The PGA Tour returns to Minnesota this week for the 3M Open – just the second tournament since the return of golf that was in its original spot on the calendar this season.
A year ago Matthew Wolff won this to became just the third golfer in history to win an NCAA individual national championship and a PGA Tour title in the same year and returns to defend his title at the weekend.
The Memorial recap
I have a soft spot for when professional golfers are made to look a little average usually due to a combination of course set up and the weather and man did we get that this week, especially on Sunday, which saw the highest final-round average of the season with the players shooting on average a four-over 76.
When the condition is as tough as last week the best players usually separate themselves much more than on more scoreable setups.
This week Jon Rahm won by 5 strokes (cut down after the round to 3 because he was given 2 penalty strokes for his ball moving on the 16th) to not only secure his most prestigious win, but also becoming the first Spaniard since the late great Seve Ballesteros to become number one in the world, overtaking Rory McIlroy.
Course: TPC Twin Cities
Length: 7481 yards (Par 71)
Architect: Arnold Palmer, redesign: Tom Lehman (2018)
The tour is heading back to TPC Twin Cities for the second time but as I noted last year it had been a staple on the Champions Tour since the turn of the millennia and seemed to set up well for bombers.
With Matthew Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau battling it out with Wolff coming out on top that seemed to be true, but with Hadwin and Morikawa filling out the top four somewhat shorter hitters who strike their irons good can also contend.
With a WGC and The PGA Championship on the horizon the next two weeks the 3M seems to have drawn the short straw in terms of field strength with it being by far the weakest we have seen since the restart.
We do get DJ, Brooks, Finau and a first siting of Fleetwood but the quality drops of quickly after that.
Unlike last week this is an easy course with wide fairways but if you miss them water is lurking on 14 holes. The greens are large fast bentgrass that last year was easy to hit with a GIR percentage 10 points higher than tour average.
It’s dangerous to read to much into just one year of stats but at least last year the around the green game was almost a non-factor so it could be a good week to be on otherwise good players who struggle in that department.
The three par 5s all measure around 600 yards and a couple of drivable par 4s skews towards the longer hitters, while all the par 3s playing 175+ yards and five of the par 4s being over 450 yards points at good long iron players.
You will need to score birdies in bunches to contend this week and I`m expecting a winning score somewhere around -20.
Here are some of the thing I will be looking at/for:
- Driving distance
- Strokes gained approach
- Opportunities gained
- Proximity 175-200 yards
- Bentgrass putting
- Birdies or better gained
2019/20 Season overview:
Wagered: 129,1 units
Won: 189.96 units
Result: + 60.86 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1, Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1, RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson 29-1
Bubba had been kind of bad since the restart in every department except off the tee, at The Memorial his off the tee game continued to flourish but his irons also came around in a big way with him gaining almost 8 strokes on the field approaching the green.
He was still bad on and around the green but now coming to a course where the around the green game shouldn’t matter as much we just need an ok putting performance from the two time Masters champion for him to be in the thick of it come Sunday.
Looking deeper at his stats over the last few weeks (12 rounds) he ranks 8th in driving distance, 9th in proximity 175-200 yards, 10th in strokes gained off the tee and 25th in strokes gained approach.
The South African was the only one in the field this week that gained more strokes than Bubba on approach at The Memorial with 8,3 strokes. As with Watson this is another guy that does the damage off the tee and on approach so TPC Twin Cities should set up well for him.
With a much weaker field than what we have seen since the restart this looks like a nice spot for the top 50 player in the world to pick up his first PGA tour title and a couple of top 25s in much tougher fields in his last three starts indicates that the form is where it needs to be.
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