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Rocket Mortgage Classic 2024 Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 24 Jun 2024

Rickie Fowler will make an emotional return to Detroit Golf Club to defend the Rocket Mortgage Classic title he won 12 months ago - his first victory in four years. 

The 35-year-old American finished level with Adam Hadwin and Collin Morikawa on 24 under after 72 holes. But he got the better of them eventually, sinking a birdie putt at the first play-off hole as both Hadwin and Morikawa failed to match his three.

"It's hard to put it all into words," Fowler said after his victory. "I knew it was a matter of time with how I've been playing. I have had a couple of tough weekends when I've had a chance and I haven't made it."

Fowler won the 2017 Players Championship but plummeted to 185th in the world rankings in 2022 before reviving his form last season with nine top-20 finishes in 10 events.

He was joint leader going into the last round of the 2023 US Open before finishing tied fifth.

Fowler again led going into the final round in Detroit, on 20 under par, as he sought his first victory since the 2019 Phoenix Open.

Hadwin and Morikawa both pushed the 2018 Masters runner-up to the wire, with the latter recording an eight-under 64.

Morikawa began the day four strokes behind Fowler and three behind Hadwin but rattled in birdies on seven of his first 14 holes to challenge.

With Hadwin also in the mix, Fowler needed a birdie at the 18th to earn a spot in the play-off. He delivered, and Fowler then came back from a wayward right-swinging drive at the same hole as the play-off began. A superb shot out of the rough was followed by a smooth putt to clock up another birdie and seal victory.

Rickie Fowler

Miles Russell will be the focus of attention this week. You probably haven’t heard of him, but you will do.

He is just 15 years old and is one of the most decorated players in junior golf, will make his PGA Tour debut in Detroit.

"The Rocket Mortgage Classic is known as a tournament where ‘future stars start,’ and we’re thrilled to have Miles make his PGA Tour debut here and add to that legacy," said Jason Langwell, Executive Director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. "He has proved with his many accomplishments at such a young age that he belongs, and we are excited to see Miles compete alongside the world’s best golfers here at Detroit Golf Club."

Russell said: "I am thankful to Rocket Mortgage for giving me the opportunity to make my PGA Tour debut this week. Ever since I first started playing golf, my dream has been to compete on the PGA Tour and test my game against the best players, and I’m looking forward to making the most of the experience later this month."

Russell became the youngest player to make the cut in the 35-year history of the Korn Ferry Tour in April, when he finished 20th at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.

In 2023, he became the youngest player to be named the American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year (supplanting Tiger Woods). He won the Junior PGA Championship and the Junior Players Championship in September, becoming the youngest champion of both events and earning a spot on the US Junior Ryder Cup Team. He was also named to the first USGA Junior National team.

"We are incredibly excited to welcome Miles Russell to the Rocket Mortgage Classic as a sponsor exemption," said Casey Hurbis, SVP of Brand Experiences and Strategic Partnerships at Rocket Mortgage. "Miles exemplifies the future of golf, and our tournament is the perfect stage for young talent to shine. Detroit is a place where dreams are made, and we can’t wait to welcome him and other world-class golfers to our amazing hometown."

There has been a host of big tournaments in recent weeks and that means many of the world’s best players are taking the week off as they recharge their batteries for The Open Championship at Royal Troon.

Notables who are in the field include Chris Kirk, who won The Sentry in January for his sixth career PGA Tour victory. He finished T-14 at last year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, shooting four rounds in the 60s.

Min Woo Lee, a 25-year-old Australian who has four international wins to his credit, had four top-10 finishes in 14 starts in 2023 and many believe he has the game to win multiple titles on the PGA Tour.

Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Open champion, has been in the doldrums of late but he did manage to complete four rounds at the US Open and still believes that he can recapture the form that took him into the top five in the world rankings. This would be a good week to start that process.

Will Zalatoris is a big-time player who has struggled to rediscover his very best form since returning from career-saving back surgery that caused him to miss most of last season. There have been flashes of form but he was one of many who found Pinehurst too much to cope with.

I have a feeling that this could be a very good week for 23-year-old Dane Nicolai Hojgaard. He won the DP World Tour Championship in 2023 to secure his PGA Tour card for this season and has contended several times. He is a proven winner and it is surely only a matter of time before he wins in America.

Tournament Winners:

It was first held in 2019 and was won by Nate Lashley. It was won in 2020 by Bryson DeChambeau, in 2021 by Cameron Davis, in 2022 by Tony Finau and last year by Rickie Fowler.

The Course:

Detroit Golf Club is a par 72 that measures 7,370 yards and was designed by the legendary Donald Ross. It is a tree-lined course with generous fairways. Distinctive features include the bent tree between the 7th and 8th hole. Native Americans bent it as a sapling to serve as a marker for the original Indian Trail between Detroit and Pontiac.

Form Guide:

Chris Kirk has already won this year and is enjoying a fine season. He will fancy his chances of a second victory of the year.

To Win:

Chris Kirk. A winner in 2024

Each Way:

Will Zalatoris. Still feeling his way back

Each Way:

Rickie Fowler. Has great memories of this course

Five to Follow:

Chris Kirk. Underrated

Will Zalatoris. Brilliant iron player

Rickie Fowler. Blowing hot and cold

Min Woo Lee. Hugely gifted

Nicolai Hojgaard. Don’t be surprised if he contends

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Miles Russell. One for the future

Francesco Molinari. Still searching

Webb Simpson. Remains a great ball striker

Nick Dunlap. Has gone off the boil, but it only takes one good week

Matt Kuchar. Still has his moments

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Tags: PGA Tour Golf Previews FedEx Cup

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