The leaderboard at the 3M Open was never going to be a facsimile of last week's Open Championship, but as far as post-major championship leaderboards go, it's still pretty solid. Rickie Fowler, Troy Merritt and Jhonattan Vegas share the lead at 7 under, but Louis Oosthuizen (believe you've heard of him), Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are all under par and could get in the mix at TPC Twin Cities with a big Round 2.
Fowler is the story after a suspended Round 1 given how much he's labored toward success over the last 18 months. Since the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open, he has just one top 10 worldwide (this year's PGA Championship), though his game has been trending recently. Over his last 20 rounds, Fowler is a top 50 player in terms of strokes gained and is a plus in every category except for driving.
Let's take a look at his round as well as how the rest of the board is shaking out at the 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota.
T1. Troy Merritt, Rickie Fowler, Jhonattan Vegas (-7): There's plenty of reason for excitement here. Fowler really struggled in the fall and spring with his putting, and though his 4.2 strokes gained putting clip Thursday is likely unsustainable, it is hopefully representative of a return to one of the more confident strokes on the PGA Tour. Everything else was a plus in his bogey-free round of 64, and Fowler said after his round that he was encouraged by such a strong round on the greens.
"There's time where you go, kind of get hot and cold and I was in too long of a cold spell, and putting's something I've always been able to rely on," Fowler said. "Felt like I was hitting good putts, sometimes it was either a little bit off on the read or speed was a little off. There's so many variables out there. Trying to eliminate as much as possible and think more about making it and not focusing about too much on line and stuff like that. I've been hitting good putts, but it's nice to see the result of the ball disappearing or not lipping out or sliding on by."
T4. Scott Stallings, Adam Schenk, Roger Sloan (-6): The Stallings scorecard after a weather delay in the middle of the day was pretty wild. He closed 4-3-5-2-7, which looks less like a PGA Tour card and more like an iPhone password. His double at the last took him out of an outright lead. Sloan is still out on the golf course as he will finish up his first round early on Friday morning.
T7. Chris Baker, Chez Reavie, Michael Gellerman (-5): Only one of these golfers (Reavie) is currently inside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup right now. So while the goal is always to win a trophy at the end of the week, that's not the only thing several of the top players on this board will be playing for over the next few days.
T10. Cameron Tringale, Maverick McNealy, Adam Hadwin, Ryan Armour, Charl Schwartzel, David Lingmerth, Ryan Brehm, Bo Hoag, Josh Teater, Chesson Hadley, Nick Watney (-4): Tringale holds the all-time record for money earned without ever winning on the PGA Tour (just over $14 million). He's been playing some nice golf this summer, though, and brought a top-30 finish from The Open into this week's 3M. He had it all the way to 6 under before two late bogeys spoiled his round. Beware, though, as he was the No. 1 putter in Round 1 on a day when he lost a stroke to the field from tee to green. That's not really the statistical formula you want to take into the second round.
T21. Louis Oosthuizen (-3): The third-place finisher at last week's Open Championship said early in the week that he didn't want to skip out on the golf this week because it would probably cause him to sit around and think about how he didn't win The Open. That's a good thing because now he's the third biggest favorite in the field to go out and win on Sunday after a 3-under 68 on Thursday. Oosthuizen was again terrific from tee to green, and this would be a nice consolation prize following last week's fade.
T63. Dustin Johnson (-1): It was a mediocre day for D.J., but there is some good news for him. He hit his irons wonderfully after losing – wait for it – 6.8 strokes on approach shots in Round 1 of this tournament last year. If his Round 1 strokes gained approach number (2.4) holds throughout the week, it would be his best since winning at The Northern Trust last summer. All of this without his brother and caddie, Austin, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
"Yeah, we did just fine," said Johnson of his fill-in caddie, TaylorMade VP of tour operations Keith Sbarbaro. "Maybe hit the wrong club on a couple holes, but other than that, that was my fault though, I guess."
The No. 2 player in the world has four straight top 25s after a weird spring, and given how he hit it over the first 18 holes here – even with some apparently questionable numbers! – I expect him to heat up as this week wears on.
"I played really good," Johnson said. "Did not roll the putter very well, especially through the first 16 holes. I did make two putts there … but other than that I didn't make anything. Other than that, yeah, I'm hitting it very well, just need to tighten up the putter a little bit."