Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's Rocket Mortgage Classic Tips 2019

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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 the Rocket Mortgage Classic, 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.

My selections are as follows:

Hideki Matsuyama 2.5pts EW 16/1 (5EW, 1/4) with Ladbrokes

First up this week has to be Hideki Matsuyama who should be seeing the Rocket Mortgage Classic as a massive opportunity to land his 6th PGA Tour victory. With a weak field and Hideki striving mightily for his first win on Tour since August 2017, this classical Ross design, which I think will yield birdies to those who are accurate on approach, should be right up the Japanese No.1’s street.

2019 has been reasonable for the World Number 31 with 3rd at Torrey Pines, 9th at Riviera, 8th at TPC Sawgrass and 6th at Muirfield Village being his best results. But there have been undoubted signs of late that the Japanese star is finding his game. He was 6th after 54 holes at the Bethpage-hosted PGA Championship, fired a 3rd Round 64 to go out on Sunday in the second from last group with winner Patrick Cantlay at Muirfield Village and at the Pebble Beach-hosted U.S.Open he was always there or thereabouts on a coastal golf course he’d never visited.

I think the less penal from the tee Detroit Golf Club though will be far more up Matsuyama’s alley, especially when you look at his record in these parts. Despite never playing in Michigan, his record in neighbouring Ohio is worthy of note: 1st at Muirfield Village (2014), 12th at Firestone South (2014), 5th at Muirfield Village (2015), 1st at Firestone South (2017) and 6th at Muirfield Village (2019) highlight a player who’s more than happy with the geography and agronomy in these parts. 7th at Conway Farms (2015) in Illinois and 2nd at Erin Hills (2017) in Wisconsin back up this liking for the Midwest, and from a Donald Ross perspective Matsuyama has finished 3rd (2016) and 11th (2018) at Sedgefield, 13th (2015) at Plainfield and 5th (2016) and 4th (2018) at East Lake. For me those Ross tracks are all sub-optimal for Hideki as none of them feature 4 par-5s, so Detroit Golf Club should be perfect for the Japanese star who was notably 4th for par-4 scoring at Muirfield Village. Result: T13

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Brandt Snedeker 1.5pt EW 33/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Brandt Snedeker is another member of the OWGR top 50 who must see this week as an excellent opportunity. A short and likely scoreable Par 72 on mainly Poa Annua greens must be the perfect tonic for Sneds who we also know is a Donald Ross connoisseur. Indeed his record on Ross designs is worthy of inspection: Pinehurst Number 2: 9th (2014); Sedgefield: 5th (2009), 8th (2010), 5th (2014), 3rd (2016) and 1st (2018); Plainfield: 3rd (2011); East Lake: 1st (2012). Naturally his 2012 victory in Georgia was his career greatest moment, capturing the FedEx Cup and a cool $10m into the bargain. But Brandt can still play and already in 2019 he’s finished in the top 5 at TPC Sawgrass and at Hamilton G&CC a few weeks ago where he fired that -10/60 in Friday. A 9-time PGA Tour winner – that’s something to hold onto in this field – it would be easy to pigeonhole the Tennessee man as a Par 70 specialist, but 5 of his wins have come on the longer format at Torrey Pines (2012 & 2016), Pebble Beach (2013 & 2015) and Glen Abbey (2013).

Work with reacquainted coach Todd Anderson is definitely developing nicely as Brandt is finding far more greens on a regular basis. 1st for GIR at TPC Sawgrass, 5th at Hamilton G&CC and 7th last week at TPC River Highlands is a level of consistency we haven’t seen since the start of 2016 when Snedeker went 3rd (Kapalua), 2nd (Waialae) 1st (Torrey Pines) and it can’t be long before the putter fires as it did both at Colonial (8th SG Putting) and Hamilton (4th SG Putting) a few weeks ago. Form in the Midwest is more than adequate as well: Missouri: 2nd (2004) Highland Springs; Michigan: 10th (2007) Warwick Hills; Wisconsin: 12th (2015) Whistling Straits, 9th (2016) Erin Hills; Illinois: 2nd (2009) Deere Run; 10th (2009) Cog Hill, 8th (2013) Conway Farms. Result: T5

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Kevin Streelman 1.5pt EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

4 top 7 finishes since February have lifted Kevin Streelman 100 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings and the performance of Chez Reavie last week must give the Illinois native a real boost coming into what is effectively his home golf swing. 7th at Pebble Beach, 6th at AT&T Oaks Course, 6th at Harbour Town, 4th at Muirfield Village, he shook-off his U.S. Open break with a competitive 15th place finish last week at TPC River Highlands where he was 10th going into Sunday.

A 2-time winner on the PGA Tour, Streelman must be enjoying this new found renaissance which has been built upon a remarkably consistent approach game. 15th for SG Approach at the Valero Texas Open, from that point he’s ranked 1st (RBC Heritage), 18th (Wells Fargo), 19th (Charles Schwab) and 2nd (Memorial) with a superb level of accuracy with his approach woods and irons. After a couple of weeks off, that accuracy diminished a little last week, to be replaced by a gear-shift in the short game where he was 4th for SG Around the Green and importantly 26th for SG Putting.

The putter is usually the missing link with Kevin, but 2 excellent weeks on the Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix greens at both Muirfield Village and TPC River Highlands gives hope that he can continue to convert the masses of chances he’s generating, and if Chez Reavie can end an 11 year win drought, the 5 years since Kevin’s last victory could soon end as well. We saw with Kyle Stanley in this schedule spot 2 years ago that a quiet sort who’s having a consistent year can win at this point of the season – he won a weak event at TPC Potomac – his price was 45/1. So it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Kevin came to the fore in his beloved Midwest – a geography where he’s finished in the top 8 on 6 occasions since 2009. Result: T35

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Jason Dufner 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Jason Dufner is undoubtedly on an upward curve of late and I think he’ll find Detroit Golf Club to his liking. Born in neighbouring Ohio, 3 of Dufner’s 5 PGA Tour victories have been on Par 72 formats, and if as I suspect this becomes a relatively low scoring event, those wins have come with winning scores of -19/269, -25/263 and -13/275. He can undoubtedly start to make putts when he has confidence in his trademark tee-to-green game, and I think that’s on the rise. 4th in May at Quail Hollow saw him rank 1st for SG Tee to Green and 7th at the start of this month at Muirfield Village saw him rank 2nd for Driving Accuracy, 4th for Greens in Regulation, 4th for Ball Striking and 6th for SG Tee to Green. 35th last time out at the U.S. Open was also a half-decent performance for the World Number 138 as he was 3rd for Driving Accuracy, 10th for Greens in Regulation, 5th for Ball Striking and 10th for All Round. Naturally it was the putter that let Jason down, but he’s always hated West Coast pure Poa Annua, so it was hardly a surprise.

Far more comfortable on the greens of the Midwest, his record in his home area has been strong from when he turned professional: Missouri: 8th and 6th (2003 & 2005) Highland Springs; Wisconsin: 3rd (2005) Troy Burne Golf Club, 5th (2010) Whistling Straits; Illinois: 1st (2006) The Glen Club, 6th (2007) Deere Run, 6th (2011) Cog Hill;  Ohio: 11th (2005) Stonewater Golf Course, 7th and 4th (2012 & 2013) Firestone South, 1st and 7th (2017 & 2019) Muirfield Village. In addition, Jason’s 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in New York State came of course on a Donald Ross design – a quick check of which also highlights top 10 finishes at Sedgefield (2012) and East Lake (2013 & 2016). With no access to the Open Championship, qualification this week will appeal and something he achieved recently for the U.S. Open via a qualifier at the Brookside G&CC in Columbus, Ohio. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:55BST 24.6.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.