Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's 3M Open Tips 2021

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Congratulations if you were on-board Collin Morikawa at the Open Championship last week, with Monday 35/1 prices available. With little professional links course experience, he tamed Royal St George’s impressively and showed that gritty, competitive mental edge that makes him a stand-out at 24 years of age.

It was also fantastic to see Seamus Power win his maiden PGA Tour title at the Barbasol Championship. With Monday prices up to 20/1 he was the co-favourite, and we’ve seen a definite trend of favourites winning these alternate events of late. Congratulations to our Golf Betting System podcast colleague Barry O’Hanrahan, who regular listeners will know has been backing Power for weeks!

On to this week and the third instalment of 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. 3M have certainly stepped up to the mark, parting with the circa $16 million required to sponsor a PGA Tour event. But players undoubtedly need breaks in their schedules and with the Open Championship prior to the 3M Open and the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational post this week’s action, field quality is what you would expect. Saying that Dustin Johnson headlines with Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson all in attendance.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the 3M Open, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the PGA Tour season heads towards the Playoffs. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: The 3M Championship had been an established tournament on the PGA Champions Tour going back to 1993, before it was promoted to the PGA Tour in 2019. 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 in August 2018, a Tom Lehman and Tim Herron-led course renovation started on this original Arnold Palmer design, with the focus of adding distance, which they achieved by adding 350 yards. However across its PGA Tour debut, Matthew Wolff and Michael Thompson have won with 21/263 and -19/265 totals respectively, highlighting that eagles and birdies were the currency required.

TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minnesota: Designer: Arnold Palmer, 2000 with Herron and Lehman renovation, 2018; Course Type: Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,431 yards; Number of Holes with Water In-Play: 15 Holes; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Bluegrass with fescue 3″; Greens: 6,500 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. 2019: 69.46 (-2.54), PGA Tour Difficulty Rank 36 of 49 courses. 2020: 69.95 (-1.05), PGA Tour Difficulty Rank 23 of 41 courses.

Widths Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Twin Cities and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • TPC Twin Cities: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:38; 300:31; 325:30; 350:36.
  • TPC Deere Run: 250 yards from tee: 41 yards wide; 275:40; 300:36 325:33; 350:30.
  • Detroit Golf Club: 250 yards from tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:35 325:34; 350:33.
  • TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:36; 300:29; 325:29; 350:28.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island: Up to 50 yards wide.
  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Arnold Palmer designs include:

  • Albany – 2015 – 2018 Hero World Challenge
  • Bay Hill Country Club – Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • Isleworth Golf & Country Club – 2014 Hero World Challenge
  • PGA West – Palmer Private – Host Course 2008 through 2015 Career Builder 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. 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, the course set-ups tend to be resort like in general.

And so it’s proved over the past 2 years. Despite course strengthening, TPC Twin Cities proved to be a total birdie-fest on its inaugural outing, and in 2020 with a couple of days with gusting 25 mph wind to contend with, the winning total was -19/265.

The course is wide from the tee and despite fairways being tree-lined, 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. I’ll add a couple of other facts. The course features pure Bentgrass green complexes, and at 900 feet in altitude, the ball flies 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.

An original Arnold Palmer design, the course post Herron/Lehman renovation now plays as a 7,431 yard, Par 71, which with thinner air is short enough to take apart. Green complexes are large at an average 6,500 square feet, especially when compared to recent Tour stop-offs. With 3 par-5s measuring 594 yards (6th), 593 yards (12th) and 596 yards (18th) in length, the longest holes on the course show some resistance here, but both sets of par-3s and par-4s are easy from a PGA Tour scoring perspective.

3m open tips

Winners: 2020: Michael Thompson (-19); 2019: Matthew Wolff (-21).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -19.
  • 2019: Round 1 -9; Round 2 -14; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -21.

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 | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | SG Stats.

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 Dustin Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Emiliano Grillo, Cameron Tringale, Patrick Reed, James Hahn, Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen, Doug Ghim and Charles Howell III.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Charles Schwab Challenge / Made In Himmerland, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Mito Pereira; 2) Bubba Watson; 3) Louis Oosthuizen; 4) Sergio Garcia; 5) Dustin Johnson / Wes Roach; 7) Cameron Champ / Robert MacIntyre; 9) Lucas Herbert / Kyle Stanley; 11) Tom Lewis; 12) Patrick Rodgers / Jhonattan Vegas; 14) Maverick McNealy; 15) Tyler McCumber; 16) Charl Schwartzel; 17) Adam Schenk; 18) Luke List; 19) Ryan Moore; 20) Beau Hossler; 21) Jason Dufner; 22) Dylan Frittelli; 23) J.J. Spaun; 24) Tyler Duncan / Brandon Hagy / James Hahn.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Steve Stricker; 2) Michael Gellerman; 3) Sergio Garcia / Kyle Stanley; 5) Chez Reavie; 6) Keegan Bradley; 7) Lucas Herbert; 8) Cameron Tringale; 9) Jhonattan Vegas; 10) Stewart Cink; 11) Luke List / Erik van Rooyen; 13) Bo Hoag / Cameron Percy / Scott Stallings; 16) Patrick Reed; 17) Russell Knox; 18) Ryan Armour / Scott Brown / Chris Kirk / Matthew NeSmith; 22) Ryan Moore / Mito Pereira; 24) Joel Dahmen / Doug Ghim / Lanto Griffin / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Matt Kuchar; 2) Robert MacIntyre; 3) Patrick Reed; 4) Hank Lebioda; 5) Roger Sloan; 6) Camilo Villegas; 7) Beau Hossler / Nate Lashley; 9) Chris Kirk / Kevin Tway; 11) Robert Streb; 12) Aaron Baddeley; 13) Rickie Fowler / Brian Stuard; 15) Joel Dahmen / Brandt Snedeker; 17) Tony Finau; 18) Dustin Johnson; 19) Robby Shelton; 20) Mark Hubbard / Patton Kizzire / Rob Oppenheim; 23) Josh Teater; 24) Ryan Blaum / David Hearn.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Kyle Stanley; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Lucas Herbert; 4) Dustin Johnson; 5) Chez Reavie / Patrick Reed; 7) Robert MacIntyre / Steve Stricker; 9) Mito Pereira / Jhonattan Vegas; 11) Hank Lebioda / Louis Oosthuizen; 13) Charl Schwartzel; 14) Maverick McNealy; 15) Joel Dahmen; 16) Doug Ghim / Bubba Watson; 18) Ryan Armour / Beau Hossler / Luke List; 21) Stewart Cink; 22) Camilo Villegas; 23) Lanto Griffin; 24) Keegan Bradley / Bo Hoag / Nate Lashley.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Hank Lebioda; 2) Louis Oosthuizen / Erik van Rooyen; 4) Lucas Herbert; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Cameron Davis; 7) John Senden; 8) Kevin Tway; 9) Rhein Gibson / Dustin Johnson / Maverick McNealy; 12) Adam Hadwin / Cameron Tringale; 14) Aaron Baddeley / Adam Long; 16) Jonathan Byrd; 17) Troy Merritt; 18) Pat Perez; 19) Martin Trainer / Richy Werenski; 21) Ricky Barnes; 22) Beau Hossler / Hunter Mahan; 24) Wyndham Clark / Satoshi Kodaira /  J.T. Poston.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Lucas Herbert; 2) Hank Lebioda; 3) Dustin Johnson; 4) Sergio Garcia; 5) Louis Oosthuizen; 6) Maverick McNealy; 7) Ryan Moore; 8) Patrick Reed; 9) Robert MacIntyre; 10) Chez Reavie; 11) Beau Hossler / Erik van Rooyen; 13) Cameron Tringale; 14) Charl Schwartzel; 15) Kyle Stanley; 16) Steve Stricker; 17) Luke List / Mito Pereira / Bubba Watson; 20) Doug Ghim / Kevin Tway; 22) Pat Perez; 23) Wes Roach; 24) Gary Woodland; 25) Brendon Todd / Jhonattan Vegas.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Thompson 125/1; 2019: Wolff 175/1. Overall Average: 150/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Due to fog, the start to round one was delayed by 19 minutes and began at 7:09 a.m. CT. Mostly sunny with a high of 81. SE wind 8-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 88. Wind S 13-18 mph, gusting to 25 mph. Saturday: Cloudy with scattered showers. High of 89. Wind S 14-20 mph, gusting to 25 mph. Sunday: Due to early morning storms, the original one-tee start at 7:20 a.m. was changed to a split tee start from 9:59 a.m. – noon. Mostly cloudy. High of 82. Wind NW 7-14 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 83. Wind N 8-15 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 87. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 90. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 92. Wind S/SSW 6-12 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Blaine, Minneapolis, is here.

Early summer here in Minnesota has been quite dry, but 30mm of rain fell on the golf course last week. However with temperatures set to climb into the early to mid-30 degrees Celsius, tournament organisers are sure to water the golf course, especially the putting surfaces. Nothing more than a light breeze throughout may aid the players in terms of respite, but will do little to defend a golf course which is effectively there for the taking.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the winners here at the 3M Open gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2020, Michael Thompson (-19). 293 yards (46th), 67.9% fairways (22nd), 83.3% greens in regulation (3rd), 33’3″ proximity to hole (31st), 83.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.72 putts per GIR (20th).
  • 2019, Matthew Wolff (-21). 304 yards (36th), 67.9% fairways (31st), 83.3% greens in regulation (6th), 28’5″ proximity to hole (11th), 50.0% scrambling (62nd), 1.63 putts per GIR (6th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 41st, Driving Accuracy: 27th, Greens in Regulation: 5th, Proximity to Hole: 21st, Scrambling: 32nd, Putting Average 13th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Michael Thompson (-19). SG Off the Tee: 51st, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 53rd, SG Tee to Green: 17th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2020, Matthew Wolff (-21). SG Off the Tee: 21st, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 18th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 39th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 36th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 36th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 20th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how TPC Twin Cities sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Michael Thompson (2020): “Putting, really. I really like these greens, I’ve always liked bentgrass greens. Growing up in Arizona, I grew up on kind of slow Bermuda, kind of grainy Bermuda, and so it was a treat to get to play bent. So when I get good greens like this that roll smooth, it feels like the ball is hugging the ground for a long time, I get excited because I know I’m starting it on my line and it’s easier for me to get a good feel. I think I started out the week with confidence in my putting, and I’m going to go do some work in a little bit and maintain that and just kind of keep it rolling.

It is, it is, very much like PGA National this course.  You know what shots you have to hit. There’s no if, and or but about it, you’ve just got to step up and hit the shot, execute, and I’m doing that well this week. I’m happy with where I’m at, feel like my game’s really good. It was nice to get those jitters out of the way today and tomorrow, going to go have some fun.”

Matthew Wolff (2019): This course is gettable, especially with the rain, it’s been softer. I feel like it’s a course that really suits me well, a lot of drivers. Hitting the fairway obviously sets you up in good position to hit a lot of wedges in there, and I think that’s the biggest thing today is I was really dialled in with my wedges, got the distances really spot on.”

Bryson DeChambeau (2019): Both 18 and 9 are difficult holes. They’re very difficult holes. Look, if you hit in the fairway on 18, it’s a pretty simple hole. If you hit it in the rough, it’s a tough layup and you’ve got to wedge it close to try to make birdie. You’re giving up a shot. No. 9, it’s also a very difficult hole. You’ve got to hit a good drive. If the pin’s over there on the right on nine again, you’re going to have to think about it. It’s a very difficult hole. Just make sure you’re in the fairway, so they’re both difficult.

For sure, I think that there’s a lot of water and a lot of tedious tee shots out here and that’s a pretty good defence. The pins were tucked a couple times today and people are going to make mistakes. Piercy shooting 9 under yesterday just kind of opened the floodgates a little bit, just going, okay, we can do it out here.”

Collin Morikawa (2019): “I think my ball-striking’s kept me in this week and finally was able to make some putts. Yeah, no, I like this course, it fits my eye a lot, it fits my eye off the tee, which is really comfortable and I think that’s the most part. You’ve got to see it from the tee and see it all the way from the last shot that’s going to drop. It’s pretty much stress-free today other than the three-putt. Just hit my lines, hit a lot of good shots and played to my strengths. Ball-striking has been my strength ever since I’ve been a little kid and kept up on that.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the 3M Open winners since 2019:

  • 2019 – Michael Thompson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Matthew Wolff: Round 1: 49th, Round 2: 35th, Round 3: 1st.

Shots Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the 3M winners since 2019:

  • 2020 – Michael Thompson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: level.
  • 2019 – Matthew Wolff: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: level.

Incoming Form of winners since 2019:

  • Michael Thompson: MC Workday/64th Rocket Mortgage/46th Travelers/8th Heritage.
  • Matthew Wolff: MC Rocket Mortgage/MC Travelers/50th TPC Scottsdale.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2019. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2020 – Werenski  – PM –8/63 – 90/1.
  • 2019 – Piercy  – PM -9/62 – 66/1.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 5 – Steve Stricker.
  • 4 – Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore.
  • 2 – Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Chris Kirk, Hunter Mahan, Troy Merritt, Patrick Reed, Jhonattan Vegas.
  • 1 – Sangmoon Bae, Jonathan Byrd, Luke Donald,  Dylan Frittelli, Bill Haas, Michael Kim, Russell Knox, K.H. Lee, David Lingmerth, Sean O’Hair, Louis Oosthuizen, Ted Potter Jnr, Chez Reavie, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Stallings, Kyle Stanley, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney, Matthew Wolff.

Naturally we’ve only seen a couple of renewals here to fall back on. 2019 saw Matthew Wolff deliver his first PGA Tour win at the age of 20 in only his 4th PGA Tour start. His win came off incoming form of MC/MC since becoming a professional at the Travelers Championship only 2 weeks earlier, and he won at a rather tasty 175/1 best price. And last year saw Michael Thompson win at 125/1. His inbound form read MC/64/46/8, with the top 8 finish coming at Harbour Town 4 appearances back.

It’s relatively early days in terms of being able to correlate courses to TPC Twin Cities, and building your preferences solely on some tenuous links would be ill-advised, but it’s worth remembering that we’re in the north of the United States.

Matthew Wolff, since his win has popped up in Detroit (Michigan) at the Rocket Mortgage Classic birdie-fest where he shot -20/268 to finish 2nd behind Bryson DeChambeau. DeChambeau of course finished runner-up in 2019 when we were on-board at 16/1, tied in fact with Collin Morikawa. Now Bryson and Collin are both Muirfield Village winners, with Bryson also winning his first ever PGA Tour title at Deere Run in 2017. Collin went on to finish 4th at Deere Run, the week after his runner-up finish here at TPC Twin Cities.

Another player you can throw into this mix is Adam Hadwin. 4th here at the 3M Open, he’s also finished 4th in Detroit. The Canadian has always been the sort who likes low scoring, so 8th at Deere Run in 2016 plus 4th (2019) at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas is also interesting, especially on the basis that Bryson DeChambeau won the 2018 Shriners Open and has another 3 top-8 finishes there in the desert.

How does this translate to defending champion Michael Thompson? Well you have to dig a little with the Arizona man, but Michael does have 8th and 14th place finishes at Muirfield Village. 12th at Deere Run fits and there’s also a 13th place finish at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. It’s not emboldened correlating form, but it’s there. Michael also has a top-10 finish at Colonial on his CV, which again fits nicely with the Morikawa (2nd 2020), DeChambeau (3rd 2020) and Adam Hadwin (5th 2015, 8th 2021).

Ball strikers were all over the top of the original leaderboard here, whereas 2020 saw Michael Thompson and Adam Long finish in the top 2. As I said, early days for this tournament, but clearly different game-shapes can triumph.

My Final 3M Open Tips Are As Follows

Dustin Johnson 4pts Win 15/2 with Unibet

This event smacks to me of the class player being victorious.

World Number 2 Dustin Johnson has Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed and Tony Finau from the World’s top 20 to compete against in this field. We then drop to World Number 38 Matthew Wolff, who hasn’t exactly been ripping up trees of late, and Stewart Cink. Robert MacIntyre and Lucas Herbert make welcome PGA Tour visits on their way through to Memphis for the forthcoming World Golf Championship. And that Ladies and Gentlemen are your elite top 50 players attending the 3M Open. So, for me, if Dustin Johnson is focussed this week then this is a great opportunity. So let’s explore some.

The RBC Canadian Open always used to be the PGA Tour event after the Open Championship. In 2013 Brandt Snedeker won that at 14/1 fresh from 11th at Muirfield. 2015 saw Jason Day win as the 9/1 favourite, arriving in Canada from 4th at St Andrews, and Dustin Johnson himself in 2018 won the RBC Canadian Open as the 7/1 favourite. He’d missed the cut at Carnoustie, but prior to that had finished 3rd at the U.S. Open. So we’ve seen the cream of the field win in this schedule spot before, so do we think Dustin fits the bill this week?

Well he’s been winless on the PGA Tour since his 2019 Masters win back in November 2020. This will be his 14th PGA Tour tournament since then. Plus he’s won 12 PGA Tour and 2 European Tour titles since the start of 2017. It’s quite a gap for a player who has had 24 PGA Tour victories to his name, plus in Johnson we have a player who quite readily will win domestic PGA Tour titles.

Think 2018 FedEx St Jude Classic, the aforementioned 2018 Canadian Open and the 2020 Travelers Championship. A win is definitely a win for DJ! And although not at his very best, 8th last week at Royal St Georges was his best 2021 Major outing. Despite there being no Strokes Gained data available from The Open, he still ranks 3rd for Strokes Gained Current Form across my 8-week trackers and that would be undoubtedly be better if the play from Kent was included.  So I’m going win only on DJ at TPC Twin Cities. RESULT: MC

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Bubba Watson 1.5pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Bubba Watson in recent outings has shown plenty of positives without truly finishing the job off, but you have to say that the 42 year old is trending upwards.

5 top-19 finishes in his last 8 appearances is strong, but boy it could have been so much better. 13th at Copperhead saw Bubba in 9th entering Sunday. 19th at Quail Hollow hit me really hard, on the basis that I was on him at 55/1 and he finished triple bogey, double bogey to drop from 6th to 18th. The term ‘Doing a Bubba’ on Sunday was christened on the Golf Betting System podcast.

5th after 36 holes at the U.S. Open of all tournaments again showed promise, but he sunk to 50th by the finish. And the ultimate betrayal for punters came at TPC River Highlands, where Watson led on Sunday and was trading at odds-on playing the 14th hole Sunday. However a bogey, bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey finish took Watson from the very brink of a 13th PGA Tour win to 19th spot. Now that is what I really call ‘Doing a Bubba’!

But fact of the matter is that Watson is high-grade when it comes to this week’s 3M Open field and although abysmal on recent Sunday back-9s, that’s a trend that’s unlikely to continue ongoing. Take his last outing in Detroit, where Watson finished like a train shooting 67-64 across the weekend. That 131 total was only matched by Alex Noren and was 3 shots better than Rocket Mortgage winner Cameron Davis. Bubba finished a morale boosting 6th and this week undoubtedly has a target to hit.

Unable to travel to Royal St Georges as he had close contact with an individual who was Covid+, Watson has only this week in Minneapolis to jump 6 spots back into the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 and grab a starting spot at the World Golf Championship in Memphis. As carrots go it’s pretty chunky, especially as Bubba has been in that exclusive field every year since 2010.

Driving the ball beautifully, the irons have also fired across both Hartford and Detroit where he’s ranked 17th and 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green respectively. The putter tellingly has also been positive on recent outings, and in my mind Bubba can undoubtedly use the 2019 Wolff winning template here which was Strokes Gained Tee to Green excellence with neutral SG Putting to get the job done. RESULT: T51

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Mito Pereira 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Mito Pereira is undoubtedly making waves at the moment and his rise over recent times is worth noting.

4 wins since he turned professional in 2015 is worthy of merit and since the Chilean graduated to the Korn Ferry Tour for the second time at the start of 2020, he’s had plenty of success. 3rd in Panama, a winner in Bogota and 4th in Mexico, across his first 4 outings last year marked him as a player to watch, but naturally Covid put paid to any chances of him graduating to the main PGA Tour.

But Pereira has continued to develop his game ready for the PGA Tour, by using the extended Korn Ferry Tour 2 year season schedule structure to his advantage. 2nd in the Huntsville Championship and 9th in the Simmons Bank Open in May, was the precursor to June when Pereira won back-to-back tournaments at the Rex Hospital Open and the BMW Charity Pro-Am. 3 Korn Ferry titles across 2020/21 saw immediate promotion to the PGA Tour and here we are.

A MC at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, 34th at the John Deere Classic and 5th at the Barbasol Championship have been the results since Mito graduated to the main Tour, and the 25 year old looks a very quick learner. And with fellow Chilean Joaquin Niemann showing him the ropes and giving him a United States base in Jupiter, Florida, I’m fascinated to see how Pereira progresses. 2nd for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 4th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in Kentucky last week, he’s worth having on the team this week for the 3M Open. RESULT: T6

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Troy Merritt 1pt EW 90/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

Troy Merritt as a rule comes to the fore on resort-level scoring courses which feature Bentgrass greens, so TPC Twin Cities is right in his wheelhouse. The 2015 Quicken Loans National (-18/266) and 2018 Barbasol Championship (-23/265) winner, Merritt across the late spring and summer of 2021 has been playing some outstanding stuff.

8th at Copperhead, 7th at TPC Craig Ranch, 7th at Colonial and 2nd at Detroit. It’s noticeable that 3 of these 4 recent top-10s featured Bentgrass greens or Bent/Poa Annua mix. Plus a glance at his results CV shows a couple of runner-up finishes at the Barracuda Championship, where they play the modified Stableford scoring system – effectively where eagles and birdies are the currency.

A 3rd at the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational (Bay Hill), 3rd at the 2015 RBC Heritage (Harbour Town), plus 8th at the 2017 Travelers Championship (TPC River Highlands), in tandem with those top-10s at Colonial and Detroit Golf Club (he was also 8th there in 2020), means there’s masses of correlating course form with the likes of Michael Thompson and runners-up here DeChambeau and Morikawa.

2nd as close at the Rocket Mortgage Classic where he was beaten in a play-off by Cameron Davis, Merritt is the kind who’s both playing well and is openly stating in interviews that he feels a win is close. And here in 2019 he was 7th firing -7/64 and -5/66 across Friday and Saturday to start just 2 shots behind eventual winner Matthew Wolff. RESULT: T39

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Sam Ryder 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

I’ll finish with Sam Ryder who’s undoubtedly a mercurial talent.

Consistency is not something you can state about Ryder, but when he fires he has no trouble about contending at the sharp end. A winner on the Canadian Tour in 2015, he won on the Korn Ferry Tour on Bentgrass in Nebraska at the 2017 Pinnacle Bank Championship, Played at on a longish Par 71 with a little altitude thrown in at Indian Creek, he won at -21/263.

Ryder has been an ever present on the PGA Tour ever since the 2017/18 and he has interesting correlating course form. 2nd at the 2018 John Deere Classic played at Deere Run, he followed that up the week after with 7th at the Barbasol Championship played at Keene Trace. Both resort-scoring courses with Bentgrass greens. Season 2018/19 started off with 4th at the Safeway Open (Silverado) and 3rd at the Shriners Open played at TPC Summerlin. Remember that Bryson DeChambeau is a winner there in Las Vegas and Matthew Wolff was runner-up there just last year. 2020 saw the 31 year-old Floridian finish 7th at Muirfield Village (Workday Open) which again links well to the likes of DeChambeau, Morikawa and even Kenny Perry who won here at Twin Cities on the Champions Tour 3 times.

But 2021 has been Ryder’s best year on the PGA Tour. 10th at Torrey Pines in January, 8th at PGA National in March saw Sam right in the mix for victory. Remember Michael Thompson is a winner at PGA National and referenced the visual similarities between that Florida course and here at TPC Twin Cities. 2nd at the Corales Championship in late March, Ryder finally sealed his full playing privileges for next season with a superb 3rd place finish last week at Keene Trace.

How Ryder responds this week is anyone’s guess. He might go on holiday mentally or keep the forward momentum going. But he was 34th here in 2019, when not as confident and his numbers last week were spectacular: 4th for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Strokes Gained on Approach and 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. He also finished with a Sunday best -7/65, so let’s hope that he keeps the pedal to the metal this week. RESULT: T25

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:20BST 19.7.21 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.