3M Open 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Is Bubba Watson a good bet to win this week at the 3M Open? Our Brian Mull thinks so.

The frenetic 11-month run of major championships has reached the end and we’re counting down the weeks in the PGA Tour 2020-21 regular season as the circuit goes north to Minnesota for the 3M Open.

The TPCcTwin Cities, a 7,431-yard, par 71, is the host for a solid 156-man field that will battle for a $6.6 million purse. There’s some meat on the layout with a pair of par 5s stretching longer than 590 yards potentially and a trio of par 3s that can play more than 200 yards.

A long driver (Matthew Wolff) won the first 3M Open and a great putter (Michael Thompson) won the second. Course history factored into the equation this week but to a lesser degree than usual because of the scarcity.

RELATED: 3M Open course preview of TPC Twin Cities | The Caddie Line homepage

Recent form makes more sense this time of year. By mid-July a player is either in a groove with his swing or he’s not and if the latter is the case it’s unlikely he’ll find it. Yet we’re banking on a handful of struggling pros to find just enough game this week to secure their playing privileges for the season ahead. Evaluate players ranked 115-140 for yourself and see if anyone is trending upward. Several are listed below. Regardless, the race to the top 125 is fun to follow once the proceedings reach this point in the summer.

We dug into the stats, looking for players who create birdie opportunities and thrive when the scoring is low. Wolff won at 21 under and Thompson was 19. Each outlasted a crowded leaderboard to claim the victory.

Putting well on bentgrass greens is important although also much less predictable. The players who create the most chances on approach and have the power to score on the long par 5s jumped in the model. Fairway finders of average length (i.e. Thompson) can fare well here too. Approach shots from 175 yards and longer must be precise.

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes and there’s a significant amount of aqua covering the property at TPC Twin Cities as well. Bob Dylan and Prince are probably the two most famous Minnesotans and both could pop up on my playlist anytime. Charles M. Schulz created Snoopy and Charlie Brown, which is more than most can say.

The Bargain Bin

  • Jason Dufner, Austin Eckroat, Roger Sloan, Kevin Tway, Vaughn Taylor

There’s sufficient value in the mid range on the main fantasy sites this week. Don’t get too top heavy with your roster. We’ve watched players like Kramer Hickok, Troy Merritt, Adam Schenk and Lucas Glover emerge from the pack in recent weeks, providing a boost to any roster.

As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

25. Kyle Stanley – Eventually everybody has to make some putts, even Kyle. He lost seven strokes on the greens at the John Deere and still finished T-41. It was his sixth consecutive week putting worse than the field average. This week, the streak ends and his excellent ballstriking shines (4.4 strokes gained on approach over the last 5 tournaments).

24. Bo Hoag – Sitting in the perilous No. 125 spot in the FedEx Cup standings but has his game trending upward as he returns to a course where he’s had success (T-12 last year). Gained 6.8, 2.4 and 6.2 strokes on approach in the last three tournaments.

23. Brandon Hagy – Struggled on Sunday at the John Deere but loves bentgrass greens. Strong record on easier layouts. T-6 and T-18 in his last two starts. Playing privileges for 2021-22 are secured (76th FEC standings). Bomber should enjoy the generous fairways.

22. Brian Stuard – Give him credit, he finds a way to maintain exempt status late each season, and a T-15 and T-8 in his last two starts propelled Stuard to 107th in the FEC standings, which my unofficial projections say he has enough points to make the playoffs. Good form and fit.

21. Ryan Moore – How bad was Moore’s season before he finished T-2 at the John Deere? It only pushed him to 137th in the FedEx standings. Still, that result, fueled by his best iron play of the season (4.1 strokes gained) had to boost his confidence. Former Ryder Cupper has gas in the tank.

20. Mito Pereira – In all honesty, the TPC Twin Cities should feel similar to the courses Pereira played on the Korn Ferry Tour the last two years. He’s a major talent and I like that he finished T-5 last week despite losing 0.2 shots on the greens. Solid candidate for top-20 plays, for those interested.

19. Patton Kizzire – Likes a good shootout (10th in SG:Total on easy courses) and leads the field in birdies or better gained over the last 36 rounds anywhere. After three missed cuts has rediscovered the touch with consecutive top 25s. Plenty of room off the tee should mitigate his occasional driving difficulty.

18. Joel Dahmen – Has made six of seven cuts since his win in Punta Cana, including last week at Royal St. George’s. Been consistent from tee-to-green and bentgrass gives him a chance to have a solid putting week.

17. Cameron Tringale – Since January he’s missed the cut in four tournaments and finished 32nd or better in everything else with six top 20s and a T-26 last week at the Open Championship. Pair that with a T-3 in this event last year and it’s clear why he’s loved in Vegas. He’s second in the field in SG: Putting on bentgrass (last 36 rounds.) and second in easy-course scoring.

16. Lanto Griffin – He’s top 10 in the field in proximity from 175-200 yards and 200 yards or more, the two top distances at TPC Twin Cities the last two years, per Fantasy National. Question whether he can make enough birdies (81st in BOB) but the rest in place. Finished T-33 at The Open.

15. Maverick McNealy – Just have a hunch he’s gonna win this season but there’s one course next month where I’ll love his chances better. Still, like a young Cam Davis, he’s coming. Torches easier courses, top 15 in SG: Putting on bentgrass and has finished 30th or better in his last four starts.

14. Cam Davis – Speaking of the Rocket Mortgage Classic champion, it’s time to hop back on the young Aussie’s support wagon. A bentgrass specialist who can use his power and soaring long irons to attack the two long par 5s at the TPC Twin Cities.

13. Gary Woodland – Like a masochist, I keep landing on Woodland’s name believing this will be the week he turns his season around. It’s been a disaster (127th in FEC standings) and he’s not in jeopardy of losing his status due to the U.S. Open victory. Still, he has to be motivated to get in on the playoff cash.

12. Hank Lebioda – Not many have played better over the last month or so (second in SG: Total over last 24 months) and has three consecutive top 10s as proof. Still a steal in the fantasy formats when considering those results.

11. Patrick Reed – Every time I slot Reed in the top three he performs terribly. I’m certain those two facts are unrelated. There’s a lot to like about Reed this week but two numbers cause me to yield: 105th in proximity from 175-200 and 88th from 200 plus. Also, he’s generally better on difficult courses rather than in shootouts.

10. Matthew Wolff – Has the best record of anyone in the field at TPC Twin Cities, winning two years ago and finishing T-12 in 2020. Stats are decent but let’s focus more on his talent and ability to shoot low numbers. He’s in the top tier price range and his recent form is wildly inconsistent. Good course fit as well.

9. Joseph Bramlett – Another guy we’re banking on to defy the recent trend and have at least a warm putter this week. The ballstriking numbers are borderline elite – 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds anywhere, 26th in Birdies or Better on easy courses and top 20 in the two key proximity ranges. Needs a good one (146th in FEC standings).

8. Keegan Bradley – A friend called him a plastic airplane because he’s the king of the models. That’s a bit harsh, but there’s no doubt his quality ballstriking lands him near the top of my metrics each week. Nobody has hit the ball better over the last 36 rounds. Few have putted worse on bentgrass (146th).

7. Stewart Cink – Had high hopes for Cink at Royal St. George’s and was nearly giddy after his opening 66 and somewhat distraught when he backed it up with 77. Worse than the field average in opportunities gained on easy courses of late but in the top 30 in every other key metric. Consider last Friday an outlier.

6. Luke List – He gained 10.1 strokes Tee-to-Green in a T-4 at the John Deere and 12.7 in a T-5 at the Barbasol and now comes to a course where he can bomb the par 5s and launch prodigious drives. Lost 2.3 strokes on the green last week and still cracked the top five, climbing to 89th in the FedEx Cup.

5. Dustin Johnson – He’s close. The season hasn’t gone as planned for the now former No. 1 player in the world but it looks and feels like another tear (perhaps in the playoffs) is within his grasp. Irons and putter have been inconsistent but the driver is dialed again. Has four top 25s in a row, including both Opens (T-8 last week).

4. Tony Finau – Finished T-3 here last year and T-23 the year before. The top 15 last week is a promising sign and while strokes gained data wasn’t available from The Open Championship, it’s fair to assume he bettered the field on approach. Putts his best on bentgrass. Only top 10s since March are in the Masters and PGA.

3. Emiliano Grillo – Enjoying his most consistent season because of immaculate ballstriking. But if you take him, understand he’s 139th in SG: Putting on bentgrass. We’re banking on his ability to create opportunities – seventh in Opportunities Gained, third in Birdies or Better Gained. T-3 a year ago.

2. Jhonattan Vegas – He’s playing terrific golf, landing in the top 11 three times in the last five outings. He gained at least two strokes off the tee in each of the six tournaments prior to John Deere.

1. Bubba Watson – Let’s go crazy. We’ve seen Bubba’s name on the leaderboard quite often in recent weeks. There was the horrible collapse outside the Insurance Capital of the World and the exciting Sunday money run in Motor City. He gained strokes on the greens in both tournaments. He’s gained at least two strokes off the tee in six consecutive events and the irons are trending upward (28th SG: Approach over last 28 rounds). Don’t think twice about Bubba, it’s alright.

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