Could a poor showing at Open Championship lead these big-name players to 3M Open?

17 July 2023

The 3M Open has already put together a nice little list of names to highlight the field for next week’s PGA Tour stop in Blaine.

While it certainly won’t rival a major championship, elevated event or perhaps even the more deeply rooted other events armed with richer histories on tour, Minnesota’s premier golf event has players about which spectators can get excited to watch.

Already committed to play are cemented stars such as Tony Finau — the defending 3M Open champion — 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Sungjae Im.

There are local connections like former Minnesota state amateur champion Tom Hoge, Spring Lake Park grad Troy Merritt and sponsor’s exemptions in North Oaks native Frankie Capan III, Blake School product Derek Hitchner and young pro Thomas Lehman, the son of Alexandria native and major champion Tom Lehman.

There are rising stars ranging from Ludvig Aberg, a 23-year-old who is a strong candidate to be named to the European Ryder Cup team and logged a top-five finish at the John Deere Classic earlier this month, to Sam Bennett, who contended at The Masters as an amateur in April.

And there is still time for the field to add a little more intrigue. The deadline for players to commit to the event is Friday afternoon — after the conclusion of Round 2 at The Open Championship across the pond. What happens at Royal Liverpool over the first two days of competition could go a long way toward determining which other names decide to tee it up at TPC Twin Cities next week.

After The Open, there will be just two events remaining in the PGA Tour’s regular season — the 3M Open and the Wyndham Championship. After that, the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings will qualify for the three-event playoffs. After the first playoff event, the top 50 will move on to the second event, the BMW Championship. Those 50 players also automatically qualify for all of next season’s elevated events, which sport $20 million purses and are expected to be no-cut tournaments that guarantee payouts.

So playoff positioning has never been more important. And these bigger names could be more inclined to attempt to improve their standing if they don’t make fare well at The Open this week.

Justin Thomas

World Golf Ranking: 20th

FedExCup Ranking: 75th

Thomas is one of the faces of the PGA Tour, so there likely isn’t an event he wouldn’t get into regardless of his finish this season. The two-time major champion is a huge draw for any tournament he plays in.

But a player of Thomas’ caliber and notoriety would not want to end a forgettable season by missing the playoffs altogether. That probably was part of his motivation for making a trip to Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic last month.

Thomas has never been considered a strong links golfer, and didn’t perform at an elite level at last week’s Scottish Open. Similar struggles at The Open could lead to Thomas perhaps making his 3M Open debut in an effort to make a push for the top 70.

Shane Lowry

World Golf Ranking: 29th

FedExCup Ranking: 75th

The 2019 Open champion is always a threat to make some noise on links courses, so a high finish this week to push himself into the top 70 wouldn’t be a surprise.

Even if Lowry missed the 36-hole cut, it’s unlikely the European would rush back across the pond to play in the U.S. the following weekend. His game is generally well suited to succeed at the Wyndham. But perhaps wanting to avoid the pressure of a must-perform tournament in the final week of the regular season would cause the Irishman to change his travel plans and come to Minnesota.

Cameron Young

World Golf Ranking: 18th

FedExCup Ranking: 46th

Young is cemented in the top 70 and will be in the field for the initial playoff event. His spot in the subsequent top 50 is more tenuous.

Beyond that, Young’s recent lack of form — his recent top six at the John Deere was his first top-30 finish since The Masters — could push the 26-year-old to play in Blaine, where a few longer hitters have recently prospered, in an effort to generate some positive momentum ahead of the playoffs.

The 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year also didn’t play in the Scottish Open over the weekend, so it wouldn’t be too physically demanding to play the week after The Open.

Adam Scott

World Golf Ranking: 39th

FedExCup Ranking: 83rd

The Australian veteran has reached the playoffs in 14 straight seasons — but that was an easier feat to achieve prior to this year, when the top 125 players in the standings advanced to the postseason.

Scott has actually played well after a sluggish start to the season; he has three top 10s and four top 20s over his past seven starts. It might make sense to tee it up in Blaine in an effort to both maintain momentum and continue the 2013 Masters champion’s impressive playoff streak.

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