Out of the Rough: Rocket Mortgage Classic (2023)
The Rocket Mortgage Classic returns to its original position in the PGA TOUR schedule, a month earlier than a season ago.
This week starts a three-week run of Midwest based tournaments for the PGA TOUR.
As previously mentioned, this event was once again moved in the PGA TOUR schedule as last year’s installment took place in late July. The previous three editions of this tournament took place in late June.
This event was first played five years ago, taking over for the National, formerly the Quicken Loans National on the PGA TOUR schedule.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic became the first event staged in Michigan since the final edition of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills back in 2009. It is the first PGA TOUR event to ever be played in Detroit.
Detroit Golf Club was established in 1899 and has a long history, but is still very first to the PGA TOUR with it first being played in 2019.
Fresh off a Major event in the U.S. Open and an elevated event in the Travelers Championship, one would think we would see a rather weakened field this week but this year’s installment of the Rocket Mortgage Classic actually draws a quality field.
Max Homa is the only golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) top-ten to be playing this week but is also joined by names such as Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas.
There will also be eight golfers in the OWGR top-30 and 14 within the top-50 playing this week.
Other notable golfers teeing it up this week include Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler.
Finau returns as the defending champion of this event as he shot a -26 to win by five strokes over Cameron Young, Taylor Pendrith and Patrick Cantlay who all finished at -21.
Other previous winners of this event include Cam Davis, Bryson DeChambeau and Nate Lashley. Finau, Davis and Lashley will be in this week’s field looking to win in Detroit once again.
The field is set at 156 golfers with the top 65 plus ties making the cut.
Detroit Country Club plays as a Par-72 at 7,370 yards and is best described as a bomb-and-gouge course that will feature some very low scores. In all, it’ll be a birdiefest this week.
There are two courses at the Detroit Country Club and although this week’s event will be held predominantly on the longer North course, the third hole for this week will be the South course’s first hole, which is a par-four.
Both courses are a Donald Ross design.
Although we’ve seen fairway finders have success and win here at Detroit Country Club, course and tournament history suggests that those who are long off the tee will have a leg up.
Around 50-percent of all drives have been over 300-yards here at Detroit Country Club which is well over the TOUR average of 295 yards.
In last year’s installment of this event, Finau, Cantlay, Pendrith and Young, the top four finishers, all ranked in the top-20 in driving distance heading into the event.
Of the top-15 finishers a year ago, just Tom Kim and J.J. Spaun were outside of the top-30 in driving distance for the week.
Detroit Country Club as a whole lacks the bells-and-whistles of the PGA TOUR courses we are used to seeing.
The fairways are tree-lined but are rather wide, making it less of a positional course than other parkland courses we’re used to seeing.
There are very few hazards this week. There is also non-penal rough and features accessible back-to-front sloping greens.
The past installments of this event have boiled down to putting contests. This is true for most Ross designs such as East Lake and Sedgefield CC.
This is also a course where poor putters simply don’t catch fire and find themselves in contention. There will be a premium on the TOUR’s best putters.
The greens are a combination of Bentgrass and Poa.
The four par-fives featured this week are the easiest four holes on the course and will need to be taken advantage of. The 635-yard fourth hole is the most difficult of the par-fives but still boasts a 30-percent birdie rate.
The 577-yard 17th is the easiest hole on the course and has a 47-percent birdie rate.
Two of the par-threes play over 200 yards and play rather difficult while the other two play around 160-yards and play much easier.
There are ten par fours on this week’s scorecard. Four play 350-400 yards and four are 450-500 yards.
Greens in regulation percentage is also higher here, coming in at 72-percent. Missing greens isn’t the end-of-the-world however as scrambling is easier here with the lack of hazards and non-penal rough as well.
Winners have more than doubled the field in sand saves over the last four years however.
Around 40-percent of all approach shots come from 125-175 yards with another 21-percent coming from over 200 yards.
In all, hitting greens and creating as many scoring opportunities as possible will be key. Any golfer who does not capitalize on these opportunities will quickly fall off pace and will find themselves out of contention quickly.
As of the time of writing this, there is a 50-percent chance of precipitation on Friday and a 30-percent chance on Saturday. There isn’t much in terms of precipitation for Thursday or Sunday. Temperatures will remain in the high-70’s to low 80’s. Wind will remain in the single-digits in terms of miles-per-hour this week as well. In all, besides a slight chance of rain Friday and Saturday, the weather won’t be much of a factor.
Strokes Gained: OTT (SG: PUTT) / Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Birdie or Better Percentage / Birdie or Better Percentage < 150 Yards
Approach Shots from 125-175 Yards / Approach Shots from 200+ Yards
Par Five Average Scoring
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Sand Saves Percentage
My favorite per my model and therefore for DFS and this price range is the defending champion in Tony Finau ($10,900.) Finau is one to really turn it on in these smaller field events. He’s currently fourth on TOUR in both birdie or better percentage and par five average scoring. He’s also sixth in SG: APP, tenth in GIR%, 33rd in SG: OTT, 36th in sand saves percentage, 43rd in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 44th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 53rd in average driving distance, 57th in birdie or better percentage from less than 150 yards and 101st in SG: PUTT. The putting is a bit of a concern but he is still average there. He has a victory on the season back at the Mexico Open at Vidanta. He has made the cut in 13-of-14 events on the calendar year. He has eight top 25’s, three top 15’s and two top tens with the victory in Mexico. To bring it all together, he is the defending champion so he knows his way around this course as well. Also consider Max Homa ($10,200.) We get a bit of a discount on Homa with his recent run of form but if there was ever a ‘get right’ tournament for him, it would be this week in Detroit. He is currently fifth on TOUR in birdie or better percentage, eighth in SG: PUTT, 16th in SG: APP, 34th in birdie or better percentage under 150 yards, 40th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 58th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 63rd in both average driving distance and par five average scoring, 64th in sand saves percentage, 65th in SG: OTT and 90th in GIR%. With the greens easier to hit this week than most tournaments, his 90th placement in that statistical category doesn’t worry me all that much. Homa has missed back-to-back cuts which is why we’re getting this discount this week in both DFS and on the betting card, as he comes in at +1800. Prior to that he placed T8th at the Wells Fargo Championship and T9th at the Charles Schwab Challenge while making the cut at the PGA Championship. He won earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open as well. He also placed second at the Genesis Invitational, T6th at THE PLAYERS and T14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s a buy low candidate this week that I’m all on board with.
It should go without saying that I like Tom Kim ($9,800) this week. He’s a bit volatile right now and for that, I’m leaving him off the betting card, especially at +1800 with the likes of Homa right there. Kim has made back-to-back cuts heading into this week at the U.S. Open where he placed T8th and last week’s Travelers Championship. He is currently eighth on TOUR in both SG: APP and GIR%. He is also 11th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 14th in par five average scoring, 23rd in birdie or better percentage, 56th in SG: OTT, 89th in birdie or better percentage from under 150 yards and 105th in average driving distance. His score this week is hindered by a 128th placement in SG: PUTT, which he is better as of late on the greens than that number suggests and 151st in sand saves percentage. He lacks the distance off the tee for me to really get behind this week but did place seventh here a year ago. Also consider Keegan Bradley ($9,200.) Bradley is priced a bit higher than I would like following his run-away victory a week ago at the Travelers Championship, but we can’t ignore how he matches up here. There isn’t much in terms of recent results to gloat about when it comes to Bradley outside of his victory a week ago. He did place second at the Farmers Insurance Open and T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year. He does have four top 30 finishes dating back to The Masters however. He is currently 20th on TOUR in both birdie or better percentage and approach shots from 200-plus yards, 23rd in SG: PUTT, 38th in SG: OTT, 52nd in birdie or better percentage from under 150 yards, 53rd in SG: APP, 54th in par five average scoring, 65th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 77th in average driving distance and 80th in GIR%. He is hit a bit due to a 161st placement in sand saves percentage. However, we can’t ignore what he did last week.
This isn’t a price range I’m in love with which typically is the trend when it comes to these smaller field events. Either way, I get to talk about one of my favorite golfers in Tom Hoge ($8,400.) Hoge is currently fifth on TOUR in both SG: APP and approach shots from 200-plus yards. He is also 15th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 18th in birdie or better percentage, 22nd in birdie or better percentage from less than 150-yards, 24th in GIR%, 85th in par five average scoring and 98th in SG: PUTT. His score in our model is hurt by a 129th placement in SG: OTT, 133th in average driving distance and 136th in sand saves percentage. I have talked about the importance of distance off the tee but fairway finders too have had success here in Detroit. Hoge has made the cut in five of his last six tournaments. His best finish of the year came back at THE PLAYERS Championship where he placed T3rd. Also consider Stephan Jaeger ($8,900.) You’re spending up for the likes of Jaeger but that is due in part to a fifth place finish here a year ago. He is currently 15th on TOUR in GIR%, 35th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 47th in average driving distance, 54th in par five average scoring, 59th in SG: OTT, 60th in birdie or better percentage, 64th in SG: APP, 68th in sand saves percentage, 90th in approach shots from 125-175 yards and 103rd in birdie or better percentage from under 150 yards. He is currently 121st in SG: PUTT which is a bit of a problem but we’ll hope he can wade the waters this week on the greens. Jaeger has made seven consecutive cuts on TOUR and has made the cut in 14-of-16 events on the calendar year. I’m placing a unit on him at +4100.
Both of my long shot outright bets can be found in this price range. First we have Kevin Yu ($7,000) who comes in with a fantastic price. In his first tournament back on TOUR since February at the Travelers Championship, he went T49th. In five tournaments this year on TOUR he missed the cut just once. Included in those five tournaments he placed T7th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He is currently second on TOUR in GIR%, third in both SG: OTT and approach shots from 200-plus yards, eighth in birdie or better percentage, 14th in par five average scoring, 31st in average driving distance, 37th in SG: APP, 51st in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 103rd in birdie or better percentage from under 150 yards and 112th in sand saves percentage. The greens are what really hold Yu back as he ranks 181st in that category. He lost 3.146 strokes on the greens last week. I know I said this isn’t an event where someone typically finds a hot putter, but we’ll hope that is the case for Yu. I’ll be placing a unit at +12000 on Yu this week. Also consider Joseph Bramlett ($7,600.) If the trend continues for Bramlett, he’ll make the cut this week as he has missed the cut in alternating weeks dating back to the AT&T Byron Nelson. He missed the cut last week at the Travelers so he’s due to make it this week. He has made the cut in four-of-his-last-six events with placements such as T10th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta, T19th at the AT&T Byron Nelson and T16th at the Memorial. He is currently 11th on TOUR in average driving distance, 17th in GIR%, 27th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 36th in both SG: APP and birdie or better percentage, 42nd in sand saves percentage, 43rd in average par four scoring, 62nd in SG: OTT, 83rd in birdie or better percentage from less than 150 yards and 105th in approach shots from 125-175 yards. He too isn’t the best of putters, ranking 141st in SG: PUTT. In his latest tournament where he made the cut, the Memorial, he was darn near even on the greens. I think he has it in his bag to catch a hot putter. I’ll be placing a unit on him at +15000.
Leading off this final price range is Vincent Norrman ($6,900.) Normann is currently 12th on TOUR in average driving distance, 17th in par five average scoring, 19th in GIR%, 35th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 39th in SG: OTT, 40th in birdie or better percentage, 43rd in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 92nd in birdie or better percentage from less than 150 yards and 119th in SG: APP. His score is brought down by a 156th ranking in SG: PUTT and 160th in sand saves percentage. The Swede is on the back of three consecutive missed cuts and I don’t see him making it four in a row. A perfect buy low candidate. It wasn’t that long ago where he placed T8th at the AT&T Byron Nelson and T18th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta. We’re looking for these suggestions to make the cut and I believe Norrman can do that. Also consider Ben Martin ($6,900.) Martin is currently 18th on TOUR in both SG: APP and GIR%, 24th in approach shots from 125-175 yards, 27th in birdie or better percentage from less than 150 yards, 45th in birdie or better percentage, 62nd in sand saves percentage, 91st in SG: OTT, 97th in SG: PUTT and 104th in par five average scoring. His score is hindered by a 140th placement in average driving distance and 162nd in approach shots from 200-plus yards. Again, golfers won’t be perfect in this price range, especially this field. Martin has made ten cuts in his last 12 events. Included in that run was a T5th at the Honda Classic, T8th at the Corales Puntacana Championship and T10th at the Valero Texas Open. He made the cut last week at the Travelers Championship.
Tony Finau (+1400) - 2u
Max Homa (+1800) - 2u
Stephan Jaeger (+4100) - 1u
Kevin Yu (+12000) - 1u
Joseph Bramlett (+15000) - 1u