Well played to Chez Reavie backers who landed with prices up to 70/1 at the Travelers. It’s always good to see players who’ve faced tough times bounce back and Reavie landed his first PGA Tour win for 11 years with a new level of confidence found across 2019 Major Championship outings where he’s finished 14th at Bethpage Black and 4th at Pebble Beach. He now sits well within the OWG top 50 on merit.
On to this week and a brand new tournament for the PGA Tour – the Rocket Mortgage Classic. A goal of the PGA Tour with their new schedule was to establish more tournaments back in the Mid-West United States. The demise of the Buick Classic back in 2009, which was played at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, effectively left the MidWest with the John Deere Classic and the BMW Championship as regular stop-offs on the PGA Tour. However with Tiger Woods’ National tournament’s demise and the move of the Greenbrier Classic to the 2019/20 season opener in September, the PGA Tour now has a Mid-West swing across Michigan (Rocket Mortgage Classic), Wisconsin (3M Open) and the John Deere Classic (Illinois).
Sponsorship for this new event comes from Quicken Loans who are based in Detroit and were the previous sponsor of Tiger’s National tournament. Undoubtedly Quicken Loans were the driving force behind the PGA Tour arriving in ‘Motor City’ and the Detroit Golf Club will host this tournament for 4 years across 2019 – 2022. Sponsorship comes in the form of Quicken’s online Rocket Mortgage brand. Players in this week’s field include Quicken-sponsored Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, new U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson.
Before we talk through my Rocket Mortgage Classic tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing by the week. Welcome to all new readers, listeners and viewers and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.
Course Guide: Naturally we’re faced with a totally new tournament and golf course this week in the form of Detroit Golf Club, which is 10 miles north-west of central Detroit. An historic club established in 1899, we’re dealing with a hybrid of 2 courses this week, namely the North (17 holes) and South (3rd hole) course. Both are Donald Ross original courses which feature his classic architecture, with this week’s championship holes having seen phased modernisation and construction preparation since 2014.
This week’s test will be a 7,334 yard, Par 72 with the standard breakdown of 4 par-3s, 10-par-4s and 4 par-5s. What’s clear this week is that we’re dealing with an old-style, tree-lined course, with plenty of Donald Ross design classics such as uneven fairway lies and plenty of front-to-back contoured and multi-layered undulations within green complexes.
Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan: Designer: Donald Ross 1916; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,340 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass and ryegrass 3.5″; Greens: Poa Annua with Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 12-12.5ft.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Donald Ross designs include:
- Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 US Open
- East Course at Oak Hill – 2013 PGA Championship
- Sedgefield CC – Wyndham Championship
- Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays
- Aronimink GC – 2010 & 2011 AT&T National + 2018 BMW Championship
- East Lake GC – Tour Championship
Course Overview: Detroit Golf Club is a Donald Ross 1916 original which has received some modernisation work of late. 5 new tees were built last year to add length to the course, but even so a 7,340 yard Par 72 is short from a PGA Tour perspective. We’re dealing with a classical, tree-lined course this week, with water only featuring on the par-4 14th hole.
The course’s main defence if Jake Mendoza (Head Superintendent) gets his way are greens which feature the Donald Ross trademark back-to-front pitch surrounded by tightly mown run-offs into collection areas. The green complexes should be fast (12+ on the Stimpmeter) and contoured. Downhill putts will be difficult to attack so distance control to position approach shots below the pin will be critical. There’s lots of movement and contours on green complexes, which feature 80% Poa Annua and 20% Bentgrass within them.
The layout itself features par-5s which are 635 yards (4th), 552 yards (7th), 555 yards (14th) and 577 yards (17th), which means 3 of them will be reachable to the more powerful divers. But it’s the par-4s which may well be even more vulnerable this week with 5 of them measuring in at sub-450 yards. Indeed the 4th (387 yards), 8th (372 yards) and 13th (393 yards) are sub-400 yards.
Other points to note are usage of original Ross drainage swales, which may cause penalty strokes for those who are flagrant off the tee. Indeed on the 18th, the swale runs down the entire left side of the fairway before crossing the fairway and routing to the right of the green complex. Jake Mendoza has also stated that rough will be set to 3.5 inches at the start of tournament week and will be allowed to grow. Whether it will be as penalising as Muirfield Village and Hamilton G&CC a few weeks back remains to be seen. Holes 14-15-16 represent Area 313 on the golf course, with the ultimate aim of an eagle on the 14th, ace on the 15th and birdie on the 16th all adding up to the Detroit dialling code.
Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Patrick Reed, Ryan Moore and Jason Dufner.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Wells Fargo Championship and Volvo China Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Top 20 Driving Accuracy: 1) Jason Dufner; 2) Chez Reavie; 3) Andrew Landry; 4) Ryan Armour / Viktor Hovland; 6) Brian Stuard; 7) Kyle Stanley; 8) Colt Knost; 9) Tyler Duncan; 10) Austin Cook; 11) Justin Suh; 12) Jonas Blixt; 13) Corey Conners / Ryan Moore / Michael Thompson; 16) Kevin Kisner / Adam Svensson; 18) Kramer Hickok; 19) Jim Herman; 20) Scott Langley.
- Top 20 Greens in Regulation: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Corey Conners; 3) Jason Dufner; 4) Kevin Streelman; 5) Aaron Wise; 6) Billy Horschel / Alex Prugh; 8) Chez Reavie / Kevin Tway; 10) Alex Cejka / Viktor Hovland / Kyle Stanley / Vaughn Taylor / Nick Watney; 15) John Chin / Charley Hoffman; 17) Dylan Frittelli; 18) Ryan Armour / Troy Merritt / Sebastian Munoz.
- Top 20 Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Hideki Matsuyama; 2) Beau Hossler / Ryan Moore; 4) Vaughn Taylor; 5) Wyndham Clark; 6) Gary Woodland; 7) Brandt Snedeker; 8) Danny Lee / Sam Ryder; 10) Luke Donald / Denny McCarthy; 12) Tyler Duncan / Nicholas Lindheim / Mike Weir; 15) Harris English / Max Homa / Harold Varner III; 18) Roberto Diaz; 19) Sangmoon Bae / Scott Brown / Rory Sabbatini.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Detroit, Michigan, is here. Threat of rain on Monday may well have doused the Detroit Golf Club, leaving it lush for the rest of tournament week. Friday and Saturday may also see more thunderstorms although at the time of writing we are looking at sub-50% chance. Wind looks light, with gusts to 15 mph the maximum over the weekend. The main feature though is heat and humidity, with temperatures topping out at 30 – 32 degrees Celsius across the tournament. I’d expect nicely watered greens and low(ish) scoring.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 10 – Dustin Johnson.
- 6 – Bubba Watson.
- 4 – Brandt Snedeker.
- 3 – Jimmy Walker.
- 2 – J.J. Henry, Hunter Mahan, Brendan Steele, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.
- 1 – Sangmoon Bae, Jonas Blixt, Jason Dufner, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Hideki Matsuyama, Ted Potter Jnr, Chez Reavie, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, Chris Stroud, Vaughn Taylor, Kevin Tway.
It’s worth recognising that the timing of the Rocket Mortgage Classic presents opportunity for players further down the food chain as they can qualify for The Open Championship this week. The Royal & Ancient established Open Qualifying Series will see 2 players, who have not already qualified and who finish in the top 8 at Detroit Golf Club, secure places in the Royal Portrush Open Championship.
This slot in the PGA Tour schedule, 2 weeks after the U.S. Open and 3 weeks prior to the Open Championship, is fascinating for the quality winner it has produced over different tournaments and courses. In 2009 Tiger Woods won at Congressional at 3/1 and his name has been followed by some stellar performers: 2010: Justin Rose (Aronimink at 30/1), 2011: Nick Watney (Aronimink at 14/1), 2012: Tiger Woods (Congressional at 11/2), 2013: Bill Haas (Congressional at 40/1), 2014: Justin Rose (Congressional at 16/1), 2017: Kyle Stanley (TPC Potomac at 45/1), 2018: Francesco Molinari (TPC Potomac at 22/1). Danny Lee is the outlier here at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic which he won at 150/1 and in 2016 the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was played in this slot as it was Olympic year. Dustin Johnson went win-win after his U.S. Open triumph at 8/1. So this time of year has a definite element of elite players warming to their task for the Open Championship.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic can’t be said to have a deep field this week, especially when compared to the Travelers Championship last week, but the classic surroundings of the Ross design and an opportunity to land a victory may well prove a strong carrot for top-end players in the field.