3M Open to bring PGA's stars to Blaine

Birdies and train wrecks. Hollis Cavner has a vision for what he hopes the 3M Open will become after its inaugural year in Minnesota.

He wants a PGA Tour tournament that will bring birdies, thousands of golf fans, one of the strongest fields in golf and a big party over the week of the Fourth of July. Cavner already has playing commitments from Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and the current No. 1 player in the world, Brooks Koepka.

The most recent commitment: Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama. That’s five of the top 30 players in the current World Golf Rankings, including the No. 1 player in Koepka, coming to the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine to compete over the Fourth of July. The big name everyone wants to know about, of course, is Tiger Woods. We don’t know yet if he’ll be in Blaine, and we won’t know until closer to tournament time.

Minnesotans planning on spending the week at their cabins may want to alter their plans for a day or two and check out some of the best golfers in the world.

“A lot of chatter when we first announced this, you’ll never get a field. Nobody is going to come there and play, yadda yadda yadda. We’ve proved that wrong,” said Cavner, the 3M Open organizer and the mastermind previously behind the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour. “I mean [Phil] Mickelson and everybody else playing here, this field is better than 90 percent of fields on tour that have been around for a long time. We’ve got the stars, and we’ve got more coming. That’s what I’m excited about.”

It doesn’t get more Minnesota and golf than Tom Lehman and Tim Herron. Both were on hand Monday as 3M Open organizers hosted media day at TPC Twin Cities, giving local media a look at the course before next month’s tournament.

Herron, a Wayzata native, has been asked ever since he stepped foot on the PGA Tour 25 years ago about having a PGA Tour stop in Minnesota. It’s finally here, despite some limitations that Mother Nature gives the local golf season.

Herron couldn’t be more excited. He and Lehman will be among the field of players, Cavner said, with honorary exemptions.

“Fans are going to have fun with the group of characters that are coming. It’s going to be a fun week,” Herron said. “Fourth of July and a great field, I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Lehman, who has 35 professional wins under his belt and won the 1996 British Open, helped design TPC of the Twin Cities along with Arnold Palmer. Lehman oversaw changes to the golf course to make it tougher for the best players in the world coming to Blaine in July.

Those changes included adding some length, tightening fairways at longer distances, making the greens as fast as conditions will allow. The scores will still be low, but tournament officials wanted to mix giving the PGA pros a challenge with keeping the course playable for members.

TPC Twin Cities will play to a par-71 for the 3M Open.

“The nature of the course was always wide fairways, big greens, very forgiving. The average guy could come out here, spray it around a bit and still be in play,” Lehman said. “The greens are big enough to receive the shots and it was fun.”

The 3M Open, set for July 4-7, should have a competitive field annually with its slot on the schedule. It’s three weeks after the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California, and two weeks before the British Open. Many of the world’s top players will use tournaments like the 3M Open to get their game ready for the next major.

DeChambeau, currently No. 9 in the World Golf Rankings, has a close relationship with 3M and will be in Blaine next month. He was a fan for Team USA and was at Hazeltine National Golf Club when the Americans beat Team Europe.

He’s looking forward to being in Blaine in July.

“I’ve heard unbelievable things about the golf course. Just can’t wait to get up there and see the people again. They were great at Hazeltine and I’m looking forward to seeing how they are when I come back this year,” DeChambeau said Monday via conference call.

Cavner’s vision for the 3M Open is clear: He wants the biggest names in golf to play in Minnesota, and he wants a party. For the right price, fans can get tickets to see Zac Brown Band perform July 5, with a fireworks show to follow.

With a seven-year agreement in place for the 3M Open, it's one more way to showcase golf in Minnesota. In addition to hosting Ryder Cups and major championships, Hazeltine is hosting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in just a few short weeks, June 18-23.

Cavner’s hope is that the 3M Open becomes one of the top tournaments on the PGA Tour.

“This event will be one of the biggest events on the PGA Tour in the next five years. This becomes the event of the summer,” Cavner said. “This is not just about a golf tournament. This is a party.”