The Midwest Birdie Fest. It looks like this will be a three-week trip through America’s heartland and an ongoing limbo party on the PGA Tour as the players try to see how low they can go. At last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Nate Lashley shot a conservative 2-under-par 70 in Sunday’s final round, capping off a wire-to-wire victory for the first-time Tour winner, and that still gave him a winning score of 25 under for the tournament. Next week, we head to Illinois for the John Deere Classic, where the average winning score for the past 10 seasons has been nearly 22-under par and where last year’s winner, Michael Kim, finished at 27-under.
So what about this week? It is another new event and another new course, like last week, but in this case, the course has been tested for several years by the Champions Tour. It is TPC Twin Cities, an Arnold Palmer design, that will make its PGA Tour debut, hosting the 3M Open in Blaine, Minn., not far from downtown Minneapolis. As for the scoring, let’s note that regular-season tournaments on The Champions Tour are played over just three days, not four, and winning scores here for the old guys are regularly around 20-under par. The course has pretty forgiving fairways, fast and flat bentgrass greens, a few very good doglegs that the big hitters will be able to cut off, and three or four drivable Par 4’s. Water comes into play on over half of the holes and the final two holes, 17 & 18, look very similar to Arnie’s final two holes at Bay Hill, home to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, won this year by Francesco Molinari.
Like last week, we don’t necessarily have “course form” or course history to go off of in our handicap with this week being the first edition. However, we can look at nearly a 20-year sample size of competition from the Senior Tour and when we do, we find that Kenny Perry won here at TPC Twin Cities three times, and he did it with Driving Distance and Birdie Average. For a pretty wide-open, gettable track, hitting it long and making birdies makes perfect sense. Let’s also note that Perry won at another Palmer design, Bay Hill on The PGA Tour, in 2005. The weather ought to be very similar to last week in Detroit; hot, humid, threats of scattered thunderstorms, and very little to no wind. In other words, perfect scoring conditions for Week 2 of the Midwest Birdie Fest.
FIRST ROUND HEAD TO HEAD MATCH UP
Adam Hadwin (-110) over Nate Lashley
Nate Lashley is a tremendous story, winning his first PGA Tour event last week in Detroit but with that comes a great deal of emotion as well as responsibility. I can’t believe it will all have truly sunk in and that life will be back to normal when Lashley tees it up this week in Minnesota. Not only this but I like Hadwin’s stats this week in the areas we are pointing to; 28th in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, 45th in Birdie Average, and 76th in Strokes Gained: Putting. Lashley matches him for the most part in the numbers but not off of the tee. Lashley may find his footing as the tournament rolls on but I will go against him in the opening round as his focus may not be where it needs to be right out of the gate -- or at least not enough to better a viable contender in Adam Hadwin.
THREE SHOTS WIN THE 3M OPEN
Bryson DeChambeau (14/1)
DeChambeau went through a spell earlier this season in which he missed three cuts in a row but now we return to the time of the year when last year, he began to get scorching hot and I think that could be the case again this season. He comes off of an 8th-place finish at the Travelers and I like his style in a birdie fest. He ranks 5th on Tour in Birdie Average, 34th in Strokes Gained: Putting, and 23rd in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee. He also has good history at Palmer courses, taking 2nd at Bay Hill in 2018. It’s a short price but I expect him to have a shot on Sunday against a weaker field and a course that just may be in his wheelhouse.
Charles Howell III (40/1)
Charles Howell III has probably played the best golf of his entire nearly two-decade career in the last two seasons. He’s 43rd on Tour in Driving Distance and Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, he’s 56th in Birdie Average, and 54th in Strokes Gained: Putting. He took 15th earlier this season at Bay Hill and has only missed the cut there at Arnie’s place twice in 19 career visits.
Cameron Champ (80/1)
Champ could be the epitome of our handicap this week; hit it a mile and make birdies. He ranks No. 1 on Tour in Driving Distance and 4th in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee. He pours in low numbers by ranking 65th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and 19th in Birdie Average. With somewhat of a similar formula in play last week in Detroit, Champ was only one stroke off of the lead after 36 holes, shooting 66-65. He’ll need all four rounds in the 60s this week and I think he’s got a better chance of doing that than 80/1.
Brady Kannon hosts Long Shots, VSiN’s golf betting show, from 8-9 p.m. ET Wednesday on VSiN.com and SiriusXM 204.