The man who brought the PGA Tour back to the Twin Cities crossed his fingers and hoped the tournament would produce a mixture of “birdies and train wrecks.”
Executive director Hollis Cavner nearly got the mother of all train wrecks in the inaugural 3M Open.
Two of the biggest draws in the field and four major champions overall came within a whisker — or triple bogey, in this case — of not making it to the weekend.
Fan favorite Phil Mickelson missed the cut at 5 over. World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, No. 18-ranked Jason Day and major winners Lucas Glover and Jimmy Walker needed a late meltdown by one of the last golfers on the course Friday evening to survive.
The cut line was sitting at 4 under par when Cameron Davis stepped to his final hole, No. 9, at 5 under for the tournament. A bogey or better would have sent those at 3 under home, including all that star power mentioned above.
Davis triple-bogeyed the hole, lowering the cut line to 3 under.
Cavner probably did cartwheels all the way back to the clubhouse to pop a cork.
No Mickelson, Koepka or Day would have been a major buzzkill for this maiden tournament at TPC Twin Cities. Cavner could sleep a little better Friday night knowing two out of three ain’t bad.
The par-5 No. 18 hole fulfilled Cavner’s train wreck wish for Mickelson and Koepka in a span of 24 hours.
In Thursday’s first round, Mickelson went into the water twice for a triple-bogey. Almost to the exact minute a day later, Koepka hit his tee shot into the water, flubbed a shot from the rough and ended up with a triple bogey, as well.
Koepka characterized his second round 72 as “just rust” after hitting only five of 14 fairways, which ranked 150th out of 154 golfers.
TPC’s layout of nearly 7,500 yards favored Koepka’s supreme length, and you expected him and his bulging muscles to make mincemeat of the course. But he admitted Friday that he hadn’t done much of anything golf related since the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.
“If I go home and I get a week off, I don’t touch the clubs,” he said. “I guess you want the answer to why I don’t play well in regular tour events, if I’ve got a week off, I put the clubs up. I do my practicing this week.”
Give him a golf clap for honesty. Koepka’s career has rocketed to a level where he’s judged on how he performs at majors, not weekly tour events.
Many in the 3M field are grinding to keep their tour card or bolster their resume. Koepka operates in a different stratosphere. He’s using this event as a tune-up for the British Open in two weeks.
Koepka has won twice as many majors (four) as regular tour events (two) in his career, which has been a headscratcher, because a guy who dominates majors to the degree that he has in recent years should, in theory, also lap fields in smaller tournaments. Koepka said it’s a matter of priorities and peaking at the right time.
“That’s why I do so well in majors,” he said. “I’m playing two weeks in a row, so I get a good week’s worth of practice and then I’m ready to go.”
Koepka’s 67 in the first round left him in decent shape, but his adventure on No. 18 moved him to 1 under. (He played the back nine first on Friday.)
The 18th is 608 yards and includes a pond on the frontside of the green that was doubled in size to shrink the fairway in a redesign.
“That’s a great hole because if you hit the fairway, you can take it on,” said Charles Howell III, who eagled No. 18 on Friday. “If you miss the fairway, the whole hole can just be a mess.”
Koepka and Mickelson made a mess of it.
“I don’t know to say, I’m just struggling a little bit at the moment,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson stuck around and signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans for about 15 minutes after his round. As he noted, his stay was shorter than he wanted.
Koepka and Day were in danger of suffering that same fate until a late hiccup gave them a reprieve. And tournament organizers breathed a sigh of relief.