2023 Rocket Mortgage Classic Odds, Picks: Bet Austin Eckroat & Ludvig Aberg in Detroit
Via Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Amateur Ludvig Aberg of Sweden plays his shot from the first tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 04, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
Click arrow to expand the Rocket Mortgage Classic odds via bet365
|Erik van Rooyen||+45000|
|Erik van Rooyen||+45000|
In the summer of 2020, many of the world’s top professional golfers – though admittedly not the highest tier of the elite, most of which chose to enjoy a late-season off week – returned to Detroit Golf Club for the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
With the initial tournament under their belts, players now had a clearer understanding of the skillset needed to find success on this old Donald Ross track.
As one of them told me before that week started, “This is the most Bryson course ever.”
At the time, Bryson DeChambeau was at the peak of his powers, quite literally, using his newfound bulk to drive the ball massive distances off the tee.
And so, that assessment of the host venue didn’t take much sleuthing. It essentially translated to: This is a bomb and gouge setup, so the biggest hitters have the biggest advantage.
Even though it didn’t play out this way in that first edition of the event, with Nate Lashley, a below-PGA Tour-average driver of the ball, winning by a half-dozen strokes, talent off the tee has been one of the greatest determining factors of success on this 7,325-yard course ever since.
Prophetic as that aforementioned player was, DeChambeau captured the 2020 event as a 6/1 favorite, according to the archives at golfodds.com. During that season, he ranked first in both Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Driving Distance. The player who finished runner-up that week, Matthew Wolff, was 12th and ninth in those two categories, respectively.
The next year, Cam Davis won his first title in Detroit during a season in which he was 19th off the tee and 32nd in distance. Joaquin Niemann, one of two runners-up, ranked 13th and 14th in those two metrics.
Last year, though, might’ve been the greatest showcase yet of the delineation between the best drivers in the field and everyone else. Tony Finau earned a convincing five-stroke victory over Cameron Young, Patrick Cantlay and Taylor Pendrith. Each of those four players ranked inside the top 17 in SG: Off the Tee for the season and among the top 40 in distance.
All of which offers a strong suggestion for this week’s festivities at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
As the PGA Tour extends into the dog days between the last regular-season designated event and the final major championship, I’ll be targeting underrated and unheralded SG: Off the Tee players for my betting card, DFS lineups, OAD picks and everything else.
None of this means a Lashley type can’t win here again, but recent history has shown an overwhelming edge toward those who have a built-in advantage with the big stick.
That’s where I’ll start my selections for this one.
A warning before we get there: This one isn’t for the faint of heart, as there’s plenty of ugliness up and down the board.
Outright Winner (Short odds)
One player to win the tournament
Ludvig Aberg (+6000)
There are plenty of big names and worthy candidates near the top of this week’s odds board, and I won’t deny that I might have a small outright play on Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im or Cam Davis by the time Thursday morning rolls around, but my favorite short-numbered outright for this event is longer than usual.
There are a few reasons for this: 1) I don’t completely love any of the players with shorter odds; 2) Starting the card with a player who owns a longer price allows us the flexibility to add a few others; and 3) It might be time for Ludvig Aberg to pop. The current situation reminds me of the summer of 2019, when newly turned professionals Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa spawned on inferior fields filled with players either drained toward the end of a long season or frazzled at what a poor finish might render.
A former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, Aberg isn’t just talented, he’s exactly what we’re seeking this week – a guy who’s freakishly long off the tee without losing much accuracy, which has led to a positive Strokes Gained number with his driver in five starts against professional fields this year.
That includes top-25 finishes in three of his last four PGA Tour appearances, though none better than 24th place, which only leaves me slightly worried that an outright play is too idealistic at this particular juncture in his young career. Those concerns don’t outweigh the prospect of cashing him at a nice price point, though.
The Swede has superstar written all over him, and he’s won at every level he’s played. We’ve already seen Rose Zhang win immediately as a professional on the LPGA Tour, while Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Ricky Castillo have done so on the Korn Ferry circuit. Don’t be surprised if – or perhaps when – Aberg follows that trend.
Outright Winner (Long odds)
One player to win the tournament
Austin Eckroat (+8000)
Riddle me this, golf fans: One week ago, following his T10 finish at the U.S. Open, Austin Eckroat owned pre-tournament odds of 100/1 at the star-studded Travelers Championship. This week, after a respectable T24 result, he’s only moved to 80/1 within a much less star-studded field. For a player who’s gained strokes off the tee in each of his last eight starts, these questionable odds should be music to our ears.
I expected Eckroat to land somewhere on the other side of 50/1 considering the competition – and there’s still a viable chance he might get there once the public wipes the drool from its collective mouths and starts clicking his name.
The Oklahoma State product hasn’t finished outside the top 30 in his last five starts and owns a pair of top-five finishes in his last nine, so there exists a nice ceiling/floor combo which suggests he’s not just a strong candidate for outright tickets, but props and DFS, as well.
Again, starting the card with a couple of players who own longer odds should free us up to add a couple of extra names. I also considered Taylor Pendrith (+8000), Adam Schenk (+10000) and Callum Tarren (+18000) for this category, and while not officially listed here, I’ll likely have small plays on each, though I believe Eckroat owns the biggest upside.
Potential selections for one-and-done pools
Rickie Fowler (+1400)
This just in: Even though he owns five career PGA Tour victories and eight top fives at majors, Rickie Fowler is playing some of the best golf of his life right now, which includes a title contention at the U.S. Open two weeks ago and a T13 at the Travelers last week, thanks to a third-round 60.
And yet, there’s a good chance you still haven’t used him in your OADs. This feels like a nice place to jump on a high-floor and potentially high-ceiling play, as I’ve often believed that Rickie’s career could’ve been bolstered if he wasn’t so good, so early, meaning that he would’ve been “forced” to play more events that didn’t necessarily include the best players, possibly helping his confidence as he progressed.
He’ll look around this week and see that there aren’t many players better than him. If there’s a little caveat emptor involved here, it’s the fact that he’s gotta be wiped after playing so much golf, and if this one wasn’t sponsored by a company that also sponsors him, he might not be here at all.
Taylor Pendrith (+8000)
Last year, Taylor Pendrith entered the final round of this event in a share of the lead with Tony Finau, only to follow his 64-65-66 start with a 72, finishing in a share of second place, five strokes off the pace.
This year hasn’t seen Pendrith take the next step that I (and many others) thought he’d take, as he owns just one top-25 result in 17 starts – and that came back in February. In his last four, he hasn’t been better than 60th, all of which suggests his outright number is all based on history, not form.
Nonetheless, if you’re seeking a total OAD dart-throw with low ownership, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he finally starts playing his best golf at this event once again.
Thomas Detry (+10000)
The ceiling might be limited, as the first portion of Thomas Detry’s career was spent finishing top three on the DP World Tour without ever winning. Even so, he makes a lot of sense for this one – the proverbial driver/putter combo guy who can contend if everything in between gets a little warm.
Adam Schenk (+10000)
I’ll admit this play probably makes more sense as an outright than OAD, since Adam Schenk has proven himself to be all-or-nothing in recent months.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. As Padraig Harrington, who won yet again on PGA Tour Champions, said this weekend, “Who cares about being consistent? It’s more important to be erratic and win.”
There’s no doubt that being John Daly is a better way to live a professional golf life than being Charles Howell III – and yes, that’s in reference to on-course psyche alone.
Anyway, in his last 10 starts, Schenk has missed the cut six times, but he does have three top 10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes. I’ve listed a lot of high-risk/high-reward plays in this week’s preview, and he represents the epitome of such strategy.
One player to finish in the top five
Justin Thomas (+360 for Top Five)
One week ago, the thought of adding Justin Thomas to the betting card anywhere – let alone for a top-five finish – would have been considered a fool’s errand. He was fresh off missing the U.S. Open cut with a second-round 81 that left him feeling “embarrassed” afterward. The best players, though, tend to turn things around quickly, and there was reason to believe that result was JT’s rock-bottom.
After all, he didn’t contend that he was lost, only that solid prep work had somehow dissolved into a big number by Friday afternoon. “I legitimately felt like it was a fluke,” he said during last week’s Travelers, which leads to the next reason you’re reading about him right now.
A share of ninth place at that one should have Thomas brimming with confidence once again. There’s a reason why he’s spending this week playing golf in Detroit, and it likely has everything to do with the fact that he’s only recently moved from 78th on the FedEx Cup points list to 66th, just inside the qualifying number (70th) to reach the first playoff event.
It’s hard to imagine him falling outside the top 70 again, but a big week here could help solidify his position moving forward. Armed with that knowledge, JT should step on the gas pedal here.
One player to finish in the top 10
Cam Davis (+360 for Top 10)
One of my favorite tools for short-term prognostication seems so simple that it would leave my model-driven analytics-based colleagues shaking their heads in disgust. For players competing on back-to-back weeks, I like looking at their numbers from Sunday’s final round, which can promote some optimism for just four days later.
Cameron Davis posted a final-round 63 at TPC River Highlands, and while he (surprisingly) did more damage with the flatstick than the driver, those numbers should portend more good things in Detroit, where he claimed his first and only PGA Tour victory two years ago.
After a slow start to the year due to illness, the Aussie has three finishes of seventh or better in his last 10 starts, though nothing better than last week’s T33 in his last four. This feels like the proper spot to jump back on, however, as he followed that win with a T14 here last year.
One player to finish in the top 20
Kevin Yu (+360 for Top 20)
Here's how the current PGA Tour ranking of SG: OTT reads for this season: 1. Scottie Scheffler; 2. Rory McIlroy; 4. Patrick Cantlay. The missing name at third amidst those three superstars is none other than Kevin Yu, a former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world.
(If you’re like me and only realized this recently, it might be because he largely went by his given name Chun An Yu while competing at Arizona State, but he now uses Kevin in all of his official material.)
Even in today’s analytical wasteland, Yu’s elite-level ball-striking numbers have gone fairly unnoticed by the masses, perhaps due to the fact that he missed four months of action after knee surgery, returning last week to finish T49 at the Travelers.
Additionally, he ranks 31st in driving distance, 37th in approach play and ninth in SG: Tee-to-Green, all of which is sullied by ranking 181st in putting. With a week of competition now under his belt, there are signs this course could fit Yu’s eye better than TPC River Highlands did.
One player to finish in the top 30
Vincent Norrman (+260 for Top 30)
If it’s not one big-hitting Swedish youngster this week, it’s another. He might not have Ludvig Aberg-like potential, but Vincent Norrman is going to become a very good PGA Tour player in his own right.
It was starting to come around for him a few months ago, as he posted a pair of top 20s in late April/early May, but three straight MCs should leave us more cautious. Ranking 39th off the tee and 12th in driving distance, there are certainly signs that this course should fit Norrman’s game better than the last few.
One player to finish in the top 40
Luke List (+170 for Top 40)
I feel like Luke List would be a great partner for your four-man charity scramble event. He absolutely mashes the ball off the tee, and his iron play is superb, but his putting is so poor that he’d probably go first, just to give everyone else a read.
In his last 25 starts, List has putted below field average on 21 occasions, though last week’s Travelers Championship was one of those four outliers.
In fact, the last three times he’s putted above average, he’s finished inside the top 35. It’s almost like there’s a not-so-secret formula to his potential success.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS lineups
For those who were already pot-committed on Sungjae Im prior to the PGA Championship, it was a little concerning that he chose to compete in Korea the previous week, and a win there didn’t help assuage those fears, as there were murmurs of a slight injury upon his return.
In his five starts before that trip, Im had finished 6th-17th-16th-7th-8th; in his five starts since, he’s now gone MC-MC-41st-MC-29th.
That doesn’t quite give him Bingo Square vibes moving forward, but he could make for a smart tournament play, as the masses try to load up on other favorites. He’s broken par in 11 of 12 rounds at DGC and finished T8 in his most recent start two years ago, so there are signs this could be the place where he turns it all around.
A medium-priced option for DFS lineups
Just a warning that these picks are only going to get uglier. Take a deep breath before we dive into these waters, as Sam Stevens hasn’t finished better than T29 in his last nine starts.
So, why is he listed here? Well, he’s at least made the cut in six of those last seven. I’m expecting high variance for this event and simply going 6-for-6 in reaching the weekend should put you way ahead of the pack.
Stevens is also 19th this season in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, which falls in line with what we’re looking for this week. He makes a lot of sense for DFS, especially in cash games.
A lower-priced option for DFS lineups
One of the few players on this week’s list who doesn’t fit the profile for which we’re looking, largely because he doesn’t fit any profile right now. Troy Merritt finished T65 in his 2023 debut at the Sony Open. Since then, he’s missed the cut in 13 – yes, 13! – consecutive starts, which is the type of thing which usually keeps your name from getting mentioned in a tournament preview.
This is undoubtedly a high-risk play, but Merritt does have a few things going for him. First off, he was the other runner-up with Joaquin Niemann in the 2021 edition of this event which I referenced in the intro.
Secondly, he led the field last week in Strokes Gained: Approach, even though a cold putter kept him from playing the weekend. I’m not sure I’ve got the brass Titleists to list him anywhere on my betting card (even at +25000), but as a cheap contrarian DFS option, he could hold some unexpected value.
One player to post the low round Thursday
Sepp Straka (+6000 for FRL)
His last five opening rounds have been an amalgamation of mediocrity, with each number landing between 69 and 71. He does, however, own a pair of 68s on Thursdays in this tournament during years when he eventually finished T8 and T11 overall.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that he’s MC’d in each of the last two editions of this one, but I like the course experience here and don’t mind him for a single-round play, if not a full-tourney nibble.
One player who should beat comparable players
Byeong-Hun An (+5500)
Don’t look now, but the guy once known for his inconsistency has become one of the PGA Tour’s more consistent players. I wrote earlier in the preview about Padraig Harrington’s assessment that’s its better to be erratic and win – and he’s not wrong, on a macro level.
When it comes to matchup bets, though, we’re seeking players who give us two chances to cash, by making the cut and/or beating their opponent on Sunday.
In 16 starts during this calendar year, Byeong-Hun An has 13 made cuts, two missed cuts and a withdrawal. Five of the last six of those made cuts have also been inside the top 25, giving him that two-way cashing potential that we like for these bets.
He’s made the cut in each of his previous two appearances here, finishing T13 and 76th while playing just the odd-numbered years.
Also Receiving Votes
Other players who should provide value
Hideki Matsuyama (+1800), Keegan Bradley (+2500), Nicolai Hojgaard (+6000), Gordon Sargent (+8000), Sam Stevens (+10000), Will Gordon (+11000), Lee Hodges (+11000), Scott Stallings (+15000), Callum Tarren (+18000), Kevin Tway (+30000)