2023 Rocket Mortgage Classic Longshots: Alex Noren, Thomas Detry Highlight Sleeper Picks
Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Noren.
We head to Detroit Golf Club for the fifth straight year of the venue hosting the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
In all honesty, there hasn't been much change to the venue since Donald Ross designed the track in 1914. We do get this tree-lined setup that will create blockage if a player goes wayward, four-inch rough and methodically placed bunkers that should produce a more difficult path to success than they do.
Still, none of that registers on the yearly scorecard output, as the wide-open nature of the land has steadily produced winning scores in the -20s since the event's inception four years ago.
I do think some prerequisite in total driving acumen and short-game ability will help marginally. However, I essentially took 75% of my weighted strokes gained total and attached it to recalculated proximity data and weighted putting. That will go further than anything else this weekend in Detroit, and it helps to generate a unique ask from a property that's there for the taking.
If you haven't already, you can find me on Twitter @TeeOffSports. There, I will provide a link to my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user inputs to create custom golf rankings. That sheet is released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.
2023 Rocket Mortgage Longshots
Note: Not all these names are worth betting in the outright market, but here are some players that my model likes more than the general public.
I promised on Tuesday's Links & Locks podcast that I would try to avoid additional Thomas Detry discussions inside this article. However, there are a few extra points that I do want to touch on for my intrigue around why I believe Detry is one of the best sleepers to consider on this board.
Detroit Golf Club carries a very unique ask of its players when we look into the ability to bomb and gouge. That wide-open nature helps to create over 11% more approaches from within 150 yards than average.
Think of the turnaround we've seen from Wyndham Clark in 2023 with his irons, but imagine for a second that Detry could find a way to merge his distance and putter in a similar capacity as Clark when given the right course.
Clark propelled himself to the next level weekly because he carried it through the bag better than Detry, including from the often critical 200-plus range. Still, these unique constructions can sometimes allow certain variables to be masked at a specific venue.
My model noticed that trend here for Detry since the short-iron proximity from 0-150 yards outweighed his projected baseline by over 30 positions in this field when incorporating all approaches, giving us one of the reasons why the Belgian landed as the 12th-projected player in my model for expected strokes gained total.
He also ended up as one of only nine players to crack the top 50 of all six critical metrics I ran inside my sheet.
Yes, I realize there are four par-5 holes, a category in which Detry struggles immensely. Nevertheless, the numbers will start to generate this interesting dispersion between par-4 and par-5 importance.
That happens to create one of the closer distributions in the impact you'll ever see from a venue with that many par-5s on tap, meaning Detry's first-place rank in my model for par-4 expectation gets enhanced to a level that might be able to reconstruct the likelihood that he wins this contest.
I'm not a believer that the recent rainfall in Detroit will keep the venue soft for four days after the summer, as a whole, has been one of the drier stretches in recent memory. That said, it will make an impact early on the course and will likely allow some of the morning golfers to gain some value in the first-round leader market.
My model rendered an intrigue on the following early options because of the boost they received when adding in that factor, but let's quickly talk about Harry Hall from the list because of his potential when faced with easy courses.
I found a similar boost in expectation from 0-150 yards that I wrote about with Detry. The math landed him 16th in this field when taking all iron shots from 0-150 yards and adding in the make likelihood from that distance.
Hall continued that trend by ranking first in this field for expected putting on corollary surfaces and third in recalculated short-game production at all tournaments, making him a high-ceiling target for those who want to gamble on his potential at 100-1 to finish the first round in the lead.
I'm betting all of the names listed above and advise everyone to keep the units low because of the volatility of the market, but I think this was one of the better first-round leader days you'll find because of the recent softening of the course.
I'm much more aggressive than most in my willingness to take shots on players that everyone has written off.
I don't believe this is the year Alex Noren envisioned when 2023 began, although the recent turnaround of gaining strokes in back-to-back starts with his irons might be the flash that we needed for him to get back to his old form.
Noren is a golfer who graded as a top-20 producer in my model when faced with an easy course. That's not what you would expect from someone who seems to do their best work when the conditions get grimy and weird, but the wide-open course improves his chances to create opportunities significantly.
I couldn't get myself there on Noren as an outright bet, but first-round leader markets, DFS plays or other placement wagers might be a savvy way to take a shot on a golfer who has produced two made cuts in his last three tournaments.
If he is indeed trending up, these prices won't last for long.