Fans are back and so is some major talent: 3M Open is on for Year 3 in Blaine

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Fans are back and so is some major talent: 3M Open is on for Year 3 in Blaine

Minnesota golf fans waited 49 years for the PGA Tour to return, getting their wish with the inaugural 3M Open in 2019. After a one-year fan hiatus because of COVID-19 restrictions, spectators are back in Blaine this week. And so is the Tour.

What: The 44th tournament on the PGA Tour’s 2020-21 “super schedule” — 50 events in 51 weeks. The slate includes 14 events that were canceled or postponed in 2020. It began with the Safeway Open on Sept. 7, 2020, in Napa, Calif., and concludes with the three-week FedEx Cup playoffs. The Tour Championship will be awarded Sept. 5 in Atlanta.

Where: TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

Purse: $6.6 million ($1.188 million to the winner)

Winning FedEx Cup points: 500

Course details: Par 71 played at 7,431 yards

Cut: Low 65 and ties after 36 holes

Schedule: Gates open at 6:30 a.m. each day. There are practice rounds and pro-ams Tuesday and Wednesday. The 72-hole tournament begins Thursday morning.

Tickets: Single-day general admission grounds tickets are available for $25 (Tuesday-Wednesday) and $65 (Thursday-Sunday). All kids 15 and under are admitted free. There are also a variety of enhanced premium ticket packages with food, beverage and reserved seating options. All tickets are mobile and must be purchased at 3mopen.com.

Parking: $10 (online prepay) at the National Sports Center.

Broadcast schedule: Golf Channel (1:30-5:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; noon-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday) and Ch. 4 (2-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday) will provide live coverage. PGA Tour Live, a pay app available through NBC Sports Gold and Amazon Prime Video ($9.99/month), will have early-morning coverage and featured groups. PGA Tour Radio, available for free on pgatour.com and the PGA Tour mobile app or on Sirius Ch. 208 or XM Ch. 92, will have live play-by-play each afternoon.

Last year: Michael Thompson, then the 218th-ranked player in the world, let a four-shot lead wilt away on Sunday but held off hard-charging Adam Long to win by two strokes at 19 under par. Thompson sank a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole to seal the victory, and held back tears after accepting the winner’s trophy and check, which accounted for nearly 12% of his career earnings.

Players to watch

Despite hosting a stateside event days after the British Open and during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the 3M Open pulled together a better field than some might have expected. The 156 players competing include 11 former champions and 31 players from the British Open field.

Dustin Johnson: The world’s No. 1-ranked player is back in Blaine destined for a do-over. Last summer Johnson signed for a first-round 78 and withdrew 30 minutes later citing a back injury. It was a far from memorable tournament debut, but perhaps he found a little something along the way? Johnson tied for 12th the next week at the WGC St. Jude Invitational, then finished no worse than a tie for second the rest of the season in winning the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Louis Oosthuizen: Mr. Consistency is set to make his 3M Open debut fresh off what has been — surprise! — another spectacular showing in a major. Oostuizen began Sunday with a one-shot lead at Royal St. George’s. Winner of the 2010 British Open and five times a runner-up in the other three majors, the smooth-swinging South African has made 16 cuts in 17 events on the PGA Tour this season, banking nearly $5 million.

Matthew Wolff: He won the 3M Open as a 20-year-old sponsor exemption fresh out of Oklahoma State in 2019. But it’s been a roller coaster since. Wolff was runner-up at the U.S. Open in September and posted another second-place finish at the Shriners Open three weeks later. He didn’t post a top-25 finish in the next 10 events (including a DQ at the Masters), and took a two-month break to restore his mental health. Wolff withdrew from the British Open before the start of the tournament.

Rickie Fowler: The last time we saw Fowler in Minnesota, he was the lone single man without a partner to smooch in a 2016 Ryder Cup celebratory photo that went viral. Fowler is now married but looking for a career rebound, eager to find those golfing skills that earned Team USA two points in a dominating victory over Europe at Hazeltine National. Fowler is in the midst of a down season with just one top-10 finish, although it came two months ago at the PGA Championship.

Steve Stricker: Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the 54-year-old is set to captain the U.S. this fall at his home-state Whistling Straits. But first, a few more events as a competitor. Stricker has three PGA Tour Champions majors since turning 50 and has remained competitive on the PGA Tour. He’s made seven cuts in 10 events this season. At 152nd in the FedEx Cup standings, he’s in shouting distance of a spot in the playoffs. Stricker has a positive history at TPC Twin Cities; he finished tied for third (18 under) in his lone 3M Championship appearance in 2017.

John Pak: Last year’s winner of the college big three (Haskins Award, Hogan Award, Nicklaus Award) turned in low amateur honors at the U.S. Open in September. He’s now a pro and ready to go, but Pak has struggled thus far in his PGA Tour career. At the Barbasol Championship on Friday, he played the final six holes in 3 over and missed the cut by two. He’s one of five college stars with sponsor entries into the 3M Open, joining Quade Cummins (Oklahoma), Austin Eckroat (Oklahoma State), Ryan Hall (South Carolina) and Angus Flanagan of the Gophers.

Local connections

Fargo’s Tom Hoge, a former two-time Minnesota State Amateur champion, was the only player with Minnesota ties to make the cut last summer (he finished tied for 46th). He’s back, along with former Gophers golfer Erik van Rooyen and Spring Lake Park graduate Troy Merritt. They both missed the cut at the British Open and will aim to improve on last summer’s disappointments in Blaine.

Sharing the spotlight

Before the top-tier talent of golf tees off for the tournament, some players with, ahem, slightly lesser abilities will show their stuff. There is a three-hole celebrity challenge Wednesday evening featuring eight participants raising money for Minnesota charities. TNT analyst and noted golf aficionado Charles Barkley will team with NFL star Larry Fitzgerald; Former Twins batting champion Joe Mauer is with Vikings receiver Adam Thielen; Hollywood star Josh Duhamel is with former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph; and 10-time LPGA major champion Annika Sorenstam is with CBS reporter Amanda Balionis. Additionally, Sorenstam will host a golf clinic for 40 girls age 6-14 on Monday at TPC Twin Cities as part of her “Share My Passion” initiative.

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