SAN DIEGO – Always the chronic optimist, 3M Open boss Hollis Cavner can convince you that’s a summer’s breeze on a 21-below day.
But it didn’t take much selling before Masters champion and Ryder Cup enthusiast Patrick Reed committed early to play in the inaugural PGA Tour event on July 4 weekend in Blaine.
“Honestly, no,” Reed said.
Reed likes to play a busy schedule, one that takes him from last week’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego to Thursday’s opening round of a new European Tour event in Saudi Arabia.
Then there’s that bit of history with Minnesota and the 2016 Ryder Cup, when Reed went 3-1-1 in his first pro team event on American soil and beat European star Rory McIlroy in an epic Sunday singles match at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska.
“I thought it’d be awesome to go back with how much I loved being there in 2016,” Reed said Sunday at Torrey Pines. “I just thought it’d be awesome to support the area. It’s a fresh, new event and I just want to see what it’s like. The fans there were a blast and I can’t wait to get back and hope to get the fans riled up again.”
Ranked 15th in the world, Reed is the second PGA Tour star to commit to play at TPC Twin Cities, a course about which he knows little. Walking science experiment Bryson DeChambeau, ranked fifth, was the first. He committed partly because he wants to talk nanotechnology with 3M engineers.
Minnesota’s first PGA Tour event in 50 years comes late in a tour schedule that has been reshuffled and condensed to ensure the season-ending FedEx playoffs finish by Labor Day, the NFL season’s start.
That means the PGA Championship moves from August to May and the Players Championship returns to March. That also means the Players, the Masters and two World Golf Championships arrive in a two-month span. The PGA Tour returns to Minnesota three weeks after the U.S. Open and two weeks before the British Open.
Superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson say they will be even more selective with their schedule to preserve their aging bodies and maximize the four majors, which now will be played within little more than three months’ time. Mickelson last week skipped his hometown San Diego event for the first time in 29 years.
“There are going to be a lot of adjustments players make with their schedules, trying to figure out what the right balance is,” Woods said. “And I’m one of them.”
Cavner said he expects at least seven or eight of the world’s top 20 will commit to the 3M Open. That top-20 list includes Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth. Representatives from Cavner’s Pro Links Sports are recruiting almost weekly, including this week at the Phoenix Open, and Cavner will be at Pebble Beach next week to make his pitch.
“Everybody comes up and says hello on the range and wants you to consider playing in their tournament,” said McIlroy, ranked eighth. “That’s the same everywhere.”
McIlroy is one of many Europeans expected to head home by July 4 so they can prepare for the British Open. There’s a new event in Detroit the week before the 3M Open.
“Those ones, that’s a tough time of year,” McIlroy said. “You don’t want to head into links golf cold. Those are ones I really haven’t looked at, but maybe in the future. Next year is the Olympics and Ryder Cup, so it’s going to be like this going forward.”
No. 10-ranked Jason Day has one week open and is considering several other events as well. Young Xander Schauffele is ranked No. 7 and now can be selective. He doesn’t expect to play in Blaine. Formers Masters champ and Torrey Pines runner-up Adam Scott said for now, he isn’t considering the two new events.
“It’s very condensed, it’s tricky,” Scott said. “I have a fairly light schedule because of the way I prepare for majors. Now there’s very little gaps and that leaves not a lot of tournaments to play in.”
The X-factor is how many players enter to accumulate points and chase the fast-approaching FedEx Cup’s $10 million payday. Cavner plans special events — such as a Zac Brown Band concert and fireworks after Friday’s second round — to attract fans and players’ families alike on a holiday weekend.
Former Oklahoma State star Talor Gooch played himself into the next week’s tournament with a pair of top-four finishes the past two weeks and expects he will earn a guaranteed 3M Open spot.
“Anytime I get a chance to play, I’m going to play,” Gooch said. “It’ll be fun to be part of a new tournament.”
Reed considers himself something of a missionary, whether the destination is Minnesota or Saudi Arabia.
“Anytime there’s a new place, new venue, new country where you can go play and grow the game, it means a lot,” Reed said. “You try to make our sport more popular and bigger than it is already.”