Onward to Motown for the penultimate week of the PGA Tour regular season, The Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.
More heat, soft greens and birdies.
Detroit GC is a 7,370-yard par-72 Donald Ross design. There are three reachable par-5s and four par-4s between 350 and 400 yards that all present birdie opportunities.
Power is an asset here because wayward drives aren’t necessarily penalized. But we’ve seen fairway finding putters have success here as well. Two of the three champions — Nate Lashley in 2019 and Cameron Davis in 2021 — were triple-digit long shots. Bryson DeChambeau won in 2020 as a clear favorite.
RELATED: Caddie Line homepage
Here are more notes about Detroit GC and what’s required to contend for the Rocket Mortgage title.
- Players hit longer drives than the Tour average here, hit more fairways and greens in regulation. In short, the ballstriking is easy. The putter is always important, but even more so here. In the three previous Rocket Mortgage Classics, 32 players finished in the top-10. All but one gained at least one shot on the greens. To climb the leaderboard, putts in the 5-15 foot range must drop. It’s just not a week where you can putt worse than the field average and expect a good finish.
- Sharp play from 75-150 yards is vital. On average 11 percent of the approach shots fall in the 75-100 yard range, compared to six percent at the average Tour event. Players also face a higher than average number of 100-125 and 125-150 yard shots. Altogether 40 percent of approach shots occur from within 150 yards of the hole. Dial those wedges, gentlemen.
- All those wedge shots lead to birdies, of course. The average winning score the last three years is 20-under par. We sought out golfers who thrive when the scoring is easy.
- Three years of data is on the low side, however, there’s a strong correlation between a top-20 week in SG: Tee-to-Green and a top-10 finish, which speaks to the relative simplicity of the greens.
- The greens are a mix of bent grass and poa annua, perhaps with some similarity to those at TPC River Highlands, home of the Travelers. There’s some undulation but they are typically soft and 10.5 or so on the Stimpmeter — on the low side of the Tour average.
Rocket Mortgage Classic Fantasy Golf Power Rankings
25. Troy Merritt – Lost in a grueling sudden death playoff a year ago, his second consecutive top-10 in this event. Struck the ball beautifully last week but his short game was bad and putting was awful.
24. Callum Tarren – Flourished in recent birdiefests (John Deere, 3M) and his combination of power and putting is intriguing on a course that’s rewarded both in the past. Has three top-10s in last 12 starts – each in a weaker field.
23. Sepp Straka – Been a barren two months or so for the Honda Classic champion but he’s also taken a massive step up in competition and played overseas, etc. Like the fit here. He can tame a course with his tee shots and is top-15 in birdies on easy courses (last 50 rounds).
22. Chris Gotterup – As long as anyone in the field, played plenty of similar style courses in the Northeast, was extremely comfy in another soft greens birdiefest at John Deere and showed some fight last week, overcoming a bad start to finish T-31 despite losing three shots on the greens.
21. Max Homa – Always love Max. His ballstriking is among the Tour’s best and he’s on one of the best putting runs of his life. Price is steep though, and his putting stats on average speed bent grass are mediocre (109th in the field).
20. Wyndham Clark – Another power hitter who can putt. He’s 21st in the field in scoring over the last 24 rounds.
19. Scott Stallings – Certain to be popular this week. Made the cut in all three trips to Detroit GC (T-25) last year and has three top-10s in his last five starts. Other than the majors and Memorial has been on a strong run in these events with softer fields.
18. Cameron Champ – Like how he gained 3.4 shots on the greens last week in a T-16 at the 3M Open and also fond of his power off the tee which produced a T-12 in the 2020 Rocket Mortgage. Not afraid to contend.
17. Taylor Pendrith – He’s healthy after missing four months with a rib injury. The upper Midwest is familiar territory. He can manhandle the course off the tee and is 13th in the field in SG: Putting on average speed bent (50 rounds). Tied for 13th at Barbasol.
16. Davis Riley – Not giving up on Riley after the 3M where he gained shots Tee-to-Green and missed the cut. It happens. Plenty of distance, strong from 75-125 yards out and top-15 in scoring on easy courses.
15. Adam Svensson – See above. We’ve ridden him since last September, no reason to ditch him after a missed cut. Golf is hard. He took penalty strokes. The putter remained hot.
14. Webb Simpson – Short game and putting are holding Simpson back. Go figure. Over the last 24 rounds, he’s 19th in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green, 78th in Around the Green and 101st in putting. Can’t last. He grew up on Donald Ross courses in the Carolinas.
13. Austin Smotherman – Steadily rewarding our faith in him. Finished T-24 at the 3M, gaining shots in every category for the first time in his young PGA Tour career. Ranks fifth in this field in Opportunities Gained on easy courses. Just needs a few more putts to fall.
12. Alex Smalley – His season has been all-or-nothing. In the last 11 tournaments, he’s missed five cuts and finished 2-6-27-21-16-10 in the other six. Banking on a good week with the wedges and putter, the rest is rock solid.
11. Kevin Kisner – Like we said before his top-20 in The Open Championship, Kisner is cashing on courses that fit his eye and style. Detroit GC qualifies. He’s T46-3-T8 here the last two years, plodding and putting his way to success.
Rocket Mortgage Classic Fantasy Golf Picks
10. Sahith Theegala – Similarities between the greens here and at TPC-River Highlands where Theegala gained 4.2 shots putting and tied for second. Missing the cut last week was probably for the best as it allowed him to rest. Within a whisker of two victories this year.
9. Trey Mullinax – Not sure which was more impressive, his 72nd hole birdie to nip Kevin Streelman in Kentucky or flying immediately across the Ocean and finishing T-21 in The Open at St. Andrews. Talented player has injuries in the rearview mirror and a head full of confidence.
8. Patrick Cantlay – Guess he didn’t want three weeks off before the playoffs. Curious selection on Cantlay’s part. Playing as well as anybody over the last six weeks or so. Leads the field in scoring and birdies on easier courses and is second in ballstriking. The bent / poa mix on the greens is familiar.
7. Cam Young – He’s the No. 3 favorite in Vegas; he was 125-1 at the American Express in January. What a time to be alive! He’s gonna win and there might not be a course that better suits his combination of power and touch. Certainly can make enough birdies and he’s played a Ross or two between growing up in the Northeast and attending college in the Carolinas. Don’t let me stop that train.
6. Cam Davis – The defending champion loves summer golf and why not? The putts are dropping. He’s posted three consecutive top-20s and gained 16 shots Tee-to-Green in the last two measured starts. His irons, short game and putting were all afire last year on his way to victory.
5. Jhonattan Vegas – Dude loves a shootout. Despite being 122nd in the field in SG: Putting on average bent grass greens, he’s an excellent play at his price point because of consistent results on courses where red number in the teens is necessary to have a good week.
4. Russell Henley – If you believe in things you don’t understand you will suffer. Perhaps. But in fantasy golf, you may thrive. Last week, my model spat out Tom Hoge at No. 3. Hoge missed six cuts in a row entering the tournament. I believed the data but didn’t trust it. Hoge tied for fourth. This week, the data loves Henley. He’s the best in the field from 75-100, 100-125 and 125-150 yards over the last 100 rounds. He’s missed two of the last five cuts with nothing better than T-41. The storyteller makes no choice.
3. Tony Finau – What if, all of a sudden, Tony Finau starts winning tournaments in bunches. Nobody doubts the talent and his results are phenomenal in weaker field events. Gained an average of 10 shots Tee-to-Green over his last five measured starts.
2. Maverick McNealy – Now is the time. The time is now. Everything about this course screams a big week for McNealy, a favorite here in the Power Rankings. Back in the fall we predicted a victory before the season ended. He’s running out of time. Above average in SG: Off-the-Tee and Driving Distance. Thrives on easier courses. Loves the grass on the greens. Has a T-21 and T-8 here.
1. Chris Kirk – Will be on the short list of favorites each of the next two weeks. Ballstriking is elite across the board, gained at least two shots on the greens in three of his last four starts and has one of the best short games on the PGA Tour should he need it to convert a late birdie or par down the stretch. A victory has been simmering for the last two years.
Rocket Mortgage Classic Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Paul Barjon, Kevin Chappell, Michael Gligic, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Beau Hossler, Kelly Kraft, Danny Lee, Justin Lower, Patrick Rodgers