TEN PLAYERS ON THE FRINGE WHO COULD CONTEND
You know about Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, the guy they call Lefty and the other six major champions in this week’s 3M Open field. On Thursday, 156 golfers will tee off in the opening round and it’s a safe bet most fans expect, when the final putt drops Sunday afternoon, one of the marquee names will hoist the Waterford Crystal trophy. But as evidenced by world No. 353 Nate Lashley’s victory last week in Detroit, winners can come out of nowhere. Here are 10 unheralded names who might be worth a look at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. (WR = world ranking)
Age: 32 | WR: 205
Twice a runner-up on the PGA Tour. Shot a 6-under 64 and led after the first round of the Travelers Championship last month and was T11 after Round 1 last week.
Age: 24 | WR: 128
The PGA Tour’s average driving distance leader (317 yards) shot 28 on the front nine and grabbed a share of the second-round lead last week before cooling off on the weekend.
Age: 28 | WR: 95
Regained his tour card for this season after failed attempts in 2015 and 2017. Won his first PGA Tour event at the Wells Fargo Championship in May by three shots.
Age: 24 | World rank: 120
Made back-to-back U.S. Opens as a teenager, briefly holding the outright lead in 2012 at the Olympic Club. Is 11th on tour this season in strokes gained putting.
Age: 21 | WR: 283
The 2018 U.S. Amateur champion from Norway turned professional two weeks ago and has already cashed $156,435 in earnings. A 7-under 64 in the final round last week shot him up to T13.
Charles Howell III
Age: 40 | WR: 56
His win in November at the RSM Classic in Georgia broke a nearly 12-year victory drought on tour. Backed it up with seven top-20 finishes from December to March.
Age: 21 | WR: 64
He was the leading money winner last season on the Web.com (now Korn Ferry) Tour. Has six top-10 finishes this PGA Tour season and has nine rounds in the 60s since May 30.
Age: 35 | WR: 32
Three-time PGA Tour winner lacks length off the tee but has proved he can go low on gettable courses. He shot 8-under 62 in the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge in May, and won by four.
Age: 26 | WR: 281
The former top-ranked amateur notched an ace last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Easy to spot on the course; he’s a rare pro who opts not to wear a hat or visor.
Age: 26 | WR: 266
Austria-born and raised near the Georgia-Florida border, Straka is making a late-season push on his rookie year on tour. Shot 4-under 68 in the opening round of the U.S. Open and was T11 last week.