It has been a summer full of great golf on the PGA TOUR, and the jam-packed schedule will continue this week with the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This event is one of three events squeezed between the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, which hurts the field, but it’s still a fun way to spend Fourth of July weekend. This will be the third year of the event, and all three tournaments have taken place on the renovated Detroit Golf Club, which was originally founded all the way back in 1899.
The field this week is led by defending champion Bryson DeChambeau ($11,400), who beat out Matthew Wolff ($9,100) by three strokes to finish 23-under last season. Patrick Reed ($10,900) joins DeChambeau as the only two players in the field who are ranked in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, while Webb Simpson ($10,600), Hideki Matsuyama ($10,400), Will Zalatoris ($10,000), Sungjae Im ($9,300), Jason Kokrak ($9,500) and Joaquin Niemann ($9,800) are all in the top 30 coming into the week. Bubba Watson ($9,200) will be trying to bounce back from last Sunday’s collapse while Kramer Hickok ($7,600) is scheduled to tee it up as he looks to build on that marathon playoff that ultimately resulted in him finishing runner-up to Harris English.
The course has yielded very low scores in both years it has hosted this event, so look for it to be another birdie-fest this week. While both DeChambeau and Wolff definitely bring the fireworks with their long driving, both were also exceptional on the greens in last year’s tournament. Since this course has allowed players to hit both the fairways and greens at above-average rates, it has mostly come down to who catches a hot streak with the flat stick and gain a ton of strokes on the greens. Strokes Gained: Putting is always a key stat, but at this event, it seems to translate even more heavily into success. It’s hard to predict who will putt well from week-to-week, but players who know the greens and green complexes well should have an advantage.
The course is a classic Donald Ross parkland and doesn’t play especially long since it is one of the flattest courses in the regular rotation on the PGA TOUR. There should be plenty of birdie and even eagle opportunities for those who can excel and attack the greens with accurate wedges. Other Ross designs on the PGA TOUR each season include Sedgefield Country Club, which hosts the Wyndham Championship, and East Lake Golf Club, the host of the exclusive TOUR Championship at the end of the season. With only two years of course history, it will help to take a look at players who have succeeded on those tracks, as well as other events where scores go very low. Whoever contends this week will need birdies by the bushel, so current form is definitely a key factor to consider, as well.
As you assemble your squad for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, you’ll need to blend some of the stars listed above with some affordable options. To help you get the best bargains, check out my top four plays who come into this week with a salary below $7.5K on DraftKings.
Mark Hubbard, $7,300
Hubbard seems to be setting up some nice converging trends coming into this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic. Last week, the 32-year-old quietly fired four rounds in the 60s at the Travelers on his way to a T13. It was his best result on the PGA TOUR this season and his fifth straight made cut. In four of those five events, he has gained strokes on the green, including last week when he gained a total of 1.151 strokes with the flat stick.
Last season, Hubbard finished T12 at the Rocket Mortgage, where a 72 in the final round kept him from an even better finish. He has also fared well at Sedgefield Country Club, with a T24 and T15 in his two appearances. In his career, Hubbard has shown he can go very low at times, including a win on the Korn Ferry Tour at the LECOM SunCoast Classic in 2019, where he set a tournament record with a 26-under score.
Troy Merritt, $7,100
Merritt continues a strong run of good form coming into this event, and I’m surprised to see him still so affordable. He is losing shots off the tee this season but has been good on the greens, gaining .276 shots per round with more than .700 shots gained per round in six of his past nine events. That solid putting has resulted in six made cuts over his past seven tournaments, including back-to-back top-10 finishes at the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Charles Schwab Challenge. He started strong last week but faded to a T36 with a three-over final round.
Merritt has good history on Donald Ross’ designs with a T8 last year at this event and 5 of 7 made cuts in his career at Sedgefield Country Club. He won the Quicken Loans National back in 2015 in a birdie-fest, with a score of 18-under, and he has definitely shown he can go low when he’s on top of his game.
Brice Garnett, $7,000
No one comes to Detroit with a hotter putter than Garnett, who gained 3.475 shots per round with the flat stick last week at TPC River Highlands. He turned that into a top-five finish, giving him three top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR this season, all at low-scoring events. He finished T5 at the Puerto Rico Open back in February and T9 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, where he also picked up his lone PGA TOUR victory back in 2018.
The Missouri-native skipped this event last season but finished T17 in 2019 when he had 1.031 Shots Gained: Putting per round. While predicting putting is always tricky, Garnett has the kind of game that should put him in a good spot to be an affordable cut-maker and possible contender at just $7K.
Henrik Norlander $6,800
Norlander’s game fits the course setup here well, so it isn’t surprising he posted a T12 last year at this event. Specifically, Norlander excels at sticking it close to the pin from 125-150 yards and 150-to-175 yards, and that’s the range many of his approaches should be in this week. Last year, he didn’t putt well, with -.615 Shots Gained: Putting per round. If he can even have a semi-decent week, he could be right back in the mix if the rest of this game is similar to last year’s tournament.
Recently, Norlander seems to be finding a little bit of a groove and has made the cut in three of his past four events with a T25 at the Palmetto and a T61 at the Travelers Championship, where he opened with an impressive 65 but then faded. Throughout his career, his tee-to-green game usually puts him in good positions, but his putter runs hot and cold. He has the kind of upside, though, that you want to target in a sub-$7K play since he brings a very high ceiling if he gets it going on the greens.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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