Rory Sabbatini drives on the second tee during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on June 30 (Carlos Osorio)
Rory Sabbatini drives on the second tee during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on June 30 (Carlos Osorio)|Associated Press

Golf Weekend - Kern Picks 3M Open; Favorites include Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Rory Sabbatini

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

Last week in Detroit we had two guys finish in the top five, Rory Sabbatini and Brandt Snedeker. Both at long odds. Yet neither threatened to leave with the trophy, as a guy who was ranked almost 400 in the world ran away and wrote a storybook ending. Some weeks, or even most weeks, it’s probably a good idea to hedge your win bets by also backing blokes to finish in the top five or 10. Not too much, but just enough to ease some of the sting of those close calls. Because all or nothing can be a tough way to go. Especially when it comes to a golf field. It’s often hard enough in a horse field. And there’s a lot less possibilities trying to handicap that sport.

Which brings us to the 3M Open in Minnesota, the first time that area has hosted a PGA Tour event in a half century. But the course they’re playing on − the TPC Twin Cities − has been the site of a Champions (formerly Seniors) Tour stop since 2001. Now it’s making its debut on the big show. Most of the so-called experts are predicting a birdie barrage. It’s the second leg of a three-pronged Midwest swing before the British Open, which this year will be the last major instead of the third.

The favorite is Brooks Koepka, at 7-1. He doesn’t win many non-majors, which is more than OK if you do happen to be winning most of the tournaments that define careers. Hideki Matsuyama is next, at 11. His problem has been the putter. Jason Day is also 11. He now has fellow Australian Stevie Williams, who won 13 majors with Tiger Woods, on his bag. Still, he hasn’t been in good form, as they say, lately. Bryson DeChambeau, at 16, is the only other player under 20. So that probably means there’s a whole bunch of value out there. You just have to find it.

Patrick Reed is 25, followed by Sabbatini, Tony Finau and Joaquin Nieman at 33. The other Rory has ended up in the top five in three of his last five starts. Nieman, the former No. 1 amateur on the planet, has just posted back-to-back top fives. Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore and Sungjae Im are all 40. Charles Howell III is 50, along with Scott Piercy.

The fellow I have in my yearlong pool that I have to pick before the season starts is Jason Dufner. He’s 75. So is Jimmy Walker, your 2016 PGA champion.

I don’t really have much of a feel in this one, but I have to at least give it my best shot, right? With that in mind, I’m taking Rory Sabbatini once again. At 33-1, with the way he’s been playing, it’s hard to pass up. That means he’s likely due to miss the cut. Still, I’m going to ride his hot play and hope maybe this time he can actually go all the way. As I said in the opening, it might be a good idea to put a little something on him to also finish in the top five or 10. Depends how good you’re feeling about his chances I guess.

I’m also going to take Joaquin Nieman, also at 33-1. I don’t know if he’s ready yet, but his last two efforts have been really promising. So why not? And for my third selection I will throw my money behind Hideki Matsuyama, at 11-1. There might be better values on the board, but you can’t totally shy away from the chalk all the time. And in my opinion he’s the best investment from among the top four. We shall find out. Let’s hope my instincts are right. I’ve had four winners so far, all at decent odds, and for the most part we’ve at least been in the ballpark. There’s nothing wrong with having something to root for on Sunday afternoon.

The Picks:
Rory Sabbatini (33-1)
Joaquin Nieman (33-1)
Hideki Matsuyama (11-1)

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