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PGA DFS Preview: 2021 3M Open

Hi RotoBallers! I'm Andy Lack and I'm very excited to be with you as a new member of the RB PGA team! In our ongoing attempt to expand and improve our PGA coverage, I will be dropping a 'Tournament Preview' every Monday morning.

I hope this preview will give you a head start on your 3M Open research and I'd also like to encourage you to check out my Pick The Pup podcast to hear more of my thoughts on TPC Twin Cities and this week's tournament. If you aren't already utilizing RotoBaller's amazing weekly PGA content, fix that right now by joining us this week and throughout the rest of the PGA Tour season.

Access to tons of RotoBaller's PGA content is COMPLETELY FREE but we also offer a PGA Premium subscription for those of you that want to take your game to the next level! You can sign up now using promo code: ANDY at checkout to receive a discount.


RotoBaller Weekly PGA Article Schedule


You can find out all you need to know about this week's layout with Josh Bennett's Course Breakdown (Premium) and learn which golfers have thrived at this course in the past with Joe Nicely's Horse For The Course.


We kick your DFS research into high gear with articles from Spencer Aguiar! Spencer will highlight his favorite DraftKings Plays of the week - an article that also includes his popular PGA DFS Rankings Wizard Model - and offer great tips with his Head-To-Head Betting Preview, while Joe Nicely drops some salary savers in his DraftKings Value Plays (Premium) article. We also have you FanDuel fans covered with free PGA DFS picks for every tournament.


Things start getting intense on Wednesday and we've got you covered! You can check out RotoBaller Staff One And Done selections and get inside the mind of our team with our PGA DFS Expert Roundtable (Premium). We also have two of the most popular articles in the PGA DFS industry with Spencer Aguiar's Vegas Report (Premium) and Joe Nicely's DraftKings Core Four (Premium). You can also check out Josh Bennett's DFS Cheat Sheet (Premium) for a quick cram session!


Tournament Overview

2021 3M Open

Recent Winners

  • 2020: Michael Thompson (-19)
  • 2019: Matthew Wolff (-21)

Event Details

  • Purse: $6,600,000 (1,188,000 to winner)
  • FedEx Cup Points: 500 (Winner)
  • Field: 156 Players

The PGA Tour travels to Blaine, Minnesota this week for the 3M Open, a relatively new addition to the PGA Tour schedule. From 1993 to 2018, the 3M Championship was a Champions Tour event. Under the same title sponsor, this tournament made its PGA Tour debut in 2019. While many of the world's best will opt to skip this event for a much needed breather after the Open Championship, there is still plenty to play for this week as we now enter crunch time in terms of qualifying and positioning for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

World number one, Dustin Johnson, who is coming off an impressive performance at the Open Championship, is certainly the biggest headliner. Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Cameron Davis, and 2019 3M Open winner, Matthew Wolff, highlight an intriguing crop of challengers. 2020 3M Open champion, Michael Thompson, will also return to defend his title.

While the lack of elite options this week may disappoint fantasy managers, I see opportunity! With so many lesser names in the field, the door is open for those who do the leg-work to really attack, as the general public is most likely to gravitate solely to the names they recognize. While there are only two years of PGA Tour data from TPC Twin Cities to draw upon, this course is not dissimilar from a number of other TPC properties we have had on the schedule for years. Let's get into the course breakdown, key statistics, and three players that are worthy of further attention.


Course Breakdown

TPC Twin Cities - Blaine, MN 

TPC Twin Cities was designed by the great Arnold Palmer in 2000. Tim Herron and Tom Lehman completed a renovation in 2018 for the specific purpose of catering more to PGA Tour play. Post renovation, the Palmer design now tips out to 7,413 yards and plays as a Par 71. Both the fairways and greens feature pure Bent-grass. Despite water coming into play on 14 holes, TPC Twin Cities has played as one of the easiest courses on Tour in both renditions.

There are many reasons why PGA Tour pros are able to go low here. First of all, the fairways, measuring 38-yards wides on average, are some of the widest on Tour. For context, Detroit Golf Club and Muirfield Village both feature 34-yard wide fairways on average, and those are considered extremely generous. Secondly, TPC courses are specifically commissioned by the PGA Tour for the direct purpose of allowing players to score. Most TPC properties feature a great deal of water, a variety of risk/reward holes, and birdie opportunities galore. There's a reason why the winning score at nearly all TPC courses, with TPC Sawgrass being the lone major outlier, falls somewhere between 15 and 25 under par. TPC Twin Cities is no different, and it feels most closely aligned with TPC Craig Ranch, TPC Deere Run, TPC Boston, and TPC Louisiana.

TPC courses tend to play on the softer side as well, thus enhancing a "target golf" feel to them. It does not come as a surprise that over the last two years, top-10 finishers at TPC Twin Cities have gained an average of 4.5 strokes on approach. For context, that is double what they have gained off the tee, and 22 times what they have gained around the green! I was unable to find any other course where there was such a stark difference between iron play and short game. Last year, Michael Thompson won this tournament by losing strokes off the tee and around the green, yet gaining 7.4 strokes on approach and 7.4 strokes putting. Four of the top ten players last year lost strokes around the green, and last year's leaders in around the green play finished 64th-MC-46th-53rd!

We can draw similar conclusions from 2019, where Matthew Wolff defeated Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa in a playoff. Any time Matthew Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau are at the top of the leaderboard, many immediately assume that the venue caters to prowess off the tee. While one can certainly bomb away at TPC Twin Cities, Matthew Wolff's victory had little to do with his driver, and everything to do with his irons. Wolff gained two strokes off the tee, and 9.5 strokes on approach. DeChambeau gained 3.3 strokes off the tee, and 4.3 strokes on approach. Morikawa gained 3.1 strokes off the tee, and 10.9 strokes on approach. Only three players in the top-30 lost strokes on approach in 2019. Only two players in the top-30 lost strokes on approach in 2020. In conclusion, look for iron play to lead the way for the third straight year at TPC Twin Cities.

In a vacuum, outside of elite approach players, I am also looking for those that can make birdies in bunches and are comfortable in easy scoring conditions. Bent-grass specialists ought to be right at home at TPC Twin Cities as well. Prior success on TPC courses is a bonus, but that, as well as course history, will not be enough to put me on or off a player this week. I would be remiss not to mention that I will be at least somewhat more weary of those who played all four days at the Open. I have little doubt that PGA Tour pros will be able to navigate a six-hour time difference and a quick turnaround, but it's certainly worth raising. Let's dig into the metrics!


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Key Statistics 

Outside of the obvious four major statistical categories (strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approach, strokes gained around the green, and strokes gained putting), here are a few ancillary statistics that should prove pivotal, as well as the top-5 players in the field in these metrics over their last 24 rounds.

  1. Birdies or Better Gained 
    1. Bubba Watson
    2. Patton Kizzire
    3. Seamus Power
    4. Hank Lebioda
    5. Dustin Johnson
  2. Opportunities Gained 
    1. Kyle Stanley
    2. Emiliano Grillo
    3. Stewart Cink
    4. Patton Kizzire
    5. Keegan Bradley
  3. Weighted Proximity 175 yards plus
    1. Doug Ghim
    2. Kyle Stanley
    3. Cameron Champ
    4. Cameron Davis
    5. Matthew NeSmith
  4. Average Strokes Gained per Round (Easy Scoring Conditions)
    1. Dustin Johnson
    2. Patton Kizzire
    3. Jhonattan Vegas
    4. Cam Davis
    5. Bubba Watson
  5. Strokes Gained Putting: Bent-grass Greens
    1. Cameron Tringale
    2. Brendon Todd
    3. Patton Kizzire
    4. Kristoffer Ventura
    5. Johnson Wagner

While those five statistics are a great place to start, I am also looking at strokes gained: par fives, greens in regulation gained, driving distance, and strokes gained ball-striking on courses over 7,400 yards.


Players To Target

High-Price Tier

Bubba Watson

While my assumption is that Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, and Matthew Wolff will be the highest priced golfers on the slate, I have my concerns about all of those players. I would rather pick up some savings and go to the number one in player in this field in birdies or better gained over his last 24 rounds, Bubba Watson. The 12-time PGA Tour winner is quietly in the midst of a really nice run of golf. Watson has made seven cuts in a row, and he has four top-20s during that time-span, including a 19th at the Travelers Championship where he contended, and a 6th at the Rocket Mortgage. He chose to skip the Open Championship despite qualifying, so he should be extremely well-rested and ready to go on a golf course that suits his game to a tee.

While many think to play Watson on classical golf courses such as Riviera and Augusta, he also does some of his best work on TPC properties as well. The Florida native has multiple wins and runner-up finishes at TPC River Highlands and TPC Scottsdale. It's also worth mentioning that over his last 24 rounds, Watson ranks 4th in this field in average strokes gained per round in easy scoring conditions. Even more-so than the course fit, the main sell for me on Watson is his recent ball-striking numbers. The off the tee game remains elite, as the two-time major champion has gained over two strokes off the tee in six straights starts. Yet the improvement with his irons is what really caught my eye. Watson gained 5.3 strokes on approach in his most recent start at the Rocket Mortgage, good for his best iron week since the CJ Cup in October. This feels like the perfect spot for the University of Georgia product to pick up win number thirteen.


Mid-Price Tier

Doug Ghim 

I tend to proceed with caution when it comes to Doug Ghim due to his faulty putter, but if there is ever a spot to play the highly touted amateur from Illinois, this has to be it. Iron play has proven to be the number one indicator of success at TPC Twin Cities by a healthy margin, and over his last 36 rounds, Ghim ranks fourth in strokes gained approach, first in proximity from 175-200 yards, ninth in opportunities gained, and first in greens in regulation gained.

The University of Texas product just gained 7.7 strokes on approach in his last start, good for his best iron week ever by a full two and a half strokes. Ghim might be reaching a new level with his irons right before our eyes. Even if that is wishful thinking and the approach game regresses, his off the tee play has been improving as well. At the John Deere Classic, Ghim had his best off the tee week since the Valero Texas Open in April. As is always the case with Ghim, the putter is hit or miss. Yet we've seen Matthew Wolff win this tournament by going nuclear on approach and putting just above field average. That feels like a worthy game-plan for Ghim to follow this week.


Value-Price Tier

Russell Knox 

Sticking with my theme of an incredible approach players, Russell Knox is one of the best there is that category. Over his last 36 rounds, the Jacksonville State product ranks seventh in strokes gained approach, 32nd in proximity from 175-200 yards, 12th in opportunities gained, and fourth in greens in regulation gained. The ball-striking extraordinaire is on a current run where he has gained strokes on approach in 11 of his last 12 starts.

While Knox is coming off a missed cut at the Barbasol, he lost 3.9 strokes putting and 1.5 strokes around the green, while the approach play remained top-notch. As is always the case with the two-time PGA Tour winner, the putter comes and goes. With that being said, when Knox does gain strokes putting, he tends to pop. Similar to Ghim, if there is any course where Knox can get away with a faulty putter, TPC Twin Cities fits the bill. Knox ranks 12th in this entire field in strokes gained ball-striking on courses measuring over 7,400 yards, and he has won before at TPC River Highlands. Knox should be more than comfortable on another TPC property that accentuates iron play. I'm willing to take my chances with the putter.


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Our very own Joe Nicely recently took down a big DraftKings DFS tournament for the Travelers Championship. And as an encore, RotoBaller subscriber @tenndolly2 won $100K on FanDuel with the help of Joe and the rest of our Premium PGA team: Between all the incredible Premium PGA DFS content and tools we put out each week, and our Premium Slack Community where we chat with our subscribers before lineups lock, RotoBaller PGA subscribers are armed with the tools, analysis, and advice to win big.

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