“Brian Harman wins by 6.” is not a sentence I expected to be writing at the completion of play at Hoylake on Sunday evening. What a genuinely remarkable performance the diminutive lefty produced to lift the Claret Jug in Liverpool yesterday.
After opening with a 4-under 67, Harman never dropped out of contention, leading at the end of rounds 2,3 and ultimately 4. His display over the last two days was admirably gutsy, bouncing back from poor starts in both rounds with quality birdies to continually separate himself from the field, just as it looked like the chasing pack may be closing in.
On the face of it he did nothing flashy but was relentlessly efficient in what he does well. He found fairways for fun, got himself out of trouble with relative ease when missing the green and rarely looked like missing a putt.
It’s maybe this lack of chaos that caused somewhat of a subdued atmosphere in yesterday’s final round, as Harman left more high-profile, “exciting” players in his wake but make no mistake, this was one of the best major performances in recent memory and he deserves to soak up every ounce of credit that comes his way over the coming days and weeks.
Whilst Harman was gliding his way to victory, there were plenty of stories in behind him. Sepp Straka continued his charge towards a Ryder Cup spot with an excellent 2nd-place finish. Though perhaps even more impressive was the joint-runner-up finish of Tom Kim, who managed to hit those heights despite suffering a grade-one ankle sprain on Thursday.
They were joined in 2nd by Jon Rahm – the Spaniard unable to replicate the sublime performance of Saturday – and Jason Day, who ended a poor run of form with his best major performance since 2016.
Rory McIlroy produced a fine final-round 68 in horrid conditions, though ultimately left himself with too much to do and finished 6th; he will now head into next season searching for his first major in ten years.
There was a long overdue first major top 10 for Max Homa; the same feat achieved by the talented but out of form Shubhankar Sharma and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
Meanwhile the duo of Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Jordan gave the home fans plenty to cheer over the course of the week. Both finished in T10, with Jordan no doubt the more content with his performance at his home course.
That brings the curtain down on the men’s major story for 2023 and we have to wait an inexplicable nine months for The Masters for our next one, but we do have the excitement of the Ryder Cup on the horizon in September/October.
However before that, the attention of the PGA Tour starts to turn towards the FedEx Cup playoffs, which start in just over two weeks with the St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind. We have the Wyndham Championship directly preceding that event next week but first we’re off to Minnesota for the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities.
The 3M Open is still in its relative infancy, debuting on the PGA Tour just four years ago in 2019. With each renewal taking place here at TPC Twin Cities.
The inaugural edition was a particularly memorable one, as former amateur star, Matthew Wolff holed a lengthy eagle putt on his final hole to post a score of -21 and won the event on just his third start as a professional. Narrowly edging out Bryson DeChambeau and fellow amateur talent, Collin Morikawa – himself making just his fourth start as a pro – in the process.
That exciting trio in 2019 was followed by a change of pace in 2020, as the steadier twosome of Michael Thompson and Adam Long occupied the top two positions; Thompson’s -19 enough for a two-stroke victory. However in more challenging renewals in the last two years, bombers have come back to the fore.
In 2021, Cameron Champ enhanced his reputation as an unpredictable but dangerous player when in contention, beating off two South African major champions (Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel) to record his third PGA Tour win in as many years; his winning score of -15 making it the toughest renewal of the 3M Open to date.
Tony Finau is our reigning champion after winning the event last year. A win that set about a fruitful run for the likeable Utah native, as he followed up with another win the following week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and has gone on to record a further two victories since. Taking him to four wins total in the last twelve months.
He returns to defend this week after a disappointing run of form, in a field of players looking to either solidify their spot inside the FedEx Cup top 70 – which gets them into the highly lucrative playoff events to come – or those on the outside hoping for a good week to spring up into those much-coveted spots.
TPC Twin Cities was originally designed by Arnold Palmer in 2000 and then renovated by Steve Wenzloff in 2018. It plays as a par 71 and stretches out to a lengthy 7431 yards.
Though there are trees positioned around this parkland course, rarely does it encroach too closely on play, resulting in the course having quite an open and exposed feel and making it susceptible to wind. It is also overflowing with water, which is waiting to ruin cards on 15 holes.
The fairways are generous and simple to find. However they have gradually become more penal when missing over recent years. The rough being grown out to 4” last year – added to some already-existing smartly-placed fairway bunkers – resulted in just over 50% of players being able to find the greens when missing fairways, decreasing from 55.73% in 2021 and 60.41% in 2020.
It is a similar story around the large, speedy and undulating bentgrass greens, which though possessing a GIR percentage among the ten highest on tour, rank as the seventh toughest to scramble around over the last four years. Making this the toughest aspect of play around TPC Twin Cities.
The greens are also growing more challenging to putt on as the event gets its ideal firm conditions. Which looks likely to be the case again this week.
There are few gimme birdie chances here. The par 5s all come in at close to 600 yards and are protected by water, whilst bunkers litter most of the layup areas, making it tricky to layup if not going for the green in two. The closing 18th can be shortened but requires a nervy shot from the fairway over water to reach the green and its surrounds in two; anything from a tournament-winning eagle or tournament-wrecking double+ is well on the cards.
The par 4s offer a few birdie chances, with the 7th and 10th holes coming in at under 400 yards, though they are countered by a number of mid-range/lengthier holes, including the 500-yard 3rd, which has been converted from a par 5 for the event
Though not particularly daunting overall, the par 3s finish on hole 17, which makes up part of a potentially damaging watery finish, with the green completely protected by water short and left.
This is an event increasing in difficulty year-on-year, evidenced by the 2022 renewal being the first time the event posted a field average score of over par and there’s little in the conditions to suggest that difficulty will decrease this week.
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- SG: Approach
- Proximity 150-200 yards
I feel this is a test that requires a little bit of everything, but first and foremost the long game has to be in good shape, particularly with that heightened level of punishment the course showed last year.
Such was the quality of Tony Finau’s tee-to-green game last year, that he only needed an average putting week to win comfortably. He led the field T2G by 2.5 strokes to his nearest competitor, part of which included some superb ball-striking; ranking 3rd off-the-tee, 3rd in approach and 4th in greens-in-regulation.
Last year’s two runners-up, Emiliano Grillo and Sungjae Im both excelled with their ball-striking too. Grillo ranked 9th OTT, 8th in approach and 11th in GIR; Im was 2nd OTT and 15th in approach.
Though Cameron Champ was heavily reliant on the putter in 2021, Louis Oosthuizen in 2nd was 1st in GIR and 2nd in approach. He also drove it solidly, ranking inside the top 20. As did Jhonny Vegas, who complimented it with similar stats in approach.
Michael Thompson shone with the putter in 2020, though he combined it with strength in approach, ranking 4th, and was 3rd in GIR.
In 2019, Matthew Wolff was 2nd in approach and 6th in GIR when winning; runner-up, Collin Morikawa led the field with his irons and ranked 11th OTT; our other 2nd-place finisher, Bryson DeChambeau, ranked 8th OTT and 17th in approach.
Additionally, as far as approach goes, strong numbers in proximity from 150-200 yards look important, with approaches from those distances making up half of the approach shots last year.
- Driving Distance
- SG: Around-the-Greens
- SG: Putting (Bentgrass)
Though the conditions will likely be firm this week, meaning shorter hitters should get plenty of run out in the fairways, it’s impossible to ignore how well bombers have fared here. Finau, Champ and Wolff are all long hitters, whilst runners-up such as Jhonny Vegas and Bryson DeChambeau know how to get it out there too. The generous fairways certainly tempt players into letting rip with driver.
Quality around-the-greens hadn’t been overly important in initial renewals, however with the increased challenge of finding greens last year this all changed. Though Finau hit the ball excellently, he ranked highest around-the-greens in 2nd; this ultimately proving the difference between him and his nearest challengers.
With scrambling difficulty the most constant test around TPC Twin Cities since the event made its debut, if greens are going to be missed more regularly, I’d certainly want players who have at least a solid level of short-game skills on side.
Finally, although the putter wasn’t important in 2019 and Finau didn’t need to putt lights out to win last year, the 2021 and 2020 winners both led the field on these tricky greens. Therefore players with experience on similarly challenging and quick bentgrass greens should be respected.
Correlating Events (Courses)
Honda Classic (PGA National)
Generous fairways, exposure to wind, gallons of water in-play and significant short-game challenges. There are a number of things for which TPC Twin Cities shares similarities with PGA National, resulting in a bounty of form-ties developing between the two tournaments.
Michael Thompson has won both events, with other past Honda Classic winners, Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell, recording 2nd and 5th-place finishes respectively here at TPC Twin Cities.
Alex Noren has finished 3rd at both events; Jhonny Vegas, Scott Piercy and Charl Schwartzel each have top 5s across the two tournaments.
Shriners Open (TPC Summerlin)
Wide fairways, generously-sized bentgrass greens and short-game challenges are three things that TPCs Twin Cities and Summerlin have in common. This has all helped the two courses develop strong links.
Matthew Wolff has twice finished 2nd in Vegas, whilst Sungjae Im is a past champion there. Adam Hadwin has recorded 4th and 6th-place finishes in both events; Cameron Tringale has a 2nd there to go with a 3rd here; Jhonny Vegas and Scott Piercy possess top 10s at both.
John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)
The John Deere Classic has comparable averages in driving accuracy, GIR and scrambling difficulty. Whilst it is also becoming more penal when players miss fairways. Strong, long drivers typically do well there – as they do here – and there are plenty of form-lines to follow.
Emiliano Grillo has finished 2nd in both tournaments; Scott Piercy and Jhonny Vegas have each finished 3rd at TPC Deere Run; Cameron Tringale has a top 10 there to compliment his good record here.
Further encouragement is on offer from Adam Hadwin, Keith Mitchell and Lucas Glover; with each posting top 10 finishes at both courses.
Fortinet Championship (Silverado Resort)
Though a tighter, more densely tree-lined course, there are some interesting lines of form between the Fortinet Championship and 3M Open. They possess similar stats in terms of approach play, have bentgrass (mixed with poa in Silverado’s case) greens and are events where strong drivers have typically gone well.
Cameron Champ and Emiliano Grillo have both won the Fortinet, meanwhile Tony Finau and Adam Hadwin have finished 2nd there. Scott Piercy has a 3rd there, Sungjae Im has finished 2nd; as has Charles Howell III – who finished 3rd at Twin Cities in 2020.
Mexico Open (Vidanta Vallarta)
Lastly, though there have only been two events staged at the exposed Vidanta Vallarta, the two events possess similar tee-to-green stats and have been a haven for strong drivers of the ball.
Form-ties are a little more scarce here due to the relative freshness of the two events but Tony Finau won there this year, Cameron Champ has finished top 10 in both renewals in Mexico and Emiliano Grillo has finished 5th.
Temperatures are forecast to be quite high this week in Minnesota, reaching as high as 36 degrees on Thursday, which will make conditions humid and bring about the possibility of thunderstorms throughout the week. Despite the temperatures dropping – but still remaining warm – over the weekend.
There’s a bit of wind knocking around on Thursday, with gusts reaching just shy of 20mph and even though they die down a touch over the weekend, it won’t take much for it to have an impact around this exposed setup.
With just the Wyndham Championship to come after this week before the playoffs, the field have two shots remaining to book their place in those end of season events.
This is not a worry facing our defending champion, Tony Finau, who is the headline act this week as the #19 ranked player in the world.
He is joined by a further ten from inside the world’s top 50, including last week’s Open Championship runner-up, Sepp Straka and the struggling Justin Thomas, for whom this week looks particularly important. He currently sits just outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup rankings and needs a good week to push himself in there to potentially keep his Ryder Cup hopes alive.
Other notable players in attendance this week who sit outside that top 70 include 2019 US Open winner, Gary Woodland and 2014 FedEx Cup champion, Billy Horschel.
Tony Finau is priced at 12/1 to defend his title this week and is followed next in the market by Cameron Young at 14s, who is starting to find form again.
Finau’s form makes it easy enough to leave him alone this week at the price and in Young’s case, those performing well in The Open don’t usually perform too well if teeing it up the following week.
Four of the last nine winners of events following The Open didn’t even play there, two of them missed the cut and of the other three, only Jason Day in 2015 arrived off the back of a top 10; winning in Canada after finishing 4th in The Open the week prior.
With that I’m also keen to avoid the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Sepp Straka and instead start with a player who had a week off last week, Australia’s Cam Davis.
1 pt Cam Davis each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 45/1
We last saw Davis miss the cut in Scotland two weeks ago but there wasn’t too much to worry about in his performance. I’m hoping his freshness following a week off will give him a slight edge over many in the field.
Prior to that missed cut in the Scottish Open, Davis finished 17th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where a solid ball-striking performance arrested a recent slide in form following his excellent 4th-place finish in the PGA Championship in May.
That performance was engineered by a superb tee-to-green performance – ranking 4th in the field – and was the culmination of a good couple of months for Davis, as he recorded top 10 finishes in THE PLAYERS Championship and RBC Heritage.
His ball-striking ability has been at the forefront of his best results all season, particularly the driver, where he ranks 9th on tour, whilst at 25th in driving distance is also one of the longest. His approach play has also encouraged over the last three months and as a player who ranks 7th in proximity from 150-200 yards in this field, he has plenty of assets required for this test.
Davis’s form at TPC Twin Cities gives us evidence of this. After missing the cut on debut in 2019, he’s gone on to record finishes of 12th, 28th and 16th in the last three years.
Top 10s in the John Deere Classic and Honda Classic strengthen his case here and I’m expecting a contending performance from Davis this week.
1 pt Eric Cole each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 55/1
Eric Cole has some nice pieces of correlating form in relation to this week and with his combination of quality approach play and short-game skills, I fancy him to go well on his first try around TPC Twin Cities.
Cole is another who had a week off following a trip to Scotland two weeks ago, where he was well in contention in 5th entering the final round but succumbed to a disastrous 9-over final round that sent him tumbling down the leaderboard to 60th. That’s just one round though and I have no issues with taking him here.
Cole is enjoying an excellent 2023 in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. A 15th-place finish at Pebble Beach back in February signalled what he could do and he followed that up with an excellent 2nd in the Honda Classic on his next start.
He suffered a lull thereafter but returned to form with a 5th in the Mexico Open at the end of April and has maintained a good level of form since. Cole has missed just one cut in his last nine starts and recorded five top 25s, including another top 10 when 6th in the Canadian Open.
His errant driving is a small concern here but Cole makes up for it in every other area. The short game is particularly strong, as he ranks 22nd in putting and 26th around-the-greens, whilst he’s also a strong 33rd in approach.
He may not have played here before but those two best efforts of the year – his 2nd in the Honda and 5th in Mexico – should serve Cole well and help him in acquiring some well-deserved silverware this week.
1 pt Lucas Glover each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 55/1
The switch to a long putter has helped Lucas Glover produce a strong run of recent form and if able to marry that with his usually strong ball-striking this week, he can improve on his strong debut 7th in 2019.
Glover had been largely out of form this year until turning his fortunes around with a 20th-place finish in Canada five starts ago. Though missing the cut on his following start in the Travelers Championship, he’s gone on to record three consecutive top 6s: 4th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, 6th in the John Deere Classic and was 5th last-time-out in the Barbasol Championship.
He’s been hitting the ball typically well, ranking 25th in approach – where he particularly excels between 150-200 yards, ranking 6th – and 51st off-the-tee this season. Though it’s been the putter which engineered those results at the Rocket Mortgage and John Deere.
He produced his two best putting performances of the year on those bentgrass surfaces, ranking 5th in Detroit and 15th at TPC Deere Run. Although he lost strokes at the Barbasol, that performance still rated as his fourth-best putting performance in his last eleven starts.
Ironically, Glover excelled on these greens when finishing 7th in 2019, ranking 7th. However he has missed his next two cuts in the event, at which he’s putted poorly both times.
Hopefully the new putter can see about a return to his putting stats in 2019 and with added encouragement found from his win at the John Deere Classic in 2021 – as well as multiple 4th-place finishes at the Honda Classic and top 10s at the Shriners – I’m confident in Glover’s chances of challenging this week.
1 pt Taylor Pendrith each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 60/1
Taylor Pendrith was well fancied last week before missing the cut at the Barracuda Championship. However he’d looked good on his two starts prior to that event and with him now producing some quality approach play to match his top-class driving, this course should be right up his street.
Two weeks ago at the Barbasol Championship, Pendrith finished 6th to record his best finish of 2023 so far. This following on directly from a 14th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which was his best finish of the year since he was 7th at Pebble Beach back in February.
Pendrith is currently going through his strongest patch of approach play this year, gaining strokes in each of his four starts prior to the Barracuda, whilst he’s a promising 35th in proximity from 150-200 yards. When combined with his driving ability, for which he ranks 38th off-the-tee and 22nd in driving distance, he fits the ball-striking profile for this week.
He hasn’t played here, though he has made the cut on each visit to the Honda Classic, Shriners Open and Fortinet Championship. Out to a tasty each-way price this week following last week’s missed cut, Pendrith looks good value for a positive debut effort in Minnesota.
1 pt Austin Eckroat each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 70/1
Austin Eckroat finished 10th in the US Open just four starts ago; a result that was possible thanks to an excellent tee-to-green performance, where he ranked 4th. He hasn’t quite hit the ball as well over his last three starts but results haven’t been too worrying and he can get back on track at a course on which he finished 16th on debut in 2021.
The former #11 amateur has really started to find his feet over the last couple months. He’s missed just one cut in his last ten starts and his form took a real leap forward with a close 2nd-place finish to Jason Day at the AT&T Byron Nelson. With two further top 25s – aside from his 10th in the US Open – on offer over his latest six starts, when 16th at Colonial and 24th in the Travelers Championship.
Eckroat is solid across the board but especially shines with the driver ranking 30th on tour this season, whilst his approach play had also looked excellent prior to his three most recent starts. An asset I’m hoping he can rediscover after a break last week.
In addition to that, his two best putting performances of the season both came on bentgrass, when ranking 1st at the Byron Nelson and 7th at the Travelers.
He also putted well here on that debut effort in 2021 and can improve on that performance this week, with his game now at a more consistently high level.
1 pt Kevin Yu each way (1/4 – 5 places) – 100/1
Kevin Yu has been one of the best drivers on tour during his debut season on the PGA Tour and with some positives on show since he returned from a four-month absence at the end of June, he can make a strong play for a first professional win this week.
Signs for the former #1 amateur had been very positive before his lengthy absence. He finished 3rd in the Bermuda Championship at the end of last year and was 7th at Pebble Beach earlier this year on his last start before he underwent surgery for a torn meniscus on his left knee.
He returned from surgery with a hugely encouraging 49th in the Travelers Championship around a month ago, sitting inside the top 10 after shooting -5 in round one. He then followed a missed cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic with a 6th at TPC Deere Run, before missing the cut in Scotland two weeks ago.
Yu was hitting the ball excellently before his surgery and though not quite managing to return to that level of approach he’s taken little time reproducing the driving quality he’s shown throughout this season. Where he ranks 3rd and is 16th in driving distance.
Further encouragement in regards to this week’s test is on offer with his ranking of 9th in proximity from 150-200 yards.
Yu is one of the most talented players in this field and if we can use his 6th in the John Deere as a guide, this supreme ball-striker should relish the setup at TPC Twin Cities this week.