Minnesota’s biggest golf tournaments have produced an unusual assortment of champions.
Y.E. Yang and Rich Beem kept Hazeltine National from being associated with a Tiger Woods major championship, relegating Woods to second place at the PGAs held there in 2002 and 2009.
Patrick Reed became the surprise star of the Hazeltine Ryder Cup. Payne Stewart and Tony Jacklin won U.S. Opens at Hazeltine, and Bob Rosburg, Chick Harbert, Olin Dutra, Bobby Jones and Chick Evans won the previous majors in Minnesota. Of the lot, only Jones ranks as one of the greatest players in history.
When Hollis Cavner promoted the 3M Open and the return of the PGA Tour to our state, he generated excitement by landing Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau.
He wound up with 20-year-old Matthew Wolff playing in the final pairing with 22-year-old Collin Morikawa. Once again, Minnesota missed out on a big-name champion.
Cavner should be thrilled.
Casual fans who didn’t watch the 3M Open may see the final result and assume that they didn’t miss much. They would be wrong.
At 4 p.m. on Sunday, there were six players tied for the lead and 14 players within two shots of it.
DeChambeau rallied to birdie the 16th and eagle the 18th to get to 20 under. When DeChambeau’s eagle putt rolled in, Wolff and Morikawa watched from the fairway.
Both gave themselves eagle putts. Wolff rolled his in from the fringe of the rough. Morikawa barely missed his from the middle of the green.
Koepka or Mickelson winning might have stamped the tournament with legitimacy. Cavner should prefer what he got instead: a bond with two (or more) potential stars.
Both displayed rare talent and composure. With a chance to win for the first time on tour, Wolff shot a 31 on the back nine and Morikawa shot a 30. If Morikawa’s putt on 17 hadn’t lipped out, he and Wolff would have wound up in a playoff.
Asked what he’ll tell other players about the 3M Open, Morikawa said: “That Minnesota is awesome. I haven’t been out here for a while, but the tournament was run spectacularly, and this golf course was amazing, the conditions were fantastic. So I look forward to having it back out here and hopefully coming back.”
Wolff was asked the same question, along with this: Had he seen Cavner since he walked off the 18th green?
Before Wolff answered, Cavner, the relentlessly networking tournament director, popped into a side door in the interview tent, holding an amber liquid.
“I haven’t seen Hollis — he rushed off because he needed a Bud Light,” Wolff said. “Ah, there he is!
“This obviously is way more special with my first PGA Tour win. It’s something I’m never going to forget. That putt, I’m never going to forget. All the fans here have been exceptional.
“I played with a hometown guy, Tom Lehman, who’s one of the nicest guys on tour. You’d think there might be [favoritism] with him being in the group, but the fans were just unbelievable. The golf course was unbelievable.”
It’s not unusual for players to praise the local fans and venue, especially after they play well, but Wolff was right about TPC Twin Cities.
There was a fear that tour pros would turn it into a pitch-and-putt. A winning score of 21 under indicates there were birdies and eagles available; the struggles of the big names indicated that quality play was required to survive.
The par-5 18th hole, with a long second shot over water required to make eagle, held up as an ideal risk-reward closing act.
“This course suits my eye, but I just think it’s a good test of golf,’’ Wolff said. “It’s something that will reward you if you play well, but if you don’t it can humble you a little.”
The first 3M Open ended with two college kids putting for eagle and the title. Cavner should have been sipping that beer in celebration.
He just hired two pro bono ambassadors.