Rocket Mortgage Classic
For a large chunk of the week it looked like we might back up our success with Jon Rahm at the US Open with another winner at the Travelers in the shape of TPC River Highlands specialist Bubba Watson.
Watson who was looking for his fourth win in Connecticut and first on tour since his success here in 2018 had looked all over the winner for a large chunk of Saturday and through the first dozen holes on Sunday as despite a few missed birdie opportunities he looked in control of his game as he stood on the par 5 13th with a one shot lead.
A poor second shot in to 13th though seemed to rattle him and what followed from there on in was a painful watch to say the least. A par on 13 was followed by bogeys on 14, 15 & 16 and once he found the water with his approach on 17 any chance of even a place return had vanished.
So a frustrating week to say the least, however you just have to accept that for every week where things go your way on Sunday you will get a week like this. It’s just the nature of the beast.
The event itself was won by Harris English who finally sealed a victory on the eighth hole of a marathon play off with Kramer Hickok. Both players had their chances to close it out in a dramatic stretch of play and you have to feel sorry for Hickok who was looking for his first tour title.
Hopefully it wont take him long to get over this and he’ll hit the winners circle soon.
Following on from the Travelers the the tour head to Detroit in Michigan for the third edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which debuted in 2019.
The field is headed up by defending champion Bryson Dechambeau who is a clear favourite at single figure odds. Behind Bryson in the betting we then have Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson.
Detroit Golf Club will play to a Par 72 measuring at 7334 yards.
The greens are Poa Annua with an approximate 20% bentgrass mix.
There are two courses at Detroit Golf Club, the North and South, which were both designed by Donald Ross and completed by 1916. For this event the North Course is used.
The course is a fairly typical Ross design with undulating fairways and greens. Despite the defence of the greens the track has been there for the taking in the first two editions and I would expect more of the same this year.
With the course still being pretty new to us aside from looking at the two leaderboards we have seen to date the logical leap is to look at form on other Donald Ross courses used on tour and these include the following;
East Lake – Tour Championship
Sedgefield G&CC – Wyndham Championship
Aronimink – 2018 BMW Championship
Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays
Pinehurst No 2 – 2014 US Open
Here’s a look at the final top ten from each of the first two editions.
1 Bryson Dechambeau -23
2 Matthew Wolff -20
3 Kevin Kisner -18
T4 Ryan Armour -16
T4 Tyrrell Hatton -16
T4 Adam Hadwin -16
T4 Danny Willett -16
T8 Maverick McNealy -15
T8 Sepp Straka -15
T8 Webb Simpson -15
T8 Troy Merritt -15
1 Nate Lashley -25
2 Doc Redman -19
T3 Wes Roach -18
T 3 Rory Sabbatini -18
T5 Joaquin Niemann -17
T5 Ted Potter Jnr -17
T5 Patrick Reed -17
T5 Brandt Snedeker -17
T5 Brian Stuard -17
T5 Cameron Tringale -17
So what do these leaderboards tell us? Well not unsurprisingly for someone who posted a six shot victory Lashley in 2019 was dominant in pretty much all statistical categories, finishing the week third from tee to green, sixth in approach play and second in putting, a pretty lethal combination!
Looking further down that leaderboard second place home Doc Redman is known for his strengths from tee to green and he allied that with a warm putter while three of those who finished tied for fifth Potter Jnr, Reed and Snedeker are all renowned for their short game wizardry giving us an early indication that a strong putter maybe the key ingredient here.
Looking then at the 2020 leaderboard and Bryson Dechambeau used a combination of big hitting and a hot putter to triumph leading the field in distance and strokes-gained-off-the-tee and ranking second in putting, while second and third place home Matthew Wolff and Kevin Kisner both performed strongly on the greens as well.
With Dechambeau and Wolff finishing first and second last year clearly distance off the tee can be seen as beneficial however the success of the likes of Lasley, Kisner, Armour and Redman over the first two editions shows clearly that shorter hitters can flourish here.
As mentioned earlier it may also pay this week to look at form on other Donald Ross courses and one thing that strikes me on that basis is that two players who tied for fifth place in 2019 Reed and Snedeker are former Wyndham Championship winners while Kisner, Redman and Simpson have also figured prominently in both events.
Away from Donald Ross tracks and whether coincidence or not, another link that had struck me prior to last years edition is to the Greenbrier. This is because both Potter Jnr and Niemann who also tied for fifth in 2019 have been victorious there while Lashley finished third at the Greenbrier the year prior to his win here.
Furthermore Sabbatini, Stuard and Tringale who all finished top 5 here in 2019 have all posted top ten finishes at the Greenbrier in the past.
Looking at last years leaderboard here while there was no links as obvious to this event Mark Hubbard played well here to finish 12th having finished 10th at the Greenbrier the previous fall so this does seem a link still worth pursuing.
From the point of view of form 2019 champion Lashley had finished no better than 28th in his previous eight starts, all be it that performance had come in his previous outing at Pebble Beach in the US Open.
Bryson Dechambeau meanwhile had come out of lockdown in blistering form finishing third, eighth and sixth in his previous three starts so a win was clearly telegraphed.
Finally low scoring here is clearly the order of the day with winning scores of 23- under and 25- under posted by the two champions to date.
The lead up days heading in to the event show the possibility of storms across them so it is quite possible softer conditions will greet the players on Thursday.
Of the four tournament days Thursday also shows the chance of some storms however from there on in fingers crossed it will stay dry.
Wind does not look to be a huge issue for most of the week however gusts of 10-15mph will potentially give the players something to think about.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
KEVIN KISNER – 30/1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T8th
First up this week is a pretty straightforward pick in the shape of Kevin Kisner.
Whilst my overall thought is that this is a week where it may pay dividends to go down a more speculative route sometimes, as we saw with our Jon Rahm pick at the US Open, what’s straight in front of you is also the way forward and that is how I see it with Kisner this week.
One of the shorter hitters on tour Kisner has long become known as a player to support in certain events and to avoid at all costs, with the biggest clue for this coming from the man himself who when asked earlier this year why he bothered turning up to places like Torrey Pines admitted that it was ‘because the cheque is great for finishing 25th ’.
From that point of view the fact that Kisner who, had been out of form of late managed to play all four days at the US Open recently, alerted us to a possible turning of the corner and sure enough he built on that effort to produce a fifth place finish at the Travelers last week.
Kisner’s strength as we know comes in two areas, accuracy off the tee and with his putter, and he showed us last week in Connecticut that the latter area is in good nick as he finished third for the week in strokes-gained-putting.
Moving on to this week then and Kevin returns to a track, which sits within his wheelhouse as one where shorter hitters can compete, something that he showed when finishing third here last year, a result, which came on the back of a 29th finish and two missed cuts after the tour had resumed.
The fact that Kisner performed well here though should not come as a big surprise as, as well as the course being one that does not have to be overpowered, he also has strong record on the other two Donald Ross designs used regularly on tour, Sedgefield CC and Eastlake.
In addition as noted earlier the key to unlocking this course appears to be a hot putter, which as we know is where the Georgia Bulldog shines.
Kisner returns this week to Detroit CC for his third visit and on the back of his strong showing last week I can see him building on last weeks strong performance and making a big push for his first PGA Tour stroke play title in four years.
MAVERICK McNEALY – 70 /1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 21st
Next up for me this week is Maverick McNealy.
After a stellar amateur career McNealy as expected has taken no time at all to firstly make his way on to the PGA Tour and then to cement a place for himself, finishing 68th in the Fedex Cup standings in his first full season and 59th so far this campaign.
In that short time McNealy has identified himself as a player who seems most at home on shorter tracks where his normally strong putter can flourish.
To back this up we see can see that this season McNealy has finished 12th at the Mayakoba, fourth at Pebble Beach and second at Hilton Head, while his maiden campaign saw him notch a fifth at Pebble Beach and significantly an eighth place finish here.
After Maverick finished fourth at Hilton Head he had a couple of disappointing missed cuts at the Wells Fargo and the PGA Championship, however he then finished 20th at the Charles Schwab, a performance, which included a round of 63, before notching a 30th place last week at the Travelers.
Looking in more detail at that Travelers effort and one thing that catches the eye is that McNealy finished the week ranked first in strokes-gained-off-the-tee so the long game is obviously in good shape, while 21st in putting shows the flat stick is in decent nick as well.
McNealy showed when finishing second at Pebble Beach this year, backing up his fifth place there last year, that he can return to a venue he has performed well at before, in addition it is quite possible his connections to the Pebble area inspired him to play well.
The significance here is that having played well here last year there is every possibility Maverick will do so again and if you then add in the fact that his Father grew up in this area of Michigan, something that he commented on last year, he is clearly comfortable in the area.
McNealy is undoubtedly going to taste success sooner rather than later on the PGA Tour and with his eye catching effort last week, and on a course we know he likes, I am keen to have him on side this week.
MARK HUBBARD – 125/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up this week I am going to give an opportunity to Mark Hubbard.
After a very sluggish start to this campaign Hubbard has quietly started to turn the corner with a run of five straight made cuts, which culminated in a 13th place finish at the Travelers last week.
In that performance in Connecticut Hubbard performed solidly through most areas of the bag ranking 26th off the tee, 14th in putting and 17th in good old fashioned Driving Accuracy, with only his approach play, the area, which has let him down this season the most, holding him back. Encouragingly though after a negative opening couple of days on this front Hubbard gained strokes both Saturday and Sunday in this department.
Moving on to this week then and Mark now returns to a venue, which he delivered a strong performance at last year, finishing 12th after a run of three solid made cuts.
Looking at Hubbard’s performances as a whole and not only did he play well here last year but he also ticks the correlating course boxes as he has performed well at the Wyndham Championship on the Donald Ross designed Sedgefield, finishing 15th last year, a result, which could have been much better but for a disappointing Sunday, and 24th back in 2018.
He also finished tenth at the Greenbrier back in 2019, which as noted seems to tie in well here.
Currently at 151st in the Fedex Cup standings Hubbard needs to continue to build on his recent upturn in form otherwise he will find himself heading back to the Korn Ferry tour finals. This week though on a course, which suits his game I see it as a great opportunity for him to build on the last few weeks and post a really strong finish.
DENNY McCARTHY – 200/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
It’s barely two to three months since Denny McCarthy was going off at odds well below 100/1 however a run of poor results has seen him slip off the radar and now become available at a juicy 200/1.
While Denny’s recent run of three missed cuts in five starts and nothing better than 59th perhaps warrants his drift in odds I am much more interested in the 28yr olds hot putter, which I believe could make him an ideal candidate to perform well at Detroit GC.
Although McCarthy has struggled recently, each season that he has been on the PGA Tour he has made steady progress.
In 2018, his first full campaign, he failed to make the 125, however a trip back to the Korn ferry finals saw him win the Tour Championship and therefore retain his card. In 2019 he then finished 111th, significantly posting a 21st here when badly out of touch and a 22nd at the Ross designed Sedgefield CC.
In 2020 Denny then made further progress up to 73rd in the Fedex Cup, posting his joint second best result of the season, a ninth at Sedgefield, when he was in no great form. Furthermore a 31st place finish at the correlating Greenbrier included a stellar round of 61.
On to this season then and while Denny has been patchy in places he has knocked on the door on three occasions including a best tour result of third at the Honda Classic in March.
Last weekend at the Travelers the 28yr old averted a run of two missed cuts with a lowly 73rd place finish, however his trademark putter was working well as he ranked tenth for the week on the greens.
We have seen with McCarthy that if the course suits him he can find his game suddenly after a barren patch, and I am therefore happy to risk him this week at juicy odds on a track, which should be ideal for him to show his prowess on the greens.
KRISTOFFER VENTURA – 500/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week I can’t resist a roll of the dice on Kristoffer Ventura at massive odds for a few different speculative reasons.
The 26yr old Norwegian is destined to live in the shadow of his fellow countryman and former Oklahoma team mate Viktor Hovland, however having qualified for the PGA Tour after posting two wins on the Korn Ferry Tour in his first campaign out there, there is no doubt that Ventura has ‘plenty of game’ in his own right.
One of the longer hitters on Tour and also the possessor of a silky putting touch, which currently sees him ranked 11th this season with the flat stick, Kristoffer could just have the perfect game to overpower Detroit GC in the way Dechambeau and Wolff did last year.
Since two top seven finishes in the first three weeks of the season it has undeniably been tough going for Ventura, hence his odds this week of course, however he did open up with a 66 just three starts ago at the Byron Nelson, while last week he was solid off the tee until a disappointing Sunday in this department.
Not much to get too excited about then of late however what also catches my eye is that Ventura finished 21st here last year in his first start on the PGA Tour post lockdown and that he notched a round of 63 on his debut at the Ross designed Sedgefield last August on his way to 37th.
This season has seen Ventura show that he can produce big results in the big league so with that experience now behind him and potentially inspired by Hovland’s success in Germany at the weekend, I am happy at huge odds to chance that Ventura can improve on last years effort here and threaten a big place return for us.
UPDATED 29th JUNE
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - PATRICK RODGERS - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED 41st - DK POINTS 78
Patrick Rodgers as regular readers will know is a player I have chanced at big odds in my outright preview on a few occasions this year, however unfortunately he is yet to have that one big week where it all clicks together.
Of late however since chamging ball Rodgers does appear to have picked up some momentum and along with a great qualifying performance for the US Open there have been some strong patches of play.
A big hitter who putts well Rodgers should be comfortable at Detroit GC and this is something that is backed up by a solid showing here last year.
Capable of bursts of seriously low scoring Patrick is certainly a player who could reap dividends in DK if it all clicks ans I am happy to chance him in this section this week.
PICK 2 - SATOSHI KODAIRA - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 33
For my second pick I am going to roll the dice with Satoshi Kodaira.
Perhaps buoyed by his fellow countryman Matsuyama's recent Major success Kodaira's form has significantly picked up of late with his last four starts delivering three top twenty finishes and a 36th last weekend.
The foundation of Satoshi's upturn has been a really hot putter and with this event being one that has rewarded a strong week on the greens in its first two editions a continuation of this could bode well for the Japanese player.
Not one of the longest off the tee Satoshi needs to pick his spots to thrive and this week looks an ideal opportunity for him to continue his recent strong form.