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Rocket Mortgage Classic: Here are the favorites, dark horses and one wild card


Tony Paul   | The Detroit News

Detroit — There's no Phil Mickelson or Dustin Johnson. Both were expected to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic, until the COVID-19 shutdown and the subsequent altered PGA Tour schedule changed that. There's no Brooks Koepka, or Justin Thomas, or Jordan Spieth, or even Collin Morikawa, who opted against trying to start a new made-cut streak this week, after his early exit last week at the Travelers.

ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC LIVE SCORING 

But the second annual Rocket Mortgage Classic still has seven of the world's top-25 golfers, including No. 6 Webb Simpson, No. 7 Patrick Reed and No. 10 Bryson DeChambeau, as well as No. 31 and fan favorite (though there won't be any fans) Rickie Fowler.

There also are 13 former major champions, including two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and two-time PGA champion and one-time Masters winner Vijay Singh, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. And there are 13 players who have won on the PGA Tour this season.

There even are two men in the 156-player field — Padraig Harrington (2008 PGA Championship) and Ricky Barnes (2002 U.S. Amateur) — who have won major tournaments in Michigan, albeit up at Oakland Hills, about a half-hour north of this week's venue, Detroit Golf Club.

It's a tough task to pick a winner for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, set for Thursday through Sunday, though this much is clear: Whoever wins is going to have go low, low, low and low again on a course that last year yielded 1,895 birdies and 40 eagles.

More: 'We're trying to give somebody a show': PGA Tour brings end to Michigan's sports shutdown

The favorites

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU

Age: 26

World ranking: 10

Season: Seven top-10s, eight top-25s

The skinny: He's made big headlines lately with his bulked-up physique, which has him looking like Popeye, and routinely bombing drives more than 330 yards. Detroit Golf Club isn't a bombers' paradise, but he's playing well in most facets of his game, with three top-10s in the three tournaments since the restart.

Odds: 5-1

WEBB SIMPSON

Age: 34

World ranking: 6

Season: Two wins, five top-10s

The skinny: He'd probably be the betting favorite if not for a COVID-19 scare last week that prompted him to WD from the Travelers. He called the whole experience a "roller coaster" of emotions. Still, the 2012 U.S. Open champ did win two weeks ago at Hilton Head, so his game remains in great shape.

Odds: 10-1

PATRICK REED

Age: 29

World ranking: 7

Season: One win, five top-10s, eight top-25s

The skinny: His game was on point before the shutdown, with a win at a WGC event in Mexico, and he had a top-10 at the restart opener, at Colonial. The 2018 Masters champion is back for a second go at Detroit Golf Club, having finished in a tie for fifth in the inaugural tournament in 2019.

Odds: 15-1

KEVIN NA

Age: 36

World ranking: 32

Season: One win, three top-10s, seven top-25s

The skinny: After his breakthrough PGA Tour victory in 2011, he went on a seven-year drought, but has found his groove with three wins over the last two calendar years. He's also coming off a solid fifth-place showing at the Travelers Championship, which like Detroit Golf Club doesn't require you to hit it a mile. 

Odds: 20-1

SUNGJAE IM

Age: 22

World ranking: 22

Season: One win, six top-10s, nine top-25s

The skinny: Perhaps nobody on the PGA Tour was more affected by the COVID-19 shutdown than Im, the native of South Korea who had been rolling with one win, a second, and two thirds. He missed the cut and tied for 58th the last two weeks, but did have a solid tied-for-21st showing in Detroit last year.

Odds: 20-1

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

Age: 28

World ranking: 23

Season: Four top-10s, eight top-25s

The skinny: He's won five times on the PGA Tour, but hasn't won since 2017, which is absolutely shocking given all the talent this guy has. He has a bit of a hitch at the top of his swing, which can disrupt his timing, but if he's on, then watch out. He tied for 13th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019.

Odds: 20-1

BRANDT SNEDEKER

Age: 39

World ranking: 50

Season: One top-10, four top-25s

The skinny: He's missed three of his last five cuts, including two weeks ago at RBC Heritage, but he's a veteran who can plod his way around a course like Detroit Golf, where he finished tied for fifth last year. Since 2010, he hasn't gone more than two years without a victory, and his last was in August 2018, so ...

Odds: 25-1

NATE LASHLEY

Age: 37

World ranking: 84

Season: Two top-10s, four top-25s

The skinny: What a show he put on last year, from the last man in the field to the last man standing for his first PGA Tour win. He dominated Detroit Golf Club, shooting 25 under to win in a runaway, as the 353rd-ranked player in the world. That 2019 performance makes him an absolute contender in 2020.

Odds: 30-1

J.T. POSTON

Age: 27

World ranking: 61

Season: Two top-10s, six top-25s

The skinny: Poston broke through for his first PGA Tour win last August, and you get the sense it won't be too long for his second. He's had two top-10s since the restart, and though he missed the cut last week at Travelers, he does have some fond memories of Detroit, finishing tied for 11th in 2019.

Odds: 30-1

TONY FINAU

Age: 30

World ranking: 17

Season: Three top-10s, five top-25s

The skinny: This guy's game is mighty impressive, particularly from the tee, so it's really amazing he hasn't won more. He has just the one PGA Tour win, at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. But he did finish runner-up at the Phoenix Open this year, and nine of his 10 rounds since the restart have been in the 60s.

Odds: 35-1

KEVIN KISNER

Age: 36

World ranking: 38

Season: One top-10, three top-25s

The skinny: A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, he's had ups and mostly downs this season, especially since the restart. He finished tied for 29th in the restart opener at Colonial, then missed the cut each of the last three weeks. Kisner is back for a second crack at DGC, having tied for 46th last year.

Odds: 35-1

RICKIE FOWLER

Age: 31

World ranking: 31

Season: Two top-10s, three top-25s

The skinny: Fowler, the Rocket Mortgage pitchman, has been a great ambassador for Detroit's first shot at hosting a PGA Tour tournament. He also finished tied for 46th in 2019. He should win much more than he does, with just five PGA Tour victories. He's missed the cut in his two tournaments since the restart.

Odds: 40-1

Keep an eye on ...

BUBBA WATSON

Age: 41

World ranking: 48

Season: Three top-10s, four top-25s

The skinny: The two-time Masters champ has won 12 times on the PGA Tour, but it's now been more than two calendar years since his last triumph. You get the sense, though, that drought could soon be coming to an end, even if it's not Detroit, where he failed to make the cut a year ago.

Odds: 50-1

TY HATTON

Age: 28

World ranking: 15

Season: One win, four top-10s, five top-25s

The skinny: The Englishman has played a very limited schedule in the United States this year, but has made the most of it, with a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — his first on the PGA Tour; he's won four times on the European Tour — and a tie for third two weeks ago at Hilton Head.

Odds: 55-1

VIKTOR HOVLAND

Age: 22

World ranking: 45

Season: One win, two top-10s, five top-25s

The skinny: One of the exciting young guns in golf these days (and there are a whole lot of them), he made his second professional start at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019, and tied for 13th. He won earlier this year in the Puerto Rico Open, and has finished top-25 in each of the events since the restart.

Odds: 60-1

BRIAN STUARD

Age: 37

World ranking: 133

Season: Two top-10s, six top-25s

The skinny: The Jackson native and Oakland alum is the ultimate check-casher on the PGA Tour, but he's only won once — albeit that makes him the only Michigan man to win on the PGA Tour in the last 25 years. It's all about putting together four good rounds. Last year at RMC, he had three to finish tied for fifth.

Odds: 75-1

WILL GORDON

Age: 23

World ranking: 190

Season: One top-10

The skinny: He was playing the Mackenzie Tour on Canada, until that was shut down, so he's been using up sponsors' exemptions on the PGA Tour and making the most of them. At the Travelers, he finished tied for third to earn temporary membership on the PGA Tour, and avoid having to burn another exemption at RMC.

Odds: 100-1

DOC REDMAN

Age: 22

World ranking: 123

Season: Five top-25s

The skinny: If not for Nate Lashley's surprise and dominant victory at the RMC last year, Redman could've been the story of the tournament, going from Monday qualifier to a second-place finish. He's had a fine first full season on the PGA Tour, making 14 of 18 cuts, and finishing tied for 11th at the Travelers.

Odds: 125-1

The wild card

JASON DAY

Age: 32

World ranking: 58

Season: One top-10, three top-25s

The skinny: He spent 51 weeks as the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, including 47 in a row at one point, but that was a few years back — and the 2015 PGA Championship winner's game, partly because of a chronic back injury, has been in a state of disarray since, even leading to a split from his longtime caddie and mentor. He hasn't won in more than two years, though he did show glimpses of a return earlier this year during a skins game in Japan, and with a fourth-place finish at Pebble Beach.

Odds: Off the board

ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC COMMITMENTS

Rocket Mortgage Classic

When: July 2-5

Where: Detroit Golf Club

Defending champion: Nate Lashley

Notable players: Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na, Danny Willett, Kevin Kisner, Erik van Rooyen, Christian Bezuidenhout, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh

TV: Thursday, Friday — Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m; Saturday-Sunday — Golf Channel, 1-3 p.m; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Wednesday: Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Harold Varner III and Wesley Bryan will play a nine-hole exhibition for charity, and it will air live on Golf Channel from 1-3 p.m.

Tickets: None; the event will be held without fans because of COVID-19.

Merchandise: RocketMortgageClassic.com

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984