BLAINE, Minn. -- Think of Troy Merritt as an adopted Minnesotan at this point.
Although he was born in Osage, Iowa, and lives in Boise, Idaho, the 33-year-old has roots in the Twin Cities that go back to his days as a high schooler at Spring Lake Park. He captained the boys golf team in the early 2000s, then went on to play collegiately at Winona State for two years before transferring to Boise State.
In that sense, the 3M Open is a homecoming of sorts for Merritt, and while he’s No. 188 in the world rankings, he played like one of the best golfers in the field Friday, July 5, at the TPC Twin Cities. He shot a 7-under 64 in the second round and at 8 under overall is tied for 11th place heading into the final rounds on the weekend.
“They were a lot louder today when more birdies were going on,” Merritt joked when asked about the local support. “Hopefully we can continue that this weekend and see how loud we can get them.”
For those following Merritt, there was a lot to cheer for throughout the second round. He chipped in from 54 feet on No. 6 for an eagle that helped get things rolling.
“I just nipped it nicely, read it well, and it went right in the center of the cup,” he said. “It’s nice when that happens.”
After finding the water with his second shot on No. 9, and somehow escaping with a bogey, Merritt caught fire on the back nine, finishing with six birdies down the stretch.
“Just hit the ball well and rolled some nice putts in,” he said. “Just kind of took care of business. It’s fun when six birdies on the back nine seems fairly simple. It doesn’t happen very much.”
It helped matters that Merritt has played this course, a 15-minute drive from Spring Lake Park, about 10 times.
“Obviously I know the course,” he said. “You still need to find the driver to be effective. Just because I know the course doesn’t mean I’m going got play it well.”
His performance is even more impressive considering what Merritt has been through over the past year. He underwent emergency surgery last August after a blood clot was discovered 10 days after he won the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky. He was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome — his collarbone and his top rib grew too close together and compressed the veins in that area — and had another surgery six months later to remove his top rib.
“I’ve never had to go under the knife before for anything, or go through rehab for anything, so that was kind of a take-it-one-day-at-a-time thing.” Merritt said. “I think my ball striking has been pretty solid ever since I got back. I had a couple of rounds where it kind of went sideways. It’s been pretty solid for the most part.”
Not once did Merritt doubt he could get back to this level of play.
“I think the nice things is ignorance is bliss,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. Just kind of listened to the professionals and took their advice and worked as hard as I could.”
As for how he planned to celebrate his low 36-hole score, Merritt responded like a true Minnesotan.
“I’m going to go to the Twins game tonight,” Merritt said. “It should be a lot of fun.”