Tony Finau stays fresh, Sungjae Im leads and Jeff Overton is welcomed back after a difficult 5-year absence
There was a distinct difference between the morning and afternoon waves Thursday at TPC Twin Cities. Ten of the 14 best first-round scores at the 3M Open came from the early wave, while only Tony Finau, Emiliano Grillo, Patton Kizzire and Robert Streb were able to crack that upper echelon in the afternoon, when the winds picked up.
Finau bogeyed the first hole with a three-putt and never looked back, putting on a clinic with his irons. He gained nearly four strokes on the field approaching the green, which is his recipe for success as he is notoriously balky with the putter.
It hasn’t manifested in a win just yet in 2022, but Finau has been in good form recently, with four top-15 finishes in his last eight starts. He’s also played the 3M Open each year since its inception in 2019, finishing no worse than T-28 and as high as T-3. He is once again very much in the mix after an opening 67. He trails leaders Sungjae Im and Scott Piercy by two.
Here are three more Day 1 takeaways from the 3M Open.
Sungjae's roller coaster year continues
It’s been a mixed bag this year for Sungjae Im; he’s got as many missed cuts as top-10s at four apiece. He’s played well on hard courses, not so well at places where lots of guys go low. After two straight missed cuts, he finished T-81 out of the 83 players that made the cut at the Open Championship last week. Thursday morning, he shot the round of the day and now co-leads a PGA Tour event.
You know, golf.
A different style player than Finau, Im rode a hot putter to an opening 65. He was the field leader in strokes gained/putting, picking up more than 4.6 over the course of his round.
His only hiccup came at the par-3 13th, his fourth of the day where a blocked tee shot left him in some juicy rough and he couldn’t get up and down. It was a small price to pay, however, as the rest of the day looked a little something like this.
Im’s second round starts Friday at 1:33 p.m. ET, this time on the first tee.
A welcome return
Jeff Overton hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since the 2017 Honda Classic. Until Thursday.
What happened in the five years between makes a simple start in a PGA Tour event nothing short of remarkable.
After his missed cut in February 2017, Overton underwent back surgery, which led to a spinal infection that jeopardized not only his golf career, but his life. It wasn’t until six months ago, he told Golf Channel, that he started swinging his driver. After walking 72 holes and playing pretty well at Valhalla during a practice session, Overton decided the time to return to professional golf was near.
As he tells it, that was supposed to be at the Korn Ferry Tour event this week, but thanks to a call last Sunday from the 3M Open’s tournament director, it’s coming at men's golf’s highest level.
Overton opened with a six-over 77, but that doesn’t much matter. It’s just nice to see the former Ryder Cupper back on the course. Boom, baby.
A dose of reality
Perhaps not a dose of reality for Mardy Fish, but for the tough guys on Twitter who think they could compete on a pro tour because they’re a “scratch golfer.” A professional tennis player himself, Fish once rose as high as seventh in the ATP rankings. Now that he’s done playing competitive tennis, he’s had plenty of time to focus on his golf game. And it’s certainly paying off.
Playing out of Bel-Air Country Club, Fish has worked his way down to an impressive +3.0 index. That was good enough for him to earn a sponsor’s exemption into the 3M Open in his hometown of Minneapolis this week. As it turns out, even a great golf game and a hometown advantage couldn’t help him in a PGA Tour event.
That’s an 81 on the card for Mr. Fish, who two weeks ago finished sixth at the American Century Championship. If that wasn’t enough evidence that Fish is no slouch, he’s also won the LPGA's Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions three times and the ClubCorp Classic once.
It’s just really, really hard to play well on the PGA Tour.