ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC: The PGA Tour returns to the Motor City this week for an event that has developed a good reputation over its five years of existence despite being located in the heart of a metropolis that has become a living symbol of America’s urban decline.
This is in no small part due to the venue, Detroit Golf Club, a Donald Ross gem that has seem remarkably few architectural changes over the past 100 years compared to many of its peers. Yes, this means that Detroit GC isn’t a particularly stern test for the modern Tour player, and indeed the winner of this tournament has reached 23-under or better three times in four years, but not every week has to be a grind for pars, and Canadian Adam Svensson echoed the thoughts of many this week in calling DGC “just a great, old-school course.”
Tipping out at 7,340 yards and featuring firm fairways and reachable par-5s, length is no issue at Detroit GC, though big hitters have fared quite well here, with Tony Finau hoisting the trophy last year and Bryson DeChambeau getting the job done in 2020. Donald Ross layouts have a reputation for being fairly straightforward off the tee, and the subtle sloping around the greens isn’t severe enough to provide adequate defense against the world’s best players. Still, it’s a fun little track that has the fast greens/long, lush rough combo that we love to see with these Northern summertime stops.
The field this week may not quite measure up to what we saw at last week’s Designated Event in Connecticut, but it’s pretty strong nonetheless, with names like Morikawa (17.5), Finau (17.5), Matsuyama (21.0), and Thomas (23.0) perched atop BETDAQ’s Win Market. Though Finau and DeChambeau were both among the favorites when they won here, we’ve also seen longshots Nate Lashley and Cam Davis get the job done at Detroit GC, so it’s the type of place that leaves the door open for a lot of different styles to thrive. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Tom Kim (24.0)- After a whirlwind start to his professional career that saw him collect 2 wins in his first 12 PGA Tour events, Kim levelled out somewhat this spring, enduring a stretch of seven starts without a top-10 at one point. Lately, however, his game has shown serious signs of life again, as he followed a T8 at the U.S. Open with a roller-coaster week at the Travelers that included a 64 and a 65 but was marred by a 3rd-round 72. But he’s back to making birdies and having fun, and he had plenty of fun at Detroit GC last year, firing a final-round 63 to finish T7 in what was only his fourth career start on the PGA Tour. This is a perfect place for him to build on the recent momentum and get back in the mix on Sunday. I’m happy to take a chance on him at 24.0.
Stephan Jaeger (70.0)- Though Jaeger is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, he’s been rock solid lately, making 7 consecutive cuts and finding the top-30 in 4 of those tournaments, and he absolutely lit it up at Detroit GC last year, shooting 20-under over four rounds to pick up the lone top-5 finish of his career. He’s 4th on Tour in total birdies this season, so he’s well-suited for the shootout that everyone expects to see this week, and he’s just a month removed from a 65-63 weekend at the Byron Nelson that saw him rocket up the leaderboard to finish T11. This is a guy who has finally found solid footing on the PGA Tour after a couple of years and is one breakout performance away from vaulting into a different echelon and playing a different schedule. This sets up as a great week for him to do it.
Doug Ghim (120.0)- It was a rocky start to the season for Ghim, who made only one cut from October to March, but he turned things around during the Florida swing and has been red-hot lately, shooting a combined 42-under across his last three starts and finding the top-20 each time. He closed with rounds of 64-67-65 at the Travelers last week to sneak into the top-15 despite a mediocre opening round, and Detroit GC is similar in a lot of ways to TPC River Highlands. Though Ghim’s best finish in this tournament to date is a T32 in 2021, he’s generally always a threat on courses where length off the tee is largely irrelevant, as he ranks in the top-20 on Tour in both driving accuracy and GIR percentage, so he profiles as a great fit this week. You won’t do any better in the triple-digit price range.