The PGA Tour moves on to Michigan this week for the third edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Read Steve's preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
"The first two winners have ranked first and second for Strokes Gained Putting and three of the top-five in the Putting Average rankings have finished inside the top-five and ties at both renewals."
The Rocket Mortgage Classic replaced the National, formerly the Quicken Loans National, on the PGA Tour schedule two years ago.
It's the first PGA Tour event to be staged in Michigan since the final edition of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills back in 2009 and it's the first PGA Tour event to ever be played in Detroit.
Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan
Par 72, 7,340 yards
Stroke Index in 2020- 70.06
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 they use the par four first hole of the South Course for the third hole this week.
Detroit's fairways are tree-lined and the small Poa Annua greens will run at around 12 on the stimpmeter.
Prior to the off last year, it was reported that the rough was a bit more penal than it had been in 2019 but it didn't make any difference. Bryson DeChambeau won with a 23-under-par total, despite ranking only 58th for Driving Distance.
Detroit is not a stern examination and last year's scoring average of 70.06 was lowest among all par 72s in tournaments with only one course hosting during the 2019-20 season. The cut was five-under-par.
The only change to the course this year comes at the par four 12th where a new tee has increased the length of the hole by 30 yards.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Live Featured Group coverage begins behind the Red Button at 11:45 UK time on Thursday and it continues on Sky Sports at 18:00. The full coverage begins at 20:00.
First Two Winners with Pre-event Exchange Price
2019 - Nate Lashley -25 1000.0
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau -23 6.05/1
What Will it Take to Win the Rocket Mortgage Classic?
With only two editions to evaluate, it's hard to say how much use the stats are but here's the top-five and ties at the first two renewals 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
1 Bryson DeChambeau -23 DD 1 DA 58 GIR 13 SC 29 PA 7 SGP 1
2 Matthew Wolff -20 DD 5 DA 25 GIR 54 SC 61 PA 1 SGP 5
3 Kevin Kisner -18 DD 39 DA 16 GIR 39 SC 13 PA 2 SGP 11
T4 Ryan Armour -16 DD 61 DA 16 GIR 19 SC 39 PA 4 SGP 38
T4 Adam Hadwin -16 DD 56 DA 20 GIR 2 SC 4 PA 44 SGP 25
T4 Tyrrell Hatton -16 DD 54 DA 43 GIR 54 SC 18 PA 5 SGP 6
T4 Danny Willett -16 DD 21 DA 25 GIR 8 SC 15 PA 17 SGP 35
The stats don't tell us an awful lot and the driving metrics are a bit confusing. Length was irrelevant two years ago but the first and second ranked first and fifth for Driving Distance last year.
Having spent lockdown bulking up, the story of last year's renewal was how far the winner, Bryson DeChambeau, hit it off the tee. He averaged an incredible 329.8 yards off the tee but found only 33 of 56 fairways. He still managed to rank 13th for Greens In Regulation and he won the tournament on the greens with the flatstick.
Greens In Regulation hasn't been an especially key stat in either renewal and although Scrambling looked key in 2019, it certainly wasn't last year, with the first two home ranking 29th and 61st, but a good week with the putter looks essential.
The two winners have ranked first and second for Strokes Gained Putting and three of the top-five in the Putting Average rankings have finished inside the top-five and ties at both renewals.
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 above that use a Ross layout, I'd expect the Wyndham to be the most useful. Sedgefield specialist, Webb Simpson, led here at halfway last year, Kevin Kisner was third in this event and at the Wyndham, and Doc Redman finished alongside Kisner at Sedgefield last year and second here two years ago.
After the first two renewals, there are two other courses that we should probably also consider - the Country Club of Jackson - home to the Sanderson Farm Championship and TPC Twin Cities which hosts the 3M Open...
Although they fell away a bit over the weekend, three SFC winners were in the top-ten at the halfway stage in the first edition of this event - Cameron Champ, Ryan Armour and Peter Malnati, and Armour played well here again 12 months ago. The composite used at Jackson for the SFC was designed by Dick Wilson so it didn't come up in my initial research two years ago (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.
It's also interesting to see that last year's SFC was won by the 2012 Wyndham winner, Sergio Garcia, with the 2019 Wyndham champ, JT Poston, finishing third, so that ties all three tracks together nicely.
And finally, although it didn't really throw up any obvious link last year, when won by Michael Thompson, the inaugural 3M Open, staged at TPC Twin Cities, was won by last year's RMC Classic runner-up, Matthew Wolff, who beat Colin Morikawa and the winner here, DeChambeau, in a playoff. Adam Hadwin finished fourth in both events in 2019, Viktor Hovland contended in the two and Troy Merritt finished inside the top-eight in both that has to be an event to consider.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 - Nate Lashley - Led by six 1.222/9
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau - T2 and three off the lead 3.55/2
Lashley won the first edition wire-to-wire and DeChambeau was never far away. He sat tied for fourth and one off the lead after round one, tied third and still just one back after round two and he sat tied for second with a round to go.
This will be a low scoring event and making up lots of ground will be tough.
Despite sitting inside the top-nine places and within five of the lead with a round to go in three of his last four starts, the defending champ, Bryson DeChambeau, has just one top-ten in his last eight starts (an off-the-pace T9th at the Wells Fargo back in May) and he looks like one to swerve at present.
He was very disappointing on the back-nine at the US Open two weeks ago when he fell from fourth to 26th and his 71 on Sunday at the Travelers was a weak effort too. He went into the fourth round trailing by three and ahead of the eventual winner, Harris English, but he finished tied for 19th, beaten by six.
His ongoing feud with Brooks Koepka can't be helping his game and I'm happy to leave him out.
Former Wyndham winner, Patrick Reed, finished fifth here on debut two years ago but he missed the cut last year and he too looks like one to avoid if very recent form is any sort of gauge.
He shot 67 on Sunday to climb up into a tie for 19th at the US Open two weeks ago, two weeks after a decent fifth in The Memorial Tournament but last week's 25th at the Travelers, where he lost almost three strokes to the field putting, was an uninspiring effort. He ranked only 75th for Putting Average last week and that won't cut it here.
Webb Simpson, who led here at halfway last year, looks a great fit for the venue but like the US Masters winner, Hideki Matsuyama, who's alongside Simpson in the market, he hasn't been playing well enough of late to consider at less than 25.024/1.
I'll have one or two later in the Find Me a 100 Winner column and I'll back Kevin Kisner if he drifts but for now my sole selection is the promising Doc Redman.
In addition to finishing second here in 2019, he led last year's renewal after the opening round so he clearly loves the track. He finished runner-up in his penultimate start, at the Palmetto Championship, and I thought he was worth chancing, despite a disappointing weekend at the Travelers Championship last week, when he fell from 20th and just four off the lead at halfway to finish tied for 61st.
At 23, Redman is still finding his feet on the PGA Tour so the odd bad round is going to happen when he's in-contention but at a venue that looks perfect, I thought he was a fair price at 80.079/1.
Doc Redman @ 80.079/1
I'll be back later with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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