PGA Tour best bets: 3M Open

July 19, 2022 05:50 PM
USATSI_18459627

Cameron Smith made five straight birdies on the back nine (Holes 10-14), but it was his birdie at the last that clinched a 30 on the back nine and a round of 64 to win his first major at the British Open. His 20-under-par score tied the lowest in history and beat Cameron Young by one (-19) and Rory McIlroy by two (-18). Smith also cashed for this column at 25-1 (30-1 antepost) to give us our 11th outright winner in 2022. 

There is a high level of uncertainty within the game due to LIV Golf, and all of the world's best players might not qualify for majors in 2023 unless LIV Golf is afforded OWGR points for its events. The game is fractured, and we are seeing that this week at the 3M Open with only eight of the OWGR Top 70 and three of the Top 25 in the Twin Cities. The 3M is certainly in a tough scheduling spot, being the week after a major across the pond and with most of the elite players having already locked themselves into the FedEx Cup playoffs. 

Tournament favorite Tony Finau (14-1) finished third here two years ago. Hideki Matsuyama (16-1) has been rumored as a potential defector to LIV Golf, but he is in the Twin Cities this week and finished seventh in his lone appearance here in 2019. Sungjae Im (18-1) issued a statement a few weeks ago saying he was out on LIV. 

Adam Hadwin (25-1) has finishes of fourth (2019) and sixth (2021) in this event. Cam Davis (25-1) comes into this week on the heels of two straight Top 10s (eighth at the John Deere, sixth at the Barracuda). Like Davis, Maverick McNealy (22-1) also had Top 10s at the John Deere and Barracuda. Davis Riley (25-1) has three Top 10s in his rookie season including a runner-up at the Valspar. Sahith Theegala (25-1) made his first major cut last week (34th) and already has a couple of near-misses (third in Phoenix, second at the Travelers) this season in pursuit of his maiden PGA Tour victory. Speaking of pursuing a first PGA Tour victory, Cameron Tringale (28-1) was both the 18- and 36-hole leader at the Scottish Open two weeks ago but still holds the unfortunate distinction of being the PGA Tour’s all-time leader in official earnings (more than $17 million) without a win. 

Defending 3M Open champion Cameron Champ is 50-1 and 2020 winner Michael Thompson is 65-1. 

The Course 

TPC Twin Cities is 13 miles north of Minneapolis and 20 miles from St. Paul. The track was designed in 2000 by Arnold Palmer with consultation from Tom Lehman. Native Minnesotans Tom Lehman and Tim Herron, along with PGA Tour VP of Design Services Steve Wenzloff, renovated the layout in 2018.

The course will play as a Par 71 of 7,431 yards, which is the seventh longest on the PGA Tour. It is a relatively easy and gettable parklands design with three shorter Par 4s that are drivable for longer hitters. With three Par 5s measuring 594 yards (No. 6), 593 yards (No. 12) and 596 yards (No. 18), the longest holes on the course show some resistance. The 18th is arguably one of the best finishing holes on the PGA Tour. The hole doglegs with water on the right, which is in play on both the tee shot and approach if players want to get aggressive and go for it in two. Matthew Wolff won in climactic fashion at the inaugural 3M Open in 2019, responding to Bryson DeChambeau’s eagle on 18 with an eagle of his own from just off the fringe.

The sets of Par 3s and Par 4s are relatively easy for the PGA Tour. There are two Par 4s listed under 400 yards on the official scorecard, however we’ve commonly seen the tee box on the 411-yard 16th pushed up to become drivable as well. In total, 13 holes have a scoring average under-par; the five holes which do not are the four 450+ yard Par 4s and the longest Par 3, the 228-yard 13th. 

There are 27 water hazards in play over 13 holes (third most on tour), so the course resembles a bit of a Florida-type layout. 

In addition, there are 72 bunkers on the course. The fairways are constructed of Bentgrass and will play hard and fast with plenty of rollout. In addition, the course is at around 900 feet of altitude so the ball will fly a bit further than normal. The Bluegrass/Fescue rough can be pesky at 3 inches. The Pure Bentgrass greens are large (6,500 square feet) and of average speed (12 stimpmeter). 

In 2019, tournament founder Hollis Cavner gave an honest description of how they want the 3M Open to play, saying: “We want birdies and train wrecks, and we don’t want to be the hardest golf course on the tour”.

Here are some other Palmer designs played on the PGA Tour:

— PGA West, Palmer Private (2008-2015 Career Builder Challenge)

— Bay Hill Country Club (Arnold Palmer Invitational)

— TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship)

— Isleworth Golf & Country Club (2014 Hero World Challenge)

— Albany (2015-2018 Hero World Challenge)

Non-Palmer designs that are more direct correlations to TPC Twin Cities include TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic of New Orleans), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), Detroit Golf Club (Rocket Mortgage Classic), TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals Open), TPC San Antonio (Valero Texas Open), TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship), PGA National (Honda Classic) and PGA West Stadium Course (The American Express). 

3M Open Winners 

2021: Cameron Champ (-15/269); 150-1

2020: Michael Thompson (-19/265); 125-1

​2019: Matthew Wolff (-21/263); 175-1

Statistical Analysis​

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (Last 24 Rounds)

TPC Twin Cities has the 12th-widest fairways on the PGA Tour at 36 yards on average. There is water in play on nine of the 14 tee shots. The first three 3M Opens have not indicated that Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee numbers need to be great, but players that find the right combination of long and straight have had success here. 

1. Brendan Steele 23.9

2. Tony Finau 19.2

3. Cameron Champ 18.2

4. Paul Barjon 17.8

5. Emiliano Grillo 16.3

6. Hayden Buckley 15.6

7. Nick Hardy 14.8

8. Davis Riley 14.3

9. Austin Smotherman 12.8

10. Sungjae Im 10.8

11. Cam Davis 10.1

12. Kelly Kraft 8.8

13. Danny Lee 8.2

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

In 2019, Wolff ranked second for Strokes Gained: Approach during his victory and Thompson ranked fourth in 2020. This is a relatively easy course to gain on approach, but two of the past three winners were right near the top, so it is still useful to examine.

1. Brendan Steele 21.2

2. Davis Riley 20.6

3. Hideki Matsuyama 18.8

4. Tony Finau 16.4

5. Adam Svensson 14.9

6. Tyler Duncan 14.8

7. Wesley Bryan 14.8

8. J.T. Poston 14.5

9. Stephan Jaeger 13.8

10. Chase Seiffert 13.4

11. Matthew NeSmith 12.4

12. Cam Davis 12.4

13. Vaughn Taylor 11.8

14. Nick Taylor 11.5

15. Lee Hodges 11.4

16. Sahith Theegala 11.4

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

The Birdie or Better percentage was 22.7% in the first three 3M Opens. The PGA Tour average over the last five years is 20.3%. There are other events on tour that are bigger birdie-fests than the 3M Open, but you must make plenty of them here. 

1. Stewart Cink 19.4

2. Adam Svensson 18.8

3. Nick Hardy 17.1

4. J.T. Poston 16.7

5. Davis Riley 16.7

6. Cam Davis 16.4

7. David Skinns 15.8

8. Tony Finau 15.1

9. Scott Brown 14.5

10. Hideki Matsuyama 14.2

11. Cameron Tringale 13.7

12. Austin Smotherman 11.6

13. Chris Gotterup 11

Opportunities Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

Opportunities Gained measures birdie opportunities inside 15 feet from the green or the fringe plus greens/fringes under regulation. A green or fringe under regulation within 15 feet counts as two opportunities.

1. Hideki Matsuyama 21.2

2. Brendan Steele 19.4

3. Davis Riley 17.8

4. Tony Finau 15.3

5. Austin Smotherman 15.3

6. Vaughn Taylor 14.5

7. Tom Hoge 14.4

8. Austin Cook 13.4

9. Satoshi Kodaira 13

10. Adam Svensson 12.8

11. John Huh 12.2

12. Chris Gotterup 12.1

13. J.T. Poston 11.1

Strokes Gained: Par 4s 450-500 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

Five of 11 Par 4s at TPC Twin Cities measure 450-500 yards.

1. Tony Finau 15.8

2. James Hahn 12.1

3. Nick Hardy 11.4

4. Sungjae Im 11.3

5. Stewart Cink 10.6

6. Troy Merritt 9.7

7. Beau Hossler 9.2

8. Chez Reavie 8.6

9. Ryan Armour 8.3

10. Emiliano Grillo 8.2

11. Tommy Gainey 8.1

12. C.T. Pan 8.1

13. Cameron Champ 7.2

Strokes Gained: Par 5s (Last 24 Rounds)

The three Par 5s all measure close to 600 yards and are not guaranteed birdies. 

1. Sahith Theegala 15.2

2. Tony Finau 14.4

3. Cameron Percy 13.7

4. Aaron Baddeley 11.4

5. J.T. Poston 9.1

6. Stephan Jaeger 8.9

7. Rickie Fowler 8.5

8. Brendan Steele 8.3

9. Justin Lower 7.3

10. Maverick McNealy 7

11. Matthew NeSmith 6.9

12. Cameron Tringale 6.7

13. Matt Wallace 6.6

14. Michael Gligic 6.2

15. Doc Redman 6.2

Strokes Gained: Bentgrass Greens (Last 24 Rounds)

Putting is the hardest metric to predict in golf. The last two champions here, Thompson and Champ, ranked No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained: Putting during their victorious weeks. This tournament likely comes down to who gets hot with the putter this weekend. 

1. Beau Hossler 26

2. Justin Lower 18.4

3. Seung-yul Noh 17.6

4. Brendon Todd 16.8

5. Austin Cook 16.7

6. Jim Knous 16.1

7. Adam Svensson 15.7

8. Tony Finau 14.3

9. Harry Higgs 12.3

10. David Skinns 11.8

11. Troy Merritt 11.8

12. David Lingmerth 11.3

13. Maverick McNealy 9.8

14. Stewart Cink 9.7

Selections​

Brendan Steele (35-1 Caesars Sportsbook)

Steele's good form carries back to early March when he finished 13th at The Players Championship. He also has finishes of ninth at the PGA Championship and 10th at the Memorial. Steele ranks No. 1 in the models for both Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds. 

Adam Svensson (40-1 Circa Sports)

The Canadian finished 15th at TPC Twin Cities in his only appearance in 2019, gaining a whopping 12.1 strokes from tee to green while losing 5.1 strokes putting. Svensson has gained strokes putting in seven consecutive starts, and he is coming off a sixth at the Barbasol where he gained 2.4 strokes off the tee and 7.4 strokes on approach. He ranks in the Top 10 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Bentgrass Greens, Birdie or Better Gained and Opportunities Gained. 

Chris Gotterup (45-1 DraftKings)

The reigning Jack Nicklaus Award winner out of the University of Oklahoma has been playing on sponsor exemptions this summer. He was 43rd at the U.S. Open, 35th at the Travelers and fourth at the John Deere Classic. Gotterup needs 287 FedEx Cup points to qualify to earn Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour and is 60% of the way there. 

Troy Merritt (80-1 BetMGM)

Merritt finished seventh in his debut here in 2019. He has two Top 5s (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Valero Texas Open) this year, so his FedEx Cup status is safe. Merritt was 30th last time out at the Scottish Open and ranked second in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach, his best performance of the season.

Austin Smotherman (90-1 Circa Sports)

Smotherman ranks No. 134 in the FedEx Cup standings and needs a good finish in the next three weeks to keep his PGA Tour playing privileges. He comes off his best finish of the season with an eighth last week at the Barracuda Championship. The PGA Tour rookie ranks ninth in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. 

Tyler Duncan (100-1 DraftKings)

Duncan is barely inside the FedEx Cup 125 (No. 119), but he is off his best finish of the season with a 13th at the Barbasol. Despite not being in the best form, Duncan has been striking the ball well and ranks sixth in this field for Strokes Gained: Approach and fifth for Strokes Gained: Ball Striking over the last 24 rounds. The putting has been poor this season, but he is better on Bentgrass greens. 

Garrick Higgo (125-1 BetMGM)

The young South African has missed nine of his last 11 cuts but did make the weekend at St. Andrews. Higgo's Sunday 66 was only bettered by five players in the final round. He is a long hitter off the tee who has good touch on the greens and could hit at a big number here versus a weak field. 

Callum Tarren (130-1 DraftKings)

Tarren began his rookie season with seven missed cuts and a DQ but began to turn it around with his first Top 5 at the Puerto Rico Open. He now has three Top 10s and is just outside the FedEx Cup 125. The Englishman also fits the profile of previous 3M Open winners Champ and Wolff, who are also bombers off the tee. 

​Cazoo Classic

The English Open, held annually on the European Tour from 1988-2002, was scheduled to make its return in 2021, but Cazoo takes over the sponsorship of this event. Winners of the tournament include some of the most successful players in European Tour history, including Mark James, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

The Course​

Last year, the Cazoo Classic was held at London Golf Club but moves to Hillside Golf Club in Southport, England, this year. Hillside played host to a DP World Tour event for the first time since 1982 when it staged the British Masters in 2019.

Hillside is a 7,109-yard, Par 72 built on true links land on the “Golf Coast,” which includes links such as Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Birkdale. Birkdale sits right next to Hillside, with the 2017 British Open venue backing onto the 17th hole. Hillside does feature trees on a few holes, and the back nine meanders through sand dunes. Thick rough from off the fairway will catch errant tee shots, as will typical links features such as pot bunkers, fescue and brooks.

Despite a little lengthening since 2019, the Par 5s all measure under 565 yards and several Par 4s are in the 400-yard area. Wind can obviously make this course substantially more difficult. A strategic game is required from tee to green and every club in the bag will likely be used as players navigate around the dogleg holes that make this a shotmaking challenge.

Statistical Analysis​

Strokes Gained: Approach (2022 DP World Tour Season)

Strokes Gained data is not always the most easily accessible on the DP World Tour. However, iron play is almost always the best place to start. 

1. Marcus Armitage + 0.92 SG per round

2. Edoardo Molinari + 0.92

3. Louis De Jager + 0.82

4. JC Ritchie + 0.82

5. Romain Langasque + 0.70

6. Lukas Nemecz + 0.69

7. Kristoffer Broberg + 0.56

8. Ewen Ferguson + 0.55

9. Niall Kearney + 0.55

10. Ross Fisher + 0.54

11. Lorenzo Gagli + 0.53

12. Paul Waring + 0.52

13. Daniel Gavins + 0.51

14. Santiago Tarrio + 0.51

Selections​

Thorbjorn Olesen (22-1 DraftKings)

Olesen got his career back on track in May by winning the British Masters at The Belfry. The Dane finished eighth at the Irish Open three weeks ago, ranking first for SG: Putting. Then he led the Driving Accuracy stats at the Scottish Open on his way to a 30th-place finish against a substantially stronger field. He has plenty of experience in links golf with a win at the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. 

Alexander Bjork (31-1 Boyd Sports)

Since a missed cut in the British Masters, Bjork’s year has sprung into life. He followed that with a 23rd-place finish in the Soudal Open then a best-of-the-year seventh in the Dutch Open. Form has continued to look strong, with Top 25s in the Porsche European Open and Irish Open. Bjork was 42nd last time out at the Scottish Open and has produced three of his best approach performances of the year in his last seven starts.

Marcus Armitage (34-1 Boyd Sports)

Armitage has made 13 of 15 cuts in 2022 and has a Top 5 in Qatar this season. The Englishman is also No. 1 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Approach on the DP World Tour.

Sami Valimaki (40-1 DraftKings)

In his last three starts, Valimaki was fourth at the BMW International Open and followed that with Top 30s at the Irish and Scottish Opens. He was strong off the tee lately in those events with rankings of fifth, fifth and third for Total Driving. 

Ewen Ferguson (66-1 BetMGM)

Ferguson's form has been a bit erratic since earning his maiden DP World Tour victory this year at the Qatar Masters. He was a respectable 17th at the Alfred Dunhill Links last fall and is Top 10 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Approach. 

Eddie Pepperell (66-1 BetMGM)

Pepperell is in lousy form, having missed 11 of his last 14 cuts, but he finished second on this course in the 2019 British Masters. The former OWGR Top 50 player has plenty of Top 10s over the years on links courses and this could be what he needs to turn his season and career around. 

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