Souhan: 3M Open should be proud of playing without golf’s traitors

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The premise is wrong. The 3M Open isn't lessened because "big names'' aren't playing in Blaine this week because of the LIV Golf Tour. The 3M should be glad to be rid of them.

The very notion that modern golfers not named after a predatory cat are drawing cards is suspicious to begin with. The game is the thing. The game, the course and whatever drama emerges.

How many individual golfers in the history of the game have truly been individual draws?

Arnold Palmer when the game was being popularized on television. Seve Ballesteros in Europe. Tiger Woods. Maybe a couple of others, if we want to be charitable.

Jack Nicklaus? He was relatively unpopular during his prime, seen as a less-charismatic alternative to the likes of Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Tom Watson. The golf public didn't embrace Nicklaus as an idol until he made it clear that he was the game's dominant player, and especially when he won the Masters at the age of 46.

Palmer brought swashbuckling to golf, playing the game the way we'd imagine James Bond played it. Ballesteros brought shot bravery and creativity like none other. Woods popularized the game among dynamic athletes and casual sports fans. Everyone else could have gone missing without damaging the history of the sport.

Imagine being worried about losing Dustin Johnson to LIV Golf. Have you ever met Dustin Johnson? He needs a caddie to make it through a sentence. Beige wants its personality back.

In Johnson's two appearances at the 3M, he fell apart in the first round in 2020 and withdrew, blaming his back, and in 2021 he hit a shot into the water on 18 to ensure he wouldn't make the cut, almost as if he would have rather been elsewhere.

Take last weekend. Cameron Smith won the British Open on Sunday, beating Cam Young by one shot and Rory McIlory by two. Smith was then asked about playing for LIV Golf and gave a grumpy answer without saying no.

What if Smith hadn't been eligible to play on Sunday? Then Young and McIlroy, two of the game's longest hitters, would have dueled for the title. Nobody would have missed Smith.

Golf tournaments are like March Madness. The bracket is the star, and when you pack the bracket with dozens of contenders, something interesting is bound to happen, even if a prominent name is absent.

Remember, the best 3M Open so far featured two relatively unknown youngsters (Colin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff) and one prominent youngster (Bryson DeChambeau).

If Wolff and DeChambeau hadn't shown up that week, we would have enjoyed watching Morikawa, the definition of a classy champion, winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.

The 3M and tournament director Hollis Cavner have always done good work bringing a quality tournament to Minnesota, and this year's field again features plenty of interesting names.

Defending winner Cameron Champ, an impressive ball striker. Major winners like Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Dufner, Jason Day, Danny Willett, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink. Promising and likable players like Tony Finau. Talented local connections like Tom Hoge and Troy Merritt.

These are the talented players who have not chosen to play in the hit-and-giggle, no-cut, 54-hole, guaranteed-payout LIV Tour. They're actual competitors, by definition, while the LIV golfers are the country club version of celebrity softball players.

Remember, LIV exists to launder the international image of Saudi Arabian leadership, which murdered and dissected an American journalist and is known for human rights violations. Saudi Arabia also produced most of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attack.

The only humorous aspect of LIV has been watching formerly popular golfers who joined it trying to defend the move. They can't, and they embarrass themselves trying.

On Friday, Woods limped to the 18th green while receiving a massive ovation as he missed the cut. Phil Mickelson also missed the cut. LIV golf's biggest name received a few golf claps.

Woods will be remembered as a champion. Mickelson will be remembered as a sellout. Even LIV money won't buy back his reputation.