3M Championship: Fast facts ahead of the opening round

While the gallery at TPC Twin Cities is known as one of the most sophisticated on the Champions’ Tour, here are a few notes regarding this weekend’s 3M Championship that begins Aug. 2 in Blaine.

• Mark Wiebe comes to Minnesota fresh off his first major title of his career, winning the Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in England. He held off defending 3M Champion Bernhard Langer on the fifth playoff hole and the tournament concluded on Monday for the first time ever after they halved two extra holes with pars before darkness postponed the conclusion.  Langer is the first defending champion not to defend his tour title since Fred Couples missed the AT&T Invitational in 2012 due to a back injury. In addition, the 3M Championship will have to wait at least another year for its first back-to-back champion.

• This week marks Colin Montgomerie’s fourth start on the Champions’ Tour and first 3M Championship appearance. His three previous starts were major championships: tied for 9th place at the Senior Players’ Championship; t30 at the US Senior Open and t21 at the Senior British Open. Champion’s Tour Class of 2013 rookies: Bart Bryant, John Inman, Steve Elkington, Rocco Mediate, Vijay Singh, Billy Ray Brown, Montgomerie and Jose Coceres.

• Each of the last six winning scores has been at least 15-under par with David Frost setting a new low of 25-under par in 2010. Frost shot a course record 61 in the final round. The last 10 champions have had three consecutive rounds in the 60s.

• Peter Senior will compete in the 3M Championship instead of the World Golf Championship- Bridgestone Invitational. He became eligible after winning the 2012 Austrailian Open.

• The 10th edition of the fan-favorite “Greats of Golf Challenge” has an added twist this year. The three-player, 18-hole better-ball exhibition will take place on Aug. 3. Arnold Palmer will captain the first female team of Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley. Don January’s team includes Lee Trevino, David Graham and Fuzzy Zoeller. Billy Casper will lead a team of Johnny Miller, Bill Rogers and Dave Stockton.

• Kenny Perry is one of the favorites to win after tying for second place in 2011 and third place in 2012. He has a 67.16 scoring average at the TPC Twin Cities and won back-to-back majors this season.

• Friday’s opening round will include an all-Minnesota pairing of John Harris, David Podas and Jim Sorenson. The trio earned a sponsor’s exemption instead of earning their way with one of four spots through the weekly qualifier, played Tuesday at Victory Links in Blaine. Edinburgh USA head professional Don Berry took that route to earn his place in Friday’s opening round. Berry was part of a six-way playoff after carding a 3-under 68. Berry and Mark Bucek, Winter Springs, Florida secured the final two spots after Ronnie Black, Jim Carter and Bruce Vaughn each shot 4-under 67.

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