DraftKings PGA DFS Picks: Rocket Mortgage Classic Cash and GPP Strategy

DraftKings PGA DFS Picks: Rocket Mortgage Classic Cash and GPP Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.

Rocket Mortgage Classic

Purse: $9.2M
Winner's Share: $1.65M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Detroit
Course: Detroit Golf Club (North course)
Yardage: 7,370
Par: 72
2023 Champion: Rickie Fowler

Tournament Preview

To be honest, things could've been a lot worse for Rocket Mortgage Classic tournament organizers. After fives majors/signature events over the past seven weeks, most of the top guys are sitting this one out. And it would've been easy to envision even serious golf fans going down the list in this maxed-out field of 156 muttering to themselves: "Who's this guy?" over and over again.

But lo and behold, there are familiar names and, while they aren't the highest-ranked guys, they are known guys.

Rickie Fowler is the defending champion and, despite his game plummeting once against this season, he remains among the top five or 10 draws in golf. There are also young stars-in-the-making in Akshay Bhatia, Tom Kim, Cameron Young -- all of whom were on the first page of the Travelers leaderboard last week -- plus Min Woo Lee and Nicolai Hojgaard. And of course Will Zalatoris and Robert MacIntyre are prominent names.

The most interesting subset in the field is made up of the *really* young guys, like even teenagers.

Six guys of note constitute what could be the next generation of golf stars, or maybe even the generation after that.

  • Neal Shipley, the Ohio State alum who was low amateur at both the Masters and U.S. Open. Remember his peering eyes in Butler Cabin that made him a viral meme? He made his pro debut last week in a PGA Tour Americas event and tied for ninth.
  • Michael Thorbjornsen, the Stanford alum who won his Tour card by being the top collegiate player at PGA Tour University and made his pro debut last week at the Travelers, where he tied for 39th of 71 golfers in an elite signature-event field.
  • Jackson Koivun, the 19-year-old Auburn freshman who made the cut earlier this month at the Memorial Tournament.
  • Luke Clanton, the 20-year-old Florida State junior who just missed being low am at the U.S. Open in tying for 41st.
  • Ben James, the 21-year-old University of Virginia junior who played in the U.S. Open after going through qualifying (MC).
  • Miles Russell, the 15-year-old high school freshman who tied for 20th at a Korn Ferry event in April.

Imagine if one of them, or more than one them, were battling it out with Fowler or Bhatia late on Sunday afternoon. Those tournament organizers would see their Rocket Mortgage ratings, um, skyrocket.

(Note to John Deere Classic tournament organizers: You should be feverishly lining up as many of these six young golfers as possible for next week, because there's a good chance no established top player will be coming to the Quad Cities with the Scottish Open on tap the following week.)

This will be the six edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The giant mortgage lender has already committed to stick around through at least 2027, and it's great news for the PGA Tour these days any time they can find a title sponsor who doesn't want to go month to month.

Four of the first five editions at Detroit Golf Club were big-time birdie-fests, with Nate Lashley winning at 25-under in 2019, Bryson DeChambeau at 23-under in 2020, Tony Finau at 26-under two years ago and Fowler at 24-under last year. The first two editions had 5-under cutl ines, while in 2022 it was 3-under and last year at 4-under. (In between, Cam Davis won in 2021 at 18-under.)

Detroit Golf Club has been around since 1899. Its two 18-hole courses were completed in 1916, both built by famed architect Donald Ross. Yet this will not be reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2. Or even Pinehurst No. 22, if there were such a thing. The North, the longer of the two tracks, is used for the tournament, save for one hole from the South, sort of. No. 3 this week will begin at what normally is the North No. 1 tee box and end at the South No. 1 green. The club's website describes the North this way: "It features narrow, tree-lined fairways, which make club selection an important part of the round. The undulating greens and treacherous bunkering ensures you bring your a-game all the way up to the pin." Gosh, they actually make it sound hard.

The website description is accurate in that the landing areas in the fairways are pretty narrow at a average of 30 yards. Yes, there are a lot of trees and there are some holes with strategically placed fairway bunkers, but it's also very flat, the flattest course we'll see all season. Missing the fairway has not proven to be an issue, even with four-inch rough greeting the golfers once again this year.

There are many bunkers guarding the greens (87 total on the course) and severe undulations on the smallish bengtrass/poa putting surfaces (averaging 5,150 square feet) moving back to front with runoffs, a Ross trademark.

But none of it has affected the scores all that much, and golfers were hitting the greens in regulation around 80% of the time. There's water on just one hole, the par-5, 555-yard 14th. That's one of three gettable par-5s of under 580; there are also four par-4s under 400 -- the golfers will be throwing darts on those holes -- and two par-3s under 170. On the other hand, there's a 233-yard par-3 (the 11th) and a 635-yard par-5 (the 4th).

Seven holes played over par last year, though only one of them in the final six on the course, the 446-yard 16th. Even the 455-yard 18 was slightly under par. The hardest hole was that long par-3.

The golf course traditionally plays among the 10 easiest on Tour, and often the top 5 if you want to exclude some of the fall-season cupcakes. The opportunity for disaster is lower here than most courses, so we'll be targeting aggressive golfers with great birdie numbers. There were only 77 over-par rounds all week last year, when a whopping 84 players made the 4-under cut. There was not a single round in the 80s.

As for the weather, all in all, not too bad. It could be steamy this time of year in Detroit, but temperatures will reach only the upper-70s or low-80s. While rain was in the forecast for Wednesday, which could greatly soften the course, the only other concern would be Saturday, with a high chance of thundershowers.

Detroit Golf Club factoid: The North Course will undergo a "full renovation in 2025 including greens tees and bunkers," according to the official Golf Course Superintendents fact sheet. Presumably, that means changes will be complete for next year's tournament. 

Key Stats to Winning at Detroit Golf Club

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Approach/Approach from 125-150 years/SG: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
• Par-5 Scoring 550-600 yards
• Birdie or Better Percentage

Past Champions

2023 - Rickie Fowler
2022 - Tony Finau
2021 - Cam Davis
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau
2019 - Nate Lashley

Champion's Profile

Fowler ended years of futility by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin. The three of them at 24-under were three clear of the next guys. They all ranked in the top-10 in SG: Approach and top-15 in SG: Around-the-Green. Morikawa and Fowler ranked second and third, respectively, in SG: Tee-to-Green, while Hadwin was able to keep pace by ranking second in SG: Putting. Fowler was 12th and Morikawa 24th. So all of them were among the best in multiple strokes-gained categories, yet different ones, once again illustrating there's always more than one way to win a golf tournament, even a birdie-fest. None of them was among the top-20 in driving distance, though it's becoming increasingly clear that even the short hitters on Tour are not that short anymore.

Going back to the 2020 tournament, here's this little nugget from the PGA Tour's Media Guide: "DeChambeau became the first winner in the ShotLink era (since 2003) to lead the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Putting. He also led the field in Driving Distance (350.6 yards) and Par-4 Scoring Average (3.68)." That seems like a good way to win -- do something no one has ever done before. Seriously, DeChambeau blasted it off the tee, yet ranked only 58th in fairways hit, but it didn't matter. His worst score all week was 67.

In the inaugural Rocket Mortgage, Lashley ran away by six strokes. He had two rounds of 63, so he tied the course record TWICE.

The over/under on the winning score this year per golfodds.com is 263.5, which is 24.5 under par.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

$10,000+

Tom Kim - $11,000 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1200) 
Until this month, it had not been a good season for Kim. Then he tied for fourth in Canada and was a playoff runner-up to Scottie Scheffler last week at the Travelers, where he shot 22-under. Kim's specialty is going low at easier tracks -- he's won the 2022 Wyndham and the Shriners twice.

Cameron Young - $10,700 (+1600) 
You'd think a guy who shot a 59 last week and wound up T9 at the Travelers at 17-under would have done so behind great putting. Not so for Young. He ranked only eighth in the field in SG: Putting in the third round, when he broke 60, and was 39th for the week. And he ranked only 30th in Approach, making you wonder how he scored the way he did. Young absolutely crushes it off the tee, which he'll need to do again this week. He tied for second here in 2022, one of his seven runners-up on Tour.

$9,000-$9,900

Akshay Bhatia - $9,800 (+2200) 
Bhatia has been contending in elite fields -- he shot 18-under last week in tying for fifth at the Travelers. And he reached 20-under in winning the Valero Texas Open. Bhatia ranked No. 1 in our model, sitting in the top-12 in this field in every key stat, including first in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Taylor Pendrith - $9,600 (+2500) 
Pendrith won the Byron Nelson at 23-under, the highlight of a very up-and-down season. In 18 starts, he has nine top-25s and seven missed cuts. Talk about all or nothing. He's had three top-25s this month, including at the U.S. Open and last week at the Travelers. Pendrith is ranked fourth on Tour in SG: Putting. He tied for 14th here last year and for second in 2022.

$8,000-$8,900

Maverick McNealy - $8,900 (+2800) 
McNealy finally started to find his form after last year's shoulder injury only to have his season take a forced pitstop thanks to two Signature Events and a major the past three weeks. But before that he ran off three straight top-25s, including the one major he did play in, the PGA. McNealy tied for eighth here in 2020 and for 21st in 2021.

Keith Mitchell - $8,500 (+3000) 
Mitchell has finished top-25 in half of his 16 starts, but he hasn't done better than a tie for ninth twice. That's what happens when you're ranked top-10 in SG: Off-the-Tee, Approach and Tee-to-Green, yet 144th in SG: Putting. And yet, he's ranked 11th in birdie average. Very odd. Mitchell got to 16-under in tying for 20th at the Byron Nelson.

Ryan Fox - $8,200 (+5500) 
Fox is one of the longest hitters on Tour -- he's 17th in driving distance -- and one of the best putters -- he's ranked 10th. That's a good combination to have anywhere, but especially Detroit Golf Club. It has not been a great first season as a PGA Tour member for the New Zealander, though his two best results have come in the past month and a half -- a tie for fourth at Myrtle Beach, where he got to 15-under, and for seventh at the Canadian Open.

$7,000-$7,900

Mark Hubbard - $7,700 (+7000)
Hubbard has not missed a cut this season in 17 starts -- including THE PLAYERS, PGA Championship and U.S. Open -- and he would be in the playoffs if they started today, sitting 55th in points. That contrasts with missing the cut here the past three years, though he did tie for 12th in 2020. Hubbard ranks fourth in the field in birdie or better over his past 24 rounds, and 10th in putting.

Nick Dunlap - $7,400 (+7500)
Dunlap has been battle tested in all the signature events and majors. He hasn't done all that well, though he did tie for 12th at the Memorial. And of course he won the Amex, another big-time birdie-fest in which he shot a whopping 29-under.

Luke Clanton - $7,000 (+9000)
For a college student making just his second start in a PGA Tour event, the DFS and betting odds are curiously high/low, respectively. Clanton qualified for and then tied for 41st the U.S. Open two weeks ago. As good as that is for a 20-year-old, it doesn't necessarily predict success at this far easier track.

$6,000-$6,900

Chandler Phillips - $6,700 (+10000)
Phillips has made 11 of 15 cuts this season with six top-25s and sits 87th in the point standings -- which means he's not that far out of a playoff spot as the regular season starts to wind down. He's finished top-20 in three of his past five starts, including T12 at the Charles Schwab and T10 at the Canadian Open in his past two starts. Phillips is ranked 17th on Tour in SG: Approach.

Webb Simpson - $6,500 (+12000)
Simpson has been playing in tougher competition all season thanks to his myriad sponsor invites into signature events. He's missed only two cuts in 11 starts -- and, no, he hasn't only played in no-cut events. Just two, in fact, including last week at the Travelers when he tied for 48th.

Troy Merritt - $6,300 (+11000)
This week is like Christmas morning for Merritt. He plays well here every year, even last year when he entered riding 14 straight missed cuts. He tied for 17th. That followed T8-T2-T14 the three previous years. This season, Merritt arrives having missed only half of his 16 cuts, and he even had a top-10 last month at the Byron Nelson.

Neal Shipley - $6,300 (+20000)
There aren't two many guys in the field who have made the cut at the Masters and U.S. Open this season. Heck, there aren't many in this field who even played in both. But Shipley did, winning low amateur in both. He turned pro last week and tied for ninth in a PGA Tour Americas event in Vancouver. Even though this is Michigan, the former Ohio State Buckeye should have some fan support.

$5,000-$5,900

Carson Young - $5,900 (+20000)
Young is coming off one of his best results of the year, a tie for 14th in Canada at the beginning of the month. He also tied for 17th at the Amex in January, showing he can go way low if needed at 21-under. Young made his Rocket Mortgage debut a year ago and tied for 52nd. His strokes-gained stats really aren't bad, except Around-the-Green.

Pierceson Coody - $5,900 (+20000)
Coody has made his past three cuts, including a T5 at the Charles Schwab, though that came in his native Texas. He's ranked 19th on Tour in SG: Putting, which always gives him a puncher's chance of playing well. This will be his Rocket Mortgage debut.

Rounding up your Rocket Mortgate Classic wagers? Preview the latest Sportsbook Promo Codes!

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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