Cameron Champ, who is from Sacramento, won for the third time in his PGA Tour career on Sunday.
He had to shake off symptoms of dehydration late in the round due to temperatures in the 90s. He also recovered after missing the fairway well to his left with his drive on the 18th hole and was able to save par at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.
Champ shot a 5-under-par 66 in the final round and won the 3M Open, a $6.6-million event, by a two-stroke margin over three players, including Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa. Oosthuizen, who closed with a 66, is No. 9 in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 13 in the FedExCup Ranking. It’s also Oosthuizen’s fifth top-3 finish in his last seven starts on Tour, as he tied for second at the PGA Championship, finished second at the U.S. Open, and tied for third at The Open Championship.
Jhonattan Vegas (68) and Charl Schwartzel (68) also tied for second.
Playing in the third to last group and starting day two off the lead following the third round, Champ made five birdies in a bogey-free round that was highlighted by a superb day of putting, exceptional iron play, and stellar short game performance.
“I was just in a very good place. My game was trending in the right direction,” Champ, 26, said in a transcription provided by tee-scripts.com. “The previous two days I felt like it was just kind of stress-free golf. 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.”
It was his first win since he captured the Safeway Open in 2019 on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa. His first victory on Tour came at the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi in 2018.
Champ was introduced to the game by his grandfather, Mack Ray Champ, at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, a 36-hole facility, in Sacramento. Cameron played in tournaments and events through First Tee – Greater Sacramento as a junior player.
“Obviously, my grandfather is kind of my hero, who I want to be in life,” he said.
Mack Ray Champ, who worked as a course marshal at Haggin Oaks, passed away in October 2019. He was 78. He was receiving hospice care, with stage IV stomach cancer, when Cameron won the Safeway Open at Silverado. Coming into the week of the 3M Open, Champ had 10 made cuts, with one top-10 and four top-25 finishes in 22 events played. He had missed 11 cuts and was at 142nd in the FedExCup standings. He also withdrew from one event.
Champ completed the 3M Open at 15-under 269 on the par-71, 7,431-yard course, designed by Arnold Palmer. He opened with a 69, shot 67 in the second round, and carded a 67 in the third round.
“I just really stuck with kind of what my approach was all week and what it’s going to be for the rest of my career no matter the result,” Champ said. “It freed me up. 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.
“Again, coming down the stretch I felt very calm, very relaxed, and kind of in my zone. Obviously, (No.) 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.”
With the win, Champ:
- Earns $1,188,000.
- Receives 500 points and moves from No. 142 to No. 49 in the FedExCup standings.
- Moves to 66 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
- Joins Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau as players age 27 or younger to win in each of the last three seasons on Tour.
Champ said he was dehydrated late in the round.
“Obviously, I feel a lot better now. I’m not sure why I was because I drank a lot of water, but obviously, the Gatorade definitely helped I think keep me going,” he said. “Obviously the moment as well, you have so much adrenaline going and trying to control that. (Nos.) 14, 15, I really started to notice it. I was like wow, every time I get up I get a little lightheaded whenever I was putting my ball down on the marker. On (No.) 16 I was given a Gatorade and that kind of kept me going throughout the round.”
Champ’s birdies on the front nine came on Nos. 1, 4, and 8. He birdied the 11th and 16th holes on the back nine.
He hit 6 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation in the final round.
He saved par on the 18th hole after punching out from a difficult spot, in the deep rough, and then hitting his fourth shot from 127 yards, with the ball backing up to three feet from the pin – an outstanding golf shot that helped seal the victory.
“When I saw that lie, I was like … we’re going to have to just punch out, give me a good number and obviously make par, but make bogey at worst,” he said. “There really was nothing negative. I knew with that lie you either catch it right or you don’t. With that lie, the ball was sitting up probably like four inches in that grass, so I really had to clip it right or I’d go right under it or I’d top it. And with how heavy that grass was, I had to give it some power, but obviously not enough because the water’s on the other side. Obviously, I will say I will take that shot.”
Prior to the 3M Open, Champ’s best finish was a tie for eighth last October at the ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when he shot 18-under 270. Earlier this month, he tied for 11th at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, in Silvis, Illinois.
“Like I said, it’s not so much technique. Everybody learns and everybody matures at different stages in their lives. Again, I’ve always said and it’s just kind of how I am, I’m always a late learner or late bloomer and I’m trying to be the opposite of that. You know, now I’m married, now I have responsibilities. Again, for me, it’s more so realizing what I want to do in the game of golf and then who I want to be at home. It’s a balance you have to find, and if you don’t, it can really haunt you and it can cause a lot of issues. So I just feel like the last two months I’ve been in a lot better headspace and kind of realizing what is truly important to me and what is not. I’ve just been sticking to it.
“Again, I just had to take a step back. You know what, I love this game. It’s given me so much, I’m going to give it my all, but again I need to be who I am and not, you know, worry about outside noise or what people may think or this and that. So again, it’s a maturity stage, which everybody has at different times, and I just think for me right now I’m just in a very good spot with my own understanding as far as that goes.”
The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings advance to the FedExCup Playoffs, a series of three events, culminating in the Tour Championship.
The playoffs start with the Northern Trust, Aug. 19-22 at Liberty National Golf Club, in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Cameron Champ Foundation Golf Classic
Champ was at Silverado last October for the Cameron Champ Foundation Golf Classic.
Champ is the co-founder of the Cameron Champ Foundation, which owns the Foothill Golf Course in Citrus Heights.
He played college golf at Texas A&M and the Korn Ferry Tour.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.