3M OPEN: Despite a difficult spot on the schedule, a venue that’s off the beaten path for most touring professionals, and the relative lack of prestige that all new tournaments contend with, the 3M Open is beginning to carve out a good reputation amongst the players, and this week a stronger than expected field has gathered just outside Minneapolis for the third staging of Minnesota’s only top-level professional golf event.*
*with apologies to the Dakotas Tour’s Greatlife Worthington Open
The course, TPC Twin Cities, is a straightforward tree-lined layout that is relatively long, measuring over 7,400 yards, and features several well-placed lakes, but it isn’t severe enough off the tee or around the greens to trouble the world’s best players, so the scoring is always low, with 19-under winning last year and 21-under in 2019. The results in 2019 would suggest that the course can be overpowered, with Matthew Wolff winning, Bryson DeChambeau tying for second and other big hitters like Wyndham Clark and Sam Burns in the mix, but the leaderboard looked quite different last year, as Michael Thompson, one of the shortest guys on Tour, took home the title and there were few legit “bombers” in the top-10. Maybe that just tells us that Arnold Palmer designed a good course, one that can be played several different ways. While that might complicate things for those looking to handicap the field, it makes for an interesting tournament, and in the past couple of years we’ve seen crowded leaderboards and exciting Sunday finishes here.
The headliner this week is world No. 2 Dustin Johnson, who will be looking for redemption after withdrawing from this tournament last year following a first-round 78. DJ isn’t the only big name to make the trip over from Sandwich– we’ve also got Louis Oosthuizen, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson… as mentioned, this is not your typical post-major hangover field. It should be noted, however, that the last two winners, Wolff and Thompson, were both triple-digit longshots, so I’d be careful about putting too much focus on the top of the market. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Matthew Wolff (31.0)- It’s been a weird year for Wolff– on-course struggles led to some time away from the game and talk about his mental health, and then, when it looked like he was back on track after a T15 in the U.S. Open and opening rounds of 67-70 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he unexpectedly withdrew from The Open without providing a reason. I really think this could go one of two ways: Wolff could blow up again and basically tank the season, or, now that he’s clearly doing things his own way, he could show us his best stuff, which we know isn’t far off after watching him at the U.S. Open. He couldn’t ask for a better venue– in eight competitive rounds at TPC Twin Cities Wolff is a combined 35-under par, winning this tournament in 2019 and finishing 12th last year. His talent is undeniable– if he gets it going this week, he could run away and hide. I’m willing to take my chances at a price like 31.0.
Hank Lebioda (50.0)- If you’re looking to ride the hot hand this week, Lebioda is your guy– he’s made seven straight cuts, finding the top-20 five times in that span, and over the last three weeks he’s reeled off finishes of T8, T4, and T5. In other words, the 27-year old Floridian is playing the best golf of his career, and there’s no telling how far he’s going to be able to ride this wave. Two areas of his game have really stood out, those being his putting and iron play, as he’s top-25 on Tour in both strokes gained putting and GIR percentage. That means he should be well-equipped for the anticipated birdie fest this week, and he certainly knows his way around TPC Twin Cities after finishing 26th in this event last year and 34th in 2019. At nearly 50/1, Lebioda may be the best value on the board this week.
Patrick Rodgers (70.0)- Rodgers has turned things around after an early-season rough patch, making six consecutive cuts and finishing 5th in last week’s Barbasol Championship, where he shot 68 or better in all four rounds and finished the week at 19-under. The ability to go low on relatively easy golf courses has always been one of Rodgers’ superpowers, and this year he ranks 6th on Tour in total birdies and 8th in eagles despite missing 10 cuts in 2021 (so… fewer rounds than many of his competitors). He’ll have plenty of opportunities for offense at TPC Twin Cities, and he seemed very comfortable in his tournament debut last year, breaking par in all four rounds and finishing at 10-under for the week. Rodgers has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but for a guy who strings low rounds together like him, it’s only a matter of time. He’s worth a bet at the current price.