After a thrilling and drawn-out finish at The Travelers in Connecticut, TOUR heads a little west to Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic this week. This is part of the season where we see some lull in the strength and quality of the tournament field as many of the top players prepare to cross the pond for the Open in two weeks.
This week the reigning champion and sixth player in the world will lead the event. Bryson DeShambeau… He is included in the Rocket Mortgage Classic as the lowest player on the leaderboard in terms of odds, which in many bookmakers is only +750. Part of the reason for this low number is the lack of firepower behind it, as only Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson and Hideki Matsuyama are making their way out of the OWGR top 20 this week.
Last year, Bryson beat Matthew Wolfe in a two-man race down the stretch, where DeShambeau ultimately took the win with three shots. He finished the week at age 23, two strikes short of 2019 champion Nate Lashley. This tournament showed in two versions that it is a festival of birds, as there is little protection for this course, as one of the shortest Par 72 courses in TOUR.
The biggest note on the pitch at Detroit Golf Club this year is not about any changes, but rather the weather they got ahead of the tournament. Over five inches of rain fell in the area in a week, making it a very soft golf course and could lead to even lower ratings than we’ve seen in the past. This should be very different from the grind we saw a couple of weeks ago at the US Open, as I expect players to break this course this week.
Detroit Golf Club – Detroit, Michigan
7370 yd Par 72
- Four pairs 5 (552/555/577/635)
- Four pairs 3 (160/167/207/233)
- Ten pairs 4 (372/393/393/397/425/446/453/455/461/489)
- Mixed greens Bentgrass / Poa Annua, average 5150 sq. Feet
- Same mix on fairway and tees with 4 ” roughened ryegrass cover.
- One water hazard in just one hole
- 87 sand bins
- Only the change from year to year gives 30 extra yards to the 12th hole.
As you can see from the list of holes above, none of the Par 4 holes is more than 490 yards in length, so a lot of shots are fired from less than 150 yards into the greens. Today’s players will have to work hard this week at the Detroit Golf Club, which is one of the reasons for the poor performance. Half of pairs 3 are in the same distance range and one is stretched 233 yards. This hole, Par 3, 11th, has been played as the hardest hole on the course on average over the past two years and is one of the few where the course averaged above par during the event.
The least surprising figure of a week around the course is that four par 5s are the four lightest holes on the course. The longest of the group gives “only” 30% of the avian percentage, while each of the other three rejects the bird, or better, more than 40% of the time. Each of these three holes has a heads ratio of over 2%, which shows how achievable they are for many players on the course. Par 5 17 is the easiest of the lot at 577 yards, as it scores or better more than half the time, leaving players who leave with par lagging behind. During the week, it will be imperative to find players who will use these four holes, as all but three holes on them during a round are likely to lose shots over a significant portion of the course.
As players go downhill and hope to score in 17th place, they will likely aim to just hit par and avoid 18th. Par 4 is listed on the scorecard at 455 yards and is the second hardest hole on the course. If played well, he may give up some birdies, but he also has the highest scarecrow or worse rating on the track. That hole could create some drama on Sunday afternoon’s final hole as leaders hope to close out a win in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
This is a limited selection of just two tournaments at the Detroit Golf Club, so this week we should be wary of the moniker “horse horse”. Many players on the pitch have only played this tournament in one of two years, as did last year’s winner. Bryson DeShambeau… Others like 2019 champion Nate Lashley have extremely mixed results as it missed last year’s cut and came in second in 2020 Matthew Wolf missed the cut in 2019.
One player who stands out with two good results and shows some form as the week approaches, is Doc Redman… Clemson’s alum came in second behind Lashley in 2019 and backed him up with a T21 at last year’s event. Sepp Straka also achieved success on this course twice as he completed T11 in 2019 and T8 in 2020, two of the best results of his career at TOUR.