3M Open Preview

·8 min read

It's crunch time on the PGA TOUR with just four more tournaments before the FedExCup Playoffs get started. Okay, there are five event but one of them is the Olympic competition which is not going to generate any FedExCup Points.

When you consider one of those tournaments is also an alternate-field event, golfers have just three events max to cement their status or improve their standings ahead of the postseason.

That adds another element to handicapping the event (motivation) but it's also an area I tend to ignore because I would rather assume that every golfer is giving their 100-percent effort all season. There will always be rare cases where a golfer overperforms because their back is against the wall, but it's not something that is easily predicted.

Let's skip those narratives and hop right in to talk about the course.

The Course

TPC Twin Cities returns to host this event for the third straight season. The 2019 edition was run on the Fourth of July weekend while last year's event was late July, similar to this year.

The course is an Arnold Palmer design that was laid out in 2000 and renovated by Steve Wenzloff in 2018.

Checking the scorecard, we see a par 71 that stretches out to 7,431 yards.

A big chunk of that yardage comes at the par 5s with all three of them playing just over 590 yards. As for the par 4s, there are three that play over 460 yards but most of them are more manageable (five of them play under 425 yards).

One of the main characteristics of the course is that water comes into play on all but three holes. Adam Long and Michael Thompson talk about this in the quotes section, saying there is lots of room to miss but it's visually intimidating so you need to have some confidence in your striking.

With all that length and tons of water in play, this must be a difficult course, right? For an 18-handicapper that is absolutely true. I would guess you'd need to bring three or four sleeves of balls to be safe. However, the landing areas are generous enough and the course plays soft enough that the pros are able to avoid most of the water.

I say "most of the water" because those hazards do still come into play. When I look at something I call "big number ratio" then TPC Twin Cities checks in as one of the fourth toughest on TOUR behind the Stadium Course at PGA WEST, PGA National, and TPC Sawgrass. This metric looks at all bogeys or worse recorded at a course and looks at what percentage of those were double bogeys or worse.

If you are going to drop a shot then it's about a 15 percent chance that the blemish will be a double bogey or worse. That is primarily a result of all the water lurking everywhere. This is the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If you avoid the water then you can give yourself a couple of handfuls of birdie chances per round. The greens have played soft and receptive here the first few years so if that's the case again, look for another winning score around 20-under.

Talking turf, golfers will see bluegrass rough that is listed at 3 inches but will likely be higher. When I attended the event in 2019 I can tell you much of the rough I saw was well over 5 inches. Perhaps that is why the field averaged just 54 percent GIR when missing the fairway in 2019 although that number did improve to 60 percent last year.

As for the greens, they will see bentgrass greens that run around 12 feet on the stimp, pretty speedy.

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Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

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."

Xinjun Zhang: "There’s a lot of holes where he can hit cuts on, fades and that’s kind of what he’s been hitting lately, so it suits his game well and he likes the course a lot."

Patrick Rodgers: "I think this golf course really suits length off the tee and good putting."

Michael Thompson: "they definitely make you think. If you’re not confident over the ball, you’re more likely to make a poor swing, which is going to result in a penalty. So you have to be really diligent with your visualizations, your commitment to each shot and pick your target, trust it."

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. "

Recap: Golfers talk a lot about the water that is lurking everywhere and smooth bentgrass putting surfaces that roll true and reward good putting.

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:

PGA WEST Stadium Course
El Camaleon
Torrey Pines
Silverado Resort and Spa
TPC Sawgrass
TPC Deere Run

It's only two years of data but the primary factor appears to be grass type or big numbers. Sawgrass and PGA WEST Stadium Course both have a ton of water so that comfort navigating a water-heavy course is nice to have. Even the winner last year, Michael Thompson, had his first win at PGA National which is another course with water everywhere.

El Camaleon doesn't have water everywhere but if you spray it off the tee or with your long approaches then you'll find the jungle and rack up lots of penalty strokes.

Most of these courses value precision over power but like we see most years at TPC Sawgrass, a power hitter that is finding fairways is always going to be the most dangerous.

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high of 92 degrees. Winds at 5 to 9 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 91 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.

Saturday brings the threat of overnight storms but most of the week looks relatively dry. Hot and humid will be the name of the game this week.

Golfers to Watch

Tony Finau
He has some family in the area which may be why he keeps showing up here every year. It's worked well so far with a pair of top 25s in two attempts including a T3 last year. He snapped out of a mini-slump last week with his T15 at The Open.

Dustin Johnson
DJ lost his spot atop the World Rankings with a T8 last week but he could snag it back with a strong showing in the Twin Cities. He was a mid-tournament WD here last year after an opening 78. He was arriving fresh off a pair of 80s the week before at Muirfield Village. It's safe to say his form is a bit better this time around.

Cameron Tringale
It's early in the week but there is already plenty of discussion on Tringale this week. Some are ready to lock him in regardless of price because he's playing well this season and also played well last year at TPC Twin Cities. Others are laughing at his odds in the outright markets. He's still searching for his first win on TOUR but he's priced at fifth on the betting board. Which side of the conversation to do you sit on? I lean toward the former, thinking he's set up for a strong showing in Blaine.

Robert MacIntyre
It looked like a missed cut was in store for Bobby Mac last week but he rallied across the cutline on Friday and then kept his foot on the gas all weekend to secure a top-10 finish. That earned him a spot in the field this week and it has him inching up on Special Temporary Membership status. The young Scot has just three MCs/WDs since the start of 2020. One of those came at the water-heavy TPC Sawgrass. Was that a product of field strength, just a bad week, or will the sightlines trip him up again with water lurking everywhere at TPC Twin Cities?

Rickie Fowler
Is final-round momentum a real thing? Fowler fans certainly hope so because he capped off his week at Royal St. George's by lapping the field average by 4.6 shots on Sunday.

Erik van Rooyen
The Minnesota Gopher will be comfortable playing so close to his old stomping grounds. That didn't help him much last year as he went 74-69 to miss the cut.

Ranking the Field

1. Tony Finau
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Louis Oosthuizen
4. Patrick Reed
5. Cameron Tringale
6. Sergio Garcia
7. Emiliano Grillo
8. Robert MacIntyre
9. Keegan Bradley
10. Lucas Herbert
11. Rickie Fowler
12. Cameron Davis
13. Dylan Frittelli
14. Gary Woodland
15. Chris Kirk
16. Bubba Watson
17. Stewart Cink
18. Jhonattan Vegas
19. Erik van Rooyen
20. Doug Ghim

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