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Rickie Fowler, Jhonattan Vegas, Troy Merritt tied for 3M Open lead in Minnesota

BLAINE, Minn. – Rickie FowlerHis improved management helped him shoot a 5 under 65 in the final round of the British Open on Sunday.

Looking for a late push in the FedEx Cup standings, Fowler delivered the strong game Thursday with a 7-under-64 in the first round of the 3M Open.

Fowler set the pace with a shackle-free round that was later equated to Jhonattan vegas and Troy Merritt, who attended Spring Lake Park High School, about six miles south of the TPC Twin Cities.

Fowler, who has never missed the FedEx Cup playoffs in 11 seasons, started the tournament in 124th place in the standings, and the top 125 reached the playoffs. There are two weeks left after the 3M Open to qualify.

“I know where I am, what we need to do and things like that,” Fowler said. “Really just focus on things we’ve been working on, and play more consistent good golf. More days like today and things will be good. So keep things, as I said, simple and small, focus on the day-to-day and “This week, and go from there. Everything will be alright.”

Vegas clinched a tumultuous opening round in the dark when its onslaught on the 18th par-5 landed on top of a hospitality tent. His ball was eventually found and he received free relief. He lined the hole to equalize the lead.

“You can barely see the flag,” Vegas said. “We had a number, and we tried to get the number confused quickly. I knew it was going to be a long time … It was a little nightmare right at the end.”

Scott Stallings tried to equal the track record of 62 before doubling the 18th after more than two hours of delay due to lightning in the area. Stalls was a setback at 65 with Adam Schenk and Roger Sloan. Sloan had two holes to play when the game was suspended due to the darkness with 11 players still on the field.

After his disappointing finish last weekend at the British Open, Louis Oosthuizen 68 shot. Dustin Johnson, who withdrew with a back injury after opening 78 in the 3M Open last year, with a 70 opener.

Johnson played with Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade’s vice president of tour operations, as his caddy tested positive for COVID-19 after Johnson’s brother, Austin, his regular caddy.

Johnson said his brother is already up for his next tournament, the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tennessee, was cleared August 5-8.

“Keith has worked for me quite a few times; Presidents Cup, US Open, here and there a few events,” said Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19 in November. “Yeah, we did it right. Maybe I hit the wrong club on a few holes, but otherwise it was my fault, I think.”

Fowler, who is looking for his first win since the Phoenix Open in 2019, had no mistakes. The 32-year-old California man made three straight birdies at the back nine in his innings from the 18th to the second hole.

He gained confidence after his last round last weekend at Royal St. George’s. Fowler was one of 30 players who took a charter directly to the British Open to Minnesota.

“It was something that kept me from making birds and moving forward last week,” Fowler said of his management. “Today, I mean, when we finished Sunday last week, we just had to sharpen a few things. This golf course is fairly generous from the tee. There are some lakes, ponds that you just have to avoid. Other than that, it mostly goes on. ‘

Fowler and Merritt were in the morning wave that started in hazy and humid conditions and then had to wait with a delay of 2 hours, 24 minutes. Stalls was alone at the forefront when play resumed, but his second shot on the 18th found the water and his follow-up exceeded the green.

“It stings now, because it was five minutes ago,” Stallings said. “But at the end of the day I go there. Put myself in an excellent position after the first round and go there and try to do it the rest of the week.”

Merritt, who has missed the cut in his last two games, could be the sentimental favorite in Minnesota. He finishes with eight birdies, including his last two holes to equal Fowler.

“I’ve seen this golf course for about 20 years now,” Merritt said. “Come see how the seniors play when I was in high school and had to play it once or twice. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s great for the players, it’s great for the fans, you can make a lot of birdies, the score is “Usually very low. If you like shootouts, this is the golf course for you and you’ll get another one this week.”

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