3M Open organizers have narrowed and lengthened — and thickened the rough, too — a TPC Twin Cities course that treated PGA Tour Champions players kindly these past two decades. They’ve built a tent city surrounding a remade, watery 18th finishing hole and elsewhere across the former sod farm in Blaine.
And they’ve persuaded world No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka and fellow major winners Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Patrick Reed, among many others, to RSVP to their invitation.
Now the party — thrown with food trucks, beer gardens and a Friday night Zac Brown Band concert at nearby National Sports Center stadium — is only seven days away, beginning on July 4th no less.
When the first ball is struck that holiday morning, an annual PGA Tour stop will have returned to Minnesota for the first time since Frank Beard won the 1969 Minnesota Golf Classic at Braemer in Edina.
“I was born in 1970,” four-time tour winner and Minnesotan Tim Herron said.
The U.S. Open and PGA Championship have visited Minnesota and Hazeltine National Golf Club twice each since then. The Ryder Cup arrived there in 2016 and is due back in 2028.
But a regular tour event hasn’t been held since before Herron was born. For some perspective, he’ll be eligible to join the PGA Tour Champions in February.
“Since I’ve been a kid, they’ve been talking about having a PGA Tour event in the state of Minnesota, a regular one,” Herron said. “Everyone has been asking me 25 years on tour why we don’t have an event in Minnesota. It’s usually either because of a corporate sponsor or a golf course to host it. I always came up with the excuse you only have five months of playing here and you’d have to shut down the golf course for more than a week.”
No more excuses for an event obligated to be played in Minnesota now for the next seven years. Both Herron and 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman — who supervised the TPC course changes made last fall — will play next week on a sponsor’s exemption to recognize their contributions to Minnesota golf. Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa — all college sensations recently turned pro — received one as well.
“Both ends of the spectrum,” Herron said. “Pretty cool.”
Between those two ends, world eighth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau last December was the first notable name to commit, partly because he wants to meet with 3M scientists. Reed, Day and Mickelson followed not long after, with Mickelson saying he wants to support a golf market that has always strongly supported its major championships.
Koepka has committed with a résumé that includes twice as many major championships won (four) to regular tour events (two). He leads a field that will be finalized Friday afternoon without April’s Masters champion Tiger Woods, who indicated he’ll take a month’s family break between this month’s U.S. Open and next month’s British Open.
World 16th-ranked Tony Finau committed two weeks ago. Raised in Utah but familiar with Minnesota, he calls the 3M Open the proper fit in his schedule, between last week’s Travelers Championship and the British Open in three weeks.
“It’s a great spot, I’ve been there many times,” Finau said. “I have a lot of relatives — some cousins, on my mother’s side — so when I visited them, I would play and practice there. I enjoy the area. I look forward to that one.”
Two players with Minnesota connections — former Spring Lake Park and Winona State golfer Troy Merritt and Fargo’s Tom Hoge, a two-time Minnesota State Amateur champ — played their way into the field.
Call it something of a home game for each.
“It has been a while since I played a tournament close to home,” said Hoge, a former TCU golfer who earlier this month was at Pebble Beach to play in his third U.S. Open. “Hopefully, I have a lot of people out there. It’ll be nice to be back in Minnesota.”
Hoge played TPC Twin Cities last summer before Lehman directed the course changes there.
“I heard they made some changes,” Hoge said. “I’m interested to see if they tighten it up a little bit. You’ve got to shoot some low scores, for sure.”