What’s in the water in pro golf?
A week after Brian Harman’s stunning six-stroke win at the Open Championship, fellow southerner Lee Hodges delivered one of the most lopsided wins of the year at the 3M Open, blowing away the field at TPC Twin Cities to win by seven strokes.
Hodges captured his first PGA Tour win at the 3M, securing not only a career-defining victory but also an invitation into next year’s Masters, the first trip to Augusta of his professional career. That news likely came as doubly exciting to back home at Canebrake Country Club in Athens, Ala., where more than 100 of Hodges’ friends and family members gathered to see their native son capture the most significant victory of his life to date.
“This has been a dream week,” he said. “I’ve got the best everybody and they work so hard. I couldn’t do it without them. Man, I’m just happy everybody’s here and everybody back home is going insane.”
The Winner: Lee Hodges, 24-under (seven-stroke victory)
How he did it: Perhaps the better question is, how couldn’t he do it? Hodges steamrolled the competition at TPC Twin Cities all week, going wire-to-wire in his victory, the first in 3M Open history. The closest anyone got to challenging him on Sunday was when JT Poston climbed within four strokes to get to 20 under par. Still, with Hodges at a healthy -24, there was never much to worry about.
He won by seven strokes, but that was as close as the tournament got at any point on Sunday afternoon. Not bad for a first-time winner sleeping on a 54-hole lead.
The contenders: Poston was closest of all, but a handful of other pros carded impressive performances — and fat paychecks — on Sunday afternoon. Martin Laird and Kevin Streelman fired mid-60s scores to find themselves at 17 under for the tournament and in a tie for third place, while Dylan Wu and Keith Mitchell left the weekend with top-10 finishes collected.
The payout: Signifcant for one Lee Hodges, who collects $1.4 million for winning at TPC Twin Cities. Prior to this weekend, Hodges had earned just $2.05 million for the season. Hodges also vaults himself safely into FedEx Cup Playoff territory, giving him access to the big-money events that will close out the season.
The Ryder Cup: U.S. hopeful Tony Finau boosts his candidacy with a T7 finish. Finau, who competed on the victorious U.S. squad at Whistling Straits in 2021, is hoping a hot streak into the FedEx Cup Playoffs could be enough to pus him into one of the final roster spots in a crowded U.S. picture. Justin Thomas, who is clinging to his Ryder Cup life in the midst of one of the coldest streaks of his pro career, missed the cut on Friday afternoon and will need a strong performance at next week’s Wyndham Championship to secure a spot just in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. From there, it’ll be an uphill climb for the Ryder Cup veteran to earn one of six captain’s selections by Zach Johnson.
What’s next: The final event of the 2023 PGA Tour regular season, the Wyndham Championship, before the attention shifts to the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.