanley.
Stanley’s woes on the dance floor are well documented and this season is no exception as he currently ranks 201st in this department on tour.
Despite this though Kyle arrives here on a run of seven straight made cuts including an eighth at the Charles Schwab so he is clearly doing a lot of other things well.
The main thing he is doing well of course is finding his fairways and finding his greens and last time out at the John Deere he ranked third from tee to green and 13th in approach play, only to lose shots on the greens every day.
Similarly to our previous two picks encouragement can be found in the 33yr olds performance here last year as he posted a 32nd place finish on the back of two missed cuts and notched rounds of 65 and 66 along the way.
This year the Clemson grad arrives in far more solid form and my hope is that he can perhaps take some inspiration from another former Clemson man’s performance at the John Deere, Lucas Glover, and find an improvement on the greens that could lead to a third PGA Tour win.
CAMERON CHAMP – 125/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 1st!!!!
Finally in an event, which in its first edition in particular, saw big hitters flourish I am going to roll the dice with Cameron Champ following his improved showing last time out.
A two time winner on tour Champ featured in my ‘six to follow for 2021’ preview at the start of the year however so far he has struggled to justify that billing.
While the fall events saw some strong results from Cameron 2021 has been a real struggle for him and prior to the John Deere his best result had been his 26th place finish at Augusta.
Arriving at TPC Deere Run on the back of four missed cuts in which he failed to break 70 and a WD, Champ turned that stretch on its head by posting rounds of 66 68 and 65 over the first three days before a final round 71 saw him finish 11th.
In that performance Champ lead the field off the tee for the week, ranked 19th from tee to green and produced a vastly improved putting display compared to his seasons ranking of 206th to rank 23rd for the week.
We’ve seen from Champ twice already in his career that he can snap a poor run of form with an eye catching result and then go on to win in his following start and there is no doubt that when on song he is capable of competing at the very top level.
The one slight negative is that the 26yr old missed the cut here on his only previous visit in 2019 however he was in poor form at the time. I am therefore happy to take the chance this week that he can put that effort behind him and push on from the momentum gained at the John Deere and produce a really big week to push himself in to the top 125 of the Fedex Cup..
UPDATED 20th JULY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1- BYEONG HUN AN - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 26.5
For my first pick I am going to chance Ben An.
An is a risky play admittedly based on his recent form however a 26th place finish in last weeks Open Championship was a far more promising result.
An has been working with coach Sean Foley of late and it may just be that his hard work is starting to pay dividends and if this is the case then TPC Twin Cities could play in to his hands allowing for his length off the tee.
Furthermore Ben has a strong record at the Arnold Palmer designed Bay Hill, which sits well with this week.
Currently languishing outside the top 125 Ben needs some big results and I am happy to risk him in DK this week.
PICK 2 - JASON DUFNER - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED 28th - DK POINTS TOTAL 77
Another player languishing well outside of the top 125 and in need of a big week is Jason Dufner.
Allowing for his Fedex Cup position of 166th Dufner needless to say has had a grim season, however the past fortnight has seen an uptick in form with an 18th place finish at the John Deere and a 26th place at the Barbasol, a result, which would have been much better apart from a disappointing Sunday 73.
Dufner has made two appearances at TPC Twin Cities, making the cut on both ocassions, something, which is not too surprising allowing for his strong iron play, which fits well here, and I can see him building on his past fortnights work and performing strongly this week.