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Breezy Point

Local Golf
November 23, 2017

Blend Of Old And New Faces Headline The 2017 3M Championship
Steve Stricker
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Steve Stricker
Michelle McGann
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Michelle McGann
By Jim McNaney

The 2017 3M Championship Presented by Post-it Products will feature most of the familiar faces spectators are used to seeing, but a few newcomers also hope to crash the party and take home the trophy out at TPC Twin Cities the first week of August.

This year's field includes three newcomers to watch. PGA TOUR Champions rookies David Toms, Steve Flesch and Midwest fan favorite Steve Stricker all hope to be in the winner's circle come Sunday evening. Toms, known for years as one of golf's best putters is having a solid debut season. Currently sitting 26th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list, Toms has three top ten finishes in only 13 starts. Flesch is also enjoying his first go around on the Senior Circuit. He currently resides at 42nd on the Charles Schwab Cup list and has an impressive two top tens in only 10 starts.

Wisconsin native and fan favorite Steve Stricker is most certainly one rookie to pay attention to. Sitting in 19th on the Charles Schwab Cup list tells only part of the story. In only five starts in the PGA TOUR Champions, Stricker has amassed four top ten finishes. Perhaps more impressive is his continued success on the regular tour. In 11 starts with the "flat bellies," Stricker has two top 10 finishes. Like Toms, Stricker is known as one of the games best putters, but this year he currently ranks #1 on the PGA TOUR in Driving Accuracy; hitting almost 75% of his fairways. With a driver that accurate and a hot putter, look for him to make a serious charge for the title.

The theme of new and familiar faces continues with the 2017 Greats of Golf Challenge. Once again the Greats of Golf Challenge pits PGA and LPGA stars from the past in a scramble format following the official event tee times on Saturday afternoon. To qualify for this event, participants are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, have 20 or more career victories on the PGA and Champions TOUR or are former major champions. Michelle McGann makes her first appearance; however, perhaps the biggest draw from the LPGA greats, Annika Sorenstam will not be participating this year. World Golf Hall of Fame member Ben Crenshaw is making his second appearance in the fun-filled exhibition along with Hale Irwin, Former European Ryder Cup Captain Tony Jacklin, Tom Weiskopf and many others.

Undoubtedly the stars of the show; Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino all make their annual appearance in Minnesota. With the number of majors won by these three men, there is no question that they play this event to win. It has been close many times over the years so expect nothing less in this year's scramble.

Close victories have been a hallmark for this tournament over the event's 25-year history. This year's field should prove that 2017 will be no exception. Most of the top players are coming to Blaine including 11 of the top 15 currently leading the Schwab Cup. Featured in those are current #1 Bernhard Langer and current #3 Kenny Perry. Both are multiple winners of this event. Langer is coming into the event hot after taking the Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex to go along with his win at the Regions Tradition and the Senior PGA Championship earlier this season. The three PGA TOUR Champions Major victories this year makes Langer the only player other than Jack Nicklaus to win three PGA TOUR Champions Majors in a single season.

Perry also has a win earlier this year and four other top ten finishes in 13 events. Given that Perry is the only back-to-back winner the tournament has ever had, he is always a good bet to add to his trophy case.
Even though Perry is the event's only back-to-back winner, 2016 Joe Durant is having a solid campaign heading into Blaine. Currently sitting 13th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list, Durant is a streaky player. While he had a very difficult time in the 4th round of the Senior Open Championship, he tends to find his stride on the TPC Twin Cities course.

Perhaps the one guy to watch that generally comes in flying under the radar is Kevin Sutherland. It's odd that he comes in under the radar considering he is currently 8th on the Charles Schwab Cup list. Finishing T2 and T3 in 2015 and 2016 respectively, Sutherland certainly knows his way around the par 72 track.
Also competing is hometown favorite Tom Lehman. A winner earlier this year, Lehman has five top 10 finishes in only 10 events for 2017 and is sitting one spot behind Sutherland in 9th. Although he has never won this event, if healthy, look for Lehman to be in contention over the weekend.

The blend of new blood and tested veterans should ensure an exciting week at TPC Twin Cities. As in years past, admission is free for the grounds including the Greats of Golf Challenge Saturday afternoon. If you are planning on going on Sunday, set your plans to stay until the very end. The par 5, 18th has produced not only some of the greatest moments not in at the 3M Championship, but some of the best finishes of the season. The 2016 competition proved it again as Joe Durant won it in a playoff. Perhaps we will see that mix of familiar and fresh come down to the wire again this year.

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