There are coronations, and then there are coronations. The inaugural edition of the 3M Open always will be remembered as the latter.
With his 26-foot eagle conversion on the final hole to win by one, Matthew Wolff simultaneously alerted the world that he was the real deal all the while cementing the tournament in PGA TOUR lore. It was just the third start in the professional career for the then-20-year-old with the funky but reliable action.
A field of 156 is assembled at TPC Twin Cities this week. It includes the defending champion. Wolff is one of 10 in play who competed in each of the first six tournaments since the season resumed. Continue reading below the projected contenders for more on how he got the job done (before the walk-off putt), how the course has changed (a little) since it made its TOUR debut and more.
POWER RANKINGS: 3M OPEN
Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson and Chris Kirk will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
By and large, if you want to make headlines faster, hit it far. There's a reason why there's the world's longest drivers have their own tour and television time instead of great iron players and putters. It's why Major League Baseball's All-Star Game festivities includes a Home Run Derby instead of a defensive skills challenge or contest to measure pitching accuracy and effectiveness. But to make a living, score.
Matthew Wolff turns head with his waggle and swing, but he's the complete player. He proved it in college and he put it on display en route to his breakthrough title at TPC Twin Cities a year ago. He ranked fifth in distance of all drives for the week and T31 in fairways hit (above the field average), but he also slotted sixth in greens in regulation (averaging 15 per round) and third in converting par breakers on those 60 chances.
Not all ball-striking performances are created alike, however. Consider that Kevin Streelman and Corey Conners co-led the field with 64 GIR, but they finished a respective T34 and T46 on the leaderboard because they didn't pay off those scoring opportunities. In contrast, Wolff paced the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green by capitalizing on his best holes. This is the scorer's profile. It's supported by his rank of T25 in bogey avoidance (with seven bogeys) for the week, unimpressive in a shootout during which he completed 72 holes in 21-under 263.
As indicated by a scoring average of 69.455 and a 36-hole cut at 3-under 139, Tom Lehman's sweeping course enhancements at TPC Twin Cities in advance of the 2019 3M Open were no match for the best players in the world. While the PGA TOUR Champions had their way with the track in Blaine, Minnesota, in the previous 18 years, even the unfamiliarity of the bentgrass greens averaging 6,500 square feet couldn't govern scoring in its TOUR debut.
Adjustment and adaptation are components of the way of life for touring professionals, so it wasn't surprising that the first field hit the ground running, but efforts have been made since to increase the challenge.
Fairways have been pinched on five holes, including the par-5 finisher measuring 596 yards, and bunkers on 10 holes had work done. Because the par-4 first hole is 10 yards shorter (it now tips at 416 yards) and the par-3 17th was reduced by 17 yards (now 202 yards), overall length of the par 71 is 7,431 yards. Overshadowed by its ease overall, the ninth and second holes at TPC Twin Cities ranked a respective 21st- and 41st-most difficult of 522 par 4s during the 2018-19 season.
Primary rough returns at a max height of three-and-a-half inches and the greens once again are prepped to run up to 12-and-a-feet on the Stimpmeter. Whether that speed will be typical is questionable. Daytime heating during the height of the summer means that rain and boomers cannot be ruled out throughout the tournament. Threats and winds will vary, but the constant will be the warm, muggy air. After a seasonable opening round, temperatures will exceed 90 degrees on the weekend.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.