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Course Spotlight: Historic Detroit GC gives an opportunity to run with Rickie Fowler

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Course Spotlight: Historic Detroit GC gives an opportunity to run with Rickie Fowler

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    Scoring takes center stage on the PGA TOUR as we approach the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Appropriate given its proximity to the Fourth of July on the calendar, the field of 156 players will need some serious fireworks to win.

    Detroit Golf Club is the venue for Michigan’s premiere professional golf event. The 36-hole facility, designed by Donald Ross, has hosted the previous four editions. Entering year five, 37 of the top 100 in the OWGR are competing to win the $1.584 million first-place prize. Each event on TOUR builds an identity based on the winners. Look at the brief history of the Rocket Mortgage Classic:

    • The average winning score is 23 under.

    • Two of the winners have been from the top of the odds board (2022 Finau +1200, 2020 DeChambeau +700) and two from much further down (2021 Davis +15000, 2019 Lashley +25000).

    • The largest gain by the winners came on the greens. They gained an average of six strokes (6.2) against the field en route to winning.

    • The average cutline of the first four editions was 3 under.

    Those facts start to build a specific blueprint for taking home the Rocket Mortgage title. The Championship Course at Detroit Golf Club employs holes from both the North and South Courses. The composite scorecard measures 7,370 yards and plays to a par 72. The course looks long on paper, but, with four par 5s and two par 3s over 200 yards, it plays relatively short for the PGA TOUR.

    Our winner will need 36 or more birdie chances to capture the trophy. Conquering this composite course takes a very specific skill set. The player characteristics that correlate most to success are Total Birdies, Greens in Regulation, and Total Putting. I spent nearly a decade working at two iconic Donald Ross courses during my club professional career. Ross was a genius at creating green complexes that could stand the test of time.

    Detroit GC epitomizes many of Ross’ finest course characteristics. Creating over 30 birdie opportunities requires hitting a plethora of greens in regulation. Players will have a wedge in hand for 10 of the 14 approach shots from the fairway. To discern who the best Ross wedge players are we need to look at the combination of approach success, proximity to the hole and the number of birdie chances they create inside 15 feet.

    Tom Kim (+2000 at BetMGM Sportsbook) quickly catches my eye across those three lists. The talented two-time PGA TOUR winner finished seventh here last year and gained over six strokes against the field on approach. Kim can create opportunities, but can he convert them? Classic courses require a graceful stroke with the flatstick. When considering the best putters in the field I like to dig deeper than just Strokes Gained: Putting.

    Who can convert the most chances in that 10-20 foot range? Great putters not only control their speed, but they are excellent green readers as well. Justin Suh (+6600) ranks in the top 15 for this field in makes from 5-20 feet. That level of conversion is why he sits fourth SG: Putting. Making birdies requires a combination of iron play and the flatstick. Suh’s approach play needs to improve, while Kim could borrow Suh’s stroke.

    Scoring Average across all TOUR venues reflects a strong ability to write down subpar scores. This venue requires our winner to average 6 or 7-under par per round. When you research through Birdie or Better Percentage (BoB%), birdie average, Par 5 Scoring, and Total Birdies we see a list of more complete players.

    With two wins already this season, the defending Rocket Mortgage Classic champion Tony Finau (+1200) is one of the favorites again for a reason. Finau ranks in the top five on TOUR for scoring average, BoB%, and total birdies. Those season-long stats reflect Finau’s earlier finishes. When we consider recent form and the requirements of Detroit GC another betting favorite makes more sense.

    Rickie Fowler (+1200) has 10 top-15 finishes on TOUR this year. (His last four finishes are 13-5-9-6). The popular pro perfectly matches all three correlated characteristics. In this field, Fowler is ranked sixth in wedge proximity, third SG: Tee to Green, second in Birdies or Better %, and first in Par 5 scoring. Fowler is even sponsored by Rocket Mortgage.

    Classic courses are not complicated. The last four winners have shown us how to dominate Detroit Golf Club. Follow their lead and run with Rickie.

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    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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