Rocket Mortgage Classic: Dustin to enjoy Detroit debut

Golfer Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson - a worthy favourite in Detroit

The PGA Tour visits Detroit for the very first time this week and our man fancies the favourite, Dustin Johnson, may just enjoy himself. Read Steve's preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

"Although we do have to consider that the Tour Championship at East Lake, the FedEx Cup decider, is a reduced-field event, Dustin Johnson has finished inside the top-ten in five of his nine starts there and he has a decent overall record at Ross-designed tracks."

Tournament History

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is a brand-new event on the PGA Tour - replacing the Quicken Loans National.

It's the first PGA Tour event in Michigan since the final edition of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills ten years ago and it's the first PGA Tour event to ever be played in Detroit. Great news for Detroit but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed to have lost the National. In 12 years, that event took in classic courses, Congressional, Aronimink and Potomac and it produced a classy rollcall of winners that included the likes of K.J Choi, Anthony Kim, Nick Watney and Bill Haas, as well as major champs, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose (twice) and Francesco Molinari.

Venue

Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan.

Course Details

Par 72, 7,340 yards

There are two courses at the Detroit Golf Club, the North and the South. Both were designed by Donald Ross and the tournament is predominantly staged at the longer North, although the par four third this week is the first hole on the South Course.

Detroit's fairways are tree-lined and the small Poa Annua greens are forecasted to run at around 12 on the stimpmeter.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days. Live Featured Group coverage begins on Sky at 13:00 UK time on Thursday and the full coverage begins at 20:00.

What Will it Take to Win the Rocket Mortgage Classic?

We're operating in the dark a bit this week but given the greens are small, I suspect Greens In Regulation will emerge as the most important stat. There are four par fours measuring less than 400 yards and four par fives so keeping it in play and setting up plenty of birdie chances for what should transpire to be a fairly low-scoring affair looks like the way to go.

Is There an Angle In?

As already stated, we're very much in the dark here this week but form at Donald Ross courses often transfers well so check out results at East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, which hosts the Wyndham Championship, and Aronimink, which staged the BMW Championship last year, won by Keegan Bradley, as well as the National in 2010 and 2011. The results of The Northern Trust at Plainfield in both 2011 and 2015 and the 2013 USPGA Championship from Oak Hill Country Club may be worth looking at too and Pinehurst Country Club, another Ross-designed course, staged the US Open in 1999, 2005 and again in 2014.

In-Play Tactics

We've got no past results to evaluate so whether it's a catch-up course or one that suits frontrunners is anyone's guess but if you plan to get involved in-running at the business end of the tournament, be sure to familiarise yourself with the hole averages over the first three days. Find out which are the easy holes and which are the tough ones.

At 455 yards, the par four 18th is long enough to suggest it may prove to be a tough hole so anyone getting in the house on Sunday may hold an advantage over those on the same score, yet to play the finishing hole. The market always favours those still out on the course so that's an angle in to consider.

Market Leaders

Dustin Johnson has to overcome the disappointment of a poor US Open last time out at Pebble Beach - a track he usually plays brilliantly - and he wasn't in great form in his penultimate start when finishing 20th at the Canadian Open but he's still the man to beat.

A second place at the US Masters and at the US PGA Championship were preceded by wins in Saudi Arabia and Mexico, as well as four other top-tens on the PGA Tour since the beginning of the year and it's only a matter of time before he bounces back. A cold putter hasn't helped in his last two starts but I can see him contending strongly here.

Although we do have to consider that the Tour Championship at East Lake, the FedEx Cup decider, is a reduced-field event, Dustin Johnson has finished inside the top-ten in five of his nine starts there and he has a decent overall record at Ross-designed tracks.

DJ won the Northern Trust (then called The Barclays) over 54 holes at Plainfield back in 2011 and he's finished inside the top-ten in nine of his 16 starts on the PGA Tour at Donald Ross courses.

Second favourite, Rickie Fowler, hasn't been at his best since he won the Phoenix Open in February and finished second at the Honda a month last and he lost his was with a poor 77 in round two after a decent start in the US Open last time out.

He was a distant second to Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst in the US Open in 2014 but that's his only top-six finish at a Donald Ross designed course in 13 attempts and he's easy to dismiss at the price.

A sixth place finish at the Memorial Tournament in his penultimate start is the best we've seen from Hideki Matsuyama since he finished third at the Farmers Insurance way back in January but he has stronger Ross form than Fowler from just one more outing, boasting two top-fives at East Lake and a third at Sedgefield. Matsuyama has finished inside the top-22 in ten of his 14 starts at a Ross venue.

Brand-new US Open champ, Gary Woodland, is the only other players trading at less than 20.019/1 and last week's winner, Chez Reavie, is the only other man trading at less than 40.039/1. Both are looking to win back-to-back, which is notoriously difficult and neither has any Ross form to speak of. Woodland has never bettered ninth at East Lake in 2014 in 14 starts around Ross-designed tracks and ninth in the Wyndham back in 2011 is Reavie's best attempt to date from 11 attempts.

Selections

I had a few players in mind here when I started to research the event last week. Henrik Stenson, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson and Justin Rose all have great records at Donald Ross tracks but maybe they didn't get the memo that this place might suit them?

Billy Horschel and Ryan Moore are also plausible candidates but both look short enough to me so I'm happy to go with just three from the start.

I can see Dustin Johnson really enjoying this and putting his disappointing display at Pebble firmly behind him so I've backed him and I've also backed Brandt Snedeker who has a fabulous record at Ross tracks.

With a 35% top-ten strike rate from 23 starts at Ross-designed courses, Snedeker shot 59 at Sedgefield in round one before going on to win last August, he won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup at East lake in 2012 and he shot 61 at Plainfield in the final round in 2011 to finish third behind DJ at the Northern Trust.

At just 18 years and one month of age, Danny Lee was the youngest ever winner of the US Amateur at Pinehurst ten years ago and he was second to Jordan Spieth at the Tour Championship at East Lake. He's not in terrific form but I was happy to throw a few pounds in his direction at 200.0199/1.

And finally, I've also had a small double on Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia. I've previewed the Andalucía Valderrama Masters here, where Sergio's attempting to win the title for a fourth time.

Selections:
Dustin Johnson @ 7.87/1
Brandt Snedeker @ 42.041/1
Danny Lee @ 200.0199/1

Win double on Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia (Andalucía Valderrama Masters)

I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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