Many of the best Champions Tour players are willing to cross an ocean to be at the 3M Championship.The local tournament, celebrating its 20th year, drew most of the tour’s top names despite being played the week after the Senior Open Championship in Scotland.
One of the players who made the trip was Bernhard Langer, who shot a final-round 62 on Sunday at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine to win the 3M Championship for the second time in four years. Langer tied for sixth at the Senior Open Championship the previous week.
David Peoples, who finished second to Langer by two strokes, did not go to Scotland but badly wanted to play in the 3M Championship.
“It’s such a well-run tournament,” Peoples said. “I like the area and the people are great.
“It’s only my third year on the Champions Tour, but this tournament is my favorite to come back to,” he said.
The quick turnaround from an overseas major championship might have cost the 3M Championship a few marquee players, such as Fred Couples (who won the Senior Open Championship) and Tom Watson.
Hollis Cavner, tournament director of the 3M Championship, makes no secret of wanting a more favorable date for the Minnesota event.
“It does make it much harder” to attract top players, Cavner said. “We think we have the number one event on tour. It wins all the awards (for tournament operations). We were here before a lot of the other events on tour. But, it is what it is. We’ll do something to make it special every year.”
Langer, who also won the 3M Championship in 2009, said he knew he would have to shoot an extremely low score Sunday to win the tournament.
Langer was six strokes behind Peoples when the final round started Sunday and thought it might take a 62 to catch him.
“Yes, it was a lofty goal,” Langer said. “But when you’re desperate, what can you do?”
He made seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch between the seventh and 15th holes to move into contention – and take Peoples by surprise.
Peoples shot 62 in the second round Saturday to take a three-stroke lead, then birdied three of his first five holes in the final round to get to 17 under. But while Langer was making his move, Peoples made 10 consecutive pars and remained stuck on 17 under.
Peoples said he looked at a scoreboard on the eighth hole, saw that he had a four-stroke lead, then didn’t look again until his round was almost over.
“I was in a little bit of a cruise mode on the back nine,” said Peoples, who has not won on the Champions Tour and last won on the PGA tour in 1992.
“I waited until 17 to ask my caddy where I stood and I found out I was one behind. I needed to try to make more birdies, but I got in my own little world and fell in love with where I was.”
Langer missed a six-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole, but his birdie there, coupled with Peoples’ bogeys on 16 and 17, gave him a 54-hole total of 198 (18 under par) and a three-stroke lead. Peoples, playing in the final group, also birdied the 18th for a final-round 70, but by then the championship was out of reach.
It was, Langer said, a much-needed victory. Although he has won 15 times on the Champions Tour (and 77 times worldwide, including two Masters), he had leads going into the final round of the U.S. Senior Open and Senior Open Championship and failed to win either.
“This was pretty important. It’s been a while (17 months) since I’ve won,” Langer said. “Especially after what I’ve been through the last few weeks, being in contention and not being able to close the deal.”
Kenny Perry and Olin Browne tied for third place at 201, 15 under par.
The four Minnesota-born players in the 3M Championship did not contend. Alexandria native Tom Lehman, who leads the Champions Tour’s season-long Charles Schwab Cup points race, finished at 7 under.
“It’s like the Olympics,” Lehman said. “I saw some guys sprinting and I’m jogging. Or walking.”
Don Berry, head professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, finished 4 under. Woodbury resident Dave Tentis, head pro at Troy Burne in Hudson, Wis., was at 2 under. John Harris, a former Edina resident who tied for third in the 3M Championship in 2007, was 2 over.
Berry, Tentis and Harris got into the tournament on sponsor’s exemptions and the three played together in Friday’s first round.
This year’s event also was the ninth time the Greats of Golf tournament-within-a-tournament was held. Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Billy Casper were among those taking part in the Greats of Golf, where three three-man teams played in a scramble format. Palmer’s design company created the TPC Twin Cities, with Lehman serving as a consultant.
“That’s an idea we took to our tournament in Houston,” said Cavner, who’s a partner in a company (Pro Links Sports) that manages several Champions Tour events.
“There’s only one Arnold, but if he ever decides he can’t play, we should be able to continue the Greats of Golf. We’ve had other legends who have been talking about and want to play,” Cavner said.