Rocket Mortgage Classic Preview

Josh Culp
The PGA TOUR returns to Michigan for the first time since 2009 as they prep for this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic. (Getty Images)
The PGA TOUR returns to Michigan for the first time since 2009 as they prep for this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic. (Getty Images)

The PGA TOUR heads back to Michigan this week, for the first time since the 2009 Buick Open which was hosted by Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan. 

This week it's the Detroit Golf Club that plays host to a field of 156 golfers. After 36 holes the field will be trimmed to the Top 70 and Ties, as usual. 

Let's dive into the course and then highlight some golfers to watch for this week in The Great Lakes State.

The Course

Detroit Golf Club is the host course this week. It's a Donald Ross design. There are two courses on property, the North and the South. For the PGA TOUR event they will be using 17 holes from the North while grabbing one from the South which helps to add a bit of length for the pros. 

For the tournament week, the course will be lengthened to play up to 7,340 yards as a par of 72. Pretty average in terms of length when looking at things hole-by-hole. There are two shorter par 3s (under 170 yards) but also two longer par 3s (over 205 yards). There are four short par 4s (under 400 yards) but also four longer par 4s (over 450 yards). There are two shorter par 5s (under 555 yards) but also two longer par 5s (over 575 yards). Like I said, very average and a good balance of short and long holes. 

The course is tree-lined with a lot of bunkers littered throughout the property (at least 4 bunkers on 15 of the 18 holes). The holes are mostly straight without a lot of heavy doglegs. The rough is prepped at 3.5 inches or longer which is definitely on the longer side. Long rough does not always equal tough scoring. Just look at TPC Deere Run which preps their rough around 4 inches but they host a birdie-fest each year.

On top of the long rough and tricky bunkering, another key defense of the course is heavily-undulation greens. Depending on how tricky they get with the pin placements, I would expect there to be a fair amount of three-putts this week. 

For grasses the golfers will see bent/poa/rye from tee-to-green and then primarily poa annua on the greens although they do have roughly 15-20% of bentgrass in the mix, as well. 


Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

Firestone CC (previously the WGC-Bridgestone)
TPC Boston (Playoff Event)
Muirfield Village (Memorial Tournament)
TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic)
TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship)

We don't have history to dive into the correlated numbers but we can look for similar course setups. For the courses above I searched for poa/bent greens with rough lengths similar to what they'll see this week in Detroit (long). Firestone has left the PGA TOUR rota but it does seem like a perfect correlation to me because it's tree-lined with a lot of straight holes and poa/bent putting surfaces. 

If you want to take the course architect angle then add Sedgefield and/or East Lake to the mix since they are the only regular TOUR stops at Donald Ross designs. 


The Weather

Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 87 degrees. Calm winds at 3 to 8 MPH. 

Friday: Overcast with a high of 90 degrees. Calm winds at 5 to 10 MPH. 

Weekend: Temps remain in the mid-80s with no real threat of rain in the mix. 

After (mostly) dodging the ugly forecast last week, it looks much calmer this week in Detroit. Temps are warm and winds are calm. Should be a recipe for low scores and not much of an expected tee-time advantage to either side.

Golfers to Watch

Rickie Fowler
A man of the people. He's also a man of the sponsors. This week's it is his affiliation with Quicken Loans that draws him to the event. What does PMI even mean!? Rick? Regardless of the venue, this event has been pretty good for him since QL became the title sponsor in 2014 (a pair of podium finishes in four tries). That is much better than his appearances at another one of his sponsor's events, the Farmers Insurance Open, where he's finished outside the top 60 in six straight appearances. More recently, Fowler was T2 after the opening round of the  U.S. Open but ballooned to a T43 finish by week's end. It was a 6-over 77 in round two that sealed his fate. 

Dustin Johnson
The best golfer in the field (and world?) but he arrives off a T35 at the U.S. Open where he lost 6.1 strokes putting. He also lost nearly 2 strokes putting in Canada the week before. A quick fix or the start of some putting woes? He hasn't lost strokes putting in three straight events since the 2017 Playoffs. 

Hideki Matsuyama
If Firestone caught my eye as a correlated course then Matsuyama should get a slight boost. He's a past champ there thanks to a remarkable 9-under 61 to end his week in 2017. More importantly, he hasn't lost strokes on approach since the 2018 PGA Championship. 

Ryan Moore
Has a win on his Donald Ross resume (2009 Wyndham) and also won at TPC Deere Run (another event played on similar grasses in the early summertime). Going the right way with finishes of MC, T33, and T15 over his last three starts. 

Chez Reavie
Stormed to his second career PGA TOUR win last week at the Travelers. A lot of golfers would withdraw from the next event in this situation. Keep an eye on that over the next few days.

Joaquin Niemann
Don't look now but he's pieced together four straight finishes of T31 or better including a T5 at last week's Travelers. Before this stretch he went 13 straight starts without a finish inside the top 35. The young Chilean is trending back upward and gaining a lot of confidence with the putter along the way.  

Brian Stuard
A native of Jackson, Michigan and an Oakland University alum. Ranks 159th in strokes gained off-the-tee but 58th in approach and 31st in around-the-green. He'll be hoping for firm and fast conditions that let him keep up with the big hitters. 

Joey Garber
He's had this one circled on the calendar for a while as a native of Petoskey, Michigan. Ranks 183rd in the FedExCup race with just one top 25 in 16 starts. 

Ranking the Field 

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Hideki Matsuyama
4. Gary Woodland
5. Patrick Reed
6. Billy Horschel
7. Chez Reavie
8. Bubba Watson
9. Brandt Snedeker
10. Sungjae Im
11. Aaron Wise
12. Bud Cauley
13. Byeong Hun An
14. Kevin Streelman
15. Sung Kang
16. Charles Howell III
17. Jason Kokrak
18. Ryan Moore
19. Kyle Stanley
20. Kevin Kisner
21. Luke List
22. Rory Sabbatini
23. Joaquin Niemann
24. Charley Hoffman
25. Vaughn Taylor

Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.

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