3M Open will have fireworks for golf fans

Hollis Cavner made it clear well before the start of this week’s 3M Open: He wants “birdies, train wrecks and a few fireworks” at TPC Twin Cities.

Cavner is the man behind the inaugural annual PGA Tour event in Minnesota, which will be a staple in Blaine for at least seven years. Before that, Cavner was the organizer for the 3M Championship, the annual Champions Tour stop that started at Bunker Hills Golf Course in 1993 in Coon Rapids.

The big questions this year: Would top players commit? Would Minnesotans sacrifice part of their Fourth of July at the cabin to see some of the best players in the world in Blaine? If Wednesday’s 3M Open Pro-Am event and practice rounds are any indication, the new annual stop on the PGA Tour will become a staple of summer in Minnesota.

Two of the biggest names on tour, Phil Mickelson and No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka, were among the first players out on the course Wednesday morning. They weren’t alone. Thousands of golf fans were already on the course by the time they’re usually having a morning coffee or getting ready to head to the office.

Wednesday’s Pro-Am event also included Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald, and current Vikings’ players Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph.

“I can’t believe how many people are out on a Wednesday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, especially at 7 a.m. I think Fourth of July weekend, I’m sure a bunch of people got off work so I think it could be a perfectly-timed event,” Koepka said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of fans, great sporting town. It’ll be a fun week.”

The course, the Fourth of July holiday and the break before the British Open seems to be the perfect combination to get several of the world’s best players to TPC Twin Cities.

Mickelson arrived to Blaine on Monday. After dodging some weather, he got his first look at the course Tuesday and Wednesday. He likes what he sees.

“The course is spectacular, it’s in phenomenal shape. Fun to play, a lot of water but a lot of birdie opportunities and some really tough holes too so it’s got a really nice mix,” Mickelson said.

Just like Caver said, “birdies and train wrecks.” It will be quite the party this week in Blaine. Thursday’s fireworks will start bright and early with the first groups teeing off before 7 a.m. at TPC Twin Cities.

Cavner got commitments from nine of the top 32 players in the World Golf Rankings. The big names in the field include No. 1-ranked Koepka, No. 8-ranked Bryson DeChambeau, No. 17-ranked Tony Finau, No. 18-ranked Jason Day and one of the heroes of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, No. 23-ranked Patrick Reed. When they were asked why come to Minnesota, they name-dropped Cavner.

Plenty of big names to keep Minnesota golf fans entertained.

 “To have the PGA Tour in town and seeing Brooks and Phil, names like that, I think it’s exciting for them. I think there’s a lot of people here who haven’t had the opportunity to go obviously see some of these guys,” Day said. “This is going to be a good week, the weather is hopefully going to hold off and I think the fans are going to love it.”

Minnesota natives Tim Herron and Tom Lehman are also in the field with special exemptions. The field includes 24 players who have won tournaments in the past two PGA seasons.

For several PGA Tour players, this week’s 3M Open falls in line perfectly with their schedule to stay in playing shape for the British Open. It was one of the selling points for Cavner when he made his pitch to players. It’s on the back-end of the tournaments in the FedEx Cup, and it’s two weeks before the British Open, which this year is July 18-21 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

Many play this week, then take a few days off before heading across the pond for what’s now the final major of the year.

TPC Twin Cities will favor the longer hitter off the tee. It’ll play to about 7,500 yards with long approach shots into each of its par-5s. The par-5 18th hole could provide the most fireworks, demanding an accurate and long drive off the tee, then a long approach shot over water for those daring enough to go for it in two.

“That 18th hole is brutal. I think that ultimately sets up for a really good finish,” Day said. “If you can hold that green, there should be some fireworks coming down the stretch.”

The last time many of the top golfers in the world were in Minnesota? The 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

This week in Blaine may not have the same atmosphere. The Ryder Cup is impossible to match. But there will be birdies, there will be low scores and a few train wrecks. There will be fireworks both on the course and in the sky, and it’s exactly how Cavner wants it.