It was a decent enough week for us at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic with a place return from Joaquin Niemann and a cracking effort from our trader Ryan Armour who hit a low price of 7 on the exchanges in round 2.
Unfortunately from that point though he bogeyed the par 5 14th from the middle of the fairway off the tee and he gradually faded over the weekend. Still, he did exactly what our trader pick is supposed to do, which is get in the hunt and trade low!
The success or otherwise of our picks however faded in to insignificance with the eventual outcome of the tournament with Nate Lashley bagging his first PGA Tour title.
As I am sure all readers will be aware by now Lashley has overcome dreadful personal tragedy in his life with the death of his parents and girlfriend at the time in a plane crash and he has also fought back from many injuries, which have derailed his career on several occasions, and for him to land his first PGA Tour title now after all he has gone through is to me the story of the year [yes more than Tiger’s win at Augusta], if not the decade, on the PGA Tour.
So after the unknowns of Detroit we venture further into the unknown this week with the inaugural addition of the 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb north of Minneapolis.
The tournament succeeds the 3M Championship, a Champions Tour event, which was held at this weeks venue TPC Twin Cities from 1993 until last year.
The tournament takes the spot on the PGA Tour schedule of the Greenbrier Classic, which has now moved to the recently announced Fall schedule for the 2019/20 season.
A deal has been signed for the event to be held for an initial period of seven years and this weeks staging will mark the first time a PGA Tour event has been held in Minnesota since the 2009 PGA Championship, which was memorably won by YE Yang.
The field is headed up by Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Bryson Dechambeau.
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.
Unlike last weeks venue Detroit GC we have at least had some prior sightings of TPC Twin Cities as, as noted above, it has been used for many years to host the 3M Champions Tour event.
It should be noted though that since last fall the course has undergone 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 greeted the Champions Tour, the PGA Tour players will, as noted above, be 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.
Again I should stress we are in to the unknown here however based on comments made by Tournament founder Hollis Cavner the intention is to let the players run riot on the course and enjoy a birdie fest and it his highly likely we will see -20 or better winning for the second week running.
Sorry, nothing really to see here as we start from scratch!!
It is worth noting though that the last four Champions Tour events that were held here were won by Kenny Perry [twice], Paul Goydos & Joe Durant, 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 past two years, and this certainly lends itself to the idea that even allowing for the course changes that have been made, we will see really low scoring this week.
There are heavy storms in the forecast for today as I type, which will inevitably soften up the course leading in to Thursday and there is then the potential for further storms on day one and again possibly on Saturday.
Temperatures look set to be around the high 70s to low 80s through the week.
Winds look to be fairly negligible for the first couple of days however they could pick up to around 15mph over the weekend.
As I always say though this could all change!
If last week was a venture in to the unknown at least we had the distinct ‘Donald Ross angle’ to work with.
This week however we are going truly in to the unknown and therefore while it is quite possible that Bryson, Hideki, Day or even Brooks in a non-Major hack up I feel that in the spirit of Nate Lashley and Doc Redman that with one exception we have to take a bit of a chance here.
In summary my thoughts are that we will get another birdie fest, which may even see a lower winning score than last week and I am looking for players in reasonable nick, who have been known to perform well in low scoring events and, in what may well turn in to a putting contest, are potentially known as being strong with the flat stick. I have therefore gone with five players this week as follows;
PATRICK REED – 28 -1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 23rd
Of those at the top of the market I was seriously tempted by Bryson as this does look like the sort of event that he could well deliver the goods in however whilst I was happy to chance Hideki last week at low odds based on the Ross angle I can’t bring myself to back anyone at sub 20s here and will instead make a fairly straightforward case for Patrick Reed at bigger odds.
As we know back in the spring Reed was struggling enough in the lead up to his Masters defence that he sought help from legendry swing guru David Leadbetter.
Following this not much initially changed for Patrick and he continued to scratch around for a few weeks missing the cut at the PGA.
At Pebble Beach however he played far more solidly to finish 32nd before backing that up with another top 30 at the Travelers.
Last week in Detroit though things took a far greater upturn for Captain America as he finished fifth, his best finish since last years US Open.
Sixth for the week in SGTTG, third in SGATTG and 5th in SGT Patrick’s long game is clearly back in working order.
As mentioned above I am looking this week for guys with positive history in low scoring events and therefore apart from his upturn in form the thing that attracts me to Reed this week is his record in low scoring events.
He’s finished first and second at Kapalua with totals of -22 & -21 and memorably won the Desert Classic with a total of -28, and if reports are to be believed these are the sort of numbers that may be required this week.
All in all it is hard to be overly confident on any pick this week but I do want to have one on side from near the top of the market and at the price on offer Reed ticks an awful lot of boxes for me.
JJ SPAUN – 100 -1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 66th
Another player who appears to be trending in the right direction again and has previous in low scoring events is JJ Spaun.
Californian Spaun had a hot start to the 18/19 season notching a third place at the Mayakoba with a total of -19, however this year has so far been very disappointing for him.
The last few weeks however has seen improvement from JJ as a 44th in Canada was followed by a 30th place at the Travelers and then a 13th place last weekend in Detroit. Clearly therefore JJ is trending in the right direction.
In Detroit JJ basically had three really good rounds, where all parts of his game including his putting, which has been the main problem this year, were in great working order and only a second round of 73 cost him being right in the hunt on Sunday for the big money places.
This tells me that Spaun is close to the cliché of ‘putting four good rounds together’ and it was hugely encouraging to see him finish the week 17th in SGP and 13th in SGT despite the one negative day in all areas on Friday.
As well as shooting -19 in Mexico JJ has finished 4th on the par 71 TPC course at Scottsdale with a total of -15 and he won on the Korn Ferry tour with a total of -26 back in 2016, so he is clearly comfortable in low scoring events.
Spaun has for a long time been on the list of PGA Tour winners waiting to happen and with his form trending very nicely of late I can see a big week for him ahead.
WYNDHAM CLARK – 150-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 5th
Next up for me is Wyndham Clark.
Clark came close to victory at the Honda earlier this year, however after that event slipped through his hands he went off the boil with a spin of missed cuts in to early June.
At the Travelers however things took a turn for the better with a 15th place finish and he followed this with 17th place in Detroit.
As TPC Twin Cities is a par 71 measuring 7500yds there is a possibility that distance off the tee this week could be a big positive and whilst I am not completely convinced on this as someone who ranks seventh in this department this is certainly a plus for Clark.
What I also like about Wyndham this week is that he allies his length with a great putting touch, ranking ninth on tour in SGP and as I said earlier this week may just end up being a putting contest.
Sticking with the mantra of players who have shown an ability to perform well in low scoring events Clark finished fifth in the Lincoln Land Championship last year with a total of -20.
Clark is seen as a hugely talented prospect and while the newer kids on the block such as Hovland and Nieman are overshadowing him now at the relative odds on offer I am happy to take my chances that he can shine this week.
DENNY McCARTHY – 125-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 13th
If this is to turn in to a putting contest I like the idea of having the player who is statistically the best putter on the PGA Tour on my side and that man is Denny McCarthy.
Denny is in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour and at present is in a battle to avoid the same fate as last year, a trip back to the Korn Ferry Tour finals.
Three missed cuts in a row had seen him tumbling back towards the precarious 125 zone however last weekend saw him finish 21st in Detroit and take a step forward in the right direction to 110th in the standings.
A decorated amateur big things were expected from McCarthy so if he can hang on to his card this year and make the Fedex Cup Play Off’s it will be seen as a positive step in the right direction.
The area that has been holding Denny back this year is his approach play and he currently ranks 177th on tour in SGATT, last week however on smaller greens he performed, relatively speaking, considerably better in that department to finish the week 51st.
This week with reports indicating that we should see a fairly forgiving course tee to green my hope is that Denny can build on that and then let his putter do the talking and if this can happen the guy who shot -23 last November to win the Korn Ferry Tour Championship could shoot some seriously low numbers at TPC Twin Cities.
TED POTTER JNR – 250-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED MC
My final pick this week is really a price driven pick as I can only assume that the layers think last weeks fifth place finish in Detroit for Ted Potter Jnr was a fluke.
To be fair to the layers Potter Jnr has shown with his two wins on tour at Pebble Beach and at The Greenbrier that he can find form out of absolutely nowhere and then lose it again just as quickly. However if we look at his numbers last week we see that Ted played some seriously good stuff finishing the week first in GIR, sixth in putting, 14th in DA and fifth in SGT and on that basis I am happy to show some faith in him this week.
Potter’s two wins on tour came with -16 and -17 totals respectively and the fact that he has two wins, closing both events out in fine style, is enough for me to think the quotes of 200-1+ are somewhat of an insult to him after such a great week last week.
Ted is of course exempt for next year based on his win last year at Pebble Beach, however he is currently outside the top 125 so he will be keen to build on last week and make a push for the Play Off’s.
I’m sure Potter Jnr will arrive in Minnesota conscious that he has won on tour in the same corresponding 4th July week at The Greenbrier and if he can produce a performance similar to last week this wizard with the flat stick could strike again at a huge price.
UPDATED 3rd JULY
TRADER - SEBASTIAN MUNOZ - FINISHED 72nd - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 190
After the success of Ryan Armour last week I am chancing Colombian Sebastian Munoz as this weeks trader pick.
26yr old Munoz can blow very hot and cold on the tour as proven by the fact that he posted consecutive finishes of 10th and 11th a couple of weeks back on the PGA Tour and a 7th place on the Korn Ferry Tour and has subsequently notched consecutive missed cuts.
Last week however when missing the cut in Detroit it's worth noting that he finished his second round with four birdies on his back nine [the front nine] to one bogey, so his game is obviously not too far away.
Currently sitting precariously at 123rd in the Fedex Cup standings Munoz needs a big week or two and from that point of view it is interesting to note that his best results of the year in each of the last two seasons have come in this corresponding week on the calendar as he finished third at the Greenbrier in 2017 and second at the Lecom Health Challenge last year.
At the Lecom Health Challenge and also the following week in Utah Sebastian shot -20 so he is obviously capable of the sort of low scoring that will be needed this week, something, which he also showed when opening up with 61 at the Greenbrier.
As I said earlier you never quite know what you are going to get with Munoz and a MC is always a poosibility, however this strikes me as the sort of event he could have one of his 'go' weeks and I am happy to chance him as our trader pick at the price on offer.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 350