This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.35M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Course: Detroit Golf Club (North course)
We begin with a tip for professional golf event organizers: If at all possible, don't be the fourth tournament back following a pandemic.
After the return of golf brought three weeks of loaded fields, this week brings something less. Not terrible, but far less. Golfers who were itching to return to action were going to have to take a break at some point, and many of the big names have chosen this week to do so. Still, the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic features three players in the top 10 of the world rankings, seven of the top 25 and 18 of the top 50.
No. 6 Webb Simpson, No. 7 Patrick Reed and No. 10 Bryson DeChambeau, along with No. 31 Rickie Fowler and No. 45 Viktor Hovland, are the headliners. For Reed, DeChambeau and Hovland, it will be their fourth straight week on the course. Others who have yet to take a break and are in the field are No. 17 Tony Finau, No. 22 Sungjae Im (natch), No. 38 Kevin Kisner, No. 48 Bubba Watson and, surprisingly, No. 56 Jason Day. Of those, only DeChambeau and Hovland have not missed a cut and therefore have played the max number of rounds so far. College standouts Sahith Theegala of Pepperdine and Peter Kuest of BYU, who made their pro debuts last week at the Travelers – they both missed the cut – are in the field on sponsor exemptions. The tournament also dips deep into Korn Ferry grads and the 126-150 category, both of which combine to make up about a third of the max field of 156.
They all will be on hand for the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Last year, the PGA Tour returned to Michigan for the first time in a decade, when it was none other than Tiger Woods who won the 2009 Buick Open. He was not in the field last year, but there was a dominant performance. Unheralded Nate Lashley ran away to win by six strokes over Doc Redman with a whopping 25-under score.
Detroit Golf Club has been around since 1899. Its two 18-hole courses were completed in 1916, both built by famed architect Donald Ross. The North, the longer of the two courses, is used for the tournament, save for one hole from the South. They also jumbled the usual order of the North, turning the eighth hole into No. 1. Interestingly, that's the hole Ross had made No. 1 when he drew it up more than 100 years ago. The club's website describes the North this way: "It features narrow, tree-lined fairways, which make club selection an important part of the round. The undulating greens and treacherous bunkering ensures you bring your a-game all the way up to the pin." It sounds hard. But it wasn't. The course played as the eighth easiest out of 49 on Tour last season. There were a collective 1,895 birdies, second most on Tour behind the other new event, the 3M Open, which will be played later this month. And the 5-under cut line was the lowest on Tour in three years.
Tournament director Jason Langwell told the Detroit Free Press that "the rough will be up just a touch" this year, though he attributed it to the spring weather and not any orchestrated change. For what it's worth, the hardest hole a year ago was the 233-yard 11th, playing over par and with only 38 birdies. The second hardest was the 455-yard 18th, offering an opportunity for some drama provided there's not another runaway.
The fairways are narrow, but as we saw, not that narrow. There are a lot of trees and there are some holes with strategically-placed fairway bunkers. There are many bunkers guarding the holes and severe undulations on the smallish greens, which are a combination of poa annua and bentgrass and average just over 5,000 square feet. It just didn't affect the scores all that much. But we'll delve deeper into all that with the Key Stats and Champion's Profile section below.
Weather-wise, the forecast will remain pretty consistent all week, even for the practice rounds: high temperatures in the upper 80s to around 90, with almost no chance of rain and light winds.
Key Stats to Winning at Detroit Golf Club
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/Strokes Gained: Putting
• Scrambling/Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
• Greens in regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach
2019 - Nate Lashley
Since there has been only one Rocket Mortgage Classic champion, let's look at how Lashley got the job done. He was ranked 44th in the field in driving distance, 11th in driving accuracy, tied for fourth in greens in regulation, third in scrambling and second in SG: Putting. That's a great recipe to win just about any week, and it's easy to see why Lashley ran away with the tournament. Overall, looking at the top 10 finishers, not one of them finished among the top 10 in driving distance, and they collectively weren't especially accurate either, though Rory Sabbatini (T3) was first in the field. We saw more of a correlation to success with good GIR numbers, but where we really saw a stronger connection was scrambling and putting. Half of the top 10 finishers finished in the top 10 in scrambling and half of them were top-10 in SG: Putting. When looking to fill out your six-man lineup, a strong putter could be a deciding factor.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 6-1)
One of these weeks, DeChambeau will not finish in the top 5, or even the top 10. But it's hard to turn away from the only golfer with three top-10s since the restart. You want numbers? DeChambeau ranks ninth on Tour in GIR, third in scrambling and 23rd in SG: Putting. If he matches that this week he'll have a good chance to do the one thing he hasn't done in some time: win.
Webb Simpson - $11,000 (12-1)
When we last saw Simpson, he was draining putt after putt as he tore up the back nine at Harbour Town. That's a big part of "How To Succeed" again this week. Simpson is 12th in GIR, sixth in scrambling and 13th in SG: Putting – hey, those numbers are even better than DeChambeau's!
Tyrrell Hatton - $10,700 (18-1)
This is by far the biggest DK number ever attached to Hatton for a PGA Tour event. It's hard to argue with it. He's got four top-10s in five starts this season, including a tie for third at the RBC Heritage, where he didn't really lose the 54-hole lead as much as Simpson wrested it away. His numbers across the board are impeccable. Hatton doesn't have many measured rounds (12), but he's first in SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green, second in SG: Putting and 12th in scrambling.
Viktor Hovland - $10,000 (20-1)
We're picking Hovland, but we're gonna throw in an asterisk right here: *. Don't get us wrong, he's been great since the reboot, with three straight top-25s. And he tied for 13th in Detroit a year ago. But his wedge numbers then were a bit sketchy – he finished 58th in the field in SG: Around-the-Green – and, with a five-figure price tag, he's going to have to deliver more than a top-15 finish to pay off. Hovland has admitted his wedges are his weak point, but he is so good off the tee and from the fairway that we'll take the plunge.
Tier 2 Values
Kevin Na - $9,100 (40-1)
Na missed the cut at Colonial, where he appeared to be injured. He sat out the following week, then returned with a top-5 at the Travelers Championship. Na is ranked ninth on Tour in scrambling and sixth in SG: Putting. He's even a way-better-than-average 46th in SG: Approach. Na didn't play in Detroit last year, but this track could be right in his wheelhouse.
J.T. Poston - $8,700 (40-1)
Poston came out the break with a pair of top-10s before missing the cut at TPC River Highlands. He's ranked 36th in SG: Around-the-Green, but what really caught our eye was his rank of seventh in SG: Putting. He tied for 11th in the debut edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic a year ago.
Lucas Glover - $8,400 (60-1)
No one who played so poorly before the stoppage has been playing as well as Glover is now. He has ripped off three straight top-25s, culminating with a Sunday 63 at the Travelers to tie for 20th. It was his sixth round out of 12 shooting 67 or better. Glover hit almost 80 percent of his greens in regulation on the week and even was in positive territory in SG: Putting.
Adam Hadwin - $8,200 (60-1)
Hadwin opened the season like gangbusters with back-to-back top-5s. He hasn't had so much as another top-25 in eight subsequent starts, and we're not really sure why, because he is ranked among the the top 25 in GIR and is 28th in SG: Putting. He's also ranked 15th in SG:Total. Like much of the field, this will be his Detroit debut.
Tier 3 Values
Brandt Snedeker - $7,900 (50-1)
Snedeker is not the player he once was, but he can still be the putter he once was. That may be why he carries 50-1 odds. That, and he tied for fifth in Detroit a year ago. Snedeker said he likes Donald Ross designs, and he likes putting on poa, and he has won tournaments putting on poa. Snedeker is ranked third on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green and 18th in SG: Putting. So even though he missed the cut at Harbour Town and tied for 41st at the Travelers Championship, there's enough here to suggest he could record another top-10 finish.
Brian Harman - $7,900 (60-1)
Harman is quietly having a good season, with his six top-25s already surpassing his total of five from last season. One of them was at Colonial and he just missed another the following week at Harbour Town. Harman was ranked 43rd in SG: Putting before an absolutely horrible performance on the greens in Connecticut, where he missed the cut. Harman is also ranked 17th in scrambling.
Maverick McNealy - $7,600 (80-1)
McNealy has made 13 of 16 cuts on the season, fueled largely on one of the better short games around. He's ninth in scrambling and 22nd in SG: Putting.
Brian Stuard - $7,400 (100-1)
Stuard doesn't normally creep up this high on the DK board, but he did tie for fifth at the Rocket Mortgage a year ago. He already has six top-25s this season, adding another one last week at the Travelers Championship. He's not a long hitter, but he makes up for it with his short game. Stuard is ranked 15th in SG: Around-the-Green.
Mark Hubbard - $7,200 (125-1)
Hubbard is back on Tour after a three-year absence, and he'll be sticking around for at least another year. He has five top-25s, three of them doubling as top-10s. He doesn't have one since the restart, but he is 3-for-3 in cuts made.
Peter Uihlein - $7,000 (150-1)
Uihlein played the first event back at Colonial and registered his best showing all season, a tie for 14th. However, he took the last two weeks off. He's got better-than-average GIR and putting numbers, and he's also an impressive 10th in SG: Around-the-Green. Uihlein missed the cut here a year ago.
Lanto Griffin - $6,800 (100-1)
Griffin made a big-time run on top-10s earlier this season, but he had hit a dry spell until last week. His tie for 24th was his 10th top-25 finish. Griffin is not great with his irons, but he is ranked 14th in scrambling and 42nd in SG: Putting.
Cameron Tringale - $6,600 (200-1)
Tringale has missed only two cuts all season, though one of them was last week. But it was his first tournament back, while others had gotten into a groove by then. Tringale has decent numbers across all the Key Stats, and he's ranked a surprising 37th on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green. He tied for fifth here a year ago.