Steve Palmer's Rocket Mortgage Classic preview, best bets, free golf tips
Brandt Snedeker can upstage Bryson DeChambeau with trademark short-game magic
Golf tips, best bets and player analysis for the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club on the PGA Tour.
Where to watch
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 11.45am Thursday
2pts each-way 50-1 Hills
2pts each-way 22-1 Hills
1.5pts each-way 45-1 Hills, Sky Bet
1pt each-way 125-1 Sky Bet
1pt each-way 100-1 bet365, Ladbrokes
Nate Lashley provided one of the feel-good stories of last year's sporting calendar in last year's Rocket Mortgage Classic as a player who had gone through so much turmoil in his personal life romped to a maiden PGA Tour title at Detroit GC. A worried world could do with a similar sprinkling of joy in the second running of the event.
Harris English has become the latest PGA Tour player to test positive for Covid-19, following Nick Watney, Cameron Champ, Denny McCarthy and Dylan Frittelli, and punters have to approach tournaments these days aware that their investments could be scuppered at any moment.
JT Poston, who has returned to action in great form and won the Wyndham Championship on a Donald Ross design last year, had to be high up the shortlist for this event. But the fact he played two rounds with Frittelli in the Travelers Championship before the South African tested positive is enough to ease Poston off the staking plan. Poston is probably fine, but his rounds with Frittelli will leave a cloud of concern over him for a week or so.
With most of the world's elite taking a break, emphatic RMC favouritism goes to Bryson DeChambeau, who has been a consistent feature on PGA Tour leaderboards this season. With four par-five holes at which to gun, DeChambeau must be respected, but his short game is unimpressive and he is making his course debut. The most likely winner? Yes. Value at 6-1? No.
Steve Palmer's top tip
Brandt Snedeker 50-1
If DeChambeau takes time to settle on previously uncharted terrain, the opposite could be true of Brandt Snedeker, who has arrived at a layout he relishes. The former FedEx Cup champion can land a tenth PGA Tour title on Sunday.
Snedeker's last PGA Tour victory came on a Donald Ross design in the 2018 Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield. And the scene of his greatest triumph – the 2012 Tour Championship – was at another Ross masterpiece. He loves old classics, firing a round of 60 in the Canadian Open at historic Hamilton last season, and Detroit GC is ideal.
Snedeker finished fifth in the inaugural RMC, starting slowly and finishing strongly, and he should stay among the birdies there this week. He licks his lips when confronted with poa annua greens, such as those at this course. There are not many better at handling the bumpy dancefloors – his famous 'pop stroke' sending the ball bounding towards the hole – and this ability is underlined by two victories at Torrey Pines and two at Pebble Beach.
He spent much of lockdown helping his son to improve his golf – and little Austin enjoyed his first hole-in-one – but it is time for Snedeker senior to get his game-face back on. With a world ranking of exactly 50, he is in danger of slipping out of the elite group with his 40th birthday looming in December. He knows that he must make the most of opportunities on suitable terrain.
The RBC Heritage was a rust-clearing exercise (74-70, MC), followed by four rounds of par or better for 41st place in the Travelers Championship last week. Expect a significant step forward in Michigan. It all started for Snedeker in this region – his first Nationwide Tour victory in 2006 came in nearby Minnesota – and his next trophy could come on Sunday.
Next best bet
Viktor Hovland 22-1
Snedeker is a good bet to reach ten PGA Tour titles in Detroit, while Viktor Hovland may threaten victory number two. Hovland got off the mark in the Puerto Rico Open in February and the 2018 US Amateur champion has returned from lockdown with form figures of 23-21-11, a cold putter denying him the chance of seriously contending at River Highlands on Sunday.
DGC does not seem a perfect fit, but the brilliant Norwegian starlet closed with a 64 for 13th place there last year and is good enough to triumph anywhere. His 12th place as an amateur in the US Open at Pebble Beach showed he is unfazed by small, poa annua greens, while fourth spot in the Wyndham Championship last year hinted at a liking for Ross designs.
Doc Redman 45-1
Tyler Duncan 125-1
Will Gordon 100-1
Early-bird punters have understandably taken the juice from the price, but Doc Redman has been so impressive over his last seven rounds that going into battle without him seems cavalier.
It is no wonder the betting community have been clamouring to get aboard – this is one of the most promising youngsters in the States finding his A-game at the perfect time for a track he butchered last year.
Redman fired a 62 at The Orchards, a venue 30 miles north of DGC, to win the RMC Monday qualifier. Then in the tournament itself he finished runner-up to Lashley, despite starting the event ranked 711th in the world. The cheque for $788,400 elevated his career – through Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour and an Open Championship berth – and 20th place on his Open debut was another superb effort.
Redman, the 2017 US Amateur champion and still only 22, has been striking his ball magnificently, signing off from River Highlands with a bogey-free 63. His confidence is growing and any upturn in form on the greens should see him contending on Sunday.
Complete a five-pronged attack with Tyler Duncan and Will Gordon. Duncan, who bravely defeated Webb Simpson in a playoff for the RSM Classic in November, has made a solid return to action with form figures of 38-28-32. This accurate operator, who plays in a similar fashion to Lashley, is yet to card an over-par round since the lockdown.
Duncan, who was born across the Michigan border in Indiana, is 229 spots better in the world rankings than he was when missing the cut in the inaugural RMC.
Gutsy Gordon made a birdie at the final hole of the Travelers on Sunday to finish tied for third place and clinch Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour. The cheque for $436,600, secured with a Sunday 64 in the company of Jon Rahm, has transformed his career and he could ride the crest of the wave in Detroit.
Gordon was unlucky that he starred in college golf at the same time as Hovland, Matt Wolff and Collin Morikawa. Those three hogged the early sponsors invites, but 2019 SEC Player of the Year Gordon is not far behind in terms of talent and looks ready to make his mark at the age of 23. He had been impressing on the Canadian Tour, but tenth place in the RSM Classic, 21st in the Farmers, 20th in Puerto Rico and last week's Travelers heroics prove he is good enough for the big league.
Gordon is a friend and regular practice partner of fellow North Carolinian Simpson, so can seek guidance from his experienced pal this week while looking to kick on from the Travelers.
Players to note
The Wyndham champion, tenth at Colonial and eighth at Heritage, should go close if fit and focused, but his recent rounds with Frittelli may unsettle him.
The Heritage hero, like Poston, has had Covid-19 concerns, with a member of his family testing positive prior to the Travelers. That is enough to give the short odds a miss.
The Japanese star made a miserable start to his comeback event, but showed promise over the closing holes, and that course-record 63 at Sawgrass is fresh in the memory.
Matsuyama and Im could provide a serious Asian threat on the leaderboard. The Korean has had a quiet fortnight, but should bounce back to form soon.
Detroit Golf Club course guide
Course Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Michigan
Prize money $7.5m ($1.314m to the winner)
Length 7,340 yards
Course records - 72 holes 263 Nate Lashley (2019) 18 holes 63 Nate Lashley (2019, twice), JT Poston (2019)
Course winner taking part Nate Lashley
When to bet By 11.45am Thursday
When to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf from 11.45am Thursday
Time difference Michigan is five hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week - Travelers Championship 1 D Johnson (28-1), 2 K Streelman (140-1), T3 W Gordon (300-1), M Hughes (300-1), 5 K Na (125-1), T6 R Armour (500-1), B Steele (225-1), P Kizzire (500-1), S Stallings (250-1), B DeChambeau (14-1)
Course overview The inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic took place last year on a mixture of holes from the two Donald Ross designs at Detroit Golf Club – the North Course (17 of the holes) and the South (the third hole). The club opened in 1916 and had a major overhaul in the build-up to the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Designer Ross has crafted many other PGA Tour venues, including East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, Plainfield Country Club, which hosted the 2011 Barclays and the 2015 Northern Trust, Oak Hill Country Club, which staged the 2003 and 2013 US PGAs, Oakland Hills, which hosted the 2008 US PGA, Sedgefield CC, home of the Wyndham Championship, Aronimink, which staged the 2010 and 2011 AT&T National and the 2018 BMW Championship, and Pinehurst, which hosted the 1999, 2005 and 2014 US Opens. Despite tree-lined fairways, heavy bunkering and small, poa annua greens at DGC, the course proved a doddle for the PGA Tour stars first time round, and the five-under-par cut mark was the lowest on the Tour since 2016. There are a couple of water hazards – on the seventh and 14th – but four par-five holes create excellent scoring opportunities. Tour chiefs have attempted slightly longer rough this year in a bid to make the track more difficult
The story of last year Nate Lashley, an alternate, won his maiden Tour title with a six-shot triumph over Doc Redman
Weather forecast Sunny and extremely warm for the most part. Light breezes over the first two days, with the wind picking up slightly at the weekend
Type of player suited to the challenge This classic, typically firm, fast Donald Ross design demands accuracy from tee to green, especially on approach to small, undulating greens. The first two home last year are precision operators. Form on other Ross courses is a bonus
Key attribute Accuracy
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