The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 04, 2019 1:00 am

Koepka headlines PGA's return to Minnesota

DAVE CAMPBELL | Associated Press

BLAINE, Minn. – The last gathering of the world's greatest golfers in Minnesota led to a truly seminal moment when the U.S. team recaptured the Ryder Cup for the first time in eight years in front of raucous galleries at Hazeltine National.

The big-hitting Brooks Koepka coolly won three of his four matches. Phil Mickelson leaped into the air after a birdie putt on the final hole of his singles match. Patrick Reed followed his clutch shots with fist pumps, arm waves and a hand cupped to his ear to cajole a home crowd hardly needing more encouragement.

“That atmosphere was so cool,” Koepka said.

Three years later, the stakes won't be nearly as high, the list of stars is a little shorter and the setting at the TPC Twin Cities will be a bit more subdued. But it is still a nice moment as the inaugural 3M Open this week marks the first regular PGA Tour stop in Minnesota since 1969.

“I have just a lot of fond memories here, and it fit really well into the schedule,” Mickelson said after playing in the pro-am Wednesday. “I'm looking to this tournament to get a little bit of momentum heading into the summer stretch.”

One of the first prominent players to commit to the 3M Open, Mickelson recalled his first experience in Minnesota as a 20-year-old amateur at the U.S. Open at Hazeltine in 1991. That course by famed designer Robert Trent Jones on rolling farmland in Chaska, about 25 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, also hosted the PGA Championship in 2002 and 2009 and then the Ryder Cup in 2016. Two weekends ago, the Women's PGA Championship was held there.

Koepka, the top-ranked player in the world, has been joined in the 156-man field by Bryson DeChambeau (eighth), Tony Finau (17th), Jason Day (18th), Reed (25th), Mickelson (28th) and Keegan Bradley (29th). The purse is $6.4 million, with the winner getting $1.152 million and 500 FedEx Cup points .

Koepka entered the week trailing Matt Kuchar by 89 points for first place in the FedEx Cup standings.

The 3M Open landed in the sweet spot between the U.S. Open and the British Open, an additional attraction for players eager to not only move up in the standings but to tackle a new set of tee boxes and pin placements. Nate Lashley, who won the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit last weekend, is among the participants.

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