|Superstars Make Their Debut In 2016|
By Jim McNaneyEach year the 3M Championship boasts one of the strongest fields of the entire PGA Tour Champions season. This year is no exception and the addition of several big names (really big) makes the 2016 edition can't miss viewing.
This year's debutants include colorful characters, Ryder Cup mainstays, multiple time PGA TOUR winners, Major Champions and even a well-known college coach. Jesper Parnevick, Craig Perry, Mike Springer, Mike Small, Jean Van de Velde, Brant Jobe, Miguel Angel Jimenez and John Daly are all first timers this year.
Taking His Game To The Next Level
One of the more interesting new comers is University of Illinois Head Golf Coach Mike Small. Small turned professional in 1990 and worked his way through the mini tours before landing on the PGA TOUR in 1995. After spending some time on the Nike Tour (now Web.com Tour), Small logged two wins at the 1997 Nike Monterey Open and the 1997 Nike Cleveland Open. Those wins earned him his PGA TOUR card again in 1998 where he had his best finish, a 9th place at the Bell Canadian Open.
Elected into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, Small has competed in three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships with his best finish a T69 at the 2011 PGA Championship.
In 2000, Small took on the role of Head Golf Coach at the University of Illinois. Since then, he has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year twice, the 2001-2002 and 2008-2009 seasons and has been named the Midwest Coach of the Year by the Golf Coaches Association five times. In 2013, Small guided the Illini to a 2nd place finish at the NCAA Finals.
Small has dominated the Illinois PGA Championship winning an astounding 10 times and the Illinois Open four times. But Small's biggest wins are arguably the three PGA Professional National Championships including back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010. Now Small brings his game back to the biggest stage.
More Than Just Colorful Clothes
One of the more interesting characters on the PGA Tour Champions is also making his first appearance at this year's 3M, Jesper Parnevik. Known for some unique dietary choices including a spoonful of volcano ash, Parnevik is a multiple European Ryder Cup team member in 1997, 1999 and 2002, winning twice in 1997 and 2002.
The colorful Swede, nicknamed the Spaceman, had notched 15 worldwide wins; five times on the PGA TOUR and four times on the European Tour. Already a winner in his PGA Tour Champions rookie season at the Insperity Invitational in May, Parnevik sits 16th on the yearlong Charles Schwab Cup points list. Known to casual observers for his fashion forward thinking and up-turned bill on his hat, other players know him for his tremendous ball striking abilities. Parnevik is surely one to watch in this year's event.
Another European Ryder Cup standout, Miguel Angel Jimenez is also making his first appearance at the 3M Championship. Along with Parnevik, Jimenez has a colorful personality and is widely known as "The Most Interesting Man in Golf." He became an Internet sensation with his unusual warm-up routine on the range that included hip gyrations and deep bends... all the while puffing away on his ever-present cigar.
Don't let all the extra Spanish spice and suave exterior fool you. Jimenez is a fierce competitor with amazing shot making abilities and incredible touch around the greens. Those skills have allowed him to amass 27 wouldwide professional wins including 21 times on the European Tour and three times already on the PGA Tour Champions. Currently Jimenez sits 6th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list.
Grip It And Rip It
That phrase can only be associated with one name in the golfing world... John Daly. The two-time Major winner is a rookie on the PGA Tour Champions and is making only his third start of the year in Blaine. While much has been written about Daly, some of it for not so pleasant on and off the course activity, there is no denying the talent Daly possesses.
His breakthrough win came 25 years ago when he amazingly got into the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick as the 9th alternate. Relying on his go-for-broke attitude and unbelievable length, Daly completed the most Cinderella of stories to take the Wannamaker Trophy. Daly backed up that feat by winning the Open Championship at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, in 1995. While his career has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, he has collected 20 worldwide professional wins including five times on the PGA TOUR and three times on the European Tour. In 1991 he was named the Rookie of the year and in 2004 was named the PGA TOUR Comeback Player of the Year.
Even with all the triumphs and tragedies, those that know Daly say his heart is bigger than his game and he is one of the most liked, most rooted for players by his peers. Never known as one to shun the fans, Daly spends hours signing autographs and interacting with the galleries. He is certain to draw large crowds as he makes his way around the TPC Twin Cities track.
And even at 50, he is still Long John Daly! Given his length and deft touch around the greens, look for Daly to contend at the 3M.
Locals Are Part Of A Strong Field
As in years past, native and transplanted Minnesotans also make their way to Blaine. Tom Lehman, Lee Janzen and Rocco Mediate are all in the field. Mediate and Lehman are both having solid years as they sit 11th and 12th respectively in the Schwab Cup race. Past champions like Tom Pernice, Jr., Jay Hass and current Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer all make return appearances and look to knock off two time defending champion Kenny Perry. Perry looks to add to history at the 3M attempting to be the first to win for his third consecutive year. Perry will have his work cut out for him this year as 24 of the top 25 on the Schwab Cup points list are all in the field.
No matter what your taste in golfers is, you're sure to find more than one group of players to follow. And if 2016 is anything like the last few years, it will come down to the pivotal 18th on Sunday. So be sure to not leave early and get ready to enjoy a wide ride at the 2016 3M Championship.
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