Cameron Champ’s final round was a battle in more ways than one Sunday, as he battled the heat and a strong field of challengers to win the 3M Open by two shots over Louis Oosthuizen, Jhonattan Vegas, and Charl Schwartzel.
Champ looked a bit wobbly as he battled symptoms of dehydration midway through the back nine as the heat index approached 100 degrees. But Champ recovered quickly and looked like he would cruise to the finish after a clutch birdie on 16 and a solid two-putt par at the 17th gave him a two-shot lead heading to the par-5 18th. But his trip down the finishing hole was quite the adventure.
Champ surprisingly hit driver off the tee and pulled it well left into some of the tallest rough on the golf course. His punch out didn’t quite reach the fairway and required another layup with his third. Champ followed that with a perfect gap wedge to two feet and cleaned up for par and his third career PGA Tour win. Champ entered the week outside the number to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, but the win moves him up 93 spots t0 49th, giving him a chance to compete for a spot in the Tour Championship.
Champ doubled down on his strategy on 18 after the round, saying he was always going to hit driver off that tee no matter what.
“Coming down the stretch I felt very calm, very relaxed and kind of in my zone,” Champ said. “Obviously 18 made it a little interesting. I felt like I hit a great second shot from where that lie was, and obviously hit a great approach there into about two feet and made the putt.”
Champ entered the week having missed the cut or withdrawn in five of his last six starts. Champ had missed 11 cuts in all and had just one top-10 finish on the season before this week’s breakthrough.
Champ’s career has been hit or miss—he has just seven career top-10s—but there’s no arguing with his results. The 26-year old is one of just four players younger than 27 years old to win in each of the last three seasons, joining Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, and Bryson DeChambeau.
“I feel like whenever I get in those moments, I'm super comfortable and super in the zone and it feels like it's mine to take. It's not so much mine to lose, I feel like it's mine to take and I feel that's how it was today,” Champ said.
Champ is known for the long ball—he hit several 2 irons on the back nine that had more ball speed than the Tour average with a driver—but he often struggles on the greens. Champ entered the week 206th in Strokes Gained: Putting on the season, but he was first this week.
To Champ, the improvement has come both on and off the golf course.
“It has nothing to do with technique. It's been a struggle between the ears. I had to figure it out. I had to figure out how to manage everything and how to manage my own expectations and what I want to do in life,” Champ said. “I was putting a lot of stress on myself and doing things that I usually wouldn't do and acting certain ways that I usually wouldn't act on the course. I just had to take a step back and say this has to stop. I've got to be more true to myself no matter what happens.”
Oosthuizen added yet another top-3 finish to his resume following his disappointing finish last week at The Open. Oosthuizen’s Sunday was far better this time around, as the South African birdied three of his last four holes to shoot 66.
His third shot into the 18th nearly spun back into the hole, but the ball hit the flagstick and ricocheted away. It wasn’t quite enough to earn his first win in the United States, but Oosthuizen was grateful for the experience at TPC Twin Cities.
“I was happy to play this week. I didn't want to just think about last week, about not playing great on that Sunday and immediately go back into tournament mode and play this tournament,” Oosthuizen said. “It’s a great track. We had a good time here this week and I'm just trying to see if I can go one better than all these seconds and thirds.”
54-hole leader Cameron Tringale limped home Sunday with a final round 74 to finish T16. Tringale’s failure to seal the deal marks the 12th time in the last 13 events that the 54-hole leader went on to win, with Phil Mickelson being the lone exception at the PGA Championship.
Tringale has now gone over 300 starts without a victory on the PGA Tour and holds the title as the leading money winner amongst players without a win.