After a dramatic and thrilling finish to the Travelers Championship, a finish that saw Harris English finally beat Kramer Hickock in a hard-fought, eight-hole playoff, the PGA Tour rolls onto Detroit, for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Before we get into this week’s action, let’s quickly recap last week’s fantasy plays.
After a couple of strong weeks, it wasn’t to be in Connecticut. It wasn’t terrible, and there were times when it looked like a handful of the plays would go seriously close, but ultimately, nobody could quite get down to business when it really mattered.
Must-have pick Paul Casey looked to be right up there when he thundered his way to -4 on the first day, but the Englishman provided false hope, as he spent most of the week going up and down before finishing in a respectable, but not exceptional, tie for 36th. Dustin Johnson was the other must-have last week and it was another frustrating week for big DJ, who played some good golf at times, but wasn’t where we thought he would be, finishing at six under par in a tie for 25th.
Other plays, Kevin Streelman and Russel Henley, both had promising moments. The former started well, shooting -3 on the opening day, but a poor second round meant that he missed the cut, while Henley scored superbly for a long time, putting himself right in contention ahead of Sunday, but a final round of 72 saw him slip away, finishing in a tie for 19th.
The Field for Rocket Mortgage Classic
2020 winner Bryson Dechambeau returns to Michigan to defend his crown, though the line-up won’t be completely star-studded this week, as many top players have opted to swerve the Detroit event, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and John Rahm.
In fact, DeChambeau is the only player currently inside the world’s top 10 to feature. The man who put on the green jacket in April, Hideki Matsuyama, will tee it up, as will Jason Day, who found some form when leading after two rounds at the Travelers last week.
Other big-name players to grace the Michigan course with their presence are Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Sungjae Im, Matt Wolff, Gary Woodland, Will Zalatoris, and Phil Mickelson, who plays in the event for the first time.
The Course at Detroit Golf Club
Rain! Rain! Rain!
Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan
Detroit Golf Club has been home to the Rocket Mortgage Classic since its inception back in 2019. This will be the third renewal of the competition, won in impressive fashion by the big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau 12 months ago.
Detroit Gold Club features two courses, the South Course, and the North Course. This year the tournament will be held on the North Course. Designed by Donald Ross, the course plays at a testing 7,370 yards, though according to ShotLink Data, it is officially the flattest course that the PGA Tour players will face this season.
The fairways on the North Course are tight and mostly tree-lined, meaning that accuracy off the tee is a deadly weapon to have in the armoury. There are several doglegs too, so shot selection is going to be key also. Typically, good approach players have thrived at this venue, so those who perform well in an area such as strokes gained: approach will be a good place to start when looking at potential fantasy and sportsbook picks.
What Does It Take to Win the Rocket Mortgage?
There have only been two previous renewals of this event, but a few things stand out. This might seem obvious, but sometimes players can get away with not being some way short of the top putters, but at this event, putting has been of major importance both years.
The greens are undulating and tough, and those players capable of gaining strokes with the putter will be the ones that thrive. The two previous winners averaged being the second-best in terms of strokes gained: putting at the Rocket Memorial. They also averaged fourth for strokes gained: tee-to-green, making that another critical category.
Those who get themselves in the thick of the battle at the top of the leaderboard will hit no shortage of greens in regulation, so approach is important, while their putting will be of the highest quality.
Playing the Par 5’s well is important too, as both of the previous winners proved. Distance here will be required, as will position, to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that the Par 5’s present. Those who consistently score low on the Par 5’s this week shouldn’t be far away come the close of play on Sunday.
These were Nate Lashley’s numbers when winning in 2019:
|Strokes gained: off-the-tee||29|
|Strokes gained: approach||6|
|Strokes gained: putting||2|
|Strokes gained: tee-to-green||3|
When DeChambeau won last season, he too ranked highly in several of those areas, finishing the week as the number one player in terms of strokes gained: off-the-tee, the fourth best when it came to strokes gained: tee-to-green, while he was second for strokes gained: putting.
Strokes Gained Rankings at Detroit Golf Club
Below are four important strokes gained stats, followed by the top ten in those categories at this event since its inception in 2019. Note: only players who’ve played at least four rounds at the venue are included.
Strokes gained: off-the-tee: Bryson DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Kris Ventura, Cameron Champ, Jason Kokrak, Bubba Watson, Kevin Tway, Kevin Chappell, Lanto Griffin, J.B Holmes.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Henrik Norlander, Jason Kokrak, Danny Lee, Bryson DeChambeau, Byeong Hun An, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Tringale, Danny Willett, Lucas Glover, J.B. Holmes.
Strokes gained: approach: Henrik Norlander, Danny Lee, Jason Kokrak, Joaquin Niemann, Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson, Bronson Burgoon, Hideki Matsuyama, Hank Leboida, Byeong Hun An.
Strokes gained: putting: Nate Lashey, Bryson DeChambeau, Scott Harrington, Maverick McNealy, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker, Tom Lewis, Brian Stuard, Denny McCarthy, Pat Perez.
Draft Picks for the Rocket Mortgage Classic
|Odds To Win +712|
|Draft Kings $11,400|
|How can you not have Bryson at the top of your team this week? He may have let himself down in some big events over the last few months, but this is no time to turn out backs on the big-hitting wonder. He has a crown to defend, and quite simply, his numbers on this track are a joke. Last season, when winning, he was the best player in terms of strokes gained: off-the-tee, but it was what he did with the putter that was eye-catching, gaining 2.23 strokes with the flat stick, making him the second-best of the week in terms of strokes gained: putting. |
Even a slightly less impressive showing than last season would see him go close, but if he gets near those numbers, then very few players will see their names above his come Sunday evening.
|Odds To Win +2100|
|Draft Kings $9,800|
|It’s been something of a breakthrough campaign for Chilean dynamo Joaquin Niemann, who thanks to some excellent performances and three top 10’s, two of which saw him finish as runner up, have seen him shoot to 31st in the world rankings. The 12th best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: off-the-tee, who ranks an impressive ninth when it comes to driving distance, finished 5th on his only previous start at this tournament (2019), and he posted some encouraging data in doing so. |
In fact, of those players in this field who’ve played at least four rounds here, only the two winners (Nate Lashley and Bryson DeChambeau) have better strokes gained: total numbers. That speaks volumes. With the distance to really get himself in position to attack, plus the approach play and putting to match, Joaquin Niemann looks set for another big week and fantasy players can capitalise by drafting him.
|Odds To Win +3600|
|Draft Kings $7,900|
|Doc Redman has the profile of a player who could do very well at Detroit Golf Club this week. He made the cut in both 2019 and 2020, finishing second and 21st respectively. Of those in the field who have played at least four rounds here, he is the fourth-best in terms of strokes gained overall, and crucially, he ranks among the top 15 with the putter. |
There are lots of players who look more suitable off the tee, but who simply don’t putt anywhere near as well as Redman, who in fairness, has posted some excellent strokes gained: tee-to-green numbers at this venue, so we really shouldn’t worry about his ability to get himself in scoring positions, and when he’s there, he has the putting ability to capitalize. In a tournament he clearly favors, on a course that clearly suits his game, Doc Redman, who performed well at the Travelers last week, is a player to side with this week.
|Odds To Win +1900|
|Draft Kings $10,600|
|It’s been a quiet couple of months for Webb Simpson, who has played just three events since the Masters, his best finish being a tie for ninth at the RBC Heritage back in April, so it’s interesting that he appears here. This is clearly an event that Simpson feels he challenge in, and he did that last year when featuring for the first time, finishing eighth. |
His efforts last season see him sit as the tenth best in the field in terms of strokes gained: total, while as we can see above, he ranks favorably in a couple of the specific strokes gained categories. We know that he has the approach play to put himself in lots of promising positions this week and if he’s fired up and ready to go in Detroit, then the major winner currently ranked as the 13th best player in the world, should get himself in contention.
|Odds To Win +7700|
|Draft Kings $7,700|
|Austrian Sepp Straka must go in as a sleeper, simply because he is yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he showed his qualities when finishing T10 at the Travelers last week, while his efforts here in 2019 and 2020 suggest that he can enjoy himself this week. |
Without jumping off the page, Straka ranks well in most of the categories, which is why in this field, of those who’ve played four rounds here, he ranks as the seventh-best player in terms of strokes gained: total. He built on an 11th place finish in 2019 when finishing in a tie for eighth last season, so don’t be shocked if he takes another step in the right direction at a venue where he clearly fancies it.
|Byeong Hun An|
|Odds To Win +17800|
|Draft Kings $6,600|
|Another player winless on the PGA Tour as it stands who could easily do well this week is Byeong Hun An. The 29-year-old hasn’t had much of a season, failing to make the cut on several occasions, but this is a venue where he played well in 2019. |
As we can see, of those in this field to have played four or more rounds at Detroit Golf Club, he’s crept inside the top ten in a couple of important strokes gained categories, so it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he were to enjoy a solid week of golf. If you’re looking for a cheap play to complete the line-up, then Byeong could be your guy.