Rocket Mortgage Classic

The PGA Tour moves into its fourth consecutive event since the restart at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, where five of the world’s top 20 tee it up for another week.

Last week was a disappointing one on my behalf, but we did see the first high-profile winner since the return of professional golf after Dustin Johnson played spectacularly on the weekend to win the Travelers Championship.

With this year being only its second edition, the Rocket Mortgage Classic is to be played at Detroit Golf Club’s North Course like last year, a course designed by highly rated course architect Donald Ross.

Ross has designed Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, East Lake, Oak Hill and Seminole, but the North Course at Detroit Golf Club is probably one of his flattest layouts.

With Nate Lashley winning last year’s event with a score of -25, birdies are on the agenda this week with a similar outcome expected to the tournament’s first edition in 2019.

Due to the aforementioned importance of birdies this week, my first pick is going to be the highly controversial, yet ever so consistent Patrick Reed (16/1).

Ranking fifth this season for birdie average and eighth in scoring average, Reed is an ideal candidate for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

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Due to his solid ball-striking and excellent wedge game, in combination with being such a strong putter, he has the recipe to be a dangerous competitor in Detroit.

The bulk of his game has been solid throughout his career and the situation is the same this season. His phenomenal putting has been the reason for his excellent results in 2020 though, with him ranking fourth in SG: Putting illustrating that precisely.

However, ranking 26th in SG: Tee-to-Green last week, above this week’s favourite and in-form Bryson Dechambeau, as well as being 32nd for the season, shows just how good his long game has been too.

To go with the statistics, the American has two good finishes in his three events since the tour’s return with a top 10 at Colonial and a top 25 last week. That’s also without mentioning a win in Mexico before the break and three further top 10s this year (excluding the Hero World Challenge).

And although there is little course form to rely on, Reed’s finish here last year is likely to inspire him heading into his return to the Detroit Golf Club, where he posted a top five in 2019.

Reed is without doubt a player slipping under the radar in the last few weeks, and in Detroit we could finally see his game come to fruition and him add to his eight PGA Tour victories.

Doc Redman (45/1) firstly looks a little short despite his impressive displays of late, but his chipping and putting are also reason to rule him out for me personally, although I can see why others would be likely to take the risk with the 22-year-old.

Similarly, Rory Sabbatini (50/1) will be a popular choice for this week after going 14-21 at Colonial and the Heritage in addition to his third-place finish here last year.

Instead though, I think my money is put to better use backing Kevin Na (40/1).

At 90/1 I tipped Na two weeks ago at Harbour Town, expecting him to bounce back from his missed cut when defending his title at the Charles Schwab, but after an unexpected withdrawal we didn’t get the chance to see how he would perform.

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Then seeing him finish in fifth place last week only strengthened my feeling that he would bounce back strongly, and has led to me taking a chance on the American again this week.

Far from a bomber and not exactly considered to be someone who benefits from his long game, Na earns his stripes with either a wedge or a putter in his hand, which should see him thrive at the Detroit Golf Club’s North Course.

Sixth in SG: Putting, 16th in approaches from 50-75 yards and 19th in approaches from 75-100 yards, it’s obvious where the strong points of Na’s game are.

It may have taken two days of tuning up at Colonial where he missed the cut by a shot, but after a strong weekend finish last week at the Travelers, he’ll be confident again with his game and feel positive about the possibility of winning in this field.

J.T Poston (40/1) was another player I liked the look of for this week, being a good putter and ranking fairly high in the birdie and scoring average categories.

However, my next pick is going to be a player who has been almost faultless ever since making the switch this season to play most of his golf on the PGA Tour, Christian Bezuidenhout (55/1).

Having overcome a traumatic and difficult childhood, it is no wonder that the South African has fit in so seamlessly in the US.

A missed cut at the Charles Schwab being the only blemish among three other top 30s, the 26-year-old has shown no fear on the PGA Tour. And unfortunately for him, he may have also had a top finish at the Players to go with it had it not been cancelled after he had carded a first round 65.

Another solid putter at 14th in SG: Putting, Bezuidenhout also comes in at 34th for birdie average and 13th in SG: Approach-the-Green, three crucial statistics heading into a week that is likely to be a birdie fest.

He may not be perfect off the tee, but at Detroit Golf Club, where there were wide fairways and barely any rough last year, it’s very unlikely to impede his chances.

Not only that, with a playing style somewhat similar to Tyrrell Hatton, who is now deciding to play more and more on the PGA Tour, he will be able to take some inspiration from how well the Englishman has adapted in the US too.

With a top 20 at the Arnold Palmer back in March, it will be no surprise to see him at the top of the leaderboard here where much less of the world’s top 50 will be taking part.

Another American who has caught my eye after playing some incredible and yet unexpected golf at the Travelers, is Patton Kizzire (140/1).

Kizzire missed two consecutive cuts at the Charles Schwab and the RBC Heritage as his struggles from before the PGA Tour’s enforced break continued.

However, after missing the cut by just one at Harbour Town, he went on to play some outstanding golf last week which resulted in a sixth-place finish, demonstrating how fine the margins are in professional golf and how quickly a player can go from struggling to competing to win golf tournaments.

Managing to make just five cuts all season before the Travelers while putting well all year emphasises just how poor Kizzire’s long game has been throughout 2020.

24th in SG: Putting this season and seventh for the same category in 2019, it’s evident that he feels comfortable on the greens.

However, with such a decline in his driving ability and approach play, the issue has been that his incredible putting has mostly been overridden and become an accessory rather than a stand-out quality.

212th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 200th in SG: Approach-the-Green, Kizzire’s game has not been a pretty sight for the most part this season.

But last week he showed signs that he is capable of better, finishing the week 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green and seventh in SG: Approach-the-Green.

The 34-year-old has all the tools with the putter to be a dangerous player in this field, but he will require a similar long game to last week for it all to come together nicely for him in Detroit.

My final pick this week is going to be Seung-yul Noh (175/1).

The Korean’s enormous price is somewhat understandable with him only returning to the tour this year, but his 11th at the Travelers means he makes a good choice for an each-way pick this week.

His Korean counterpart Si Woo Kim is popular this week too, but at more than twice his price, Noh arguably deserves more respect from the bookmakers after a return to the top of his game at River Highlands.

He ranked a respectable 42nd in SG: Tee-to-Green and 36th in SG: Approach-the-Green last week in Connecticut as he made his first cut since he returned to the PGA Tour. Where he was able to pick up shots on the field though was with his short game, ranking 24th in SG: Around-the-Green and eighth in SG: Putting, meaning he was ahead of the likes of Dechambeau and Schauffele in both categories.

If that sort of short game continues into this week, with a slight improvement in his approach play, Noh will find himself up there again in Detroit with this course being much more suited to him than TPC River Highlands.

Patrick Reed (16/1) – 3 pts e.w.
Kevin Na (40/1) – 2 pts e.w.
Christian Bezuidenhout (55/1) – 1 pt e.w.
Patton Kizzire (140/1) – 0.5 pts e.w.
Seung-yul Noh (175/1) – 0.5 pts e.w.

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