The Travelers ended last week with a wild eight-hole playoff between Harris English and Kramer Hickock. The eight-hole playoff tied the record for the longest playoff, and eventually English made a birdie to win the event.
This week the tour heads to Michigan to play Detroit GC for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This is the third playing of this tournament as it is one of the newer events and venues on the schedule. Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion this week.
This is likely a final tune-up for many players as the Open Championship is just two weeks away. The field is pretty strong for this event and it should be a fun event. This has typically been a birdie fest with lots of super-low scores.
Detroit GC is a tree-lined classical style Donald Ross design with a poa and bentgrass mix on the greens. The fairways are relatively easy to hit compared to most tour events but doglegs and trees demand precision on certain holes.
This course has favored the big hitters and the accurate drivers alike. Bryson showed you can overpower the course even if you aren’t hitting all the fairways because there is little penalty for being in the rough.
However, we’ve also seen the short hitters succeed here as well because they can pretty much hit every fairway and give themselves lots of birdie looks. The course plays like a traditional par 72 at around 7,370 yards.
Ultimately we see the large spread in styles being able to compete here is that putting is the biggest indicator of success here and generally in events like this. It will likely take around 25 under par to win this week and that means a lot of birdies.
Putting is the hardest aspect of golf to predict on a week to week or even a round to round basis. There are definitely some players who are naturally good putters, but even guys who are average can get hot for a couple rounds and win a tournament like this.
I think leaning into the bombers who have shown those putting flashes or ability is a good start this week. Also, don’t be afraid of the accurate short hitter who always putts well. Ryan Armour had a great showing last year by hitting all the fairways and giving himself lots of looks.
SG: Approach will always be the key indicator for me, and it will this week as well because the easiest way to make birdies is to hit it close. Birdies or better gained and opportunities gained are also something to take a look at because they generally show the players who have the best chances to make birdies.
2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Outrights
There are some pretty strong players teeing it up this week, and I think it provides some good value in the 20 to 1 and beyond range. Bryson could certainly go out and bomb away again but plenty of others have the game to get lightning hot.
Trying to balance the tee to green ability with at least some putting potential will be key. There will be misses this week by everyone solely because putting is so difficult to predict. Going a bit deeper down the board to some guys with boom or bust potential is a nice strategy as well.
Joaquin Niemann +2000
Niemann has all the goods to win this event. He is long off the tee (9th in Driving Distance & 5th in SG: Off the Tee) and can make birdies in bunches. His iron game is typically his calling card, but lately, he has been putting really well.
Niemann is ranked top 15 in this field over the last 36 rounds in SG: Putting and Approach. His all-around game is fantastic. A couple of stats I always look at for these birdie fest type of events are birdies or better gained and opportunities gained and Niemann ranks top 20 in both.
Niemann is also just playing really good golf this year. He has only missed one cut since last August and is primed for a win. Plus, in his two starts in this event he has managed a 5th and a 30th place finish.
Doc Redman +5000
This is more of a longshot pick but I like Doc in the easier playing conditions. He can make a ton of birdies and is a really nice iron player. His putting of late is why I really like him this week, though.
Redman has gained strokes putting in six straight events and is on probably the best putting run of his career. He had a rough start to 2021 but seems to have found something of late with five made cuts in a row and two top 10’s.
Redman has been losing off the tee lately but this course shouldn’t penalize his poor driving as much. Redman has enough length and accuracy to let his irons and putting do the work. Redman is also looking to follow up his other two starts in this event where he finished 2nd and 21st.
Longshots I like: Chez Reavie +9000 & Sebastian Munoz +10000
Webb Simpson +225
Webb seems to love Donald Ross designed courses and his only start here resulted in an 8th place finish. Webb has six top 10’s in his last seven starts at the Wyndham, another Donald Ross design and the Ross courses play to his game.
Webb falls more in the category of short, accurate player who can make lots of birdies with his irons and putter. Simpson is one of the best putters on tour and seems to do really well in the low-scoring events.
Webb has gained strokes putting in 10 of his last 12 starts and has three top 15’s in his last six events. Webb is best suited for an event like this, where being in the fairway can be a huge advantage because he is really strong off the tee accuracy-wise.
Longshot top 10: Cameron Davis +700
Jason Kokrak +150
Kokrak popped number 1 in my fantasynational.com model this week for the last 36 rounds and it makes a lot of sense. Kokrak is a bomber and his putting has been fantastic. His putter has let him down in years past but not now.
Kokrak is 3rd in SG: Putting over the last 36 rounds and is also top 3 in Opportunities Gained and Birdies or better gained. He has the perfect profile for this course and event. Kokrak’s game has been good all around as he also ranks top 15 in SG: Off the Tee and Approach.
Kokrak has five top 15 finishes in his last eight starts and he should be rested after taking last week off. Kokrak did make the cut and finish in the top 30 in this event two years ago.
Sepp Straka +275
Straka has excelled at this event each of the first two years and should come in with some confidence from his top 10 finish last week at the Travelers. Straka has not been in great form but I like the signs he showed last week.
Straka has finished 8th and 11th in his two starts at this tournament and he always seems to pop up in these low-scoring events, like last week. When Straka is playing well, he is long off the tee and a pretty good putter.
Straka is more of a contrarian play but someone who clearly loves coming to this venue.
Longshot top 20: Mark Hubbard +400 & Andrew Putnam +500
Kodaira is on a putting heater that is second to none. Kodaira has gained at least 4 strokes putting in each of his last four events. Now he comes to a course that good putting is rewarded maybe more than any other event.
So long as Satoshi can hit enough greens to have those putts be for birdie, he should be in the hunt. He has made the cut in each of those four starts where he has putted well and his tee to the green game has been pretty solid. Three of those starts resulted in top ’20s.
If Kodaira can keep up the hot putting, I like his top 40 number at +200. And if you are feeling lucky, his top 20 odds are +500.
Emiliano Grillo -118 over Gary Woodland
I love playing Grillo in these birdie fest events because he really plays well on easy courses. Grillo is a really good iron player and can make a ton of birdies. His putting used to hold him back but it is steadily improving.
Grillo ranks in the top five in SG: Approach, birdies or better gained and opportunities gained. His game fits perfectly for a low-scoring affair. He has four top 20’s in his last eight starts and has gained strokes on approach in seven of them.
Woodland just isn’t the same anymore. He has an event here or there where he looks like he’s found something but the consistency isn’t there. Gary’s putting has been bad ranking outside the top 100 in SG: Putting over the last 36 rounds.
I also would rather play Gary in events where the conditions are tough. He isn’t a premier birdie maker and seems to play better when par is a good score. Woodland missed the cut in his only start here.