Rocket Mortgage Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
We have the Phoenix Waste Management Open, we have the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and now we have, wait for it, the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Is it just me? For the record, it used to be the Quicken Loans, it is the first event ever to be held in Detroit (a city for famous for its music and car production than its golfing heritage) and it has attracted a quality field.
Leading the way are Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Johnson has won 20 times since making his PGA Tour debut in 2007. He is the 2016 US Open champion, has won six World Golf Championship tournaments and has four victories in PGA Tour FedExCup playoff events. He is also a three-time member of the United States team playing in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Johnson has two wins worldwide since the start of 2019 – at the Saudi International powered by SBIA and the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
Fowler is a five-time winner who, by his own admission, has thus far failed to live up to his potential. But he has represented the United States in the past three Ryder Cups, past two Presidents Cups, and at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and he is looking forward to playing in Detroit.
“I can't wait to get to Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The city is known for being one of the country’s best sports towns with some of the most passionate fans around,” Fowler said. “The fans can expect to see some really good golf. I know there will be a huge turnout, which will be an incredible opportunity to showcase the great revitalisation that is taking place in Detroit to thousands of fans.”
Fowler captured the most recent of his titles in February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but has struggled to find his best form since then. With only The Open Championship left of this year’s majors, it looks like another year is about to pass him by without him landing that first major championship. The fact he hasn’t won one is one of golf’s great conundrums. Nobody wants to be known as the best player never to have won a major but, quite frankly, that is precisely what Fowler is. And the harder he tries, the further away it seems to be.
If Fowler has struggled, it is as nothing when compared with the trials and tribulations endured by Smylie Kaufman. When he first burst upon the scene Kaufman made a huge impact on the PGA Tour. But since then it has been a long and painful journey for the American. Last season he sought a medical exemption. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but the pain, swelling and lack of range of motion was too much to bear. Kaufman, who missed the cut in all but two of 16 starts in 2018, has only recently returned to game. He has five starts to earn enough points to keep his tour card or secure secondary status. This is his third - he missed the cut in his other two starts to date.
“It has been the toughest year, year-and-a-half of my life, golf wise,” said Kaufman, whose exempt status from his lone victory, the 2015 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, has now expired.
In his fifth career start on the PGA Tour, he shot a final-round 61 that included seven birdies and an eagle over his final 11 holes at TPC Summerlin. He waited a couple of hours to see if it was good enough, and it was. He won by a stroke. The following spring, Kaufman entered the final round of the 2016 Masters a stroke behind Jordan Spieth after having recorded the day’s best score, a three-under 69, the previous afternoon. He tumbled out of contention with nine bogeys and a double-bogey on the way to an 81.
But he wasn’t the first player to suffer such a collapse at Augusta, and he won’t be the last. His star still seemed to be on the ascendancy. In just 15 months, he had won on golf’s biggest tour, contended at The Masters, enjoyed some good times with his close friends Spieth, Justin Thomas and Fowler on a well-publicised holiday in the Bahamas, much of which was splash across social media. He also picked up tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram as he lived out his life in public. How quickly it has all gone wrong. Since the 2016 Masters, Kaufman has missed 40 cuts in 60 worldwide starts.
He is desperate for a decent finish in Detroit. Without it, his future will start to look pretty bleak.
The tournament is being played at the historic Detroit Golf Club, a Donald Ross-designed course that has been a fixture in the city for more than 100 years.
Charles Howell III. As consistent as they come
Rickie Fowler. So frustrating
Rickie Fowler. Always provides value for money
Charles Howell III. A money-making machine
Dustin Johnson. Enjoying another terrific season
Bill Horschel. Should win far more often than he does
Bubba Watson. Crowd favourite
Si Woo Kim. Has every shot in the book
Jason Dufner. Has shown some decent form this year
Corey Conners. Turning into a proper player
Kevin Kisner. Seriously underrated
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