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2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic: PGA DFS Preview

Hi RotoBallers! I'm Andy Lack and I'm very excited to be with you as a new member of the RB PGA team! In our ongoing attempt to expand and improve our PGA coverage, I will be dropping a 'Tournament Preview' every Monday morning.

I hope this preview will give you a head start on your Rocket Mortgage Classic research and I'd also like to encourage you to check out my Pick The Pup podcast to hear more of my thoughts on Detroit Golf Club and this week's tournament. If you aren't already utilizing RotoBaller's amazing weekly PGA content, fix that right now by joining us this week and throughout the rest of the PGA Tour season.

Access to tons of RotoBaller's PGA content is COMPLETELY FREE but we also offer a PGA Premium subscription for those of you that want to take your game to the next level! You can sign up now using Promo Code: ANDY at checkout to receive a discount.

Featured Promo: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!


RotoBaller Weekly PGA Article Schedule


You can find out all you need to know about this week's layout with Josh Bennett's Course Breakdown (Premium) and learn which golfers have thrived at this course in the past with Joe Nicely's Horse For The Course.


We kick your DFS research into high gear with articles from Spencer Aguiar! Spencer will highlight his favorite DraftKings Plays of the week - an article that also includes his popular PGA DFS Rankings Wizard Model - and offer great tips with his Head-To-Head Betting Preview, while Joe Nicely drops some salary savers in his DraftKings Value Plays (Premium) article. We also have you FanDuel fans covered with free PGA DFS picks for every tournament.


Things start getting intense on Wednesday and we've got you covered! You can check out RotoBaller Staff One And Done selections and get inside the mind of our team with our PGA DFS Expert Roundtable (Premium). We also have two of the most popular articles in the PGA DFS industry with Spencer Aguiar's Vegas Report (Premium) and Joe Nicely's DraftKings Core Four (Premium). You can also check out Josh Bennett's DFS Cheat Sheet (Premium) for a quick cram session!


Tournament Overview

2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic 

Recent Winners
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau (-23)
2019 - Nate Lashley (-25)

Event Details
Purse: $7,500,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500 (Winner)
Field: 156 Players

The PGA Tour travels to Detroit, MI this week for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, a relatively new PGA Tour event that replaced the Quicken Loans National on the schedule in 2019. While many of the biggest names will be taking the week off with the Open Championship right around the corner, Bryson DeChambeau returns to Detroit to defend his 2020 title. Recent Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, as well as Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris, Joaquin Niemann, Rickie Fowler, and Jason Day all headline a competent group of challengers.

Fantasy managers face a challenging task this week as there are only two years of data on Detroit Golf Club. Therefore, course history will not play as much of a factor as it does most weeks. With that being said, there are still many edges to be found and conclusions we can make despite a limited sample size. Let's get into the course breakdown, key statistics, and three players that are worthy of further attention.


Course Breakdown

Detroit Golf Club - Detroit, MI. 

Detroit Golf Club is an old school, classical style golf course designed by the famed Donald Ross in 1899. Playing as a Par 72 and tipping out to a modest 7,294 yards on the scorecard, birdies will be the currency this week. In 2019, Nate Lashley won at 25 under par. Last year, Bryson DeChambeau won at 23 under par. In both 2019 and 2020, players needed to get to four under par over two days just to make the weekend! There are multiple reasons why players have had such an easy time going low at Detroit Golf Club, so let's get into how fantasy managers can find those who are best positioned to do so.

Any time Bryson DeChambeau wins, the general assumption is that the course he won on is a bomber's paradise. Add in the fact that another one of the longest players on Tour, Matthew Wolff, finished 2nd to Bryson, and we can expect that narrative to be alive and well this week. In my opinion, assuming that position and only selecting longer players this week would be a mistake. Bryson did not win this tournament by bludgeoning Detroit Golf Club to death, he won because he gained 7.9 strokes putting. Similarly, Matthew Wolff did not bludgeon this course to death either, he finished second because he gained six strokes putting. Did their distance help? Of course it did. Distance helps at every course, yet it was far from the primary reason why they finished first and second.

To further illustrate my point, let's look at the rest of the rest of last year's leaderboard. Kevin Kisner finished third. Danny Willet, Ryan Armour, Adam Hadwin, and Tyrrell Hatton finished tied for fourth. Webb Simpson and Maverick McNealy finished eighth. Not exactly a murderer's row of big hitters! Essentially, anyone can compete at Detroit Golf Club, as this week is all going to come down to wedges and putting.

Over the past two years, players have hit 65% of the fairways at Detroit Golf Club, compared to the Tour average of 62%. That may not sound like a huge difference, but comparatively speaking, it is. Players have hit 72% of their greens in regulation at Detroit Golf Club, compared to the Tour average of 65%. That is a sizable discrepancy. It is not difficult to hit fairways at this course, and it is even easier to hit greens. What that generally tells me is that elite ball-striking is somewhat mitigated, and conversely, an even greater premium is placed on putting. To come full circle, Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff putted the best last year, and that is why they finished first and second.

To place this all in context, over the last two years, top ten finishers at the Rocket Mortgage Classic have gained an average of 4.6 strokes putting. Essentially, players need to sniff a gaudy putting total to possess any chance to win at Detroit Golf Club. Many players on Tour rarely ever gain 4.6 strokes putting in a week. Emiliano Grillo, for example, has not had a putting week like that in over three years! Keegan Bradley has had only nine weeks north of +4.5 putting strokes in a decade long plus career! Does this mean that fantasy managers should only select good putters this week? Not necessarily. Putting is nearly impossible to predict, but it is definitely worth checking how often players have spike putting weeks. Volatility with the putter is a good thing. As long as a player has proven they are capable of getting hot with the flat-stick on occasion, they should be viewed as a viable option. With that being said, there are many players that are consistently average with their putter, yet rarely ever experience spikes. Every point of data we have on Detroit Golf Club points to the fact that a player must gain at least 4.5 strokes putting to even have a chance. Conversely, top ten finishers are averaging one stroke gained off the tee for the entire tournament. That is incredibly low, even lower than strokes gained around the green. Even the below average ball-strikers will have more chances from the fairway and hit more greens this week. It's all going to come down to putting.

With all of that being said, despite the fact that putting is difficult to predict, there are still many ways to handicap this tournament. 64% of Detroit Golf Club's approach shots come from between 75-175 yards. Three of the four par fives are reachable in two, and nine of the par fours fall between 370 and 470 yards. Players will have an abundance of scoring opportunities, and thus, excellent wedge players, those who routinely take advantage of par fives and short to medium length par fours, and those who are comfortable going low are the types of players that I will be targeting this week. Let's get into a few of the key metrics that I will be measuring this week.


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Key Statistics 

Outside of the obvious four major statistical categories (strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approach, strokes gained around the green, and strokes gained putting), here are a few ancillary statistics that should prove pivotal, as well as the top-5 players in the field in these metrics over their last 24 rounds.

  1. Opportunities Gained 
    1. Emiliano Grillo
    2. Jason Kokrak
    3. Hideki Matsuyama
    4. Charley Hoffman
    5. Bryson DeChambeau
  2. Birdies or Better Gained 
    1. Jason Kokrak
    2. Patton Kizzire
    3. Charley Hoffman
    4. Emiliano Grillo
    5. Maverick McNealy
  3. Weighted Proximity 125-175 yards
    1. K.J. Choi
    2. Hideki Matsuyama
    3. Kyle Stanley
    4. Emiliano Grillo
    5. Chez Reavie
  4. Strokes Gained Par 5s
    1. Jason Kokrak
    2. Charley Hoffman
    3. Bo Van Pelt
    4. Danny Willett
    5. Webb Simpson
  5. Par 4 Scoring (400-450 yards)
    1. Emiliano Grillo
    2. Jason Kokrak
    3. Gary Woodland
    4. Harold Varner III
    5. Vincent Whaley

While those six statistics are a great place to start, I am also looking at proximity from 75-100 yards, proximity from 100-125 yards, proximity from 200 yards plus, and average strokes gained per round in easy scoring conditions.


Players To Target

High-Price Tier

Webb Simpson 

Fantasy managers have not been given many opportunities to roster Webb Simpson this year, as the seven-time PGA Tour winner is only making his tenth start of the season. When Simpson has played, he has been productive, with five top-25s and three top-10s. Simpson, who is a father of four, has evidently reached a point in his career where he is more apt to pick his spots. The fact that he is choosing to play this week indicates that he is well aware that Detroit Golf Club is a perfect set-up for his game. In his only appearance here, Simpson finished eighth, while gaining 1.9 strokes off the tee and 4.6 strokes on approach.

If there is such thing as a "Donald Ross specialist," Webb fits the bill the best, with six top-10s in nine appearances at the Donald Ross designed Sedgefield Country Club, home of the Wyndham Championship. Simpson has also recorded three top-five finishes in seven appearances at the Donald Ross designed East Lake, home of the Tour Championship. Simpson's affinity for Ross courses should not come as a surprise, as the famed designer tends to create shorter tracks with devilish green complexes. This plays right into the hands of Simpson, who is an excellent wedge player and putter. Over his last 36 rounds, the Wake Forest product ranks 16th in strokes gained approach, 26th in strokes gained putting, seventh in proximity from 125-150 yards, and second in par four scoring (400-450 yards). Fantasy managers should be willing to forgive and forget what they saw from Simpson at the U.S. Open. Torrey Pines was never going to be a good fit for the North Carolina native. On the other hand, Simpson will be licking his chops at Detroit Golf Club.


Mid-Price Tier

Gary Woodland 

While Woodland missed the cut in his only appearance in Detroit Golf Club, the 2019 U.S. Open champion is always a viable option any time he finds himself on a classical golf course with Poa Annua/Bentgrass greens. Already this season, Woodland has finished fifth at Quail Hollow and 14th at Colonial, both classically designed, parkland golf courses. The University of Kansas product also boasts an impressive resume at Muirfield Village and the Donald Ross designed East Lake. Naturally, fantasy managers tend to prefer Woodland in major championships and on courses with difficult scoring conditions where his elite distance and ball-striking can shine, yet I would argue he is just as well suited for a birdie fest. The four-time PGA Tour winner is averaging nearly half a stroke on the field per round on courses with easy scoring conditions. Over his last 36 rounds, Woodland also ranks 39th in opportunities gained, 26th in birdies or better gained, and 24th in strokes gained par fives.

Looking at his recent results, Woodland is indubitably trending in the right direction. The Kansas native gained 3.5 strokes off the tee and 0.2 strokes on approach in his most recent start at the U.S. Open. This was Woodland's best off the tee week since the WGC- Mexico in February of 2020, and the fifth start in a row in which he has gained strokes on approach. The only reason he did not finish higher at Torrey Pines was because he lost a combined 2.7 strokes putting and around the green. This was Woodland's second week in a row in which he has he lost strokes putting. He has only done that twice in the past two years, and in the following start, he has gained an average of 1.85 strokes putting. Fantasy managers should expect Woodland to rebound with the flat-stick and continue his upward trajectory from a ball-striking perspective.


Value-Price Tier

Vaughn Taylor  

Vaughn Taylor certainly has my attention this week as an intriguing value play. He is coming off a start where he missed the cut at the Travelers by a stroke, but in two rounds at TPC River Highlands, he gained 3.6 strokes on approach and lost three strokes putting. The three-time PGA Tour winner has now gained over 3.6 strokes on approach in back to back starts. The approach play has been incredible, and he's not afraid to turn it on with the flat-stick either. Already this season, Taylor has gained 8.7 strokes putting at the Valero Texas Open, 9.2 strokes putting at the Valspar Championship, and 5.8 strokes putting at the Memorial. While he is coming off a negative putting week, the last two times he lost strokes putting, he followed it up by gaining an average of 5.1 strokes putting in his next start.

Taylor sets up incredibly well for Detroit Golf Club. Over his last 36 rounds, the Virginia native ranks 24th in opportunities gained, 28th in proximity from 75-100 yards, 20th in proximity from 100-125 yards, 36th in proximity from 125-150 yards, 5th in proximity from 200 yards plus, and 41st in birdies or better gained. Taylor is both an incredible wedge player and long iron player, who should be right at home on a course with four par fives and a myriad of short to medium length par fours. While these are not true Poa Annua greens, it's worth mentioning that the Augusta State product is also the 14th best Poa Annua putter in this field over his last 24 rounds, and he boasts an immaculate resume at Pebble Beach, another Poa course that places an emphasis on short iron play. Taylor will be a staple of my fantasy lineups this week.


Win Big With RotoBaller

Golf is back, and it's time for you to win big with RotoBaller! Our PGA DFS Premium Package features several savvy analysts and proven DFS winners.

Our very own Joe Nicely recently took down a big DraftKings DFS tournament for the Travelers Championship. And as an encore, RotoBaller subscriber @tenndolly2 won $100K on FanDuel with the help of Joe and the rest of our Premium PGA team: Between all the incredible Premium PGA DFS content and tools we put out each week, and our Premium Slack Community where we chat with our subscribers before lineups lock, RotoBaller PGA subscribers are armed with the tools, analysis, and advice to win big.

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