Sports are set to return to the Twin Cities this weekend, as the PGA Tour makes its second annual stop at TPC Twin Cities for the 2020 3M Open. It will mark the first major sporting event held in Minnesota since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
If this year’s edition of the 3M Open is anything like last year, it will be quite a show. TPC Twin Cities yielded nearly 2,000 birdies during the 2019 3M Open, the most of any course on the PGA Tour during the 2018-19 season.
It was more than just a bunch of birdies, however. Last year’s event featured one of the most epic finishes in recent PGA Tour memory. For many fans, it was an introduction to some of the game’s newest stars. It came down to three golfers — 20-year-old Matthew Wolff, 22-year-old Collin Morikawa, and 25-year-old Bryson DeChambeau.
Fans at the event felt an electric atmosphere as final groups were finishing up. On the 17th hole on Sunday, Morikawa had a chance to take the lead at 20-under-par with a long birdie putt that lipped out, defying the laws of physics.
Moments later, DeChambeau stuffed a 6-iron to a few feet on the par-5 18th hole and made the eagle putt to move to 20-under-par and into the solo lead just before Wolff and Morikawa stepped up to the 18th tee, each at 19-under-par.
Wolff’s approach left him with an eagle putt from the fringe, roughly 30 feet away. Meanwhile, Morikawa flew his approach just past the flag and had a 22-foot, downhill eagle putt.
Wolff was the first to play, and the former Oklahoma State Cowboy drained it to move to 21-under-par and send a ground-shaking roar through the northern metro area. DeChambeau, of course, was stunned. Morikawa’s bid to tie Wolff at 21-under slid over the edge of the cup, leaving Wolff as the inaugural champion of the 3M Open.
Unless significant changes are made to the course, or the weather creates tougher conditions, this year’s event will be another barrage of birdies, especially for those who thrive off the tee and approaching the green. The course is long for a par 71 at over 7,400 yards, and features a water hazard on nearly every hole.
Those hazards are the course’s primary defense, and many of them are in play off the tee. If players can avoid those hazards effectively, they’ll be in a position to make birdie on nearly any given hole. Thus, the golfers that drive the ball well and hit their irons well will be the most likely to contend. Wolff, for example, led the event in strokes gained tee-to-green in 2019 but finished 39th in strokes gained putting. Morikawa finished second in strokes gained tee-to-green and was 47th in strokes gained putting.
So, in other words, the course favors strong ball-strikers over golfers with a strong short game.
THE PICKS (Odds via DraftKings)
PICK TO WIN: The field in this year’s event doesn’t boast quite as many big names as last year. The headliners include Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson, and Wolff. Each of these players possesses the skill set required to pour in 20-some birdies this week.
However, out of this group of “favorites,” Finau (+1400 — $10 bet wins $140) sticks out as the best bet. He led the field in birdies last week en route to a top 10 finish and ranks top 30 on the PGA Tour in both strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained on approach shots. Plus, Finau averages 4.34 birdies per round, good for 10th on tour.
He has had trouble closing out opportunities to win in his career for sure, such as last week, but his chances are much better this week in a weaker field and on an easier course.
DARK HORSE PICK TO WIN: A field with plenty of lesser-known names presents more options in the “dark horse” category. Avid followers of the PGA Tour, however, have become familiar with Doc Redman (+5000) over the past few weeks. He’s a birdie machine, which is a requirement at TPC Twin Cities. He also ranks 26th in strokes gained off the tee and 14th in strokes gained on approach shots.
The former Clemson Tiger also finished second at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic, which was played at Detroit Golf Club, a course that plays very similarly to TPC Twin Cities in that it provides an advantage to long, straight hitters off the tee. Redman’s tee-to-green game plus his current form (three finishes of T21 or better in his last four events) make him a solid pick to contend this week.
PICK TO FINISH TOP 10: Not only did Troy Merritt (+600 to finish top 10) play his high school golf in Minnesota at Spring Lake Park high school, but he also posted a strong performance at the 2019 3M Open, finishing in a tie for seventh. While Merritt’s tee-to-green numbers aren’t strong for the entire season, he finished top 25 in consecutive weeks at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Workday Charity Open in tee-to-green performance before a missed cut last week at the Memorial Tournament.
Perhaps a return to Minnesota will bring good vibes for Merritt just as it did a year ago in Blaine. If so, Merritt provides good value for a top 10 pick.