There’s a sense this week, an entirely understandable one, that the big-hitters are mostly enjoy some rest and relaxation instead of teeing it up at Detroit GC in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The reason? We’ve had some pretty big tournaments in the last two months and there are plenty to come by summer’s end – they need a break somewhere and this relatively new event therefore is an easy miss. Not for Bryson DeChambeau, however. He’s a big-hitter in both senses of the word, although last year, as we’ll learn, that was not how he took the course apart on his way to a sixth PGA Tour win and a first in his second incarnation as a physical hulk.
Detroit Golf Club
We’ve witnessed just the two editions of this tournament and we’ve learned one key lesson: to expect low-scoring. Detroit GC was new to top level tour golf and the winners have absolutely torn the place apart. Back in 2019 Nate Lashley earned a first win at this level with a 72-hole total of 25-under 265 and a year later DeChambeau triumphed with 23-under 263.
It’s a par 72 layout set at 7,370 yards and is a traditional Donald Ross test providing wonderful echoes of the golden era of early 20th century golf architecture. It’s pure old-school with plenty of dog-legged, tree-lined fairways and small greens. There’s no great threat from the tee and, as the numbers suggest, the approach work will need to set up plenty of birdies opportunities.
It’s perhaps telling that Kevin Kisner says of it: “I wish we played courses like this all the time. Big rough and you’ve got to work it round the dog legs. You can play conservative or you can go for it. They give you birdie opportunities.” He also adds: “We don’t get to play par 72s much, it’s fun to play four par-5s.” What he perhaps means is that in other tournaments of this ilk two of the long holes would be played as par-4s to keep the scoring in check. Befitting the Motor City, at Detroit they let the golfers hit the accelerator pedal and allow them to keep it there.
The weather in Detroit, Michigan has been terrible for a while, the heavy rain causing extensive flooding and that will impact on the course. A layout that is already vulnerable to throwing darts will bet set fair for a repeat. Scattered thunderstorms will continue to be a threat deep into Thursday. Thereafter, there should be nothing worse than cloudy skies. It could be breezy, but it’s unlikely to ever get genuinely windy.
Past Champions in the Rocket Mortgage Classic
In the first renewal of the tournament Lashley pulled off an absolute coup. The now 38-year-old had been slogging through the mini tours, had earned a Korn Ferry Tour spot via Latin America, had graduated to the PGA Tour with one win on the second tier in 2018, and had then made just one top 10 in 18 months ahead of absolutely thrashing the field. He led by one after 18 and 36 holes, by six after 54, and he maintained that advantage to the clubhouse on Sunday.
He was followed home by Doc Redman in second, with Wes Roach and Rory Sabbatini sharing third. As this year, it was not an event heavy with top quality performers and, of them, only Patrick Reed thrived, finishing in a six-way tie for fifth.
Twelve months later, Bryson DeChambeau was the clear favourite with the books and proved them correct in the final round, chasing down the 54-hole leader Matthew Wolff, turning a three-shot deficit into a three-shot win. Wolff hung on for second and, of course, is a big-hitter like the winner. However, short and steady type Kisner finished solo third.
The seven men to have finished tied third or better all ranked top 15 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, but putting stats really separated the wheat from the chaff: six of the seven ranked top 11 for SG Putting, they all ranked top 16 for Putting Average, and were all top 10 for Putts per Round.
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Bryson DeChambeau ($11,400) Yes, he’s top price. Yes, he might need some sort of therapy to get Brooks Koepka out of his mind. But the glee – the absolute, unbridled glee – with which he approached this course last year is telling. “I heard that this is a bomber’s paradise,” he gushed. “I knew that. Even if it limits my driving, my irons going in are going to be a lot shorter.” He was contentedly waiting for greens to be cleared when they were 399 yards away from him. In other words, he’s cocky about this test and we saw at Bay Hill what that can lead to. It’s also a weaker field than he’s recently taken on.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,800) Chile’s finest (outwith the vineyards) is maintaining his consistent form (he’s now on a run of 21-for-22 at making the weekend). What we need to do is find a track when we can include him and get another fine finish. This looks like the one. He didn’t play last year, but he was T–5 in 2019 and short-ish tracks among the trees fall right in his sweet-spot.
Ryan Armour ($7,500) We took him on last week when there were reasons to back him and a result of T–71 backed that up. But this week is different. The twisty track falls right in his wheelhouse. He was T–4 at halfway on his debut here (finishing T–46) and then landed T–4 at the end of all 72 holes last year. Hasn’t finished outside the top 25 in his last four visits to Sedgefield, another Ross design.
Richy Werenski ($6,900) Need some value? Try Werenski who likes a Ross test. He’s 3-for-3 at reaching the weekend at Sedgefield and was T–3 at halfway last year before finishing T–21. That latter effort set him up to go super-low at the 3M Open then win the Barracuda Championship, proving again that he thrives in a birdie-fest.
Denny McCarthy ($6,600) He’s enjoyed the Ross test at Sedgefield, playing there three times and logging T–36, T–22 and T–9. He also carded four rounds in the 60s in 2019 to land T–21. Plays a lot of his best golf at this time of year, up against this sort of field strength.
Bubba Watson ($9,200) If you include Bubba this week and it comes off I’ll happily tip my hat to you and Bubba himself. But at this salary, coming off two missed cuts at the tournament (including three failures to break 70) and a disastrous conclusion to last week’s Travelers Championship (6-over for his last five holes), it’s not a punt I’d want to take.
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Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For the Rocket Mortgage Classic
Webb Simpson ($10,600) Made his debut last year and was electric through 36 holes, carding 68-64 to share the halfway lead. 71-70 at the weekend saw him left behind, but that’s a decent base to build on and he just loves the Ross design at Sedgefield. In fact his record there is silly: missed cut on debut, never missed the weekend in 11 starts since, 10 top 25s, nine of them T–11 or better, victory in 2011, and not out the top three in his last four appearances.
Si-Woo Kim ($8,000) The Korean has been back to his best over the last year and can use that to build on an average course record (MC when in the doldrums, T–57 when climbig out of them last summer). He won The American Express this year, was T–9 recently at Muirfield Village, and owns a brilliant Sedgefield record: victory in 2016, fifth in 2019, third when leading through 54 holes last summer.
Kevin Kisner ($8,500) We’ve already read that this track leaves Kisner wetting his lips and after finishing T–5 last week, after a run of poor form, he’ll be doubly anxious to tee it up again. T–46 in 2019, improved that to T–3 last year and is 6-for-6 at playing all four rounds at Sedgefield, including three top 10s.
Brandt Snedeker ($7,700) If they made a golf course for Snedeker it would be this one. “I seem to like Donald Ross courses,” he said last year. “I knew I wanted to be here.” He also noted that it has poa annua peeping through the bent grass and he loves that as well. He finished T–5 on debut and missed the cut when in a form funk last year. Making cuts again and this Ross specialist (he’s a Sedgefield winner) can kick on this week.
Rory Sabbatini ($6,900) Slovakia’s finest is not in great nick, but he did sign off from River Highlands with a 67 and he likes a Ross test making him great value from near the bottom of the salary ladder. He proved that with tied third on debut here in 2019 and he also owns three top 10s at Sedgefield.
Sebastian Munoz ($7,300) Tempted by the Latin flair this week? Well, maybe don’t be. He’s a canny operator and well worth following in the right circumstances, but this is not them at this salary. He’s making a third visit and he’s yet to make the weekend. He’s also got a poor record at Sedgefield, teeing it up there three times and he’s yet to finish better than T48th.
The driver not being a decisive factor, approach work (especially with short irons) being far more important, dog legs, small greens – sounds familiar? Add in Donald Ross and super low-scoring and the bells should be absolutely ringing. Got it yet? Apart from the grass on the greens (bent not Bermuda) this is very like Sedgefield and the Wyndham Championship, as many of the selections above indicate. De Chambeau has never played there, but Wolff has one top 20 from his only visit and Kisner three top 10s. Lashley has a good start in his only appearance at the Wyndham, Redman has been third, Sabbatini has three top 10s. Last year’s halfway co-leader Webb Simpson is dynamite at Sedgefield, so is Ryan Armour who was T–4; while in 2019 Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Reed, both Wyndham winners, finished top 10. This week’s secret weapon? It has to be Sedgefield.
Other Player Options For The Rocket Mortgage Classic
• Cameron Tringale, who is still seeking a first PGA Tour win, has finished T–5 and T–30 here.
• Doc Redman has made his last five cuts, including T–2 at the Palmetto Championship and he’s also got second and T–21 on the course. Too obvious or the perfect set-up?
• Byeong Hun An is in a shocking run of form: he opened the calendar year with T–8 and hasn’t made a top 30 in 15 starts since.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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