Break out the red, white and birdies.
Following months of speculation and guessing, the PGA Tour on Tuesday officially released the 2018-19 wraparound schedule.
The inaugural 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine will be played July 4-7, taking over for the just-completed A Military Tribute at Greenbrier. That tournament, held in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., since 2012, will take next season off, then shift to the 2019-20 fall schedule.
A holiday date at an unfamiliar course two weeks before a major — in this case, next year’s British Open — coupled with Minnesotans accustomed to putting Blaine into the rearview mirror on the way Up North might seem like an unfortunate draw.
But Pro Links Sports executive director Hollis Cavner, who oversees the 3M Open and three other PGA Tour events, insists he’s been given a favorable spot on the PGA Tour calendar. He is far from worried about the holiday impact.
Quite the contrary.
“Not everybody owns a cabin, not everybody goes to the lake,” Cavner said. “The Cities are flooded on the Fourth [and] the bottom line is if you’re throwing a party, people are going to come out.”
Cavner said plans are already in the works for Minnesota’s first PGA Tour event in 50 years to feature celebrity-filled pro-ams, a “massive” fireworks show and a “big, big act” in concert. More details are expected next month but for a barometer, Cavner brought in Toby Keith to perform at last year’s Valspar Championship.
“The whole event, it’s going to be a show,” Cavner said. “We take care of people. We’re going to give [the players] and their families what they want.”
The 3M Open falls in a favorable travel window for players between the U.S. Open and British Open: the week after the Tour’s new Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and before the John Deere Classic in southern Illinois.
“Most guys just want to go out and play,” said Troy Merritt, a Spring Lake Park graduate who has made 176 starts on the PGA Tour since 2010. “Players just really appreciate a well-run event with a lot of volunteers who like the game of golf.”
Midsummer PGA Tour dates rarely attract the most elite talent, but history shows it’s not going to be a no-name event, either.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were part of the Greenbrier’s first holiday field in 2012, though both missed the cut. Woods returned in 2015 while Mickelson, who is a Greenbrier spokesman, has been a mainstay. Major champions Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed have made regular appearances. Last week, eight of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings entered the field: Watson (12) Mickelson (20), Simpson (21), Xander Schauffele (24), Brian Harman (26), Tony Finau (31), Kevin Kisner (33) and Russell Henley (46).
TPC Twin Cities, which will host the 26th and final 3M Championship on the Champions Tour next month, will look different for the 3M Open. Course co-designer Tom Lehman spent Monday in Blaine along with architects from the PGA Tour and Arnold Palmer Design Company planning how to lengthen and tighten the layout.
“As long as Tom tweaks it in a way where you can still hit a cut off the tee, I’ll be just fine,” Merritt joked.
The 3M Open is part of a larger PGA Tour schedule reconfiguration. Beginning next year, the Players Championship moves from May to March and the PGA Championship from August to May, giving golf one marquee event for five consecutive months: The Players, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the British Open.
The Tour also reduced the FedEx Cup playoffs from four events to three. That means the Tour Championship will be completed a week before Labor Day — and before the NFL season begins.