it was a fantastic Open Championship at St Andrews and a fantastic week for us as we bagged the winner with Cam Smith.
Coming in to the week there was a lot of talk that the Old Course would be a push over for the modern player particularly if the wind didn’t blow and in the end the winning score of 20- under, which matched Henrik Stenson’s record total from Troon somewhat validated this opinion.
From my point of view though with the unique creativity required on and around the greens at St Andrew’s the winning total didn’t really matter as it was just a joy to watch the players tackling shots you wouldn’t see on any other week of the year.
Ultimately then the player who proved best at this was Aussie Smith who I am pleased to say took to the test exactly as I felt he would do. His win came undoubtedly with a tinge of sadness for Rory McIlroy who, alongside Viktor Hovland, had been in poll position coming in to Sunday, however no one can deny that Smith’s closing 64 was a joy to watch and a round fit to win the 150th Open.
Over at the Barracuda Championship and after Smith’s win in Scotland we were in a strong position to bag the ‘winning double’ as we headed in to the final round with Martin Laird six points outside of the lead in the modified stableford event.
Unfortunately Laird couldn’t manage to reel in Chez Reavie who notched his third tour win, however with the Scotsman finishing third and one of our other selections Mark Hubbard finishing fourth it was another profitable event.
So after it’s trip to the UK and for some to California the tour heads to Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb north of Minneapolis, for the fourth edition of the 3M Open.
Not unsurprisingly on the back of the Open the field takes a bit of hit and with only two more regular tour events to come after this week before the play-offs the focus will turn more to those needing some big performances to make the top 125 and retain their cards.
There is still some star power on display however with the field and market headed up by Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama and Sungjae Im.
TPC Twin Cities is 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 third 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 in 2019 the course underwent renovation, which was overseen by Minnesotan native Tom Lehman.
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 three years history let’s take a look at the top ten from those first three editions.
1 C Champ
T2 L Oosthuizen, C Schwartzel & J Vegas
5 K Mitchell
T6 R Armour, A Hadwin, KH Lee, M Pereira, B Stuard.
1 Michael Thompson
2 Adam Long
T3 Tony Finau, Emiliano Grillo, Max Homa, Charles Howell III, Alex Noren, Charl Schwartzel, Robby Shelton, Cameron Tringale, Richie Werenski.
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 when the event first came on tour was that with the extra length added to the course the setup it would favour bigger hitters and with Matthew Wolff triumphing in 2019, 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 certainly appeared 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.
In 2020 however of the top dozen home only Tony Finau could be put in the ‘bomber’ category and with Michael Thompson winning it would seem that everyone has a chance here.
Last year however those focusing on the bigger hitters may well have landed on Cameron Champ, [as longer term readers will remember we did!!] and he duly obliged.
Digging a bit deeper and while we know the 2019 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 in 2019 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.
Meanwhile looking at the 2020 statistics and Michael Thompson only ranked 88th off the tee but fourth in approach play and sixth in putting while runner up Long after struggling in the opening two days caught fire with his approaches over the weekend gaining over 6.5 shots over Saturday and Sunday. It would seem then that TPC Twin Cities is very much a ‘second shot’ course.
Returning to Champ’s victory and while as you would expect for a winner he was solid in all areas he ‘only’ ranked 27th from tee to green and 19th in approach play on the week and it was actually his flat stick, for which he ranked first, which was the key to his victory.
With the event taking the spot straight after the Open Championship the other obvious thing to mention is ‘Major fatigue’, with, as we regularly see, players who were in the hunt in the big event the week before struggling to perform the week after.
If we look though at the nine winners of events directly following a Major since the start of the 20/21 season they have been Hudson Swafford, Robert Streb, Stewart Cink, Jason Kokrak, Harris English, Cameron Champ, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns and Xander Schauffele and of these only English had been seriously in the mix the week before finishing third at Torrey Pines.
Delving further though and if we look at the last nine winners of the RBC Canadian Open when it was the most recent regular PGA Tour event to be played directly after the Open along side Champ’s win last year here we will see that of the five winners of the event to have played in the Open the week before only two of them had performed well in the event.
Here is a list of how they fared on the Links the week before;
2021 Cameron Champ DNP
2018 Dustin Johnson MC
2017 Jhonattan Vegas MC
2016 Jhonattan Vegas DNP [Finished 4th at Barbasol]
2015 Jason Day 4th
2014 Tim Clark DNP
2013 Brandt Snedeker 11th
2012 Scott Piercy DNP
2011 Sean O’Hair MC
2010 Carl Pettersson DNP
As we can see then with only Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker having been any kind of factor at the Open it is quite possible to conclude that understandably the long week of ‘Major pressure’ on top of all the travelling it entails is not the ideal preparation.
From the point of view of form coming in to the week of the three 3M Open winners to date 2019 Champion 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.
While 2020 winner Thompson had shown a glimpse of form with an eighth place finish at the RBC Heritage a month before he arrived on the back of a run of MC 64 46 and had not posted another top 20 in the calendar year so he was certainly not arriving in strong form.
Finally last years winner Champ however had telegraphed a return to form with an eye catching 11th place at the John Deere a fortnight before.
Finally with regards to the winning score Wolff triumphed on -21 in 2019, Thompson with -19 in 2020 while things were a bit tougher last year with Champ’s winning number only reaching -15.
As is the norm here we are set for a week of high temperatures although we don’t look quite set to top the 100 mark as we did last year.
At the time of writing there is the possibility of a stray storm over the weekend but hopefully they will stay away.
Wind could be a slight issue as we could see some gusts of around 15-20mph across the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
CAMERON DAVIS – 25/1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 16th
I will start things off this week with what to me is the straightforward selection at the top of the market, Cameron Davis.
As I say the case for Davis is as straightforward as you can get this week but I will briefly lay it out anyway.
Firstly after a fairly ‘in and out’ start to the season Davis found some consistency about three months ago and since finishing 46th at the Masters in April he has only missed one cut in nine starts posting four top ten’s along the way. Most recently he has notched two of those top tens in his last two outings with an eighth at the John Deere and sixth at the Barracuda.
Looking at Cam’s stats at the John Deere he ranked first off the tee, 11th from tee to green and eighth in approach play with only the putter slightly holding him back. At the Barracuda meanwhile he was 12th in good old fashioned GIR and the putter also co operated far better as well.
So we’ve established Cam is in great nick and he now arrives at a track, which we know he enjoys having finished 12th here in 2020 when arriving here on the back of four straight missed cuts. while last year he posted a 28th closing with a 64. That result though came on his third straight start and on the back of a win two weeks prior so I suspect he was running out of steam and suffering with a level of ‘mental let down’ after the win.
This year however Cam arrives peaking in to top form so there are no excuses for him not to be raring to go.
Fairly wild off the tee but one of the bigger hitters out there Davis also certainly fits the profile of the likes of Champ, Wolff and Dechambeau who have thrived here.
Finally of course we have the ‘Aussie factor’. I have no first hand info naturally but I can only assume this Cam is well acquainted and friendly with the Cam who now holds the Claret Jug and you have to think that Smith’s performance at St Andrews can inspire this Cam to a big week.
There we have it then, having had success with one Cam last week I am more than happy to ride the Cam wave again as I think Davis is primed to make a big play for his second tour win this week.
BEAU HOSSLER – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up I am going to give another chance to Beau Hossler, predominantly on the basis that this seems a great opportunity for him to finally bag that maiden win that his game has clearly been trending towards this year.
Long off the tee and statistically one of the strongest putters on tour – he ranks sixth in that department this season, Beau is another player who fits the Champ, Wolff, Dechambeau mode, particularly if we allow for the fact that Champ lead the field in putting on the way to his win here last year.
As we know the last couple of years have been a struggle Beau with trips back to the Korn Ferry finals required to keep his card. This season though, jump started by a third place at Pebble Beach early in the year he has played much better with a fourth place in Texas also added to his CV. Of late meanwhile prior to a missed cut at the Travelers he had made five cuts on the spin including strong performances in the PGA Championship and US Open early in the week, which were blotted by poor weekends.
Since the missed cut at TPC River Highlands, a result which I suspect was fall out from the poor weekend at Brookline, knowing he is secure in the Fedex Cup standings, Hossler has taken a breather so I expect him to come back refreshed and raring to go this week and assuming he can pick up broadly where he left off like I said earlier this test should suit.
To back this up further and while Beau has never really shone here he has posted two rounds of 65 in his three visits over the years.
Last year Beau posted one of those 65s on Saturday before closing out with a 76 on Sunday!, and that basically is symptomatic of his game this season, some great stuff but more often than not struggling to string all four rounds together. At what I think are fair each way odds though I will risk him again this week to finally do that and in the process deliver his first win.
GREYSON SIGG – 80/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T7th
Next up in an event, which as well as rewarding the bombers has also seen some success for shorter tee to green performers over its three years, I will chance Greyson Sigg.
Sigg is currently coming towards the end of his maiden PGA Tour campaign and after a fairly low key effort he is sat on the cusp of the 125, currently 126th to be precise. Basically then one big week is needed to take care of business and lock up his card.
Looking at Sigg’s results this campaign and there have been a lot of 27th’s, 34th’s etc but he has yet to string it all together, encouragingly though he put together his best effort of the season three weeks back, a 16th place at the John Deere Classic.
That performance at TPC Deere Run interests me on two fronts, firstly as it of course shows his game to be in good shape and secondly that as a low scoring event on a TPC track there are clear links to this week, which are enhanced by the likes of Dechambeau and Glover.
Looking at Sigg’s stats at the John Deere and he ranked fifth in approach play and 12th from tee to green while at the Barbasol the following week he ranked 26th in approach play on the way to 27th. Granted his numbers fell off slightly at the Barracuda last week but in all honesty I don’t see desert golf in California at altitude playing to Greyson’s strengths and ultimately 26th place represented another solid effort. It would seem overall though that Sigg’s greatest strength when on song, his tee to green game is beginning to round in to form nicely.
Sigg arrived on tour this season as ‘one to watch out for’ of the rookies and it hasn’t quite yet clicked for him. What we do know though from his two wins on the Korn Ferry last year is that he is capable of getting the job done and in low scoring events and I am happy to risk him to ‘get hot’ this week on the back of some decent solid efforts.
PATTON KIZZIRE – 90/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 38th
Next up I will take my chances on another player who has had an up and down season Patton Kizzire.
After posting two wins in quick succession on the PGA Tour at the end of 2017 and early in 2018 Kizzire went AWOL for a couple of years however over the last 12-18 months or so, particularly in the 20-21 season there have been signs that a third win could be on the horizon.
This season Patton seems to have regressed slightly as a whole with nothing better than a tenth place in Phoenix and a 16th a couple of weeks ago at the John Deere to show for his efforts.
What those two performances remind us though is that Patton seems at home in low scoring TPC events, something he also showed us when finishing third at the Byron Nelson and 11th again at the John Deere last season and sixth at the Travelers the previous campaign when in no form at all. Furthermore while Kizzire doesn’t have a stand out record here he did finish 34th on debut in 2019 on the back of seven straight missed cuts posting rounds of 65 and 66 along the way.
Looking at Patton’s stats in his last two starts and at the John Deere he had two really strong opening days with his approach play before he slipped back in this area over the weekend, while his putter was solid all week.
The following week though on the way to a missed cut at the Barbasol he putted horrendously over the first couple of days ranking 141st in the field, interestingly though he was strong off the tee for the first two days and strong with his approach play on Thursday before he struggled with his irons on Friday.
Coming in to this week then at 120th in the standings it appears to me that Kizzire is ‘close’ with his game and based on his history on this type of track I am happy to chance him to put it all together this week.
HARRY HIGGS – 200/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week I am going to make what is admittedly a pretty tenuous case for Harry Higgs, one which in all honesty befits his odds.
Perhaps distracted by his ‘celebrity status’ brought on by his undoubted likeable character Higgs, while under the glare of Netflix camera’s and headline grabbing shirt removing incidents at Phoenix etc, has lost his way with the fundamentals this season, which is to produce some good golf.
As such while there have no doubt been a couple of highs, notably a 14th on debut at Augusta and a ninth in the CJ Cup there has been a lot of bad weeks and missed cuts. As a result Harry now finds himself at 142nd in the Fedex standings and on the verge of losing his card.
Always on the lookout for nuggets of information as us golf punters are though I was interested to hear Higgs interviewed in the wake of the US Open where he said that sat at home watching his friend Joel Dahmen in the hunt had motivated him to realise he needed to knuckle down and practice. Taking note of those comments then I have watched Higgs’ results with interest since then and was piqued further by the fact that he shot 64 the following week at the Travelers.
Two missed cuts then followed unfortunately however after a poor start to the week at the Barracuda Harry produced two strong rounds on Friday and Saturday to climb the leaderboard before stalling on Sunday. Still though an 11th place finish represented his best effort this season and hopefully will give him some momentum going forward.
Looking at Higgs’ results since he has been on tour and 11th and 16th in the first play off events in 2020 and 2021 to push himself in to the top 70, or fourth at the PGA and 14th at Augusta tell me that when there is a lot on the line he seems to find the focus and motivation and this is maybe what we saw the start of last week again at the Barracuda.
This week then with his back very much against the wall I’ll risk Harry at big odds to find the spark needed to rescue his card.
UPDATED 19th JULY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - RYAN MOORE - DK VALUE $6800
It's a bit of a roll of the dice on our first pick this week Ryan Moore.
Moore appeared to be starting to rebuild some level of consistency making four cuts on the spin after returning from an absence of several months. Last week however the wheels came off at the Barracuda as he struggled to get anything going on the way to a missed cut.
Currently at 192nd in the Fedex Standings Ryan's hopes of finding his way in to the top 125 are looking very slim and if he is to produce something special to turn things around he will have to do so very quickly.
As we know though Ryan can find something out of nothing on a low scoring TPC Course like he did at the John Deere last year and having finished 12th here a couple of years back when in no form at all there is some hope and I am happy to risk him on that basis.
PICK 2 - BO HOAG - DK VALUE $6800
My segment pick in this segment this week is much more straightforward.
Bo Hoag's predicament in the Fedex Cup standings is even worse than Moore's as he is currently sat in 213th. and prior to the John Deere a few weeks back Hoag had basically go nothing out of his 21/22 PGA campaign.
At the John Deere however he sprung to life to produce a 16th place finish, which included a 63 on Saturday. Add this to the fact that Bo has finished 16th and 12th here on his two previous visits and there is every reason to think he can produce another strong effort this week.