Rocket Mortgage Classic
It was a frustrating and ultimately fruitless week for us at the Travelers as after a great day one it was unfortunately all down hill from there on in.
The week was summed up by Andrew Putnam’s Sunday who despite throwing in a triple bogey on Saturday was still in with a chance of a place going in to the final round. Unfortunately though after opening with a birdie he went on to shoot a six over 76!
Congratulations are due though to Chez Reavie who backed up his great week at the US Open by bagging his second PGA Tour title nearly eleven years after winning the first in Canada.
While you could certainly argue that Chez had telegraphed this win with his fantastic showing at Pebble Beach it bucked the trend of recent winners here, as, as highlighted in my preview, players who have performed well at the previous weeks US Open had a very poor record here.
Following on from the Travelers we are now entering in to a period of the unknown as for the next two weeks we have two brand new tournaments on the PGA Tour, which will be hosted at venues new to us all.
Next week it will be the 3M Open, which is being held in Blaine, Minnesota, however this week it is the turn of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which heads to Detroit in Michegan.
The tournament replaces the Quicken Loans National on the schedule and has initially been signed on to the tour for a four year stretch. Following on from this and with the tournament committed to supporting regeneration of the downtown area of Detroit it shouldn’t be underestimated what a big deal this is for the Detroit, as this is the first time in history that a PGA Tour event will have been held in the city.
It should also be noted that the event is part of the Open qualifying series and there are two spots available for non-exempt players in to the field at Royal Portrush.
The field is headed up by Dustin Johnson, Rocket Mortgage partner Rickie Fowler and newly anointed US Open Champion Gary Woodland.
Detroit Golf Club will play to a Par 72 measuring at 7334 yards.
The greens are Poa Annua with an approximate 20% bentgrass mix.
There are two courses at Detroit Golf Club, the North and South, which were both designed by Donald Ross and completed by 1916. For this event the North Course will be used.
Naturally this course is an unknown to us, however having viewed pieces and interviews on line with those connected in preparing the course it would appear that it is a fairly typical Ross design with undulating fairways and greens.
The rough will be set to 3.5” at the start of the week and allowed to grow from there and the aim, weather allowing, is to run the greens at 12.5 on the stimpmeter.
With the course being new to us the logical leap is to look at form on other Donald Ross courses used on tour and these include the following;
East Lake – Tour Championship
Sedgefield G&CC – Wyndham Championship
Aronimink – 2018 BMW Championship
Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays
Pinehurst No 2 – 2014 US Open
Sorry, nothing to see here…We start from scratch!!
Other than the possibility of a shower on Tuesday we look set for a dry lead in to the tournament, which is set to remain until at least the weekend, unfortunately though Saturday does at the time of writing show the possibility of a thunderstorm with Sunday then dry.
Temperatures look set to be in the mid to high 80s so the players will be faced with hot, sticky conditions.
Wind does not look to be too much of an issue with nothing more than 10-12mph forecast through the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
BILLY HORSCHEL – 30 -1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 17th
Somewhat unusually it must be said going in to a week where we have no previous course form to go on I actually feel quite bullish about this week’s selections and the first of these is Billy Horschel.
My line of thought in this is to go with a combination of players who have strong records on Donald Ross courses aligned with strong recent form and there are three players in particular who stand out on this front, the first being the Floridian, Horschel.
Billy arrives in Detroit on the back of four really solid performances, which have seen him post two top 20 finishes and nothing worse than a 32nd place, which came last time out at Pebble Beach.
Looking at that performance at the US Open while Billy’s stats were slightly down we need to bear in mind that Pebble Beach is a course that he had never played particularly well at in the past and instead I would prefer to look at his performance in his previous start at The Memorial where finished the week eighth for SGTTG, seventh for SGATTG and ninth for SGT.
Meanwhile in his previous start to that at Colonial Horschel’s long game was again hugely impressive as he ranked second for the week in DA and seventh in SGTTG.
So we’ve established that Billy’s ball striking is in good shape at the moment and as we also know from past experience the Florida Gator is a man to follow when he starts to get on a roll, what however makes him of such great interest to me this week is his form on Donald Ross tracks over recent years.
The first venue we of course need to look at on this front is East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, as in three starts here Billy has finished first, second and seventh. Indeed longer term followers will remember I put Billy up in last year’s TC before he finished second, identifying him that week as one of the best e/w bets of the year.
If we then look at the other Donald Ross track played regularly on the PGA Tour, Sedgefield CC, home of the Wyndham Championship, we see that Billy has finished fifth and 11th in two of his last three starts there. Finally as icing on the cake if we look at last years BMW Championship played at the Donald Ross Aronimink we saw that lo and behold Billy finished third.
Obviously it is dangerous to build a case around a player on strong course form elsewhere, however with nothing to go on at this venue here it strikes me that players who have strong positive vibes from past performances on other Ross tracks will arrive here with a mental head start on the rest of the field, and when you combine this with the recent form Horschel has shown I am confident he will produce a great performance this week.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA – 16 -1 – 3pts Win - FINISHED 13th
Next up for me is another player who it would be fair to say has shown a liking for Ross designs over recent years, Hideki Matsuyama.
‘A liking’ actually might be a bit of an understatement as if we take a look at Hideki’s results since the start of 2015 on Ross courses, which have been played on tour, East Lake, Sedgefield, Aronimink and Plainfield, he has form figures reading [most recent first] of 4 15 11 5 3 12 13. So seven starts on Donald Ross courses over the past four years and his worst finish is 15th!
Moving away from Hideki’s obvious liking for Ross designs and if we look at his form this season we see that he is again a model of absolute consistency as in 17 starts he is yet to miss a cut and he has four top ten finishes to his name.
Without stating the obvious the only thing missing from the Japanese stars CV this season is a victory and with his long game stats strong the area that has been holding him back has been the putter.
On a positive note though, bearing in mind Hideki is currently languishing at 100th in SGP for the season, his last two starts have seen him rank 33rd in this department at Memorial and 27th last time out at Pebble Beach so there are definite signs he has turned a corner with the flat stick.
There is no doubt a win is coming for Hideki and with the putter improving allied to a visit to another Ross set up, something he must surely be looking forward to, I believe there is a very strong possibility that win could come this week.
RYAN MOORE – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED MC
The final out and out Ross specialist to make this weeks team is our old friend Ryan Moore.
I will readily admit that Ryan has been the cause of much frustration to me of late [although to be fair he did place for us in Texas in April] and having been close to including him last week only to watch him flatter to deceive yet again he would be pretty much now consigned to the ‘do not back list’ if it wasn’t for the Ross factor this week.
To expand on this further if we look at Ryan’s record on Ross courses over the recent years he recorded his maiden tour win at Sedgefield and has two other top tens there to his name, he came second at Aronimink in 2010 [on basically the same week on the schedule to this after finishing 13th at the Travelers the week before] and then of course we have his last two visits to East Lake which have seen him finish second and third, with the former performance being a memorable play off loss to Rory of course.
In a nutshell we have a player who along with our first two picks this week is as big Ross specialist as there is on tour.
Again very similarly to our first two selections this week we then have the double whammy of the fact that, despite the frustrating one bad round a week Ryan is throwing in at the moment to scupper his chances, he is undoubtedly very close to playing some great golf, particularly off the tee where he currently sits third in DA, 36th in SGTTG and 23rd in SGATTG.
If we then drill these numbers down further at the Travelers Ryan ranked first in DA, 4th in GIR and 15th in SGT. In other words the tee to green game is in great shape.
As we know however the problem for the UNLV grad over the last year or so has been that he hasn’t quite been holing his share of putts, however it was encouraging to see Ryan say in his post round interview on Friday that he had worked something out on his alignment late on Thursday, which had lead to him feeling more comfortable and this fact, leading in to a week where you would hope he would just have a good nuance for Ross greens, is encouraging.
In addition of course the other thing worth noting here is that with all of the field seeing these greens for the first time this may well prove to be a bit of a ‘leveller’ this week on the difference across the field in putting numbers.
One final point worth noting is that after many years together Ryan and his caddie JJ Jakovac have parted company with JJ moving on to caddie for Colin Morikawa.
Now of course I am not privy to the why’s and wherefore’s behind this change and who initiated it, however it may just be that a freshening up was something that was needed for Moore and it certainly didn’t seem to do him too much harm last week at TPC River Highlands.
As I said at the beginning backing Moore over the past 12 months or so has proved very frustrating on occasions, however on a Donald Ross course, which isn’t overly long by modern day standards, I am happy to take my chances that this could well be the week it all comes together for him.
NICK WATNEY – 80-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 46th
My next pick is yet another player who has produced the goods on a Ross layout in the past in the shape of 2011 Aronimink winner Nick Watney.
As we know things haven’t really gone to plan for Nick over the recent years however the last couple of seasons have seen him turn in to something of a steady if unspectacular performer making the majority of his cuts.
Last week at the Travelers we saw another solid performance from Nick as he finished in 30th place, a finish that would have been much better but for three bogeys down the stretch and again, in a common theme running through our selections, it was the putter that held him back.
Of interest to me this week though is the fact that, while outside of his win at Aronimink Nick couldn’t really be called a Ross specialist like our first three picks, he does have two wins to his name on greens, which are a mix of poa and bentgrass, which is what the players will face this week, and as someone brought up in California he is naturally very comfortable on the poa.
In addition he has also produced some of his best golf over the years on firm golf courses with faster greens and weather allowing [there is potential for a PM storm on Saturday] these are hopefully the type of conditions we will see.
We saw with Nick at the Wells Fargo last year when we were on board that he still can compete strongly at the business end of a tournament when the course is to his liking and I have no doubt that he does have further wins in him, and it may just be that a return to a Ross set up that I feel will suit his eye could be the trigger for him to step up from the steady golf he has been playing and deliver a really strong week.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN – 45-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 5th
For my final pick this week I am, you will no doubt be pleased to here, going to get off of my Donald Ross soapbox and instead simply side with a player who played really well last week and has a huge upside potential in the form of Joaquin Niemann.
In the way that only golf’s endless conveyor belt of young talent can shape, Niemann at 20yrs old and in his first full season on tour is almost under the radar as potential new superstars in the game go, as we now have this years batch of ‘can’t miss kids’ to rave about in the shape of Hovland, Morikawa and Wolff.
All of these three are of course players of huge potential, however these guys are now the ‘new kids on the block’ in the spotlight and I cant help but wonder if the spotlight turning elsewhere was, whether consciously or not, a contributary factor for the young Chilean star in the making having his best finish on tour this year last weekend in Connecticut.
Either way Joaquin was very impressive throughout the week at TPC River Highlands particularly in his bogey free final round of 66 and all his stats for the week were strong leading him to finish fifth in SGT for the week.
Another added attraction to chancing Niemann this week is that with this weeks course being new to the whole field he wont have the disadvantage that rookies normally have compared to the more experienced players, in that they are all seeing Detroit GC for the first time.
We saw last year that Niemann can stay hot after a strong week as he finished sixth at Memorial after finishing eighth at Colonial and my hope is that this huge young talent can ride his hot hand from last week and give us a great run at a nice e/w price.
UPDATED 26th JUNE
TRADER - RYAN ARMOUR - FINISHED 46th - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 7
For this weeks trader pick I have chosen to go with Akron native and Ohio State Uni grad Ryan Armour.
With Akron only being about three hours away from Detroit this is not far from a home game for Ryan and he should certainly feel comfortable playing in the area.
In addition to the location the other thing that should make Armour feel comfortable at the Detroit GC is that although he is one of the shorter hitters on the tour, he is one of the most accurate tee to green players out there, and based on what we have heard so far about the course this should fit the skill sets required this week.
Ryan has finished fourth and eighth at the Donald Ross designed Sedgefield CC over the past two seasons so he should be relishing another spin around a Ross course this week.
Ryan finished second on the tour in the corresponding week this time last year at the Quicken Loans National and I am happy to have him onboard as our trader this week with a view to him repeating the trick.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 380.