BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — Cameron Champ fought off dehydration and dizziness down the stretch to win the 3M Open last year with a bogey-free final round, a confidence-boosting win for a young player trying to establish himself on the PGA tour.
The challenges for Champ have persisted this season, and he has arrived in Minnesota in search of another late-summer bump to make the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“This is just one of those places where it doesn’t matter if I play good or bad. I’m just very comfortable with it,” Champ said Wednesday after his pro-am warmup for the fourth edition of this tournament at the TPC Twin Cities course that favors big hitters like him.
Champ missed the cut in his first event on the 2021-22 schedule. Then he broke his left wrist and didn’t play again for almost four months. Just before his return, there was a false start with a positive COVID-19 test that forced him to withdraw from the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“This year’s been an eventful year to say the least. I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life mixed in with me breaking my wrist in the fall. That was a whole just unknown for quite a while, if it was going to be serious or if it was not serious. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious, but it was very close to possibly hurting my career for a long time,” said Champ, who ranks 153rd in the FedEx Cup standings with the top 125 eligible for the playoffs.
He has missed the cut in his last five starts, but a 10th-place Masters finish still stands out on his season record.
“I think I’ve taken more positives than negatives from it,” Champ said. “Even where I stand or when people look at my stats or whatever they want to say, I’m in a way better headspace. I understand myself better. I understand what my motives are.”
The highest-ranked player in the field is Hideki Matsuyama, who is eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and 14th in the world. The other major winners who will tee off in the first round Thursday are Stewart Cink, Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Lucas Glover and Danny Willett.
Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler are here, too, as are rising stars Jhooyung Kim, Davis Riley and Sahith Theegala. There are a couple of prospects fresh from the college links worth watching in Chris Gotterup and Cale Hammer. Gotterup (Oklahoma) tied for fifth at the NCAA championships in May, and Hammer helped Texas win the team title.
The most unique entrant among the 155 players this year is undoubtedly Mardy Fish, the former tennis star and a native of Minnesota who is one of eight sponsor exemptions included in the field. Fish’s profile has been raised further by his advocacy for and openness about mental health, after a severe anxiety disorder derailed his tennis career.
Fish, who won six ATP tour titles and the silver medal at the Olympics in 2004, befriended Jack Nicklaus on the celebrity circuit and used a recommendation from one of golf’s greats to land a spot in the PGA Tour event in his home state.
“I’ve played golf my whole life, ever since I could stand, and so you’re just hitting a little white ball around. I don’t have to run after it or anything like that, so it’s right there in front of you,” Fish said.
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