Once again it was a hugely disappointing end to a week that had promised a lot going in to Sunday for us as the two guys we had with win or place chances heading in to the final day, Danny Willett and Patrick Cantlay conspired to shoot +17 between them!!
Yes, the scoring was brutally tough but both men, particularly Willett, had been solid over the previous couple of days and in theory were better equipped than some to deal with the challenges the players faced on day four.
Unfortunately though golf being what it is things unravelled quickly for our men and once more we came away with nothing.
Meanwhile as our guys were struggling Jon Rahm turned in a masterful weekend performance to take the trophy and with it snatch the world number one spot from Rory McIlroy.
From the moment Rahm reeled of four straight birdies on the back nine on Saturday just as Tony Finau fell away, he had the tournament by the scruff of its neck and despite a wobble on the back nine on Sunday, which included a controversial penalty at 16, he never looked like surrendering the spoils.
So with huge congratulations to ‘Rahmbo’ the new world number one we dust ourselves down and move on.
After it’s two week sojourn in Ohio the tour heads about 720 miles North West to Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb north of Minneapolis, for the second edition of the 3M Open.
After a stellar field tee’d it up at ‘Jack’s Place’ last week, with a WGC and a major on the horizon inevitably this weeks field takes a bit of hit.
There is still some star power on display however with the field headed up by Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, while Tommy Fleetwood makes his first start since the lockdown.
Also prominent in the market are Tony Finau, who will try again after last weeks disappointment to get his elusive second tour title, Paul Casey and defending champion Matthew Wolff.
TPC Twin Cities will play to a Par 71 measuring around 7450 yards.
The greens are bentgrass.
The course was designed by Arnold Palmer in consultation with Tom Lehman and was opened for play in 2000.
One possible reference here therefore could be Bay Hill, which was subject to an Arnold Palmer redesign in 2009, while it may also be worth looking at another Palmer design TPC Boston, which hosted the Dell Technologies Championship [formerly the Deutsche Bank] until 2018.
While TPC Twin Cities is only in its second year of hosting a PGA Tour event it was used for many years to host the 3M Champions Tour event.
It should be noted though that prior to the first6 staging of the 3M Open last year the course underwent renovation, which was overseen by Minnesotan native Tom Lehman [who will tee it up this week].
The changes made included adding trees and sand traps, enlarging lakes, particularly the one in front of the 18th green, levelling mounding and expanding the rough.
In addition and perhaps most significantly, length was added to the course and instead of a par 72 playing to just under 7000yds, which historically greeted the Champions Tour, the PGA Tour players are faced by a 7450yd par 71.
As a result of this the par 5 sixth can play to over 600yds, the par 5 18th to 597yds and what was the par 5 third will now be a par 4 playing to over 500yds.
Conversely though the course also boasts three driveable par 4s, which can be set up to play between 280 & 315yds. These are the 7th, 10th and 16th holes.
So with only one years history let’s take a look at last years top ten.
1 Matthew Wolff
T2 Bryson Dechambeau & Collin Morikawa
4 Adam Hadwin
T5 Carlos Ortiz & Wyndham Clark
T7 Lucas Glover, Brian Harman, Sam Burns, Joey Garber, Troy Merritt, Hideki Matsuyama.
The suspicion going in to last year was that with the extra length added to the course the setup would favour bigger hitters and with Matthew Wolff triumphing, Bryson finishing in a tie for second [he was still pretty long prior to his bulking out!], and other big hitters like Wyndham Clark and Sam Burns performing well this would appear to be the case. Having said that as Harman and Merritt showed there was room for a shorter hitter to perform well here as well. All in all though length certainly appeared to be an advantage.
Digging a bit deeper and while as we know the winner Matthew Wolff is no slouch off the tee it was his overall tee to green game that got the job done for him last year as he finished the week second for Strokes-Gained-Tee-To-Green and first in Strokes-Gained-Approach-To-The-Green. Meanwhile the putter seemed less important as he finished the week 39th with the flatstick, and on Sunday despite shooting 65 he lost just under two strokes to the field with the putter!
Looking at the others who finished prominently on the board and Dechambeau produced a strong all round week both from tee to green and with the putter while Morikawa predictably lead the field in approach play but ranked only 47th for the week with the putter.
From the point of view of form coming in to the week obviously Wolff had only very recently joined the pro ranks however while big things were expected finishes of MC and 80 at the Rocket Mortgage and Travelers over the previous weeks had hardly telegraphed a big week here.
Finally with regards to the winning score I noted last year that the last four Champions Tour events that were held here that were won by Kenny Perry [twice], Paul Goydos & Joe Durant, had been won with scores of -21, -20, -19 & -18, [don’t forget regular Champions Tour events are played over 54 holes], with Perry and Goydos both posting a round of 60 over the previous two years and that low scoring was anticipated. Well the lengthening of the course prevented anything exceptionally silly being produced over the four rounds however Wolff still got tot to -21 and I would expect similar again this week.
Not unsurprisingly we seem set for a yet another week of temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s, mixed with the chance of a storm. Something, which at the time of writing shows up as most likely for Sunday…
Wind does not look to be an issue on Thursday and Sunday with nothing more than 10mph forecast however Friday and Saturday do show the possibility of gusts of around 15mph.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
RUSSELL HENLEY – 33 -1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
The player I can’t get away from near the top end of the market is three time tour winner Russell Henley.
It has been a pretty lean period for Henley over the past couple of years with a late run required towards the end of the 18/19 campaign to hang on to his playing privileges.
The 19/20 season looked to be heading down a similar path for Russell after he made only four cuts in his first nine starts with nothing better than 37th to show, however a 17th place at the Genesis followed by an eighth place finish at the Honda heralded an upturn in form.
Since the tours return after a missed cut at Hilton Head on his first start the Georgia Bulldog has picked up momentum again to finish 32nd and then seventh last time out at the Workday when really catching the eye.
When Henley first came out on tour his trademark strength was the putter with his long game being the area that would potentially let him down however over the last couple of years his strengths and weaknesses have somewhat bizarrely turned a full 180 degrees with the putter hugely letting him down.
From that point of view while of course the hope is that Russell gets hot with the flatstick this week his approach play is the area that should hopefully reap the dividends for him this week.
Currently tenth on tour in Strokes-Gained-Approach-To-The-Green and ninth in this category last time out at the Workday he clearly has his irons dialled in at the moment and as noted earlier based on last years stats here this would appear key for the week.
So we’ve established that Henley’s game should in theory be a good fit for TPC Twin Cities but is there any evidence to back this up?
Well a missed cut on the number here last year doesn’t offer much encouragement, however it is worth noting that this came on the back of a run of three missed cuts in his previous three starts and nothing better than 35th since March so he was clearly struggling at the time. It should also be said that Russell did make seven birdies and an eagle across his two days here so he if he can keep the mistakes off the card he can clearly score here.
What’s more encouraging though to me is his form at similar venues away from here, specifically the Arnold Palmer designed TPC Boston where he finished second with a -13 total in 2014 at the Deutsche Bank and at TPC Deere Run home of the John Deere where he finished second last year with a total of -19, as I see that venue as one that correlates well to this week.
All in all Henley is an in form proven winner who knows how to go low on TPC tracks set up for birdie fests and with his approach play dialled in at the moment I expect a big run at his fourth tour title this week.
CARLOS ORTIZ – 66 -1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - WITHDREW PRIOR TO THE START
Next up for me this week is Carlos Ortiz.
Still looking for his breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour Ortiz has really come of age this campaign posting three top five finishes and a very creditable 16th place in the spotlight at his home WGC.
Over recent weeks since the lockdown it must be said that Ortiz has gone off the boil somewhat and a closing 80 in the winds at the Memorial on Sunday is not exactly ideal preparation of course. As we have seen many times over the years though, and again with Ryan Palmer last week, it is quite possible for a player to turn it around from one week to the next.
What particularly makes the Mexican of interest this week of course is his fifth place finish here last year, which it should be noted came on the back of four missed cuts in his previous six starts with nothing better than 52nd in that run.
That week at TPC Twin Cities Carlos posted only three bogeys all week [only one after Thursday] with all areas of his game performing well. It would appear on that basis that the track fits his eye.
Furthermore what strikes me quite clearly about Ortiz is that he appears most comfortable on tracks suited to low scoring. This is something that can be seen by the fact that in addition to his -17 total here last year he has finished third with -15 and fourth with -16 at the Sandersons over the past two years and second with -19 at the Mayakoba.
To sum up then Carlos looks to me like a player destined to break through soon on the tour and with his liking for low scoring events and the fact that he is proven on this course he looks primed to go well here again this week.
SI WOO KIM - 70-1 - 1pt E/W 1/5 odds 1st 8 - UPDATED & ADDED 21st JULY - FINISHED 46th
With Ortiz withdrawing I have decided to add the man who was last off my list this week to our team, Si Woo Kim.
As noted when putting up Si Woo at the Rocket Mortgage recently there are definite signs that his work with Claude Harmon III is starting to pay dividends.
57th that week was not what we were looking for obviously however an 18th place finish at the Memorial last week showed again that he is defintely on the right track.
Sixth last week in approach play it would appear the South Korean's iron play is trending positively as well, which will be key for the week and the fact that he was third in Ohio for 'total birdies' shows he is giving himself plenty of scoring opportunities.
The 25yr old missed the cut here last year however he was really struggling at the time so this does not unduly concern me. In addition he has shown over the last few years that he is more than comfortable in an event that requires low scoring.
As a proven winner in an event where there are plenty fancied at similar odds or shorter to break through for the first time Si Woo makes plenty of appeal and I am happy to add him too our team.
PATRICK RODGERS – 60-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 32nd
At similar odds to Ortiz I am happy to give another chance this week to Patrick Rodgers.
Rodgers last graced these pages at the Travelers a few weeks back however unfortunately it wasn’t to be for us as he missed the cut.
After the weekend off at TPC River Highlands a couple of further disappointing weeks followed on for Patrick as he finished 45th at the Rocket Mortgage before missing the cut at the Workday.
Last week however Rodgers bounced back with an 18th place at Memorial to rediscover some of his pre lockdown solid form, which should see him arrive in Minnesota in good spirits.
With regards to this weeks venue while this is the 28yr olds debut at TPC Twin Cities I am confident the track will suit his game for a few reasons.
Firstly as noted earlier big hitters performed well here last year with Wolff, Burns and Clark all flourishing so at 17th on tour in Driving Distance this plays in to Patrick’s hands.
Secondly having finished second at the John Deere in 2017 with a -17 total we again have a player who is comfortable on a low scoring TPC track. Finally while a very different sort of test it is also encouraging that Patrick has performed well over the years at the Bay Hill redesign of Arnold Palmer.
Rodgers is a player with a hot putting touch who knows how to go low and make birdies in bunches and as I regularly say when writing about him, is too talented to not win soon and to me this looks a perfect event for him to finally pick up that maiden tour win.
WYNDHAM CLARK – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Talking of players recently backed next up I am happy to give another run out to Wyndham Clark who unfortunately missed the cut for us last week.
Clark delivered the goods for us here last year when placing at three figure odds when I chanced him on the basis that I felt that his big hitting and strong putting touch would be a great fit for the venue.
That week at TPC Twin Cities Clark actually lead the field in driving distance finished 12th in putting and also finished the week 28th in approach play, the area, which is the weakest link in his game, on his way to his -17 total, so my feeling is that he is well suited to the venue.
This year Clark it must be said arrives here in not as good form as he did twelve months ago however there has been some decent stuff in patches since the restart including his opening round of level par at the Memorial last week and his first two days at the Heritage so he is not far away.
Capable of finding his game out of nowhere if the course fits as he proved at the Zozo last Fall when eighth Wyndham should be relishing the return to Minnesota and I confident that he can spring back to life this week.
SAM RYDER – 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
For my final pick this week I am going to roll the dice on another player with a strong iron game who like our first pick this week Henley, I believe should be suited to the test here. The man in question is Sam Ryder.
Since joining the tour Ryder has in all honesty been a tough man to catch right as he has made a habit as a whole of sporadically popping up with a high finish on a back of poor results.
What has been clear though is that when the Floridian has played well it has usually been in low scoring events where his solid approach play has lead to a bunch of birdies.
Fifth at Houston with a -15 total, 2nd at the correlating John Deere with -19 and seventh at the Barbasol with -19 all in his first full year on tour are a testament to this, while -19 for a third place at the Shriners last year back this up again.
Last year Sam tee’d it up here and in keeping with where his game was at at the time he played steadily to finish 34th. This year however Ryder arrives here on the back of a seventh place finish at the Workday where he sprung to life at the weekend, gaining over five shots on the field in his approach play over the final two days.
While Ryder has as mentioned earlier shown a propensity to pop up with a big finish out of nowhere he has also made a bit of a habit of backing it up with another big week soon after, something which he did at this time of the year in his debut campaign in 2018 and again early in the 18/19 season. On that basis on a track that should really suit his game I am happy to roll the dice on him this week to build on his strong effort last time out.
UPDATED 21st JULY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - KEITH MITCHELL - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED MC
First up for me this week in this section is Keith Mitchell. It's been a quiet season for Keith as a whole with the main highlight being a fifth place finish at the Arnold Palmer redesign at Bay Hill, a venue, which he also finished sixth at last year and this is of course noteworthy for here.
Last week however Mitchell caught the eye with a 22nd place finish at the Memorial where his approach play was solid and his putter, even though he wasn't on his favoured Bermuda, behaved very well.
An aggrssive player capable of making plenty of birdies Mitchell should be suited to the test offered this week and indeed he played well here last year for three rounds before a disappointing final day and I expect him to buld on his solid showing last week.
PICK 2 - BRANDON HAGY - DK VALUE - $6700 - FINISHED 46th - DK POINTS TOTAL 72
Hagy is a player I have fond memories for as the last time I backed him he came up trumps and placed for us at three figure odds at the RBC Canadian Open.
Since then Hagy has had a terrible time of things with his career blighted by a serious wrist injury, however he resgained his tour card with for this season with two strong performances in the Korn Ferry finals last year.
Unfortunately for the most part 19/20 has been a struggle for Brandon however a 39th place finish last time out at the Rocket Mortgage means he has made three cuts on the spin on tour for the first time in three years.
In the top ten on tour in driving distance Hagy should be suited by this weeks track and I expect him to turn in another solid performance.