Following Dustin Johnson's win in the Travelers Championship on Sunday, the PGA Tour moves some 700 miles west from Connecticut to Michigan this week for the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Read Steve's preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"Ryan Armour won the Sanderson by five strokes back in 2017, he was in-the-mix here at halfway 12 months ago, he has a fourth and an eighth-placed finish to his name at the Wyndham and he caught the eye on Sunday when finishing sixth, playing alongside Rory McIlroy in round four. I thought odds of 300.0299/1 plus were huge."
The Rocket Mortgage Classic replaced the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour schedule 12 months ago. It was due to be switched to the end of May this year but following the COVID 19 enforced break, the event has been moved back to July again.
Last year, it was the first PGA Tour event to be staged in Michigan since the final edition of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills in 2009 and it was the first PGA Tour event to ever be played in Detroit.
Last-minute alternate, Nate Lashley, who had failed to Monday qualify for the tournament, was the surprise inaugural winner. Matched before the off at 1000.0, he won in a canter by six strokes.
Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan
Par 72, 7,340 yards
Stroke Index in 2019 - 70.11
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 hole last year was the first hole on the South Course.
Detroit's fairways are tree-lined and the small Poa Annua greens last year ran at around 12 on the stimpmeter. After last year's low scoring, the rough is said to be a bit more penal this time around.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Live Featured Group coverage begins on Sky at 11:30 UK time on Thursday and the full coverage begins at 20:00.
Inaugural Winner with Pre-event Exchange Price
2019 - Nate Lashley -25 1000.0
What Will it Take to Win the Rocket Mortgage Classic?
With only one edition to evaluate, it's hard to say how much use the stats are but here's the top-ten from last year with all the usual key stats - Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, Greens In Regulation, Scrambling, Putting Average and Strokes Gained Putting.
1 Nate Lashley -25 DD 43 DA 11 GIR 4 SC 3 PA 2 SGP 2
2 Doc Redman -19 DD 34 DA 47 GIR 18 SC 8 PA 16 SGP 11
T3 Wes Roach -18 DD 30 DA 28 GIR 25 SC 5 PA 13 SGP 31
T3 Rory Sabbatini -18 DD 43 DA 1 GIR 47 SC 25 PA 4 SGP 10
T5 Joaquin Niemann -17 DD 13 DA 5 GIR 2 SC 14 PA 31 SGP 23
T5 Ted Potter Jr -17 DD 65 DA 14 GIR 1 SC 7 PA 38 SGP 6
T5 Patrick Reed -17 DD 35 DA 54 GIR 13 SC 59 PA 5 SGP 30
T5 Brandt Snedeker -17 DD 57 DA 19 GIR 39 SC 4 PA 9 SGP 5
T5 Brian Stuard -17 DD 62 DA 19 GIR 47 SC 47 PA 9 SGP 1
T5 Cameron Tringale -17 DD 27 DA 5 GIR 2 SC 50 PA 31 SGP 35
That really doesn't tell us an awful lot and the driving metrics certainly don't appear important but it's perhaps worth noticing that the contenders either needed to find the small greens with regularity or scramble well and four of the top-five in the Putting Average rankings finished inside the top-ten.
Is There an Angle In?
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 in 2018, won by Keegan Bradley, as well as the National way back in 2010 and 2011.
It's old form now but 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, just to get a feel for the type of players that thrive at Ross venues and Pinehurst Country Club, another Ross-designed course, staged the US Open in 1999, 2005 and again in 2014.
Of those events listed, I'd expect the Wyndham to be the most useful but it looks like another tournament to consider may be the Sanderson Farms Championship given there's a possible course correlation with the Country Club of Jackson, where the Sanderson Farms Championship is staged each autumn.
Although they fell away a bit over the weekend, three SFC winners were in the top-ten at the halfway stage in Detroit last year - Cameron Champ, Ryan Armour and Peter Malnati. The composite used at Jackson for the SFC was designed by Dick Wilson so it didn't come up in my initial research last year (looking at other Donald Ross courses) but it was extensively remodelled in 2008 by John Fought - a designer described as being heavily influenced by Ross - so form there might be worthy of close inspection.
Having chatted with Ian at Sports Betting Index earlier (well worth a follow here on Twitter), he had a very sound theory that form at the Old White TPC Course, home of the Greenbrier Classic, may be worth something here too and it looks like he's on to something. Obviously, we only have one year's worth of form here but two Greenbrier winners, Joaquin Niemann and Ted Potter Jr, were fifth here last year so that's something else to consider.
Looking at last year's hole averages, the front nine is slightly easier than the back with five of the seven easiest holes all encountered in the first seven holes.
The long par three 11th was the hardest hole on the course 12 months ago and the par four 18th the second hardest but there's a chance to score at the par five 17th which last year averaged 4.51, which was the easiest on the course.
Lashley won wire-to-wire last year.
With form figures reading 5-2-4-3-8-6, Bryson DeChambeau is the man to beat this week. One of many in the field that didn't tee it up here 12 months ago, he has a lack of course knowledge to overcome but he's contended to varying degrees in all three tournaments since the restart and I wouldn't want to put anyone off him. He's a bit on the short side now, price wise, for my liking and there's a slight chance he's mentally fatigued but it's impossible to rule him out.
Webb Simpson returns to the fray after missing last week due to a family member contracting COVID-19. He'll be keen to get going again given he won the RBC Heritage two weeks ago and although he too is playing here for the first time, he really should take to the place. Few, if any, players play Sedgefield better than Webb. He loves it there so much he even named one of his kids after the venue!
Patrick Reed is another Wyndham winner and he has the advantage of having played here last year, when he finished tied for fifth. He's been on the go, teeing it up every week since the restart but with only limited success. He finished seventh in the Charles Schwab, thanks largely to a 63 in round three, he missed the cut at Harbour Town and could only finish 24th last week. Although he did shoot 64 on Sunday. It would be no surprise to see him improve on those efforts and contend this week but at around the same price, the red-hot Tyrrell Hatton looks a better bet.
Liverpool fan, Hatton, has been playing as well as his football team just lately. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks after finishing sixth at the WGC Mexico Championship and he returned to action two weeks ago when finishing third to Simpson. It would be a surprise if he didn't figure.
As is so often the case when I don't fancy anyone strongly towards the head of the market, there appears to be plenty of value further down the list and I've ended backing eight before the off...
With progressive Sedgefield form reading MC-18-10-4 and an eye-catching fifth at the Travelers Championship on Sunday, the now prolific, Kevin Na, comes into the argument even without the win in the Greenbrier Classic last year. I've followed Ian in with Na at 46.045/1.
J.T Poston was a disappointing pick last week but having finished 11th here last year and 11th in the Sanderson Farms Championship and having won the Wyndham Championship, he's a very logical pick this week. He played well at the Charles Schwab and the RBC Heritage where he finished tenth and eighth so I'm happy to overlook last week's missed cut and hope it was a one-off.
I felt compelled to back former Wyndham winner Brandt Snedeker, who was a pick here 12 months ago when he finished tied for fifth at a much shorter price but his form isn't brilliant at present and I'm happier about the price I took about yet another Wyndham winner, Si Woo Kim, who really caught the eye last week when finishing tied for 11th.
Michigan man, Brian Stuard, may well know the course better than anyone. He was fifth last year, despite a poor second round, and he played well at the Travelers, eventually finishing 20th. He also has form at the Greenbrier and I thought he was worthy of a tiny bet.
The latest Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Sebastian Muñoz, had to go in the portfolio at 160.0159/1 and I've also backed Patton Kizzire at slightly bigger after his eye-catching sixth placed finish at the Travelers. That was his best effort by some margin since he was 13th at the Wyndham, when he sat third at halfway, despite being in awful form at the time. He's a two-time PGA Tour winner and if last week's effort isn't just a flash in the pan, he's a lively outsider.
And finally, Ryan Armour won the Sanderson by five strokes back in 2017, he was in-the-mix here at halfway 12 months ago, he has a fourth and an eighth-placed finish to his name at the Wyndham and he caught the eye on Sunday when finishing sixth, playing alongside Rory McIlroy in round four. I thought odds of 300.0299/1 plus were huge and he's one I'll look to play in the top-ten and top-20 markets too.
Kevin Na @ 46.045/1
J.T Poston @ 48.047/1
Brandt Snedeker @ 70.069/1
Si Woo Kim @ 120.0119/1
Brian Stuard @ 150.0149/1
Sebastian Muñoz @ 160.0159/1
Patton Kizzire @ 180.0179/1
Ryan Armour @ 320.0319/1
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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