We're back to more ordinary fare this week following the final major of the year - the 150th Open Championship - as the PGA Tour pitches up in Minnesota for the 3M Open.
The 3M Open is a relatively new event and this will be just the fourth edition.
TPC Three Cities, Blaine, Minnesota.
Par 71, 7, 431 yards
Stroke Index in 2021 - 70.44
The Arnold Palmer designed, TPC Three Cities, opened in 2000 and in addition to the first three renewals of this event, it was also the host course for the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour between 2001 and 2018.
Prior to the inaugural edition of this event in 2019, it was said of the course that "the former sod farm had been transformed into a rolling landscape featuring 27 bodies of water, restoring several natural wetlands while framing holes with stands of mature oak and spruce trees."
Kenny Perry won three of the last five editions of the 3M Championship, winning the final edition after shooting 60 in round two. David Frost won the 2010 edition by seven strokes with a 25-under-par total and three of the last five winners amassed a winning score of at least 20-under-par. And Champions Tour events are staged over just three rounds!
Since Perry's final win here, and prior to the inaugural staging of this event, the course was altered somewhat with Minnesota native, Tom Lehman, who also helped with the initial design, was brought in to oversee a toughening up of the track. Mature trees were planted, fairways were narrowed slightly, new tees were constructed, and the course was lengthened by 354 yards in total. It certainly made a bit of difference although the eventual winner, Matthew Wolff, still got to 21-under-par.
Further changes were made prior to the 2020 edition. Fairways were narrowed on five holes, including the par five 18th, and bunkers on 10 holes were reworked but it made very little difference to the scoring.
Michael Thompson won the 2020 edition with a 19-under-par total, although it does appear to be playing slightly tougher year on year. Cameron Champ won last year's renewal by two strokes in 15-under-par.
The average sized Bentgrass greens have been set at 12.5 on the Stimpmeter for each of the first three renewals.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Red button coverage starts at 12:45 on Thursday with the full coverage beginning at 20:00 UK time.
First three winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2019 - Matthew Wolff -21 220.0219/1
2020 - Michael Thompson -19 230.0229/1
2021 - Cameron Champ @ 120.0119/1
What Will it Take to Win the 3M Open?
We've only had three renewals so we probably shouldn't get too hung up on the stats but it looks like accurate approach play is the key to playing well here.
Last year's winner, Cameron Champ, is a big hitter but he reigned it in a bit, ranking only eighth for Driving Distance and the first two winners only ranked 36th and 46th for DD. And the 2020 runner-up, Adam Long, only ranked 60th so although fairly-big hitters occupied the first three places three years ago (Matthew Wolff, Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa), length off the tee certainly doesn't appear vital.
Nobody inside the top-six three years ago ranked any better than 22nd for Driving Accuracy, the first and second ranked 22nd and 29th in 2020 and last year's top-five ranked 49th, t30th, t30th, 63rd and 22nd for DA so arrow-straight driving isn't essential either.
The first two winners, however, ranked sixth and third for Greens In Regulation and second and fourth for Strokes Gained Approach and although Champ only ranked 22nd for GIR and 19th for Strokes Gained Approach 12 months ago, Louis Oosthuizen, who finished tied for second, ranked first and second for those two stats.
Champ and Thompson both putted superbly, leading the field for Strokes Gained Putting but the inaugural winner, Wolff, only ranked 39th for STGP in 2019. He won because he gave himself so many chances.
Is There an Angle In?
After the first renewal of this event, and the 2020 edition of another new event, the Rocket Mortgage Classic, it looked like the two correlated brilliantly.
The 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic, played at Detroit Golf Club, was won by DeChambeau, who managed to catch and pass third round leader, Wolff (the pair had finished first and second here in 2019).
In addition to those two, Canada's Adam Hadwin was fourth in Detroit in 2020, as well as fourth in this event three years ago and Troy Merritt finished tied for eighth. He was tied seventh here three years ago and he led after round one 12 months ago.
I'm not convinced it's as strong a correlation as it first appeared but a few players have boosted the link since. Alex Noren, Max Homa, Cameron Tringale and Richy Werenski finished tied for third here in 2020 and they all contended in Detroit last year, as did Troy Merritt again.
Noren finished tied for fourth at the Rocket Mortgage, Homa finished tied for 25th but sat third and one off the lead at halfway, Werenski finished alongside Homa having sat only two adrift at halfway and Tringale finished well in Detroit to finished tied for 14th. And he led here again last year through three rounds but finished 16th!
Merritt eventually lost a protracted playoff to Cam Davies in last year's Rocket Mortgage and Davis had finished 12th here last year after a run of four missed cuts.
It doesn't look the robust correlation it appeared to be early on but it's something to consider perhaps.
Swerve the Open contenders and get with the Bubble Boys
Now that the majors are all done and dusted, the FedEx Cup Series is looming large and everyone's jockeying for position ahead of the opening event - the FedEx St Jude Championship - in less than a month's time.
Only the top-125 on the Fed-Ex Cup standings make it to the event so anyone in and around the 125 mark may well play better than they have for some time.
Conversely, those that contended in last week's Open Championship at St Andrews could well be jaded and they might struggle to lift themselves for what's just a run of the mill event. Especially if they've already secured enough Fed-Ex Cup points to guarantee a place in the playoffs.
For the fourth week in-a-row, if we disregard the Open and the Scottish Open, the PGA Tour is taking in a low scoring tournament on bentgrass greens so form at the aforementioned Rocket Mortgage and/or any of the last three events - the John Deere Classic, the Barbasol Championship and last week's Barracuda Championship - is well worth consideration.
I'd favour an outsider that's been creeping into form in the States over the last few weeks over one of the bigger names returning from Blighty.
Cameron Champ won at a big price last year having finished 11th in the John Deere Classic in his penultimate start and that's the sort of thing to be looking for.
The first three winners of this tournament have been huge outsiders and a fourth cannot be ruled out.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2019 - Matthew Wolff - tied for the lead 8.88/1
2020 - Michael Thompson - tied for the lead 4.84/1
2021 - Cameron Champ - tied 4th, trailing by two 17.016/1
We witnessed all sorts of shenanigans at TPC Three Cities in 2019, with three players trading at odds-on, and it's testimony to Thompson's ice-cool finish in 2020 that we didn't see far more drama in the second renewal.
At one stage there were 22 players within four of the lead and the eventual second, pre-event 1000.0 shot, Adam Long, managed to tie for the lead when posting 17-under-par, having made the cut on the number and having sat tied for 51st at halfway.
It was a similar story in 2019 when Wolff was able to win from off the pace. He trailed by seven in a tie for 49th after round one and he was eight adrift in a tie for 35th at halfway, so we know it's possible to win from off the pace. Wolff went on to win by one after firing 62-65 over the weekend.
Champ was matched in-running at 700.0699/1 on Thursday last year and he ended the first round five off the lead in a tie for 38th. He was still four adrift at halfway (T19) and two off the lead with a round to go but he was the only man to trade at odds-on and he would comfortably by two.
Despite Champ's serene passage to the title 12 months ago, this is an ideal course set up for late drama and it should be a fantastic event for trading on a Sunday. Although Champ only trailed by two and the first two winners have been leading with a round to go, it's clearly somewhere you can come with a late rattle.
With course form figures reading 23-3-28, world number 17, Tony Finau 13.012/1, is a very obvious and deserving favourite.
Having finished fourth in the Charles Schwab Challenge at the end of May, Finau finished second to Rory McIlroy in the Canadian Open in June and following a missed cut at the US Open, he's since finished 13th in the Travelers Championship and 28th at the Open Championship on Sunday, where he finished the week in style with a six-under-par 66.
This is Hideki Matsuyama's 17.016/1 first visit to TPC Three Cities since he finished seventh on debut in the inaugural edition in 2019.
Having finished third at the Byron Nelson Championship and fourth in the US Open, Matsuyama had looked ready to get go in again after his victory in the Sony Open back in January but he endured a poor visit to Scotland.
He missed the cut in the Scottish Open and finished only 68th in the Open Championship, although he too signed off with a nice round on Sunday. A five-under-par 67.
Sungjae Im 19.018/1 hasn't been at his best since finishing eighth in the US Masters and his tenth-placed finish in the Memorial Tournament in June is the highlight of a disappointing summer, so he makes little appeal. Like Matsuyama, Im hasn't played here since the inaugural edition when he finished tied for 15th.
Cameron Champ has the ability to pop into form out of the blue and he can deliver the goods when he does so I was happy to play him at 70.069/1 and I've taken a chance on two at even bigger odds - Troy Merritt and Patton Kizzire.
Merritt played quite nicely at the Scottish Open last time out, climbing up into the top-30 having sat tied for 112th after round one and he likes it here.
In addition to finishing seventh on debut in 2019, he led after round one 12 months ago, before losing his way to finish 39th and Merritt was an unlucky loser at next week's event, the Rocket Mortgage Classic, last year so it's not unusual to see him heat up in June.
Having made the cut in all three previous editions, Patton Kizzire will see this an opportunity to rise the rankings.
Currently sitting in 120th in the FedEx Cup standings, the two-time PGA Tour winner is in need of a good week, and it might just come here. He sat fourth after his very first round here - a six-under-par 65 in 2019 and he signed the tournament off with a 66 to finish 34th having missed his seven previous cuts so this is clearly somewhere he's found something before.
Cameron Champ @ 70.069/1
Troy Merritt @ 90.089/1
Patton Kizzire @ 150.0149/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter