Golf’s global spotlight will shine on the Twin Cities in two years when the Ryder Cup comes to Hazeltine National. Later this summer fans will get a good tune up for overflowing galleries and the chance to see the world’s best, albeit from a different generation.

After “months and months and months” of calls and coercion from 3M Championship tournament director Hollis Cavner, he has landed the most significant draw of the event’s 21-year history.

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have agreed to join regular attendee Arnold Palmer at the 3M for the tournament within the tournament, the Greats of Golf challenge. The so-called ‘Big Three’ of golf will appear in the exhibition Aug. 2, teeing off after the final group of 3M Championship competitors in Saturday’s Round 2 at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

“We really loaded it up here this year with guys you don’t get to see a lot,” Cavner said. “It wasn’t easy but the fortunate part is all three are great guys, and we have relationships with them.

“I love the fact that 3M said, ‘Do what you have to do to get them here.’ ”

It will be Nicklaus’ debut at the 3M.

The three have played together in similar events the past two years as part of the Insperity Championship outside Houston. Joined by other Hall of Famers such as Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller, Cavner said galleries for this year’s event in early May were triple the number of previous years.

And it’s not just fans in on the fun.

“You don’t get the opportunity to get them all together in the same venue, and to see them all out playing on the golf course is really going to be something special,” said defending 3M Championship winner Tom Pernice, Jr., in town to promote the event Tuesday. “This is already one of the best events with the biggest crowds. To have Arnold, Jack and Gary — ageless at 70-whatever he is — is going to be exciting. Pretty spectacular.”

Annika Sorenstam will headline a group of women’s players in the Greats of Golf challenge for the second consecutive year. Admission is once again free for the entire week and the 54-hole tournament is expected to draw most of the biggest names on the PGA Champions Tour.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, who finished fourth at this year’s Masters then won his Champions Tour debut a week later, has agreed to play and two-time winner Bernhard Langer will be back after missing last year’s 3M while at his own event in Germany.

Cavner said he expects 29 of the top 30 players to attend despite the event again falling the week after the Senior British Open. Tom Watson, team captain for the USA in this fall’s Ryder Cup in Scotland, will miss the 3M while tending to duties overseas.

The 3M Championship is expected to move dates as early as next summer.

 

BRIAN STENSAAS