The PGA TOUR heads to Detroit this week for the fourth running of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
This is the penultimate regular season event so it's crunch time for golfers trying to make their final push in the FedExCup race.
A total of 156 golfers will tee it up to start the week and that number will be trimmed to the top 65 and ties after 36 holes.
Detroit Golf Club returns as the host venue for the fourth time at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Laid out by Donald Ross more than a century ago, this course certainly falls in the "classical course" bucket.
As you typically see on an older design, there are doglegs and the greens are the key defense of the course.
Looking at the scorecard, we see a par 72 that stretched out to 7,370 yards from the tips.
On a hole-by-hole basis, there are four par 4s that play under 400 yards. Only one of the par 4s play over 461 yards, so not a lot of beefy holes, which allows golfers of all distance types to contend.
Off the tee, golfers will see somewhat generous landing areas that are framed by large trees to make them look or feel a bit more narrow. The field has found about 65 percent of fairways here which is slightly easier than TOUR average.
On approach, golfers will see small greens with even smaller targets due to the sectioned, turtleback greens that have false fronts. Of course, with a summer date in the Midwest, the greens need to be heavily watered which leads to softer and receptive conditions. The field has landed about 72% of greens in regulation which is quite a bit easier than TOUR average.
Once they reach the greens, they'll see heavily undulated putting surfaces that are primarily poa annua with about 20% bentgrass in the mix, as well. The grounds crew can ramp them up to ultra-fast speeds but they typically target 12 feet on the stimp during tournament week.
Overall, the scoring environment is one of the easier ones out on TOUR. The field has averaged around a 23 percent birdie-or-better rate while the double or worse rate is the lowest on TOUR. There just isn't a lot of trouble to find here which is about the only thing that separates it from last week's venue, TPC Twin Cities.
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Quotes on the Course
Webb Simpson: "What's difficult about Donald Ross courses, how the greens are so undulating and almost like a flipped upside down bowl that balls will roll off the green if they get near the edge."
Brian Stuarrd: “I always just kind of attribute it to an old-school, tree-lined, traditional golf course. usually the greens are kind of the test of a Donald Ross course, I would say, and it's no different here."
Viktor Hovland: "So, around the greens is definitely thick. You're going to have a hard time if you miss the greens because the rough is really thick there."
Cameron Champ: "It's definitely a finesse-type course. Obviously if you have length it can be an advantage, but at the same time the greens are very slopey and your iron play has to be on as well, as well as putting. I think this is a course where yes, you can shoot very low, but all aspects of the game have to be in the same sequence to do that."
Donald Ross tendencies are a key talking point when golfers head to Detroit GC. Sloped greens and tricky around-the-green rough tend to pop up a lot in the pressers.
Let's look at the leaderboards over the last three years and see where the most crossover success can be found, when it comes to other courses played on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour:
TPC Deere Run
Silverado Resort and Spa
Pebble Beach Pro-Am Rota
A common link here is grass types. Comfort on poa annua putting surfaces certainly appears to be helpful here.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 85 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Winds at 8 o 12 MPH.
Rain can't be ruled out completely but this looks like a much drier forecast than what we saw last year in Detroit.
Golfers to Watch
The Cali kid is making his tournament debut but it's easy to see why he's opening as the betting favorite. Cantlay has posted top 15s in six of his last seven stroke-play events with three of those doubling as top 5s.
While Cantlay is making his tournament debut, Kisner is on the other side of the spectrum as he's quickly established himself as a course horse. He is 3-for-3 here with top 10s in two of those three trips. "I wish we played courses like this all the time. Big rough and you've got to work it around the doglegs. You can play conservative or you can go for it. They give you birdie opportunities."
McNealy has nothing but good vibes to work with at Detroit Golf Club, posting top 25s in both visits. The California native has talked about his comfort on these poa annua and bent grass mixes so I would expect more of the same in terms of likely top 25s. McNealy is playing his sixth straight event, and he's posted top 20s in three of his last four in the lead-up to this week's event.
There is a lot of young talent in the field, most notably Christopher Gotterup and Joohyung Kim, but we shouldn't forget about Thorbjornsen, either. He popped with a top 5 at the Travelers Championship, quickly showcasing that his tools stack up on the big stage. He's still playing as an amateur and expectations should be kept at a realistic level. Certainly a name to circle this week when following the leaderboard, though.
This week's classical design is not a bomb-and-gouge layout, but we've seen what an aggressive approach can do at Detroit Golf Club, when Bryson DeChambeau dismantled it in 2020 with a heavy dose of big drives. Young has proven his driving skills belong in Tier 1 of the best golfers on TOUR which puts him in play as a fantasy option any time he tees it up. Young is currently leading the Rookie of the Year race but he has good competition on his heels with Davis Riley, Sahith Theegala, and Mito Pereira all inside of the top 40 in the FedExCup standings. Still plenty of motivation for Young as he tries to break his maiden and become a PGA TOUR winner.
Ranking the Field
1. Patrick Cantlay
2. Tony Finau
3. Will Zalatoris
4. Max Homa
5. Adam Scott
6. Cameron Young
7. Keegan Bradley
8. Maverick McNealy
9. Webb Simpson
10. Cameron Tringale
11. Cam Davis
12. Russell Henley
13. Denny McCarthy
14. Chris Kirk
15. Kevin Kisner
16. Adam Hadwin
17. Matt Kuchar
18. Davis Riley
19. Si Woo Kim
20. Sahith Theegala