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New Twin Cities PGA Tour event going after golf's biggest names

BLAINE, Minn. -- The 3M Company and Pro Link Sports revealed the worst-kept secret in Minnesota golf on Monday with the official announcement that a PGA Tour event will be played at the TPC Twin Cities course in Blaine in 2019.

3M’s seven-year sponsorship deal with the PGA Tour means the 3M Open will be played in Minnesota at least through 2025.

The unanswered question is when exactly the first tournament would be conducted. Hollis Cavner, president of Pro Links Sports, which will run the event, and 3M officials said they have settled on a week for next summer, but no announcement will be made until the PGA Tour releases its full 2019 schedule on July 10.

Cavner would say only that the tournament will be played next June or July, and that, yes, he is happy with the event’s spot on the PGA Tour schedule — even if it is played the week before the U.S. Open in June or the week before the British Open in July.

Perhaps the bigger question is who will play in the 3M Open, and that is something Cavner already is working on.

He spent six days at last week’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., and when he wasn’t overseeing an event for the U.S. Golf Association, he was mingling with players and agents, slapping backs and recruiting talent. A handful of top players, including Rory McIlroy, congratulated Cavner on bringing a PGA Tour stop to the Twin Cities, and several who played in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine said they look forward to playing again in Minnesota.

Cavner already has multiple contacts with tour players and their agents; his company conducts three PGA Tour and three Champions Tour events on the 2018 schedule, and it is adding two more PGA Tour tournaments in 2019, the 3M Open and Houston’s new tournament on the fall schedule.

“We have a lot of relationships built up because of those events,” Cavner said Monday at the TPC Twin Cities.

He also recruits constantly at home in Jupiter, Fla., where he lives a few miles down the road from Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open on Sunday. Cavner is a member at Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, where Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and a handful of other PGA Tour stars hang out and play.

“It’s hard” to recruit top PGA Tour players for an event, Cavner said. “If you’re friends, it’s a lot easier.”

Cavner took over the struggling Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., just north of Tampa, and coaxed Tiger Woods into playing this year’s tournament in early March. Woods tied for second, his best PGA Tour finish in years, and raved about the event.

“Tiger doesn’t play a lot of events, but I think we would have a good shot at him,” Cavner said of bringing him back to Minnesota, where he played two PGA Championships at Hazeltine, finishing tied for fourth in 2002 and second in 2009. “You can bet this: We’ll be going after him.”

Cavner said meetings have been ongoing about how to toughen up the TPC Twin Cities for PGA Tour players, and work on course changes will begin in August, after the 26th and final Champions Tour event is played in the Twin Cities, the 3M Championship on Aug. 3-5 in Blaine.

Champions Tour players feasted on the TPC Twin Cities during its 17-year run at the course, with only one winning score coming in worse than 10 under par for 54 holes, and that was the first year, 2001, when Bruce Lietzke won at 9 under.

Alan Cull, director of golf at TPC Twin Cities, said the course never played at its toughest or longest for the world’s best 50-over golfers.

“There were years when the tournament was played the week after the Senior British Open and Hollis didn’t want to beat the players up here after they just got beat up in the British,” Cull said. “So we made things more playable for them.”

And shorter. Cull said the 3M Championship usually played the course at about 6,900 yards, not the 7,164 yards listed on the scorecard.

It will play between 7,400 and 7,600 yards for the PGA Tour event; plans are to add “six to 10” new tee boxes to add “300 to 600 yards” to the course over the next couple of years.

Cull insists the course will play tough enough with longer holes, tighter fairways, deeper rough and more penal sand traps. But, he added, “birdies are not a bad thing.”