Final rounds on the PGA Tour while in contention are meant to be stressful, but no one tell Lee Hodges that. The 28-year-old continued his dominance Sunday at the 2023 3M Open carding a final-round 67 to claim his first PGA Tour win in wire-to-wire fashion. Besting the field by seven strokes at 24 under, Hodges was in a class of his own over 72 holes at TPC Twin Cities.
Hodges’s victory could not have come at a better time with the FedEx Cup Playoffs looming large. With his effort in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the former Alabama Crimson Tide star makes a massive leap from outside the top 70 in the season-long race to 33rd. He will have work to do if he is to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career, but as of now he is firmly in the field for the St. Jude Championship and has the inside track to tee it up at the BMW Championship as well.
“This has been a dream week,” Hodges said. “I’ve got the best caddie in the world. I’ve got the best wife in the world. I’ve got my mom and dad…I’ve got the best everybody. I mean, I’ve got the best team in the whole world, and they work so hard and I couldn’t do it without them.”
The smooth-swinging right hander never trailed over the weekend in Blaine, Minnesota, seeing his lead trimmed to as little as two after a nervy front nine on Saturday. It was that back nine in the third round which Hodges used to separate himself from the field and rid his system of any tension ahead of Sunday’s deciding 18.
Hodges was at ease from the first tee shot in the final round. Splitting fairways and hitting greens in regulation, Hodges’ initial punch connected early on the difficult par-4 2nd when his approach settled inside 5 feet to set up his first birdie of the round.
His overnight lead stretched to as many as seven when he converted an eagle on the sixth. Playing partner Poston held his own and attempted to apply pressure as the two traversed through the par 71. A bogey from Hodges on No. 9 and a birdie from Poston on No. 10 pulled the pursuer within five with a handful of scoring chances in view.
However, just as Hodges did on the front nine, a blistering approach from 256 yards into the par-5 12th squashed any thought of a herculean comeback. Setting up just a formality for eagle, Hodges’s approach put him six clear of the field with six holes to go.
While there were some hairy moments coming in – namely a two-shot swing on the 15th – the trophy was as good as Hodges’ from that point. Becoming the first wire-to-wire winner in the young history of the 3M Open, the PGA Tour sophomore captured himself a little sliver of history and his first invitation to The Masters with his dominant entry into the winner’s circle. However, that is not all as Hodges has caught himself a wave of momentum heading into the postseason where history suggests anything can happen. Grade: A+
Here is how the rest of the leaderboard looked at the 2023 3M Open.
T7. Tony Finau (-15): Finau was great all week and would have been in the mix if not for Hodges’ outrageous performance from beginning to end. He’s going to be a really interesting test case for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, too. He heads into the final week of the regular season inside the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings but outside the top 15 in the Ryder Cup standings. The latter is probably more indicative of overall play (Finau ranked 31st on the U.S. side in strokes gained over the last three months), and as a result, he’s probably on the outside looking in at this point. However, if he is going to make the team, the formula is a scorching-hot final month of the year, including a win or near-win in one of the three FedEx Cup Playoffs events. Finau is in a good position to make it all the way to the Tour Championship, and at this point he put together a nice first step in his final push toward playing on his third Ryder Cup team in Rome. Grade: A
T10. Cam Davis (-14): After a bunch of nothing since a T4 at the PGA Championship, this is the finish (65 on Sunday) Davis needed to play his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He’s projected to move inside the top 70 with his finish this week at TPC Twin Cities, which is where a player like him should be heading toward the playoffs. Davis has taken a bit of a step back this year after five consecutive years of improvement and a game that looked like it was trending toward him being a top 20 player in the world. This week could be a nice inflection point in turning that around and getting him rolling the right way once again. Grade: A
“I’ve been in a few situations where my back’s been against the wall since I’ve turned pro,” Davis said. “Most of the time it’s worked out well for me and kept me moving forward. So I would like to keep that trend going and play well next week and get myself to the playoffs. … The goal is to play a really solid tournament next week.”
T64. Ludvig Aberg (-3): Aberg has had plenty of opportunities to make his case for the European Ryder Cup team in September. He’s been nice in places, but through six starts, he only has one top 20 (a T4 at the John Deere Classic). Unless he wins next week’s Wyndham Championship, he’s not going to be in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and I’m not sure you can pick a player based on one top 20 in seven starts (including next week’s). That could change, of course, but it’s clear he’s going to have to develop a bit to go with his otherworldly skills off the tee. I fully expect that he will do so and go on to become a top 20 player in the world, but the Ryder Cup chatter is probably slightly premature. Grade: C+