Rocket Mortgage Classic Betting Preview: Look for Rickie Fowler’s Struggles to Continue in Detroit

Credit:

Streeter Lecka, Getty Images. Pictured: Rickie Fowler

  • Jason Sobel previews this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic, complete with betting odds and picks.
  • Find out why Sobel expects Rickie Fowler's struggles to continue in Detroit and why you should fade him.

Hope you’ve been paying close attention these past few weeks if you’re trying to pick a winner for the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Actually, here’s hoping you haven’t been paying any attention at all. It might not help.

After three weeks of star-studded fields featuring big-time leaderboards and recognizable winners, get ready for this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, which has a few of those famous names, but more C-listers than all of those terrible network TV primetime game shows combined.

As such, you should be forewarned: This preview is not for the faint of heart.

Even though it was just one year, we saw a developing pattern at last year’s inaugural tournament in Detroit, one which suggested we should expect the unexpected here.

These are the top-10 from that final leaderboard – and their respective world rankings at the time:

  • 1. Nate Lashley: 346th
  • 2. Doc Redman: 711th
  • T-3. Rory Sabbatini: 111th
  • T-3. Wes Roach: 421st
  • T-5. Joaquin Niemann: 97th
  • T-5. Cameron Tringale: 429th
  • T-5. Patrick Reed: 25th
  • T-5. Brandt Snedeker: 45th
  • T-5. Ted Potter, Jr.: 195th
  • T-5. Brian Stuard: 163rd

Maybe the toughest part is that these aren’t all lesser-known players, of course. Instead, it’s an amalgam of a couple of proven winners, a couple of up-and-comers and a handful of journeymen.

Granted, this is a different year and, reportedly, Detroit Golf Club has been toughened up with longer rough to avoid a 25-under winning score again.

With odds so low on the few elite players in this week’s field, though, if one of them happens to claim the title, this might be a situation where you simply tip your cap and move on. You won’t read anything below on Tyrrell Hatton or Hideki Matsuyama or Webb Simpson or Tony Finau – all of whom scare me, because they’re capable of winning this tourney if the stars align.

Instead, I’m sticking with more longshots. I’ve been doing a lot of fishing during the pandemic and making picks for this event feels relatable: Instead of going to the usual honey spot and picking out the easy ones, we’re going for some big trophies. It’s an all-or-nothing week.

Let’s get to those picks for the Rocket Mortgage – and let’s hope we pull a trophy out of the water.

Outright Winner

One player to win the tournament.

Sungjae Im (+2500)

Full disclosure: Just because I’m picking him as my outright winner this week doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll bet Sungjae to win. The number is already a bit too low for my liking and probably won’t get any higher before the opening round begins. It’s important to note that “outright winner” isn’t the same as “favorite outright play.”

If I need one guy, though, for OAD pools or DFS lineups or just in some friendly, non-handicapped side action, I’m taking a player who was T-21 as a rookie last year and has only matured and improved as a player since then.

Very few players have the ability to win a first PGA TOUR event, then follow it with a second one shortly thereafter, but Im easily has the talent to get this done.

Pick: Sungjae Im (+2500)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Other OADers

Potential selections for one-and-done options.

Brandt Snedeker (+7000)

Without any previous course history, we were flying blind into this event last year. The one thing we did know is that host venue Detroit GC is a Donald Ross design, which is why I picked Snedeker to win – and maybe why he came so close.

As I wrote in last year’s preview: “Snedeker might be the closest we’ve seen to a Ross specialist. He won at Forest Oaks in 2008, East Lake in 2012 and Sedgefield in 2018, and also finished T-3 at Plainfield and T-9 at Pinehurst No. 2.” Throw in a top-five at this tournament and it’s painfully obvious that Sneds loves the quirkiness of Ross courses, as this has become a growing trend in his career.

Tyrrell Hatton (+1400)

Returning from surgery isn’t supposed to work this way. Last year, in late-November, Hatton announced he was undergoing surgery for a nagging right wrist injury.

Just a few weeks removed from winning the Turkish Airlines Open, this felt like a setback which would have him trying to find his game all over again upon returning.

Instead, he took three months off, came back at the WGC-Mexico Championship with a T-6 finish, then won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, after another three-month break, contending at the RBC Heritage, finishing T-3. The only problem now is that the secret is out.

While I wouldn’t bet him outright at this number, expect him to be a very popular pick in all formats this week. 

Jason Dufner (+17500)

Let’s get weird, guys. I’ve already warned you not to expect a lot of chalk in this write-up and Dufner hasn’t been a chalk play in years. His career has sort of languished lately, perhaps the byproduct of being a good enough ball-striker to get by any week, but a poor enough putter to not do any better than that – all of which could explain his last seven starts, where he’s made the cut in each one, but never finished better than 27th.

So, why this week? Well, his lone major championship victory came in 2013 at Oak Hill, which happens to be a Ross design, as well. There’s no real sign that Duf is ready to win for the first time in three years, but this might be the kind of tournament which doesn’t need any signs.

Kevin Chappell (+20000)

You can thank PGA TOUR Live’s early-Sunday coverage for this one. Before the broadcast started on “real” TV, the streaming feed showed two groups – one which included Jordan Spieth and another which featured Jason Day.

In the latter, Chappell happened to be playing alongside Day and caught my eye. Using a stand bag and wearing a UCLA hat, I got a me-against-the-world vibe from Chappell, the kind that Ryan Moore used to have, one which essentially says, “I don’t care what everyone else is doing or what I’m supposed to do. I’m just gonna do what I wanna do.”

Now, maybe I’m completely misreading the situation, but it takes confidence to go in this direction and, when healthy, Chappell has always been a confident dude. It also doesn’t hurt that his putting stroke looked as buttery as ever this week.

Aaron Wise (+13500)

I offer this one with caution. The bad news first: Wise finished T-46 at the Travelers this past week, just his third made cut in his last 10 starts dating back to last fall, with a best finish during that time of 35th.

The good news is more anecdotal: He’s really good, way more talented than these results show. Already two years past his first career PGA TOUR victory, the former NCAA champ might need an event like this, where he doesn’t have to compete with a bevy of big-timers.

Again, this is hardly a safe play, but if you’re seeking a skilled player with plenty of value, he’s worth a shot.

Lucas Glover (+5500) and Harold Varner III

Why am I grouping these guys together? Well, because they remind me of each other, a couple of really solid ball-strikers who have continually found their names on early leaderboards, but can’t quite stay at the top come Sunday afternoon. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if either of them won this week.

They’re each worthy of use in OAD pools and – admittedly – both are safer options than a few others I’ve listed here.

Top-Five

One player to finish top-five.

Doc Redman (+1000 for top-five)

After an impressive ball-striking performance at Harbour Town, the good doctor was a popular darkhorse play at TPC River Highlands, where a final-round 63 led to a T-11 result.

Expect him to be way more popular this week, as he returns to an event where he entered with no PGA TOUR status and left with a card, thanks to his runner-up finish.

He could be at that perfect intersection of current form and course history that we’re so often looking for and while we’d love to get him at prices from two weeks ago, he’s still a strong top-five play.

Pick: Doc Redman Top-5 Finish (+1000)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Top-10

One player to finish top-10.

Patrick Reed (+163 for top-10)

I listed Reed as a top-five play in last week’s preview, but a final-round 64 wasn’t enough to overcome a couple of mediocre previous rounds, as he finished T-24.

With a weaker field, a little momentum from Sunday and some experience on Ross courses, including a T-5 last year, Reed should be a strong play once again, though I’ll back off from top-five and put him down for top-10 instead.

Pick: Patrick Reed Top-10 Finish (+163)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Top-20

One player to finish top-20.

Maverick McNealy (+335 for top-20)

Much like Wise, McNealy is a young player with a ton of talent who hasn’t shown his best stuff lately. That offers some value, while McNealy might be offered a chance to show off his vaunted short game around this golf course.

He already owns a fifth-place finish at Pebble Beach this year, 11th at PGA National and 15th at Torrey Pines, so he’s certainly capable of repeating that result.

Pick: Maverick McNealy Top-20 Finish (+335)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Top-30

One player to finish top-30.

Brian Stuard (+225)

Hey, I told you this wasn’t gonna be pretty. Besides getting points for the hometown discount, this Michigan native might be one of the least recognizable and least flashy players around, but he’s also a solid ball-striker who used whatever local knowledge he owns to finish T-5 here last year. Betting him for top-30 feels like a smart play at this price.

Pick: Brian Stuard Top-30 Finish (+225)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Top-40

One player to finish top-40.

Kristoffer Ventura (+275)

A highly touted Oklahoma State product, Ventura didn’t quite get his time in the limelight as some of last year’s other new professionals, but two Korn Ferry wins over the summer clinched his PGA TOUR card.

It was a struggle in the big leagues for a while, with a half-dozen MCs prior to a T-20 in Puerto Rico before the break. Since then, he’s played a pair of KFT events, finishing 4th-49th.

At some point, his success on the developmental circuit is going to equate to success at this level – and for now, the odds are still right to jump on before it’s too late. If you don’t like Ventura here, though, try pivoting to players like Talor Gooch, Peter Malnati or Sam Burns.

Pick: Kristoffer Ventura Top-40 Finish (+275)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

DFS Free Bingo Square

A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.

Bryson DeChambeau (DK $11,700)

C’mon, you knew it was coming at some point. As someone who picked Bryson to win and bet him outright at the Travelers, I kept a keen eye on him last week.

I’m not sure if I came out of it more frustrated because he never really put together a stretch of great holes or impressed at the fact that he didn’t have anything close to his A-game – really, it might’ve been his C-minus game – and yet, still managed to finish in a share of sixth place.

With so much value lower on the board, there’s room for studs-and-duds lineups – and DeChambeau will certainly be highly-owned in all formats.

DFS ‘Dog

A lower-priced option for DFS.

Wesley Bryan (DK $6,500)

Peter Uihlein (DK $7,000)

Just because I like you guys – and not because I’m indecisive – I’ve listed two lower-priced options here, with differing levels of safety. Bryan feels like the easier play, coming off a year-and-a-half injury layoff.

He’s not exactly returning with Hatton-like success, but a couple of made cuts, including a T-24 last week, should be reason for optimism. As for Uihlein, I wanted to play him at the RBC Heritage, fresh off his T-14 at the Charles Schwab, but he didn’t get into that one.

If you’d asked me five years ago, I would’ve thought Uihlein would be a multiple PGA TOUR winner by now, perhaps even on par with his buddy Brooks Koepka, whom he played the European Tour with early in their careers.

But as Koepka has risen to superstardom, Uihlein has toiled between the Korn Ferry Tour and the big leagues, never quite playing well enough to make that leap to the next level.

It might be overly optimistic to believe this will finally be the week, but it’s coming and there’s still plenty of value on Uihlein, in both DFS and as a top-10/20 bet.

First-Round Leader

One player to post the low score Thursday.

Will Gordon (+8000)

How good was this kid last weekend? Playing on a sponsor’s exemption, he finished in a share of third place and earned special temporary membership for the remainder of the season.

We can debate his long-term prospects, but it’s evident that he’s riding a serious heater in the short term. I like him to ride that wave of momentum all the way to Detroit, where he should be able to get off to another hot start.

Pick: Will Gordon First-Round Leader (+8000)

Bet Now at DraftKings

CO, NJ, PA, IN, WV only.

Matchup Man

One player who should beat comparable players.

Tom Hoge

I’m not sure I’ve ever had more unsexy players in a tournament preview than this one – no offense to Hoge’s sex appeal. This is another guy who’s not going to wow too many people, but just goes about his business and posts a lot of solid results.

In fact, he’s finished 37th-or-better in six of 10 starts this year, which should give him some value against most other players with similar credentials. 

The Big Fade

One top player to avoid at this tournament.

Rickie Fowler (+3300)

I like when players are competing in events where the title sponsor is also one of their sponsors – but I don’t like it when those players are only competing because of that relationship. I can’t imagine Fowler would be playing this week if he wasn’t sponsored by Rocket Mortgage, which shouldn’t make any of us too excited that he’s here.

Throw in the fact that he’s missed the cut in both events he’s played since golf’s return and he finished T-46 here a year ago, and he’s an easy fade for me this week.

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