PGA Tour Back to Michigan After Nearly a Decade

By Brady Kannon  () 

After a nine-year break, the PGA Tour returns to the state of Michigan. For the first time ever, the Detroit Golf Club will serve as the host course. The Rocket Mortgage Classic tees off this week less than 10 miles outside of downtown Detroit, for the first of what is a four-year deal with the Tour. The field is lacking in star power but there are two spots up for grabs to get into the British Open coming up in just three weeks at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The top two finishers inside the top eight on the leaderboard, not already qualified for the Open, will earn their way into the field for the 2019 season’s final major championship.

Detroit Golf Club is more than 100 years old and while it has seen its fair share of tweaks and renovation, it is a par-72 Donald Ross design that can be stretched to more than 7,300 yards. It is a tree-lined, traditional, parkland-type layout with under 2 inches of rough bordering the fairways, but as high as 4 inches surrounding the smaller than Tour average size greens. For the fourth week in a row, the players will be faced with negotiating very fast Poa annua grass greens. The course should produce some birdies, however, as four of the 18 holes are Par 5s and four of the Par 4s, come in at under 400 yards in length.

Without any course history to draw on, coming up with a set of stats or skill sets that have proven to be successful in the past is obviously not a practice we can use in this week’s handicap. With what we know about the golf course, Greens in Regulation and Scrambling certainly look to be important factors toward having success here -- with the smaller greens and thick rough that borders them. Secondly, we know that the greens are an undulating Poa annua surface, so we can look at players that fare well in this area. Scoring should be low, so we can consider Birdie Average. Current form has to be taken into account and, finally, history on other Donald Ross designs on Tour, which would be Sedgefield Country Club, home to the Wyndham Championship and also Pinehurst #2, which last hosted the 2014 U.S. Open.

As far as the weather, it does not look like wind will be a factor. It should be hot and humid with a threat of thunderstorms looming throughout the four days. This can make the rough a bit more penal if it is wet and sticky, but it will also “widen” the fairways with the possible rain keeping the course soft and the greens receptive.

THREE PLAYERS TO WIN THE ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC

Brandt Snedeker (30/1)

Current form is solid for Snedeker as he has made six straight cuts and has finished top 20 twice and also top 5 three weeks ago in Canada. We know he is an excellent putter and, more so, one of the very best on Poa annua. Finally, he has tremendous success on Ross courses, taking 9th at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst and he’s won the Wyndham Championship twice to go along with four additional top-10 finishes.

Billy Horschel (30/1)

The Florida Gator is typically more associated with Bermuda grass rather than Poa annua, but this season he finished 8th at Torrey Pines and just took 32nd at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, both of which are courses with Poa annua greens. He took 23rd at Pinehurst in 2014 and has gone 11-60-5 in his last three trips to the Wyndham. His stats are solid at 62nd in Greens in Regulation, 71st in Scrambling and 43rd in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Kevin Streelman (40/1)

Streelman has been on an excellent run as of late, finishing 15th last week at The Travelers and three top-6 finishes in his six starts prior to that. He’s 34th on Tour in Greens in Regulation and 72nd in Scrambling. He has never missed a cut at the Wyndham in five tries.

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