Detroit – It’s not the starfield. Taken together, it’s not even that impressive who is serving at the Connecticut Travelers Championship this week. And it may not even be the best field in the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s brief, three-year history.
But there’s more than enough cache to pique the interest of the crowd who’ll be walking off the ropes at Detroit Golf Club July 1-4 – a year after fans were banned from the site and two years after the Rocket im first year crowds that blew PGA Tour messes away.
By Wednesday lunchtime, 148 of the 156-player field were set, with four spots for Monday’s qualifiers on the Katke Cousins course at Oakland University, two or three for the Korn Ferry Tour players and one for the winners of the first John – Hip tournaments for black top professionals and amateurs who do not have status on the PGA Tour.
Among them are two of golf’s biggest names, the World Golf Hall of Famer and six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who celebrates a PGA championship win at the age of 50. He signed up for the Rocket last year but after the schedule expired, adjusted due to COVID-19. Don’t worry there. If the Rocket wanted Mickelson, they wanted him when the fans were there because there is no better golfer when it comes to interacting with fans. Mickelson is one of 13 great champions in this field, including this year’s Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama and last year’s US Open and RMC champion Bryson DeChambeau.
“It’s probably our strongest ever,” said Jay Farmer, Vice President and CEO of Rocket Companies, recently of the field. “The list of players … is growing and is incredibly impressive.”
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With Tiger Woods out injured, Mickelson remains the biggest draw on the tour and a major ticket shifter. The RMC said last week that area tickets were “almost on sale” but did not elaborate.
Other big champions playing at the Detroit Golf Club next week include Bubba Watson, who acted as an ambassador for Detroit’s efforts to end the digital divide when he hosted a charity exhibition that raised more than $ 1 million for Change the Course “of the tournament, as well as Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Lucas Glover, Jimmy Walker, Danny Willett and Gary Woodland.
Rickie Fowler is, of course, back as a Rocket brand ambassador (DeChambeau is now one too).
South African Garrick Higgo, 22, who showed up on golf radar earlier this month with a Palmetto Championship win, has signed up, as have several other 2020-21 PGA Tour winners including Max Homa, Si Woo Kim, Jason Kokrak , Sam Burns, Joel Dahmen, KH Lee, Matt Jones, Robert Streb, Brian Gay, Martin Laird and Hudson Swafford.
Overall, field 13 includes the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, but only two players in the top 10 – DeChambeau in 6th and Reed in 9th.
None of the top 14 of last week’s epic US Open are signed after Russell Henley left after his 13th place tie at Torrey Pines.
At this week’s Travelers Championship, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Patrick Cantlay, Marc Leishman, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Wolff are present, the latter finished second. in last year’s exciting Rocket Mortgage Classic, but he’s only just returned to tournament golf after taking a self-imposed hiatus to deal with his mental health problems. On his return, Wolff finished 15th at the US Open with equal points.
World number 2 Johnson played in the first Rocket Mortgage Classic and stayed with Kid Rock during the week but missed the cut and has not returned.
There’s no Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Louis Oosthuizen or, surprisingly, Viktor Hovland who received a sponsorship waiver for the first RMC and was so valued that he suggested returning for the foreseeable future.
Who plays where on the PGA Tour depends on many factors, including when the tournament is played. The Rocket Mortgage Classic falls two weeks after the US Open and two weeks before the British Open. Two weeks before the British start to complicate things, many of the game’s biggest stars prefer to travel overseas a week early to play the Scottish Open, to get used to links golf and to get used to the clock change . And many of those who don’t like to play at the John Deere Classic in the week leading up to the British Open because that tournament is where a plane is chartered for British Open participants.
Then there is the question of who feels comfortable on which courses – horse for course, they say. Last year’s champion DeChambeau, who made the Donald Ross classic with its roaring drives his personal pitch-and-putt course (once waiting for the green on a nearly 400-yard par 4; he hit 9 iron in par -5 14.), likes Detroit Golf Club and expects to return in the years to come.
But Detroit Golf Club, the flattest course on the PGA Tour, whose main defense is a long, lush rough and typically tricky Ross greens, isn’t for everyone.
“This golf course is special,” DeChambeau said recently. “It doesn’t often happen that we play such classic golf courses.
“I think I’ll score a little further (than last year). We’ll see if I can make it a little shorter.”
Several local players will also be in the field, including Brian Stuard (Jackson / Oakland University), the PGA Tour mainstay who finished tied for fifth in the first year and 30th last year. PGA Tour member Ryan Brehm (Traverse City / Michigan State) will also be there, as will Michigan Golf Hall of Famer and Boyne instructors Jeff Roth and Flints Willie Mack III, who received one of the tournament’s four sponsorship exemptions.
Exceptions from two other sponsors went to recent college graduates Davis Thompson, Georgia and Austin Eckroat, Oklahoma State, whose college happens to be the same as unofficial tournament host Fowler. End Sponsor Exemption will be awarded to the winner of the first John Shippen.
The field can change until Friday 5:00 p.m., except in the qualification.
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