BLAINE, Minn. – Entering Sunday’s final round of the 3M Open two shots off the lead, Cameron Champ fired a 6-under 66 at TPC Twin Cities to claim a two-stroke victory for his third win on the PGA Tour.
Champ ends a drought of five missed cuts over his previous six starts with his performance Sunday and joins Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm as the only players under 28-years-old to win in each of the last three seasons.
“My game was trending in the right direction. The previous two days I felt like it was just kind of stress-free golf,” Champ said following his win Sunday. “Obviously, I feel like I left a lot out there, but I knew Sunday if I just played the same way and minimized the mistakes, which I did today, I might have a chance.
“The course played not as easy as it did Thursday, Friday. Obviously, the wind conditions, it kind of started to firm up some and I just dug down and just tried to finish it off.
Champ afforded himself a cushion when his birdie chance from outside of 12 feet fell at the par-4 16th to take a two-stroke lead over Louis Oosthuizen. Champ’s drive at the 18th landed in tall grass far left of the final fairway, where he’d punch out to the rough.
Left with 127 yards for his fourth, Champ’s 9-iron spun back inside of three feet and he’d save par to claim his second top-10 of the season, two shots ahead of Oosthuizen, another South African and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas.
“Obviously you have those excited nerves and adrenaline that you have to try to control, but again, being in these positions, that’s something you have to accept and kind of learn how to deal with it,” the 26-year-old Champ said. “Coming down the stretch I felt very calm, very relaxed and kind of in my zone.
“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 earns $1.1 million for his win Sunday and will jump 91 spots in the FedEx Cup standings to 49th. Over his last seven starts, Champ missed two consecutive cuts beginning at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island before withdrawing from the Memorial Tournament after an opening-round 82.
After missing the cut at the U.S. Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Champ gained a little momentum at the John Deere Classic two weeks ago, finishing tied for 11th.
“It’s just all been a struggle within—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 just 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.
“So, I just had to take a step back and say you know what, this has to stop. I’ve got to be more true to myself no matter what happens.”
After winning the Sanderson Farms Championship his second season on Tour in 2019, Champ won the Safeway Open the following season.
Champ opened with a 2-under 69 Thursday and followed it with back-to-back rounds of 67 to sit two-shots off Cameron Tringale’s 54-hole lead.
Scattering three birdies over his front nine Sunday, Champ turned in 13-under before sinking his birdie look at the 11th from inside of 10 feet. A final birdie at the 16th before his late par save at the 18th gave Champ a bogey-free 66.
Sunday marked yet another close call for the 38-year-old Oosthuizen, who collects his fifth top-3 finish over his last seven starts. Oosthuizen’s lone victory came at the 2010 Open Championship, making just 13 professional starts over the previous six seasons.
In the 11 seasons following his win at St. Andrews, Oosthuizen has claimed 12 runner-up finishes and 42 top-10s. Enjoying a resurgence of sorts in 2021, Oosthuizen has made 17 cuts in 18 events. He currently sits sixth in the FedEx Cup standings and has surpassed more than $6 million in winnings.
“I was happy to play this week. I sort of didn’t really want to just think about last week, about not playing great on that Sunday and immediately quickly go back into tournament mode and then play this tournament,” said Oosthuizen, who carded a final-round 71 to finish The Open Championship tied for third at Royal St. George’s. “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.
Back-to-back rounds of 3-under 68 to open the championship, followed by a 2-under 69 Saturday put Oosthuizen four shots of the lead entering Sunday’s final round.
Even through his first three holes, Oosthuizen birdied the fourth and fifth holes to turn in 10-under for the championship. Taking advantage of the easiest hole on the course Sunday, the par-5 12th, Oosthuizen moved to 11-under, but gave back a stroke with a three-putt bogey at the 14th.
Oosthuizen rallied by carding three birdies over his final four holes, including a near eagle at the 18th, bouncing his approach off the cup for a tap-in birdie to post a final-round 66.
Vegas, whose last win came in 2017 at the RBC Canadian Open, entered the final round tied for fourth and quickly erased an early deficit by carding three birdies over his first five holes to momentarily hold the lead with Champ Sunday.
An up-and-down final six holes saw bogeys by Vegas at the 13th and 17th and he would need two-putt birdie at the last to move into a share of second at 13-under 271.
Also beginning the final round tied for fourth and two shots back, Schwartzel carded two birdies against one bogey during his opening nine Sunday to turn in 11-under. Even through his first four holes of the back nine, Schwartzel dropped an 8-footer for birdie at the 14th and would add another at the 18th for his third top-3 finish this season.
THE 2021 3M OPEN
TPC TWIN CITIES
7,431 YARDS, PAR 71
SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
1. Cameron Champ, 69-67-67-66—269
T2. Louis Oosthuizen, 68-68-69-66—271
T2. Jhonattan Vegas, 64-69-70-68—271
T2. Charl Schwartzel, 67-68-68-68—271
5. Keith Mitchell, 69-70-66-67—272
T6. Mito Pereira, 70-67-69-67—273
T6. Adam Hadwin, 67-65-73-68—273
T6. Brian Stuard, 70-64-70-69—273
T6. K.H. Lee, 69-67-68-69—273
T6. Ryan Armour, 67-65-71-70—273
(story written by Nick Hunter, www.MNgolf.org)