Golf expert Ben Coley has five selections at massive prices for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, as the PGA Tour makes its return to Michigan.
Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lake State, birthplace of Sufjan Stevens, Serena Williams, the White Stripes and Dean Cain; home to the Real Slim Shady, 62,798 of those lakes I mentioned earlier and, now, the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
It's a decade since the PGA Tour last came here, and Detroit Golf Club will make its debut on the circuit. The North Course on which this tournament will take place has been extended to fit in the modern monsters of the PGA Tour, but at 7,334 yards this par 72 is on the short side, and while designed by Donald Ross, it just doesn't look that much like his other courses to me. The tournament is a real puzzle.
Still, let's start with Ross, whose other courses on the roster include East Lake, Aronimink, Sedgefield, Pinehurst and, occasionally, Plainfield. He's also the man behind Oakland Hills and Oak Hill, just to further confuse everyone, and was an architect known among other things for the sheer volume of courses he created.
Ross will be the starting point for many this week, and in the absence of other information I can see why. It is certainly possible to identify players who have thrived across his body of work, who relish being asked to work the ball both ways and to hit pinpoint approaches to green complexes which are notoriously devilish, often sloping from back to front.
As a very, very broad rule, it is quality iron play that has been rewarded at most of these courses. The Wyndham Championship, held at Sedgefield, has been won by Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. They don't come much better when it comes to hitting approach shots. Ryan Moore, one of the most reliable iron players around, has also won the event.
Aronimink, which hosted the BMW Championship last year, has produced contenders of varying styles, although the leaderboard in September was a who's who of quality drivers. Perhaps that will be the case here in Detroit, though I couldn't be sure. The first opportunity to really learn about this course and how it will play comes when TV coverage begins on Thursday.
My best guess? It'll be quite straightforward despite the lack of familiarity, and in an event distinctly lacking in star quality, don't be surprised if Dustin Johnson puts on a show. He's the 6/1 favourite in a field where Chez Reavie is the fifth-most-likely winner according to the market. This is DJ's bread and butter.
But backing someone who has never played the course before at such a short price is fraught with danger, and for all that I'm drawn to some of those potential Ross angles - Billy Horschel in particular, but also Brandt Snedeker, Moore and Jason Dufner - I haven't been able to build a proper case for any of them.
I am instead convinced that this is a fine opportunity for those who have perhaps not been featuring regularly to go ahead and change all that. There are just six events left for players who are not in the majors and WGCs to lock up their FedEx Cup Playoff places and with just one of the world's top 10 in attendance, this is an opportunity not to be passed up.
It's also a fairly rare visit to the north of the US in general, with just one event now on the schedule in neighbouring Ohio, and that's an angle I want to pursue. Two years ago my solution to a similar conundrum was to back Daniel Summerhays in Maryland owing to his big improvement for heading to that part of the US, and that's a thread worth pulling at.
In doing so, Sam Ryder becomes interesting.
Ryder's best PGA Tour performance came in Illinois last year, when runner-up in the John Deere Classic. Given that he'd graduated from the Web.com Tour thanks to a victory in Nebraska, and has won in Canada, the further north the better despite his roots being in Florida.
You can throw in a runner-up finish in the northwest - Portland, Oregon to be more specific - and this collection of performances, from limited opportunities, is enough to look closer at a player who started this season on many a shortlist.
Although things have cooled since he finished fourth in the Safeway Open and third in Las Vegas soon after, Ryder has made the cut in eight of his 11 starts in 2019, enough to suggest he's playing nicely without having his best stuff.
More recently, however, there's been some tangible evidence that a return to peak form isn't far away as he recovers from a wrist injury which probably explains why he hasn't been making headlines.
In Texas back in April, he fired a second-round 66 courtesy of seven birdies and an eagle, a score nobody bettered. It was enough to sit 20th at halfway only for a slow start to round three to prove costly. He at least rallied, birdieing four of his final five holes, before an under-par final round was enough to climb a few places into 42nd.
Then followed a break to nurse that wrist injury, which was sufficiently troubling for him to decide to withdraw from the PGA Championship and return at the Memorial, a high-class event won by Patrick Cantlay.
Ryder opened 69-71 to sit inside the top 20 again, only to again drop down the field over the weekend. He'd rallied well on Saturday only to finish double-bogey, bogey, a sign of rust no doubt. All things considered it was an excellent return to action.
Last week at the Travelers, he opened 67-67 to sit 13th, a Saturday 74 undoing much of that before he closed out well enough on a tricky Sunday. That completed a run of 42nd, 57th and 51st, but he's played much better than his finishing positions for the most part and has had excuses.
This belief is further substantiated by the stats, which show that Ryder has ranked 11th, 34th and 19th in strokes-gained approach across these three events. Given that it was very much the irons that powered those top-five finishes at the start of the season, this is an encouraging upturn from a modest run through early spring.
In the hope that he's able to take another step forward on his third start back from a break, and that he putts as well as he did (ninth) in the Travelers, this 250/1 shot looks a fascinating outsider.
Roberto Castro boasts an encouraging record in the northern states, third place at Crooked Stick in Indiana his last big finish on the PGA Tour, and he was 12th at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship six years ago.
Having shown glimpses of encouragement in US Open qualifying and the Canadian Open, he's somewhat interesting and could be a factor if this does become a test of accuracy.
However, I'm drawn to those with a little more in their weaponry with Sepp Straka considered a more likely contender.
This Austrian exile, reportedly unsure as to whether he'd represent Europe or America were he to become of Ryder Cup quality, has caught the eye on several occasions of late as he beds in on the PGA Tour.
Having qualified nicely for the US Open, he contended to the halfway point in Canada, having been right on the heels of the leader during a second-round 65 which could've been a shot or two better.
From there he went to Pebble Beach and performed brilliantly, finishing 28th after a final-round 67 having started the tournament brightly, and I'm not too worried about last week's missed cut given that he shot rounds of 70 and 69 despite making nothing.
"It's huge," he said, when asked at the US Open what this performance meant.
"Knowing that the best players in the world are playing this week and on a really tough test, it's pretty big for the confidence, especially the first and last round that I had just showing that I am able to play with the best of them."
At 29th in strokes-gained approach and having driven the ball really well throughout each of his last three starts, ranking sixth among the big boys at the US Open, he's got tee-to-green confidence and looks worth chancing to secure the big cheque he needs from outside the top 150 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Joey Garber and Brian Stuard are the two players in this field who are entitled to consider this one of the most important tournaments of the year, both having been born in Michigan.
Stuard has enjoyed a solid enough year and an old-school design ought to suit, but I'd be more inclined to chance Garber at 400/1 given that he looks to be improving just in time for this welcome return home.
But it's Garber's partner at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans who interests me more, with Cody Gribble given the chance to produce one of the shocks of the season.
Since winning the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2016 on what was his second start as a PGA Tour member, Gribble has fallen off the face of the earth. He's without a top-10 finish anywhere since and with his exemption about to run out, he's set to fall down a tier if he doesn't improve soon.
Last week, however, he finished 21st - his best result since January 2017. It's the sixth time he's made the cut in eight starts, too, so there's a level of consistency which had been missing. His two failures came in the US Open and the Texas Open, the latter coming too soon for a player who was born and raised in the Lone Star State. Both are forgivable.
Gribble's performance at the Travelers wasn't a complete bolt from the blue, and four sub-70 rounds will do wonders for his confidence - especially as he secured the last of them with birdies at the final three holes of the tournament.
At 13th in strokes-gained approach and 19th in putting, his play was simply rock-solid and he kept big numbers off the scorecard throughout the week in another little indication that he's starting to find his game.
The kicker is that he's got an excellent record in the north. Gribble's best Web.com Tour finish came in Indiana, which borders Michigan, and he was also fifth in neighbouring Ohio. Third in Idaho, another top-10 finish in Indiana, 10th in Missouri and ninth in Oregon make for a collection of results which hint that for all his southern roots, something about playing up here really does suit.
We can in fact trace it back to his amateur days, when arguably his biggest success came in Iowa, and as a further little bonus Gribble made his major debut at the Ross-designed Pinehurst when still finding his feet in the sport and finished an excellent 21st.
Throw that together with the fact he's scoring nicely on the par-fives, of which there's a full complement here, and Gribble becomes far more interesting than almost anyone else at 300/1.
Others on the shortlist include big-hitting Alex Prugh, playing very well right now with his last seven rounds under-par - three of which came at Pebble Beach. He's from Washington which, yes, is a heck of a long way from here, but playing at the top end of the country is a potential factor in his favour nonetheless.
Sam Burns is a big talent who could spring to life having played some decent golf, while Stefan Jaeger arrives on the back of a trio of top-30 finishes, the first time in his career he's found a run of such consistency.
Jaeger is a multiple Web.com Tour winner including one in Illinois, and if he can avoid another slow start could well be a factor here. Like Prugh, he was very much tempting at around the 150/1 mark and is one to keep an eye on.
Next for me though is Roberto Diaz, a 200/1 shot who arrives on the back of eighth place last week.
The Mexican has made eight of his last 10 cuts and would've been closer to Chez Reavie at the Travelers but for a poor week on the greens, which isn't typically an issue for a straight-hitting type who is above-average with the putter.
Diaz has some good form in Boise and Indiana on the Web.com Tour and the feeling is that last week's step up had been coming, as already in 2019 he'd led an event at halfway, produced several low openers, and in May sat sixth through 36 holes of the Byron Nelson.
At 150th in FedEx Cup points, he's another who needs to string things together and there's every chance he can do so, having spoken last Saturday about how everything off the course is now in place to allow him to produce his best stuff on it.
Finally, Sangmoon Bae is a class act whose small upturn in form - 27th followed by 43rd - is enough to earn him a place in the staking plan.
This two-time PGA Tour winner played Presidents Cup golf in his native Korea four years ago, before heading off to complete his military service at precisely the wrong time in his career.
That gives an indication as to his quality and we saw it in Boise last year, when a drop down to the Web.com Tour saw him remember that he's too good for that level and win nicely.
Bae's play over the last couple of events has been built on the putter, but that was the case when he won the Byron Nelson. He'd come alive on the greens a week earlier, ranking seventh, and carried that on to the next event and his PGA Tour breakthrough.
In an event which is really hard to get a handle on but which undoubtedly lacks depth, this one-time world number 26 could take enough of a step forward to contend.
Posted at 1020 BST on 25/06/19.