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Minnesota’s PGA Tour event, 3M Open, not among top tier of tournaments but Hollis Cavner remains optimistic

The second season of the LIV Golf tour opened in late February at the Mayakoba Resort in Mexico. This was also the LIV debut on The CW Network, which will be showing the final two rounds of what will be 14 of these 54-hole events.

The 26 metered markets produced an 0.2 rating and an estimated 291,000 viewers nationally for Sunday’s final round. The estimation for the Honda Classic, stuck between big events and with only three of the top 30 ranked players on the PGA Tour, was a subpar 2.38 million.

As much joy as many of us have taken in ridiculing LIV, with its financial backing from Saudi Arabia’s Private Investment Fund, this has to be admitted:

The PGA Tour has had to kowtow more than ever to its most prominent players to prevent more defections to the guaranteed piles of millions from the Saudis with endless wealth and human rights violations.

The PGA Tour opened the trap door with seven “designated” events on this year’s schedule of weekly tournaments. The top players agreed as a group to compete in these tournaments for much-elevated purses.

Three of these will have this special status for the foreseeable future: the Genesis at Riviera in L.A., the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill in Orlando, and then Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial in Ohio.

Four others were designated for 2023: Phoenix Open, Wells Fargo in Charlotte, Heritage at Hilton Head and the Travelers in Hartford, Conn.

The other designated events were majors, the Players, the Fed Ex playoffs, etc. — the events no one is going to avoid if he can help it.

Then came the information that was first leaked by Golfweek last month: The 2024 designated weekly events (an anticipated eight) would be with restricted fields — 70 to 78 players — and with no 36-hole cut and huge purses.

There was a definite LIV stench to that announcement. It also created this question: If the top 70 are going to play these events, plus the majors, Players, playoffs, etc., will all the remaining full-field tournaments wind up with the anonymous collection that fought it out at the Honda last month?

Or, to make it local: Is the 3M Open, now held in the last week of July at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, doomed to a leaderboard of interchangeable nobodies?

Hollis Cavner, CEO of Pro Links Sports and executive tournament director for the 3M, was asked precisely that.

“Kady Stoll from 3M and I just spent two days meeting with the Tour in the offices in Ponte Vedra [Fla.],” Cavner said. “There were so many rumors going around, I had the same thought that you’ve had.

“Then, we sat down for meetings with people from every area in the global offices — Kady asked a ton of questions from the sponsor’s perspective — and they explained it all to us.

“We came out of it feeling better … that come next year and in the future, this will be a good thing for the 3M. We come after the British Open, but that’s OK. We would love to stay right where we are on the schedule.”

One big change that should help the 3M starts this August. The field for the first of three FedEx playoff events has been cut from 125 players to 70.

With the 3M as the second-to-last event before the start of the playoffs, there should be more players of whom golf fans can say, “I’ve heard of him” hunting points that week than when the playoffs admitted 125.

Cavner does have the “Honda” problem with a Pro Links event next week — the Valspar in the Tampa area. There have been four designated events (including the Players) in the five preceding weeks.

And what will be the last World Match Play is the following week in Austin, Texas.

“We’ve had to hustle, but we have Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Open champion, and Jordan [Spieth] … he said he’s going to play,” Cavner said.

As for the 3M, there is only one designated event and the British Open in a seven-week period surrounding it.

“The players wanting points — not only to get in the top 70, but trying to get in the top 20 where you really can have a chance to win the whole thing — will be playing in our tournament,” he said.

Hollis’ non-stop optimism was intoxicating for a minute there, and then I asked about his senior events — Pro Links will be expanding to five of those — and he said:

“Do you know who’s talking about playing the Champions Tour?”

Me: “Don’t tell me Tiger Woods.”

Hollis: “Tiger. He told Ernie [Els], ‘He’s going to kick his rear end, once he can ride in a cart.'”

You never quit, do you, Hollis? “I’m telling you … Tiger,” he said.

Source : StarTribune