Sleeper Picks: Rocket Mortgage Classic
June 29, 2021
By Rob Bolton, GolfBet for PGATOUR.COM
- Danny Willett is one of the favorites entering the Rocket Mortgage Classic. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Brian Stuard (+12500) … Duh. The product of nearby Oakland University (where Monday’s open qualifier was contested, in fact), was positioned inside the Power Rankings for the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019. He delivered with a T5, and then followed with a T30 last year. The simple message is that he’s a solid fit for most tracks as one of the most precise off the tee (second in fairways hit) and into greens (T13 in proximity), but the hometown stop hasn’t distracted him. If anything, it’s an injection of an overwhelmingly positive variable personal to him at a time of the season when it could be easy to stress over sitting 121st in the FedExCup and without the promise of a TOUR card in 2021-22.
Danny Willett (+8000) … The 33-year-old Brit hasn’t been playing poorly but he’s been underperforming enough to warrant this label. Time seems to have flown by for the 2016 Masters champion. His stash of automatic exemptions into the PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open Championship depletes at Royal St. George’s in two weeks, but he already had exhausted all five berths into the U.S. Open in 2020, so he wasn’t at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. Finished T4 in his debut here last year and he’s recorded five top 25s worldwide in 2021.
Troy Merritt (+10000) … If household names are the face of the PGA TOUR and the variety of vibrant personalities serves as the heartbeat, then Merritt is among the cadre of regular guys that make up the fabric of the soul. Never a force in the premier events but he’s manufactured a career that’s yielded 133 paydays in 252 starts, $10.4 million in official earnings and five trips to the FedExCup Playoffs. At 101st in points with eight contributing events remaining this season, he’s on his way to a sixth appearance, but a repeat of last year’s T8 in Detroit would erase any residual doubt. He was perfect on 57 tries inside eight feet in the 2020 edition. Recently hung up three top 10s in a four-start span, including a solo seventh at Colonial. Five consecutive cuts made upon arrival.
Doug Ghim (+8000) … Missed the cut in his debut a year ago, but he did that in his rookie season, 11 of 16 times to be exact. This season, he’s 15-for-22 and sits 79th in the FedExCup with a T5 (PGA WEST) among eight top 25s. Although 2020-21 winners Martin Laird, Robert Streb and Branden Grace have made the most of their extension of fully exempt status without having to endure the rigors of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Ghim is on the short list of guys who flipped a switch after a rocky foray. After starting the season slotted 33rd in the graduate reshuffle category, he’s been inside the top four since the first reorder. Ranks 38th in fairways hit, 11th in greens in regulation, eight in proximity to the hole and 14th in scrambling.
Mito Pereira (+10000) … You likely don’t need this attention to validate his position but it’s still the perfect time to recap who he is, what he’s accomplished and what’s directly ahead. He’s a 26-year-old from Chile and Mito is a nickname for Guillermo. The same day that Garrick Higgo won the Palmetto Championship at Congaree (on June 13), Pereira captured victory at the Korn Ferry Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation. It was his third title on the 2020-21 KFT season, so he earned an automatic promotion to the PGA TOUR for the remainder of its 2020-21 season. Like Higgo, Pereira is eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs. Unlike Higgo, Pereira does not own fully exempt status, so he is not required to play TOUR events when his number is high enough to qualify for competition, as it is at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The KFT does not have an event this week, so it’s an easy decision to put his talent to the test and ride the momentum of what were consecutive victories on the KFT in early June to become eligible for TOUR status. Pereira will be fully exempt on the PGA TOUR in 2021-22 and will not be subject to a reshuffle because he won thrice on this season’s KFT, but he’s not automatically exempt into the 2022 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship. Only the points leaders of the entire 2020-21 KFT season (including the Finals) and the KFT Finals specifically receive automatic exemptions into THE PLAYERS. Pereira currently is second on the points list, so if you notice that he’s continuing to play the KFT this season when he could be playing the PGA TOUR, this will be the motivation.
Odds were sourced on Tuesday, June 29 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.