The PGA Tour heads north to Minnesota this week, where the 3M Open will welcome players for the second straight year. While many of the game’s biggest names are resting with a WGC and a major on deck, there’s still plenty of star power at TPC Twin Cities.
From the return of a notable European to the fates of two former world No. 1s, here are the burning questions to consider ahead of this week’s event outside Minneapolis:
How much rust did Tommy Fleetwood acquire in quarantine?
While many of the top players in the world have already made a handful of starts since the PGA Tour returned to action more than a month ago, Fleetwood has been laying low in the U.K. after previously stating that he didn’t plan to set up shop in the States for an extended period of time. His appearance this week serves as a logical chance to work out a few kinks with the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and PGA Championship both looming.
Fleetwood hasn’t played competitively since The Players was canceled after one round, and his last tournament result remains a missed cut at Bay Hill more than four months ago. But he hasn’t exactly neglected his clubs, as evidenced by a 64 he posted a few days ago at Shinnecock Hills during a friendly round with caddie Ian Finnis.
Fleetwood remains one of the best ball-strikers in the world, and against a weaker field he could easily shine. After taking a more cautious approach to return than some of his peers, the Englishman could benefit from a quick start out of the gates as he looks to round into form before the year’s first major.
Should anyone care about Dustin Johnson going 80-80?
Johnson certainly doesn’t. The former world No. 1 told reporters as much during a Tuesday press conference, chalking up last week’s rock-bottom performance at the Memorial as “a bit of a struggle for a lot of different reasons.” But he appears poised to bounce back quickly, and there’s reason to think he can do just that this week as the tournament betting favorite and highest-ranked player in the field.
Johnson won the Travelers Championship in his most recent start before last week’s sideways affair, and on three other occasions during his career he has won immediately following a missed cut. His lack of short-term memory when it comes to tournament results is the stuff of legend, and it’s a big reason why he’s one of the most prodigious winners currently competing on Tour.
When asked years ago how he switched from a draw to a fade, he declared simply, “I said, ‘I’m going to hit a fade, and I started hitting a fade.’” This week, when asked about a strategy for facing a course he’s never seen before, his reply was equally straightforward: “Just going out and playing it, really.”
By the time Johnson puts a tee in the ground on Thursday, his Memorial struggles will be a distant memory. So don’t be shocked if his turnaround is as quick and pronounced as last week’s surprising freefall.
Is Brooks Koepka’s knee injury (still) an issue?
It’s been months since Koepka has flashed a clean bill of health, and his results have dipped accordingly. Last week at the Memorial, where he scraped by the cut line only to finish near the bottom of the pack, he opened up to media that he had undergone yet another MRI on his troubled left knee, which he first had surgically repaired in August to treat an injury he re-aggravated three months later.
Koepka said that the latest MRI didn’t reveal any additional concerns, and he clarified this week that his issues were largely tied to the hilly terrain at Muirfield Village as his knee responded poorly when walking sharply downhill. Now almost a year removed from the initial procedure, the fact that Koepka is still getting checked and re-checked is an obvious red flag. So, too, is the fact that he has registered just one top-10 finish this season and is currently on the outside looking in with the playoffs just four weeks away.
Koepka told reporters this week that his knee felt as good as it has “in a really long time” during the final round at the Memorial, where he closed with an 80 amid difficult conditions. More struggles this week on a tamer layout against a weaker field will only rachet up the pressure heading into a pair of title defenses in Memphis and San Francisco.
Can Tony Finau rebound from a disappointing weekend?
Through two rounds at the Memorial, the tournament leader was turning heads with his distance off the tee – and Bryson DeChambeau was nowhere in sight. Instead it was Finau, partially inspired by DeChambeau’s recent gains, who had started to lift the lid on his compact swing and tap into some of the speed and distance gains that have been within reach for years but viewed too risky to implement.
The results came quickly for Finau, who took a share of the lead into the third round. But he struggled over the weekend amid more difficult conditions, highlighted by a front-nine 42 on Sunday, and ultimately finished alone in eighth place.
Finau’s chase for a second career Tour win has been well-documented, and it has featured a number of close calls that included a playoff loss earlier this year at TPC Scottsdale. His brush with contention last week was his first top-10 since that Phoenix runner-up, as the world No. 17 had otherwise been slow out of the gates since the Tour returned to action.
But this week he’s one of the headliners on a course that should play into his powerful arsenal, one where he carded four straight rounds in the 60s last year en route to a top-25 finish. Another similar result would help dissipate the pain of a rough weekend result, and it could give him another chance to put to bed any lingering questions as to when he’ll get his hands around trophy No. 2.