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Simpson, Matsuyama & Longshots to Go Low at Rocket Mortgage Classic

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

LAST WEEK ON THE PGA TOUR

With a loaded field and only a 65-golfer cut, there were a number of big names who missed the cut. Two of our five picks win, Gary Woodland and Scottie Scheffler, were among the golfers who missed the weekend along with the likes of Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson, and Collin Morikawa, who missed his first cut as a pro. However, three of our five picks to win made the cut, and our hot steak continued with Dustin Johnson hoisting the trophy. Sungjae Im finished tied for 58th and Xander Schauffele tied for 20th.

Now, it’s onto the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

THE COURSE

The North Course at Detroit Golf Club is a par 72 course playing 6,936 yards. There are four par 5s, three of which are the easiest holes on the course. It’s not a difficult golf course, and viewers should expect to see a barrage of birdies and consistently low scoring. In spite of the four par 5s, driving distance is nullified almost entirely at this course. It’s the lowest correlation to success among all of our metrics. Par 4 Strokes Gained, Par 5 Strokes Gained, Scrambling, and Putting are the most important metrics this week.

This week, we’ve added an additional column to our course graphic. Variance describes where players have the chance to gain the most strokes over the field. The par-4 16th is a good example of a hole where little excitement occurs at all. Last year, it featured 334 pars and 118 non-pars. Compare that to the par-5 17th where there were 208 pars and 244 non-pars. If you’re watching this weekend, it can be a handy tool for knowing what’s expected of a golfer when he approaches a hole.

GOLFERS WE LIKE THIS WEEK

First and foremost, our model and picks describe value. When we recommend golfers, we’re tipping those who are likely to outperform expectations. It’s unlikely that we’ll recommend top  PGA tour players such as Rory McIlroy or John Rahm every week, because they’re expected to do well. What we’re interested in are golfers who have the skills to overperform their odds, like Daniel Berger three weeks ago, Simpson and Ancer two weeks ago, and Johnson last week. The field is slimmer this week, and the favorites are much more likely to win. There isn’t as much value, so we’ll focus more on some longshots than the favorites.

TWO FAVORITES TO WIN

Webb Simpson

At 11/1 odds, you wouldn’t think we’d find any value here. However, we think a fairer price for him this week is down where Bryson DeChambeau is at in the 13/2 range. Simpson withdrew last week due to COVID-19 concerns, but he’s back in the field this week at another course that suits his game. He gains a ton of strokes on par 4s, is pretty good on par 5s, and he’s among the best scramblers on tour, converting more than 63% of his missed greens.

Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama disappointed with an early exit from the RBC Heritage, largely due to losing five strokes on the greens. He actually gained strokes with his ball striking, but it’s hard to overcome losing that many strokes putting. This course lines up well for Matsuyama, as he does his best work on par 4s and 5s, gaining 0.07 and 0.13 strokes over the field per hole, respectively.

FIVE LONGSHOTS TO SURPRISE

Harold Varner III

By the time this is released, there’s a good chance the market has adjusted to HV3, but his opening number of 100/1 is far too high. We’d expect his odds to settle around 70/1 before the tournament tees off. He’s coming off a T32 finish at the Travelers Championship. where he gained 7.53 strokes with his ball striking, which was fifth in the field. He’s hitting it about as well as anyone right now, and a birdie-fest tournament could be what he needs to get a trophy.

UPDATE: Varner is now at 66/1 odds to win, but his price on some DFS sites still reflects his opening line and is worth your attention there.

Mark Hubbard

Hubbard keeps on making cuts. Rarely do his odds get lower than 100/1, but he’s always playing on the weekends, and eventually it should lead to a win. He’s about as well-rounded a player as anyone on tour. He doesn’t do anything particularly special, but he’s good enough to rack up the birdies this week.

Maverick McNealy

McNealy was rolling before the break and has come back with mixed results. Like Hubbard, he’s a well-rounded golfer. Unlike Hubbard, he’s a little less consistent but has a greater variance on his scoring output. We introduced Super Hole last week, and McNealy’s 0.494 is just about into the range where we start to pay more attention to him. What tips the scales this week for us is his ability to score on par 5s. He gains 0.087 strokes per hole against the field.

Sebastian Muñoz

Muñoz let us down last week with a missed cut, but if you look under the hood, there was a lot to like about his two rounds. When looking at Shots Gained on Ball Striking, he gained 2.94 strokes over the field. That was 34th for the whole tournament, and only one player who had more SG: Ball Striking than him missed the cut. The missed cut has reduced his price a little, into a range where we’re happily backing him.

Lanto Griffin

Griffin came back from the break cold as ice, but he rounded into form last weekend. He gained strokes in all four facets of the game (Off the Tee, Approach, Around the Green, and Putting) last week, just one of 11 players to do so. Like McNealy, he’s spectacular playing par 5s, and with four of them on the course this week, Griffin could turn in a top-5 finish.

TWO SUPER LONGSHOTS TO WATCH

D.J. Trahan

Trahan’s rounds will depend almost entirely on how well he putts. Sometimes he looks absolutely lost on the greens, and last weekend was no exception where he lost four strokes in just two rounds. However, he’s a good ball striker, and his price is so low that he’s worth a small risk.

Tyler McCumber

McCumber snuck into the field as an alternate last week, promptly shot an opening-round 65 in a featured group, and then followed it up with a 73 to miss the cut by two strokes. In a weaker field, it’s likely he would have made the weekend, and a weaker field is what we have this week. Like Trahan, his putting has been bad, but if it gets hot, he could surprise on the leaderboard.

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