It’s been a decade since the PGA Tour conducted an event in Michigan. Tiger Woods won the Buick Open in 2009, and golf has been on hiatus since then. This week’s inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic will restart professional golf at the highest level in the state, and it’s an exciting time for everyone involved.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Rocket Mortgage Classic | When: June 27-30
Where: Detroit Golf Club — Detroit, Michigan
Ranking the field (odds)
- Dustin Johnson (6-1): It feels like we haven’t heard from him in a while. The reality is that he hasn’t missed a cut since last July and has finished in the top two in two of his last five events.
- Rickie Fowler (10-1): He only has one top 10 in his last five events, but he’s easily a top-three talent in this field.
- Gary Woodland (12-1): The only 2019 major champion in this field.
- Chez Reavie (20-1): Why not?!
- Hideki Matsuyama (12-1): Quietly having a good run with four top 25s in his last four starts. Fifth in strokes gained tee to green.
- Kevin Streelman (40-1): Three top 15s in his last five events.
- Billy Horschel (30-1): He only has one (!) missed cut in the last year.
- Sungjae Im (40-1): The only golfers in the field with more top 10s this season than Im are Johnson and Woodland.
- Joaquin Niemann (40-1): I think he’s a big time talent, and he’s coming off his best finish of the year last week with a T5 at the Travelers Championship.
- Viktor Hovland (50-1): Am I a homer? Yes. Is this a ridiculous spot for somebody making his second start as a pro? Maybe. Is Hovland also the best driver of the golf ball alive today? .
Field strength — B-: Fowler and Johnson are the obvious headliners, and it thins out quite a bit after that. It does have some good, younger names though (see below), which is a benefit to being held just after the college season when everyone is turning pro.
Three things to know
1. Running it back: Following their big week at the Travelers Championship, three of the four collegiate superstars who played there will also play here. Viktor Hovland (T54 at Travelers), Matthew Wolff (MDF) and Justin Suh (MC) are all still chasing membership on the PGA Tour with sponsor exemptions for the rest of this season.
2. Opening to The Open: There are two slots available for Royal Portrush and the 148th Open Championship in a month, and they will go to the top two of the top eight on the leaderboard who are not already qualified for the final major of 2019. That was a huge deal for Graeme McDowell at the Canadian Open a few weeks back, and will be for two more golfers this week in Detroit.
3. There might be a strike: Not good! Here’s the Detroit Free Press.
The employees who are making Detroit Golf Club a playable PGA Tour-caliber golf course this week are calling for the end of negotiations and a new contract. If it doesn’t happen by the time the Rocket Mortgage Classic tees off on Thursday, then the union says it’s willing to strike.
“Come (Thursday) when this tournament starts,” said Kevin Moore, president of local union, Teamsters Local 299, and executive board member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, “we’re going to do what we have to do. Demonstrations, strikes, whatever is at our disposal.”
Rocket Mortgage Classic picks
Winner: Rickie Fowler (10-1) — The synergy is too much for me to handle. If “subtle bump over a buried elephant” guy interviews him after his win, I might die. Only D.J., Woodland and Matsuyama have more strokes gained than Fowler on the season.
Top 10: Dustin Johnson (6-1) — He has seven top 10s in 13 events, and most of those have come at much better events than this one. The only question here is whether it will keep his attention.
Sleeper: Sungjae Im (40-1) — He’s 28th in strokes gained this year, which is better than Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson.