Phil Mickelson to play in inaugural 3M Open in Blaine

By Jerry Zgoda Star Tribune

Congested, homebound and brought down by pneumonia, 3M Open boss Hollis Cavner sounded a shade below his normal, exuberant self Wednesday until someone mentioned the big news:

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson committed to play in the inaugural PGA Tour event at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine come July.

“That makes me feel better,” he said with an authentic laugh. “That makes me feel a lot better.”

Mickelson is the biggest commitment yet and, in terms of stirring fan interest, maybe the biggest there will be, depending on Tiger Woods’ plans. The list so far includes world fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau, defending Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day and 2017 Players champ Si Woo Kim, nearly four months before the July 4 first round.

If you wondered what kind of field a fledgling PGA Tour tournament will draw, on a summer holiday weekend, on a TPC course that senior players tore up more often than not, wonder no longer.

Cavner said many doubters did about what he promises will be the “biggest outdoor party you can have in Minnesota” complete with barbecue, concerts and fireworks.

“The names we already have and the names we have coming, we’re absolutely thrilled,” he said. “We had detractors saying we would not get a good field. They could be wrong, because they are. We’re going to have a great field.”

As did DeChambeau, Reed, Day and Woo Kim before him, Mickelson committed early to play the 3M Open as what Cavner called a “favor” to him and his Pro Links Sports event-management company so tickets can be sold and promotion plugged.

Mickelson did so partly because of his history with major championships and the Ryder Cup played in Minnesota that dates to his amateur days and partly his relationship with Cavner. Mickelson won last year’s World Golf Championship-Mexico that Cavner’s company operates, ending a five-year tour drought.

The determining factor, though: a scheduling slot three weeks after the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and two weeks before the British Open, which now is a newly condensed season’s final major. In a 3M Open news release that announced his decision, Mickelson said he was swayed by friendships he formed in Minnesota since he played at age 21 in the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine National Golf Club, his relationship with Cavner and what he called a “perfect slot” in his schedule.

“What matters most is whether it fits their schedule,” Cavner said. “Phil loves the date. It fits.”

Two recreational golfers stopped Cavner in the Atlanta airport before Christmas and posed a question Cavner has been asked more than any other since he secured Minnesota’s first PGA Tour stop in 50 years:

Can you get Phil?

The answer came Wednesday.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” 3M Open tournament director Peter Mele said.

The four other notable commitments so far all are young and accomplished, but none of them do what Cavner terms “move the needle” by selling tickets more than Mickelson.

Only one player does that more than Mickelson, and Woods often doesn’t determine his schedule until much nearer tournament time.

Cavner said “many” other top 20-ranked players have told him they intend to play, but most don’t finalize their schedules until two or three weeks before the event.

Neither Mickelson nor Woods has won a major championship since Mickelson outdueled Henrik Stenson at the unforgettable 2013 British Open. But they remain the biggest draws in a sport where major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are among the world’s top-four ranked players.

Mickelson turns 49 in June on Father’s Day, which also is the U.S. Open’s final round at Pebble Beach. His own national championship is the only major he hasn’t won.

At this PGA Tour season’s first event last fall, Mickelson said he’ll play a limited schedule in 2019 to prevent fatigue and counter a condensed new tour schedule.

“I love what I do,” he told reporters then. “But now, I’m going to play in the tournaments that I like, that are best for me, even if it doesn’t make sense or people have a problem with it. … There will be some that I miss that people will be upset about, but I’m not going to worry about it.”

The 156 players who compete the 3M Open field must enter by June 28 and can withdraw at any time.

More information about the 2019 3M Open: