The Rocket Mortgage Classic was dominated by Nate Lashley in what was an outstanding way to win his first PGA Tour title. A late Wednesday entry to the field after David Berganio Jnr withdrew, if you managed to get on board then congratulations! I managed to get a part 33/1 each-way return on Donald Ross course connoisseur Brandt Snedeker, who shot a field best -12 across the weekend.
On to this week and another brand new tournament for the PGA Tour, the 3M Open, played at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota. 3M are based in Minneapolis and have sponsored a PGA Tour Champions Tour event in the area since 2001. With the PGA Tour wanting to create this Midwest swing that we find ourselves in as part of the new shortened schedule, 3M stepped up to the mark, parting with the circa $16 million required to sponsor a PGA Tour event. TPC Twin Cities will be a new venue to the vast majority of the field and to most of us as punters, and to add to the intrigue the course has received a huge renovation to bring it up to PGA Tour standard.
The field for this time of the season, pre-Open Championship and with the Irish and Scottish Opens pulling many players from the United States to Europe, is reasonable enough with Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson highlighting.
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Course Guide: The 3M Championship has been an established tournament on the PGA Champions Tour going back to 1993. Played in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis at TPC Twin Cities, this was always a tournament which produced very low scores. A 7,114 yard Par 72 was the format for the Seniors and winning scores of -19/197 (2016 – Joe Durant), -20/196 (2017 – Paul Goydos) and -21/195 (2018 – Kenny Perry) show that this course was very much there for the taking.
After Kenny Perry lifted the trophy last August, a Tom Lehman and Tim Herron-led course renovation started on this original Arnold Palmer design, with the focus of adding distance. However you can’t see the addition of around 350 yards tapering the scoring too much, especially as the PGA Tour have a pro-active policy of ensuring that new courses don’t provide too much resistance on their Tour debuts.
TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minnesota: Designer: Arnold Palmer, 2000 with Herron and Lehman renovation, 2018; Course Type: Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,468 yards; Water Hazards: 27; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Bluegrass with fescue 2.5″; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 12ft. Course Scoring Average 2016: 69.92 (-2.08), Champions Tour Difficulty Rank 25 of 26 courses. 2017: 69.28 (-2.72), Champions Tour Difficulty Rank 24 of 26. 2018: 70.92 (-1.08), Champions Tour Difficulty Rank 18 of 26 courses.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Arnold Palmer designs include:
- PGA West – Palmer Private – Host Course 2008 through 2015 Career Builder Challenge
- Bay Hill Country Club – Arnold Palmer Invitational
- TPC Boston – Dell Technologies Championship
- Isleworth Golf & Country Club – 2014 Hero World Challenge
- Albany – 2015 – 2018 Hero World Challenge
- TPC Boston – Dell Technologies Championship
Course Overview: TPC Twin Cities is part of the Tournament Players Club group of courses owned by the PGA Tour. Apart from the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which is the PGA Tour’s Number 1 tournament, TPC Designs tend to be quite standard and gettable. Naturally built and operated in the main for amateur players who want to be able to play courses they see the top professionals play on TV, they tend to be resort like in general, so don’t think we’re in for an onerous test this week, despite course strengthening taking place over the autumn.
An original Arnold Palmer design, the course post-Herron/Lehman renovation will play as a 7,468 yard Par 71. Not short, the 3 par-5s are 594 yards (6th), 593 yards (12th) and 596 yards (18th) in length and are undoubtedly reachable to the power hitters. With 11 par-4s on the card this week, 9 of them are sub-470 yards and 6 of those are sub-430 yards, so a decent drive and a flick with a wedge for the vast majority in the field. The 4 par-3s look sterner, with 3 of them at over 200 yards.
The course looks wide from the tee, although renovation work has looked at thinning some fairways and placement of strategic bunkering to stiffen the test. Fairways in the main are tree-lined, but this is no classical layout. In fact the course sees water used as a defence on a majority of holes, giving the course almost a Florida-type look to it. The renovation itself included modifications to a majority of the holes by adding additional tee boxes, narrowing fairways by removing fairway sod and immediately replacing it with alternate sod to establish ‘rough’ areas, installation of approximately 100 mature trees, wetland restoration at two ponds plus excavation and expansion of the pond on the closing par-5 18th hole.
A couple of player comments from the 3M Championship make interesting reading:
Peter Lonard: “The course is fantastic, course is really good, you know. It has a bit of bounce, fairways pretty wide, approaches to the greens are probably the most important around here. If you can hit them on the fairways, you’ve got a lot of opportunities.”
Tom Lehman: “I think it’s up to us to make the course a fair test. I think it’s still going to be low scores. I don’t know that — exactly what that many mean, but the way the young guys play, the aggressive style they play with, there’s always somebody every week that is driving it great and putting it great and they’re hitting it 340 and there’s no defence for that out here no matter what you do, as there are at a lot of courses. The modern game is a different game. So I think it’s our goal to punish bad shots and to reward good shots. Really a fair test of narrow fairways, thicker rough, make guys hit it straight and if you do there will be some low scores.”
I’ll add a couple of other facts that have peaked my interest this week. The course features pure Bentgrass green complexes, something we’ve amazingly only seen at Augusta National and Colonial in 2019 on the PGA Tour. And at 900 feet in altitude, the ball will fly a little further than the professionals are used to. With the calculations required, this is something that some players can work through with no issues, but undoubtedly some struggle with the mathematics or trusting it. I’m expecting low scores again this week on a purer resort course than we saw in Detroit last week.
Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Wyndham Clark, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Si Woo Kim, Ryan Moore, and Sungjae Im.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the HP Byron Nelson and Betfred British Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Top 20 Driving Accuracy: 1) Ryan Armour / Andrew Landry; 3) Bill Haas / Scott Langley; 5) Austin Cook; 6) Tyler Duncan; 7) Derek Fathauer / Viktor Hovland / Ryan Moore; 10) Colt Knost / Michael Thompson; 12) Brice Garnett; 13) Jason Dufner / Collin Morikawa; 15) Adam Hadwin / Adam Long; 17) Corey Conners / Nicholas Lindheim / Adam Svensson; 20) Alex Cejka.
- Top 20 Greens in Regulation: 1) Cameron Tringale; 2) Corey Conners; 3) Adam Svensson; 4) Jason Dufner / Hunter Mahan; 6) Kevin Streelman; 7) Brice Garnett; 8) Tyler Duncan / Kyle Stanley; 10) Charley Hoffman; 11) Brooks Koepka; 12) Sung Kang / Sepp Straka; 14) Nick Watney; 15) Joaquin Niemann; 16) Josh Teater; 17) Hideki Matsuyama / Kevin Na; 19) Viktor Hovland; 20) Jason Day.
- Top 20 Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Danny Lee; 2) Wyndham Clark; 3) Brady Schnell; 4) Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Beau Hossler; 7) Adam Hadwin / Collin Morikawa; 9) Nicholas Lindheim; 10) Dominic Bozzelli; 11) Morgan Hoffmann; 12) Denny McCarthy; 13) Bryson DeChambeau / Rory Sabbatini; 15) Scott Langley; 16) Patrick Reed; 17) Cameron Tringale; 18) Roger Sloan; 19) Viktor Hovland; 20) Tyler Duncan / Peter Uihlein.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Blaine, Minneapolis, is here. In Detroit last week we saw quite firm fairway conditions, low rough and constantly watered greens, adding up to a true birdie-fest. Further north in Minneapolis though, the area has seen plenty of precipitation over recent months, weeks and days. 402mm of rain has fallen since the start of April. 51mm of that was last week, Sunday was wet and even as I write this on Monday, it’s still raining. With more rain a 50% chance across the whole of tournament week, I’d be very surprised if we don’t see soft fairways and receptive greens for at least the first 36 holes, and knowing the PGA Tour they won’t let the greens firm-up at all as the players visit TPC Twin Cities for the first time. With no significant wind in the forecast and pleasant temperatures the norm this week, I expect strong scoring once again.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 4 winners here at TPC Twin Cities gives us a little more insight into the potential requirements for this test:
- Kenny Perry (-21). 303 yards (6th), 90.5% fairways (8th), 81.5% greens in regulation (15th), 80.0 % scrambling (2nd), 1.59 putts per GIR (3rd).
- Paul Goydos (-20). 272 yards (53rd), 90.5% fairways (14th), 72.2% greens in regulation (63rd), 93.3 % scrambling (3rd), 1.51 putts per GIR (2nd).
- Joe Durant (-19). 266 yards (46th), 97.6% fairways (1st), 90.7% greens in regulation (2nd), 80.0 % scrambling (6th), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).
- Kenny Perry (-25). 280 yards (2nd), 76.2% fairways (67th), 88.9% greens in regulation (1st), 33.3% scrambling (73rd), 1.58 putts per GIR (2nd).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 27th, Driving Accuracy: 23rd, Greens in Regulation: 20th, Scrambling: 21st, Putting Average 3rd.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 4 – Jason Day.
- 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na.
- 2 – Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Lucas Glover, Brian Harman, Hideki Matsuyama, Troy Merritt.
- 1 – Sangmoon Bae, Jonas Blixt, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman, Freddie Jacobson, Smylie Kaufman, Michael Kim, Martin Laird, Danny Lee, Hunter Mahan, Rod Pampling, Ted Potter Jnr, Patrick Reed, Rory Sabbatini, Kyle Stanley, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Nick Watney.
For the second week running we have pretty much a blank sheet of paper on the PGA Tour. 2 weeks out from the Open Championship over the past 3 years has seen wins for Danny Lee (150/1), Xander Schauffele (66/1) and Kevin Na (45/1) at the Greenbrier Classic. But the Greenbrier was always a particularly weak field and 2019 sees the likes of Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson and the very in-form Keegan Bradley and Rory Sabbatini in Minnesota. I would argue that the depth of field is slightly better than last week in Detroit, and from previous tournaments held here on the Champions Tour we see that TPC Twin Cities is essentially a resort golf course.
My selections are as follows: