There’s a new event and a new venue on the PGA Tour this week with a stop at Detroit Golf Club for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
The event is part of the Open Qualifying Series, giving up to two non-exempt players entry into next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
While it’s a new venue for the PGA Tour, Detroit Golf Club certainly isn’t new. It’s an amazing Donald Ross layout that first opened in 1899 — an old-school classic.
A solid field for the inaugural event includes U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland (his first start since the win at Pebble), Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, last week’s winner Chez Reavie, Ryan Moore, Kevin Kisner and more.
So which players should you be watching closely this week in Detroit?
We asked that question to three caddies on the ground.
Here are the players they like and why…
- Vaughn Taylor. “This is an old school golf course. Length – being an advantage here — really depends on the direction of the wind. If it’s into the wind, it lends itself to bombers. I want to say a bomber is probably a good bet every week, but this course — depending on rainfall and how hard the greens get — you could get a repeat of last week with a Chez Reavie-type: someone who is accurate off the tee (not necessarily the longest), a really good chipper and putter. Dustin is the favorite the week, but what’s the point in betting the favorite, right? Let’s go with Vaughn Taylor. He played really well last week. I think he’s got a lot of positive momentum after birdieing each of his last five holes Sunday at TPC River Highlands to finish fourth in the Travelers. I also feel like this course suits him. Vaughn is in good shape right now with his FedExCup position (No. 65), so why not try for a win?”
- Sungjae Im. “I’m gonna go with a rookie – Sungjae Im. He’s played a ton this season – 27 starts already. Eleven of those have been top-25 finishes. I think he’s a grinder and if you’re going to rate rookies, he’s having a very solid year. He lapped them on the Web.com Tour last year. He’s 26th in the FedEx standings right now. That’s a terrific rookie campaign to this point.”
- Shawn Stefani. “He’s a guy who needs the money and plays well when his back is against the wall. We’re getting close to the finish line now. The one thing they all want is to finish inside the top 150 in the FedEx. He’s inside that now at No. 139 and definitely trying to chase down the top 125. I like him as a dark horse this week.”
- Rickie Fowler. “Aside from the fact that he’s enjoying a sensational season thus far — 10th in FedEx standings, five top 10s, a win in Phoenix — I’ve seen too many of those Rocket Mortgage ‘that got weird’ commercials featuring Rickie not to pick him in a tournament sponsored by that company!”
- Doc Redman. “Obscure pick? Maybe. But I believe in confidence and momentum. Doc made seven birdies and two eagles in the Monday qualifier to get in this week. I think that kind of play will spill over into the tournament.”
- Dustin Johnson. “He’s the highest-ranked player in the field this week (No. 2). On this course, none of the fairway bunkers will be in play for any of the longer guys and the greens will be tough to make long range putts on. This place was built for this guy.”
- Bubba Watson. “All the same reasons as Dustin. If the greens stay firm, this is a bomber’s paradise. The guys who smoke it will have no problem holding the greens and knocking it close on the firm greens.”
- Keith Mitchell. “Another bomber who won’t hit it in a fairway bunker all week who is also due for a good showing. Of course he won at Honda earlier this year, but hasn’t had a top-10 finish since a T8 at Quail Hollow at the start of May.”