ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC: The city of Detroit is an easy target– hollowed out when American automakers moved much of their production overseas decades ago, Detroit has become a cautionary tale, an urban hellscape of poverty, drugs, violence, and underperforming schools. So it was a big deal when the PGA Tour announced in 2018 that it would be hosting an annual event in the Detroit metro area; it would mark the Tour’s first visit to Michigan in a decade, and with all the money that PGA Tour events generate for local economies, the ramifications of such a decision stretch far beyond golf and entertainment.
Last year’s inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic was a success in this regard, with over $1.2 million being raised for Detroit-area nonprofits. This despite a field that was rather anonymous by Tour standards, and a champion, Nate Lashley, who could probably carry his trophy to the airport without being recognized. That’s not to take anything away from Lashley– it was a great story, as he tried and failed to Monday qualify before getting in as an alternate, then went on to have a life-changing week– but if you’re a tournament organizer, you’re probably hoping for a bit more star power.
Well this year, they have it. Though this field doesn’t quite measure up to what we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks on Tour, it’s still quite strong– much stronger than this tournament could reasonably expect were it not for the unique circumstances. And there won’t be any complaints about the course, as Detroit Golf Club is a Donald Ross classic built nearly 100 years ago that was absolutely pristine last year– too pristine, in fact, as the players tore it up, with Lashley reaching 25-under for the week. The rough is said to be longer this year, which could drive scores up a bit, but with fairly generous fairways and green complexes that, while nuanced, may not be quite as tricky as you’d expect from a Ross design, another birdie-fest might be in the offing.
Bryson DeChambeau heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 7.3, a frightfully short price in my opinion, despite the fact that DeChambeau has been razor-sharp since the restart. Much has been made of how he’s transformed himself into a power player, but there’s no evidence that length off the tee is a significant advantage at Detroit GC, as the bombers didn’t fare particularly well here last year. Besides, there’s no shortage of “live” options in the middle of the market this week. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Patrick Reed (18.5)- Reed is putting together a brilliant season, with five top-25s, three top-10s and a victory over his last seven starts. He contended at Colonial a couple of weeks ago, breaking 70 in all four rounds and finishing just two shots out of a playoff, and he responded to a disappointing opening round at the Travelers last week by shooting 66-69-64 over the final three days to sneak into the top-25. This week we should be looking for someone who’s hot with the putter and can make birdies in bunches, and Reed fits the bill on both counts. And unlike many guys in the field, Reed actually played in this tournament last year and instantly warmed up to Detroit GC, shooting 17-under for the week to finish 5th. He’s the top player on my board this week and is well worth a bet at the current price.
Doc Redman (47.0)- After a lackluster start to the season Redman is really starting to heat up, shooting a combined 28-under over his last 7 competitive rounds. He closed with a 63 in Hartford last week to finish T11 at the Travelers, and now he comes to a place that is full of special memories, as he finished runner-up in this event last year in just his second career PGA Tour start, a performance that locked up full status for this season. Given what we’ve seen out of him since then, and especially lately, you’d have to think that big things are right around the corner for the former U.S. Amateur champ. Distance off the tee is the only thing he seems to lack, but on courses that don’t demand length– courses like Detroit GC– he’s dangerous. He’s one to keep an eye on this week, and I’m happy to take a chance on him at a price like 47.0.
Brian Stuard (128.0)- I have a friend who pointed me in the direction of Stuard this week, and after doing a bit of research I have to concur. The most obvious reason not to bet on someone like Stuard is that he just doesn’t win enough– only one victory across nearly 200 PGA Tour starts. But he’s built himself into a world-class player over the years and has really been hot with the putter lately, ranking near the top of the field in Strokes Gained Putting most weeks. He also happens to be a Michigan native who played collegiately at nearby Oakland University, so he knows Detroit GC well and certainly seemed to make good use of that knowledge last year, as he finished T5 in this event, his second-best result of 2019. After a good week at the Travelers, where he shot 68 or better all four days to finish T20, he should be filled with confidence as he returns to a comfortable setting this week. At better than 125/1, Stuard should be backed enthusiastically.