Patrick Reusse
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The British Open ended on July 18 and the FedEx Cup playoffs start with the Northern Trust on Aug. 19. There are two PGA Tour events paying full purses during that 35-day gap.

The first is the current 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities. The second is the Wyndham Championship that runs Aug. 12-15 in Greensboro, N.C.

The other weeks are occupied in 2021 with the Olympic tournament in Tokyo and the WGC event in Memphis, sponsored by the tour's benefactor, FedEx.

It is summer, it is hot, the arms and legs are weary, and there was travel to-and-from the Open in Sandwich, England. The temptation to say "not this week" obviously was extra-strong for players of high profile and huge investment portfolios when it comes to a late-summer tour stop.

Still, the life that even a handful of big names can put into a tournament was demonstrated early on Friday afternoon in Blaine.

On Thursday, my look at the 3M Open's first round was on the Golf Channel for a couple of hours. There had been a two-hour lightning delay, which might have been the reason the galleries were minuscule.

"This isn't good for our reputation as a golf-watching hotbed," was my reaction.

There was good news at the top of the leaderboard for 3M as the sponsor, Hollis Cavner as the tournament's executive director, and others with a strong interest:

The 18-hole leaders were Rickie Fowler, very popular despite largely mediocre play in recent times, and Troy Merritt, former hoops standout at Spring Lake Park.

There were two featured groups for the first two rounds: Fowler, Tony Finau and Sergio Garcia; and Dustin Johnson with Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen.

The groups played back-to-back early Thursday morning, teeing off on No. 10. That put them on the first tee early in Friday's afternoon shift.

The driving range sits next to the first tee. The estimate here is 2,500 people were jammed into this area.

Bubba, DJ and Louie all received robust hoots of encouragement and then cheers. As did Finau and Garcia when they followed, but the largest numbers of fans seemed to be waiting for Rickie.

The kid with the flat hat and dashing wardrobe is now 32, known for his comically bad mustaches, and also for not winning a major.

What mattered is Fowler remains a known character for casual golf fans, and he was the player being discussed in the crowd below the first tee.

"Is that Rickie?" a young woman asked her companion.

"Not yet," he replied.

Soon, a young female voice from the other side of the tee box yelled, "Come on, Rickie," and other fans added an endorsement.

There was a cheer for a good drive and a louder one when Fowler made a birdie to get to 8 under. Rickie's gallery ran into several hundred fans that remained from DJ's company at the second tee.

Rickie, Finau and Sergio hit drives and started down the second fairway.

The fans followed behind the ropes, on a cart path, and the caravan of humanity went on for more than 100 yards. This was a dramatic demonstration as to why Cavner and others work so hard to get some "names" to show up at these events.

The 3M was upgraded from a senior event that started in 1993 (as the Burnet Classic) to this PGA tour event in 2019.

This was a substantial increase in the challenge. The course had to be toughened, the purse had to be raised (from $1.75 million in 2018 as a senior event, to $6.6 million this week) and preparations were required for 156 players rather than 81.

The first year was brilliant, with Cavner recruiting prospective phenoms Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland. Wolff outdueled Bryson DeChambeau and has returned twice.

Morikawa and Hovland have not returned, although two-time major champ Morikawa owes Cavner one for assisting his coming-out party.

Last year was the pandemic and a 3M Open without fans, and this time it's stuck between the British Open and the Olympics.

There are two obstacles that always will be lurking with a summer weekly event: stormy or stifling weather, and what "names'' can be at the forefront to create and put a buzz into the gallery.

The third 3M Open seemed to have that with Rickie's birdie at the first on Friday. And then he didn't make another one, shooting a two-over 73 and disappearing from the leaderboard at minus-5.

DJ quit after an opening 80 here in 2020 and missed the cut at even par on Friday. Oosthuizen moved to 6 under to lead the featured groups. Finau got to 3 under. Sergio and Bubba made the cut on the number at 2 under.

The leaders are Hadwin, Hoag, Reavie, Vegas, Sloan and Armour (Ryan, not a Tommy).

Rickie, where art thou? Please come back, Rickie.