3M Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
AFTER sitting on the sidelines for months, Tommy Fleetwood returns to competitive action at the 3M Open. The Englishman has had to self-isolate in the United States for two weeks and must be going stir crazy.
The last time he played on the PGA Tour was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which was won by countryman Tyrrell Hatton. And something very strange happened that week - Fleetwood missed the cut. He had gone 48 tournaments - and 33 on the PGA Tour - without missing the cut. “It was just a bad week,” Fleetwood said. “It was going to happen eventually. I was poor on all fronts. It is disappointing. You could say that after about 30 holes that was it done. And then you have lost any sort of momentum."
The pandemic meant that he had no chance to get his season back on track and he will be desperate to do so this week. Don’t expect too much of him though. The world No 12 is one of the most consistent players on the planet but he is certain to be ring rusty and will do well simply to survive all four rounds. However, you can be sure that he hasn’t travelled all that way just to make up the numbers.
When this tournament was staged for the first time last year it saw an extraordinary finish. Standing in the 18th fairway, a 20-year-old Matthew Wolff watched as Bryson DeChambeau stood over an eagle putt that would give him the lead.
DeChambeau holed the seven-footer and began to wildly celebrate what would have been his sixth PGA Tour success. But Wolff had other ideas. He took a deep breath, composed himself and striped his approach across the lake to the green. He knew exactly where he stood and what he had to do. He required a birdie to tie DeChambeau and an eagle to win.
It was a huge moment for the man with the idiosyncratic golf swing who was making only his third PGA Tour start as a professional, and fourth overall. “It was kind of a delay actually from the crowd roar to when I saw him throw the fist pump,” Wolff recalled later. “So, it was great playing by Bryson. He's obviously one of the best players in the world and he's proven himself. To be able to have a chance against him is awesome.
“But my mindset was kind of the same with that shot. I knew I was going to go for it… And when he did that, I kind of told myself and talked to Steve [Lohmeyer, his caddie], it would be pretty special to roll in an eagle putt of my own and finish this deal off on 18. Kind of that little adrenaline boost, I guess kind of motivated me.”
Lohmeyer told Wolff: “You’re the best long iron player here this week. Let’s show these people what you can do. We could see everything. It was actually really cool – we could see DeChambeau make it, and then I said, let’s just hit this golf shot.”
Wolff’s five iron came to rest against the collar of the green, 26 feet from the flag. He took his time reading the putt, asked Lohmeyer to confirm, took several deep breaths and watched in disbelief as the ball tracked towards the hole. And he began to celebrate even before it disappeared. Wolff stepped forward, pumped his fist and yelled: “Come on.” He had won his first PGA Tour title. To be honest, it hasn’t been the smoothest of rides since then.
He contended at the Rocket Mortgage Classic but this time came off second best to DeChambeau, who is giving this event a miss - and then he missed the cut the following week. And that has been the story for the young American. He hits the ball almost as far as DeChambeau but with a swing that possesses so many moving parts he would be the first to admit that he is never going to be able to play well week in, week out. But when he is good, he is really good and he will return to defend his title with some wonderful memories.
England’s Paul Casey has struggled this season but he remains a brilliant ball striker and you sense that he only needs one good week to get this back on track. This could be his week. And exactly the same applies to Brooks Koepka, whose battle to rediscover his best form is one of the great puzzles. He claims to be fully fit but there is clearly something missing from the American’s game and he is becoming increasingly frustrated at his lack of progress.
Once again, local charities will benefit from the this tournament, with funds going to local non-profit organisations which are focused on supporting people impacted by Covid-19. “Thanks to the support we receive from so many, the 3M Open Fund has this opportunity to partner with local organisations to assist others through awareness and financial means,” said Mike Welch, 3M Open tournament director. “One of 3M Open Fund’s primary goals is to make this community stronger and it is a mission our tournament staff takes seriously all year, not just for one week.”
The tournament will also run a social media campaign designed to honour essential workers. Participants are asked to recognise an essential worker in their life by posting a video to Twitter or Instagram, with the 3M Open Fund donating $3 for each post to a number of non-profit organisations.
Paul Casey. Looking to get his season going
Tommy Fleetwood. Desperate to shake off the ring rust
Matthew Wolff. Great memories
Paul Casey. They used to call him Popeye until DeChambeau came along
Tommy Fleetwood. Mr Consistency
Matthew Wolff. Hits the ball a mile
Brooks Koepka. Still looking to get his season on track
Dustin Johnson. A winner again
Bernd Wiesberger. Looking to kick on from last year, when he won three times
Tony Finau. In form
Harris English. Has played some good golf since the restart
Beau Hossler. Beautiful ball striker
Charles Howell III. The PGA Tour’s money-making machine
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