3M Open head river players leaving PGA Tour call Saudi Golf ‘a pain’

The boy with a quirky turn who made a name for himself three summers ago as the first winner of the 3M Open, will not be back in Blaine in 2022.

He may never participate in a PGA Tour event again.

On Monday, Matthew Wolff was among the last players to drop out of LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed big money league that has taken over the professional golf conversation. Wolff, 23, was added to this week’s $ 20 million LIV event at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon, the first to take place in the United States

“It’s life-changing money for these guys; I look at the guys who have taken it, and almost everyone. . . is at the end of his career or has never had a career and is in a way finished. ”

Hollis Cavner, 3M Open Director

Full of promises from Oklahoma State, Wolff and his fierce backstory rose to No. 12 on the world rankings in the heels of the 3M Open victory in 2019 and subsequent successes. But he soon began to disappear on the course, taking a 10-month break in 2021 to deal with his mental health. He shot 15 over through two rounds at the Masters in April, and his 40th place finish at last week’s Travelers Championship was his first in six weeks. He is currently No. 77 in the world.

“I’m disappointed Wolffie went that route,” 3M Opens CEO Hollis Cavner said Monday. “He’s struggling, let’s face it, and he decided to take the easy money and go instead of fighting through not playing well and things in that direction.

“It’s life-changing money for these guys; I look at the guys who’ve taken it, and almost everyone … is at the end of their career or has never had a career and is kind of done. I understand where they’re coming from, but I hate it. “

Wolff’s decision to join LIV Golf has long been rumored, and he is among the youngest PGA Tour players to leave. This week’s field at Pumpkin Ridge includes big winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson. All PGA Tour players who choose LIV events have been suspended by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. Some, like Johnson, have resigned. Others, like Mickelson, stand their ground.

At the other end of the spectrum are events like the $ 7.5 million 3M Open, which sees its field list damaged by LIV players no longer appearing on a weekly basis.

“The Saudi Golf League is a pain,” said Cavner, who also referred to it as “exhibition golf” and predicted its demise in two years. “We have lost some players to them, but we are going to win the long battle. After 30 years of this, I have the greatest confidence in the PGA Tour and what we have going on and how we handle it.”

A first field update released by the 3M Open on Monday names major winners Danny Willett, Jason Dufner and Lucas Glover in addition to 32 players with victories in the last two seasons such as Sungjae Im, Fargo’s Tom Hoge, Tony Finau and defending 3M winner Cameron Champ.

Brandon Matthews – known for thriving 350-yard rides on the Korn Ferry Tour – has accepted a sponsorship exemption along with former No. 1 amateur Cole Hammer (now professional) and Edina native Mardy Fish. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist, better known for his tennis skills, plays to a Handicap index of plus 2.8.

“We wanted to do something different. See how he would compete,” Cavner said. “He does not want to embarrass himself.”

Cavner suggested that a few more “top-20 player type” names could still commit to the 21-24 tournament. July, which in turn is held the week immediately after the British Open. As before, Cavner has chartered a transatlantic flight for players and spent last week in Connecticut freeing up at the Travelers Championship driving range.

The difference this year is the number of players who have decided to bypass the 3M Open and all other PGA Tour events.

“Do I agree with their business decision and life decision? No, I do not,” Cavner said. “But I’m not going to treat them differently. I can get them to buy dinner because they have all the money in the world, but I hate to see some of them go.”