PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. – Three weeks before a regular PGA Tour event returns to Minnesota, 3M Open executive director Hollis Cavner worked Pebble Beach’s gorgeous grounds Tuesday.
He hobnobbed with pro golf’s stars, their agents and caddies from the practice range to the players’ family dining room, as well as with young amateurs who might be the next generation’s famous names.
World 14th-ranked Tony Finau became the latest to commit to play July 4-7 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. By doing so, he joined a list that includes World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, major champions Jason Day and Patrick Reed and ninth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau, among many others.
Finau has won once on the PGA Tour — the 2016 Puerto Rico Open — but has top-10 finishes in all four majors. Included is a tie for fifth at this year’s Masters and a fifth outright at last year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
“Tony’s a great get,” Cavner said. “When you start talking top 15 in the world, that’s a great get.”
Cavner’s Pro Links Sports company operates five PGA Tour events, three Champions tour events and, lesser known, two college events from which he has given Oklahoma State teammates Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff and just-turned-pro Collin Morikawa from Cal Berkeley exemptions to play in Blaine.
Hovland is the 2018 U.S. Amateur champion, which was played at Pebble Beach, and he parlayed that title into a spot in the 119th U.S. Open that starts Thursday. He and Wolff will turn pro together at next week’s Travelers Championship. Morikawa did the same last week at the Canadian Open, where he finished tied for 14th.
Cavner also has former Illinois All-America Charlie Danielson — Osceola, Wisconsin’s own, who qualified to play his second U.S. Open this week — on his radar for the 3M Open field.
Cavner’s company has sponsored a college event in Augusta, Ga., the past 15 years and another in Florida for the past six. It has done so not to make money like its golf-event and hospitality businesses, but to make friends.
“It’s all about us getting to know the players early so they see you and get to know who you are,” Cavner said. “You’ve got to get to know these guys and become friends.”
Hovland won this year’s Ben Hogan Award — given to the nation’s top men’s college golfer — as a junior. Wolff, a sophomore, won this spring’s NCAA individual title with a quirky swing and powerful game that Cavner predicts “will move the needle” someday on the PGA Tour.
“He’s a phenomena,” Cavner said. “He hits it so hard, it’s ridiculous.”
Cavner calls his company’s college-golf events “recruiting,” but Hovland doesn’t consider it a hard sell.
“I just kind of reached out to see if they would have a spot for me,” said Hovland, a Norwegian who joins Spain’s Jon Rahm as the only Europeans to win the award. “And they got back to me not too long ago that they would like to do so. They didn’t really give an expression of them begging for me to come play, but they seemed happy about me coming over there.”
Cavner talked with Danielson on Monday morning at Pebble Beach about a possible spot in his field. Cavner said Tuesday that he’s “working hard” to get Danielson a spot, saying he’d be a “great” addition.
“He’s a great guy to know,” Danielson said. “Obviously, it’d be really cool to play so close to home. I’m not expecting anything. If things happen to turn out, that’s just the cherry on top.”
Cavner calls this inaugural 3M Open “our building year” and said the tournament will be in play next year for stars — Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler among them — who will be headed across the Atlantic toward the British Open before the 3M tees off on the Fourth of July.
Cavner arrived at Pebble Beach on Saturday and will leave Wednesday night. In between, he said hello to No. 25 Gary Woodland, No. 31 Kevin Na and held out hope of getting No. 20 Bubba Watson, No. 28 Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger. He’ll remain hopeful right up until June 28 — the deadline for players to commit — that Tiger Woods won’t take a month’s family break after this week and decide to play once before next month’s British Open instead.
“I’m thrilled with the field we have right now, especially with adding Finau,” Cavner said. “We’ll get some more players. We feel very good where we’re at. What I’d like to see now is a Sunday playoff between Finau and Brooks. That would be great.”