Following an eight-hole playoff victory for Harris English at the Travelers Championship, the PGA Tour makes its way to Detroit Golf Club for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This will be the third edition of the event, with Nate Lashley winning the inaugural event and Bryson DeChambeau winning last year. Detroit Golf Club is an old-style golf course designed by Donald Ross. The other Donald Ross course on the Tour is Sedgefield. Ross commonly uses greens that slope from back-to-front.
Detroit Golf Club is a Par 72 that is only 7,340 yards. Golfers will me tempted to bomb their way around this course. The generous ryegrass fairways allow golfers to frequently pull out their driver. The course is not very long, and with most golfers choosing to hit driver the Approach shots on this course are much shorter than the Tour average. Proximity from 75-100 yards, and 100-125 yards will be more important this week than almost any other week. The greens are relatively easy to hit and scrambling is not difficult here. All of these signs point to a putting contest. With only two years of course data to use, there is not an overwhelming number of key stats that directly stick out.
Similarities between Nate Lashley’s and Bryson DeChambeau’s wins are pretty thin. Lashley gained less than a stroke Off-the-Tee whereas Bryson gained 6.6 strokes in that category. Lashley gained 5.5 strokes on Approach and Bryson only managed to gain .48 strokes on Approach. Both players gained at least 7.5 strokes Putting which shows that having a putting ceiling is vital this week. Bad putters can still contend if they are volatile and capable of getting hot with the flatstick, but if a player has shown a very low ceiling for putting, I will not consider them for this event. Bryson and Lashley both ranked 4th in Tee-to-Green in their winning weeks. This will be an absolute birdie-fest with both winners scoring into the low-to-mid 20s. Lashely made 28 total birdies and only 3 bogeys while Bryson made 28 birdies, 1 eagle, and 6 bogeys. Scoring is key, especially on the Par 4s. Lashley and Bryson combined to score on 38.75% of the Par 4s that they faced, and scored on astounding 65.63% of the Par 5s that they faced.
In a week like this, the elite golfers lose their advantage because every golfer is capable of winning. Young players coming off the Korn Ferry Tour might have extra appeal this week as they are used to going low in order to contend. The cutline that past two years has been -4 so golfers need to get off to a fast start and keep their foot on the gas. This week is a sprint, so I am mostly looking for high upside players. Players who are capable of getting to -20 under is the first thing I am considering. Players who are in good form, or trending in the right direction will be my targets. To be completely blunt, I do not think this is a great week to deep dive numbers and over-analyze the event.
Key Stats: Tee-to-Green, Short Proximities (75-100, 100-125), Putting Upside, Off-the-Tee, and GIRs Gained
Scoring Upside: Par 4 Scoring Average, Birdies-or-Better Percentage, Bogey Avoidance, Par 5 Birdies-or-Better Percentage
Rocket Mortgage Classic Tips
Webb Simpson 19-1
Webb Simpson has not played too much golf this season, but when he has played, he has produced. In 15 total events this season, Webb has finished inside the Top 10 five times. Webb knows that not every course will fit his skillset so when he is playing it’s because he knows he has a chance to win. Webb Simpson’s best course every year is Sedgefield, which is also a Donald Ross design and in his only appearance at this event Webb finished T8. Webb Simpson is a proven winner who plays well at these types of events.
The 35-year-old has been a scoring machine this season, ranking inside the Top 12 in Par 3, Par 4, and Par 5 Scoring Averages. Webb is surprisingly very efficient on Par 5s and so with four Par 5s this week he should see plenty of birdie opportunities. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Webb ranks:16th in Proximity from 75-100 yards, 16th in Putting, and 18th in Tee-to-Green. Webb has great scoring upside and is capable of going nuclear with his putting, so I love his chances of winning this week.
Garrick Higgo 50-1
Can Garrick Higgo really win two times in his first five PGA Tour starts? Why not. He won two events in a three-week span on the European Tour earlier this year and his victories were absolute birdie-fests. Higgo is no stranger to making birdies, and he is no stranger to winning. Higgo does not have too much ShotLink data available due to his limited PGA Tour experience but there’s enough to show that he is good and here to stay.
Higgo is long Off-the-Tee where he drives the ball 315 yards on average. This course will allow him to frequently use his length and set-up short wedge shots into the greens. Higgo is a great putter which is definitely something I am looking for this week. This event will get to -20 or lower so Higgo’s experience at these types of events is very attractive and he is a proven winner.
Brendon Todd 66-1
Brendon Todd is a streaky player who is capable of going really low. In recent weeks, he has hung around leaderboards but has not contended. Last season, Todd won two events with scores of -20 and -24, so he is capable of winning a birdie-fest. Todd has made ten of his last 12 cuts and has struggled on weekends. However, I believe he has a high ceiling and the volatility to win. At a course like this, where there is not much trouble Off-the-Tee, Todd’s gameplan should translate well. Hit greens, make putts. It’s a simple gameplan but one that works. This is a relatively flat course, so reading the greens should not be overly difficult and I expect to see high caliber putters making long putts this week. Todd has consistently been a Top 20 Putter each season and he is currently ranked 4th. Todd has gained strokes on Approach in nine of his last fourteen rounds. I love Todd’s upside and this is his style of event.
Lucas Glover 100-1
Lucas Glover is playing some of his best golf in recent years. He is a streaky player and pretty volatile. He can finish in the Top 10 or miss the cut by five strokes. But over his last 24 rounds he is gaining strokes in every major stat category. His recent finishing positions have not reflected how well he has actually been playing.
Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Glover ranks: first in Proximity from 75-100 yards, eleventh in Strokes Gained on Par 4s, eleventh in Birdies or Better Gained, fourteenth in Tee-to-Green, sixteenth Off-the-Tee, seventeenth in Greens-in-Regulations Gained. Glover has been striking the ball very well, and his putter has been cooperating. He has gained 4+ strokes Putting in a single round three times this season, which is something he has only done two other times in his career. If Glover can continue hitting the ball well and find a hot putter like he has in recent months than he can certainly win this week.
Harry Higgs 300-1
Harry Higgs is a fan favorite but he hasn’t played great this season. The appeal to Higgs is that he has random spike weeks and his best finish this season was at the Safeway Open. The Safeway Open was the only course where I could find cross-over leaderboards with the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
This is an easier course so I think every player is capable of competing this week, and Higgs is a decent putter who shouldn’t find much trouble Off-the-Tee. Higgs has been good on short Par 4s, ranking 18th in Par 4 Efficiency from 400-450 yards. At 300-1, I think he’s worth a sprinkle and will have great odds in the Top 40 market.