Ben Coley has selections ranging from 28/1 to 400/1 for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where Maverick McNealy has strong each-way claims.
2.5pts e.w. Joaquin Niemann at 28/1 (William Hill, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Maverick McNealy at 70/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Beau Hossler at 150/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Cameron Davis at 150/1 (BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)
1pt e.w. Byeong Hun An at 250/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Davis Thompson at 400/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
Newly-muscled and in red-hot form, Bryson DeChambeau plunged golf into the latest in a long line of existential crises when he blasted his way to the Rocket Mortgage Classic last summer. Ranking first in distance at a whopping 350 yards, but 58th in accuracy, DeChambeau was the most effective driver in the field as well as being the best putter. That he got this new formula to work on an old-fashioned, Donald Ross-designed course was seen by many as a portent to destruction.
At 7,370 yards this is by no means a short course, but its classical, tree-lined make-up was meant to provide a throwback test. That's broadly what we'd seen courtesy of a similarly runaway victory for Nate Lashley in 2019, and even behind DeChambeau and Matt Wolff there were enough accurate, steady players to suggest such a method can and does work here. It's just that it's, well, powerless if a world-class bomber gets enough fortune to go with all the brilliance.
DeChambeau is a strong and worthy 15/2 favourite and there are many who will keep this as simple as his approach to Detroit Golf Club. Others will play the each-way double with Rory McIlroy, a 5/1 shot in Ireland, and to my mind this is undoubtedly the strongest pair of cross-tour favourites we've had all season. Both will get their favoured conditions, with Michigan also having been hit by plenty of rain lately, and should be hard to keep out of the frame.
Reports of thicker rough might lead some to believe that accuracy will be more important than before, but more likely is that it only serves to increase the advantage of those who can eat this course alive. As such my approach is to try and find players capable of emulating DeChambeau to some degree, and the one I find most intriguing is MAVERICK MCNEALY.
This smart 25-year-old has not yet found the keys to consistency, but he's nevertheless impressed when things have clicked this year. Second place at Pebble Beach was a brilliant demonstration of what he can do and it's significant perhaps that it came on home soil in California, at a course he knows really well, because his family hails from Detroit and he was also eighth here last summer.
Last week, McNealy led the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee with a brilliant driving display at the Travelers, and he's certainly a player capable of putting the lights out, just as he did when fifth at the tree-lined Harbour Town. Having been 20th at Colonial before 30th at River Highlands, he looks to be in good form and must be on the shortlist of players capable of leading the field both off the tee and on the greens.
Rounds of 63 and 65 across these two events underline his scoring potential, and after both of them McNealy spoke about how confident he is at the moment.
"I've been in a really good place with the golf swing for a while," he told reports at the Travelers, having said this at Colonial beforehand: "I felt really, really good every single tournament just about this year, and I had a meeting with some of my team, my coaches and Travis, my caddie, and just kind of talking to them like, is there something I'm missing here and they basically just said stay in the saddle, we really like what you're doing, and you know, just keep going, because something good is going to happen soon."
Given those Detroit connections — along with his siblings, he's even named after a car — there's every reason to believe that the timing of this return to form could not be better, with the bentgrass/poa annua greens another positive and one he spoke about when playing so well here last summer.
In better form now and having contended for titles twice this season, if he can marry the approach work of the Charles Schwab with last week's driving, we could be in business. And at 70/1, there's enough juice in the price to make him the headline selection.
Back up to the head of the market and having initially overlooked everyone at 50/1 and shorter, on second view I'm keen to give JOAQUIN NIEMANN one more chance.
Niemann's worst two performances of the year came when selected on these pages for the Charles Schwab and the Memorial, but it's probably best not to be put off by that and instead focus on better form since, and how suitable this place ought to be.
The young Chilean was admittedly tearing it up in the summer of 2019, when defying a quiet enough start to finish fifth here, but Detroit is precisely the sort of layout on which he's thrived. Tree-lined and vulnerable to low-scoring, it's similar to some of those he grew up on, and he has enough good form at Sedgefield to be encouraged by his overall credentials on Ross-designed courses.
His victory at Old White TPC in the Greenbrier definitely bodes well for this and he's often seemed to show a jolt of improvement for playing in the northern and north-eastern states, where poa/bentgrass greens are common.
Having fought back well to finish 31st in the US Open and played nicely for three of the four rounds in Connecticut, this brilliant driver and increasingly efficient putter looks better suited to this than just about all of the chief dangers to DeChambeau. And with Jason Day and Kevin Kisner suddenly into 33/1, Niemann's vastly superior form this season makes 28s appear very decent.
The rest of my selections are hugely speculative, and why not at a time in the PGA Tour calendar when the best players are gearing up for another major, or even still recovering from the last one. Certainly, Lashley's victory here was a big shock and while the favourite won last year, there's scope for some surprises in the top 10.
The pick of my four suggestions at three-figure prices is BEAU HOSSLER, another who can get it out there off the tee and, on his day, is one of the best putters on the circuit.
Like McNealy, he grew up in California and is comfortable on these greens, and while he's missed the cut on both previous starts here in Detroit, his form coming in has been dreadful. This was the third in a run of five missed cuts in 2020, and in 16 previous starts in 2019 he'd managed one top-20 finish.
This time, he's built on some flashes of promise to finish 19th in the Palmetto Championship and then 10th at the Travelers, the best golf he's produced in a long time. What's more, this improvement has been built on strong driving, with the putter warming up, and never has his iron play been as good as it was two starts back.
"It's starting to feel really good," is how Hossler described his game recently, and the only other time he's finished up there in the Travelers, he went on and placed the following week. Long considered capable of establishing himself as a PGA Tour winner, this could be a good opportunity for him.
CAMERON DAVIS is another talented maiden and while there's a worry he's not been driving the ball as well as he can, in general his approach play and putting have remained strong.
That means we could just need a return to his brilliant best off the tee to see a return to his early-season form, which had him going off far shorter prices in much stronger fields, and he's another whose poor performances here need contextualising: on both occasions he too was playing badly on arrival.
Now, it's possible to argue the same is true for this third attempt, but a softer course might help and it's only really the Memorial Tournament which we have to forgive. Given how tough that place is, and the wholesale changes made prior to the event, I am prepared to do so.
Davis's record at Sedgefield, the other Ross course which serves as a regular PGA Tour host, might also be significant. He's shot 65 in four of his eight rounds there, finishing 22nd and 15th, and it was at another tree-lined, old-school course with definite similarities that he led into the final round in the Sanderson Farms last autumn.
Brian Stuard is the local favourite and has done really well in two appearances here, but again he's just not the profile I'm keen on and the same applies to Chez Reavie, who has been a big eye-catcher lately. Even if this does prove to favour the straighter hitters, Reavie has never been one for a shootout owing to his issues with the putter.
It would be fair to say the same of BYEONG HUN AN, but prices around the 200/1 mark are more than sufficient to compensate for the worry that he doesn't take enough chances.
An is a class act who has been in the wilderness since going to work with Sean Foley, but things might just be falling into place based on the fact he's driven the ball really well in three of his last four starts, which he hadn't been doing earlier in the year.
With improving approach play, his long-game is close to where he needs it to be and it was that which powered his solid 13th here in 2019, yet another demonstration that this former Wentworth champion, who has also been third at Sedgefield, loves an old-fashioned, tree-lined course.
An has been starting well lately, another sign he's on the right path, and it was only a horrific Friday with the putter which saw him narrowly miss the cut last week. Chances are something similar will occur, but with a really nice debut spin at Detroit to his name and those signs of encouragement, 250/1 is well worth taking.
Danny Lee and Henrik Norlander have been the standout ball-strikers here so far and both have crept onto the radar lately, with Lee in particular of some interest if he can putt well enough. Both are considered along with Scott Stallings, who grew up on a Ross design, has won at Old White TPC, boasts enough decent form at Sedgefield, and has opened his two appearances here with rounds of 66 and 65.
Speculation is generally the order of the day and I'll finish in that spirit with DAVIS THOMPSON.
A top-class amateur, he showed up well on day one of last year's US Open and more recently turned pro following the Walker Cup. This will be his third start since joining the paid ranks, and already we've seen him produce top-class ball-striking for 35th in the Palmetto, before driving it well despite missing the cut last week.
Congaree was a tough place to make your introduction, and a Pete Dye-designed River Highlands also has its quirks, so it may just be that he finds this a far more straightforward challenge. That's broadly what happened when Wolff and Collin Morikawa finished first and second in the 3M Open so early in their professional careers, and Thompson has bags of potential.
With Damon Green on the bag he also has experience by his side and whereas John Pak has struggled with his long-game so far, Thompson has gained strokes in both appearances and had already produced a field-leading tee-to-green display on his PGA Tour debut in the 2019 RSM Classic.
This is something of a shot in the dark, but Doc Redman was second in this on an invite in 2019, before Wolff won the 3M Open, and both the Barbasol and John Deere Classic have seen amateurs or burgeoning professionals either win or contend. It's that time of year and Thompson gets my vote to join the party.
Posted at 1130 BST on 29/06/21
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