Rocket Mortgage Classic Picks, Tips and Hunches

The PGA Tour heads to Detroit this week for the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club.

This is the first of two new events in large markets on the PGA Tour this season. Next week the Tour debuts in Minneapolis. If you’ve watched 10 minutes of golf coverage this season you’ve certainly seen the Rocket Mortgage commercial featuring Rickie Fowler and the annoying, clueless TV golf announcer guy.

Hopefully this tournament, played on an excellent course designed by Donald Ross in 1916, will be more enjoyable to watch. The layout measures 7,334 yards features tree-lined fairways with thick rough and greens with the typical Ross slope, primarily tilting from back-to-front.

Accuracy off the tee will be important and we’re keeping that in mind as we field our lineup for PGA Tour Fantasy Golf this week. Last week in Hartford was similar to other recent efforts for the Greensky Shortgrass boys. We had one or two strong contenders near the top of the leaderboard joined by a couple of golfers in the middle-of-the-pack.

Our squad is 19th (out of 866) in the Caddyshacks group on the season and 58th in the segment, which reaches the third of 11 tournaments this week.

Kevin Kisner broke par in three of four rounds in Hartford last week. Perhaps that’s a good sign he’s returning to form. Rickie Fowler ranks high in the PGA Tour Fantasy Golf driving statistics on the season. Joaquin Niemann is a superstar waiting to blossom and he arrives in Motor City on a heater as well after a lackluster season thus far. Ryan Moore continues our trend of hot golfers after a top-10 in Hartford. Brian Gay and the lovable Rory Sabbatini, enjoying a resurgence for the ages, are on the bench.

We’re adding another feature this week for those who don’t mind plunking down a dollar or two on a golf tournament on occasion. For many years this came with a For Entertainment Purposes Only warning, however, gambling is alive and legal at everywhere, so place your bets and keep it fair.

We like any head-to-head action involving Moore or Kisner, having seen favorable matchups for both sprinkled across the internet.

Keep on Growing

Gary Woodland crushed the field at Pebble Beach last week and confirmed his position among the PGA Tour’s elite. His character and heart had already been revealed. Each interaction between Woodland and Amy Bockerstette should help us all strive to become better human beings. Their friendship formed earlier this year at the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.

They’ve remained in touch over the last five months and Woodland took a call from her minutes after his U.S. Open champion’s press conference, telling Amy he borrowed her familiar phrase, telling himself, “you got this” as he held off Brooks Koepka down the stretch to win his first major championship.

Woodland surprised her again Monday, joining her on set at the Today Show in New York City, trophy in tow.

Power gave Woodland a start on the Tour but his putting and pitching allowed him to finish last week at Pebble. He improved his short game by learning from top-flight instructors Pete Cowen and Phil Kenyon, taking what they taught him and going to work. He logged countless hours around the green improving his technique and building confidence.

Then he had to learn how to compete in major championships. Woodland missed the cut or withdrew in 9 of his first 27 major starts without a single top-10 finish. Dating back to last year’s PGA Championship, he’s finished in the top 10 in three of the last four.

Woodland has dealt with personal tragedy also. In 2017, Woodland’s wife Gabby suffered a miscarriage.

Golf Channel premiered its excellent two-hour documentary, Hogan, earlier this week, blending archival footage with observations and thoughts from modern golfers and writers. The anecdotes from Dan Jenkins are especially poignant because he knew Hogan, played golf with him, wrote about him for decades. Also, Jenkins is arguably the best to ever sit down at a keyboard and write about golf. He passed away earlier this year at age 90, but not before leaving us with institutional knowledge of professional golf unlike any other. So we’re grateful to have his insight. The film would’ve been incomplete without him.

Through the years, I’ve read most of the Hogan biographies, been down an internet rabbit hole or two, fascinated by the compelling life story a great champion. I know the facts. How he survived poverty and his father’s suicide, persevered through a slow penniless start to his pro career, survived a horrible auto accident in early 1949 and recovered to play golf for the next four years on a level few have ever matched (although Brooks Koepka is sure trying).

Still, the images and stories in the film are fascinating.

Removing a 7-iron because it wouldn’t be necessary – at a U.S. Open at Merion of all places – only adds to the Hogan mystique. His reluctance to grant interviews and protection of his privacy make us cherish the rare moments captured on camera.

Golf Films, the documentary division of Golf Channel, produced another winner, like its in-depth looks at the lives of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus before. I just wish they’d made it twice as long.

Watching what Hogan endured and overcame after the accident just so he could walk and then later return to tournament golf should be an inspiration to us all. I sprained my right hip last week during an overzealous workout. It was painful, aggravating and inconvenient, but healing comes in time with rest and perhaps those minor injuries are necessary on occasion. The respite reminded me to remain in tune with reality at this point in life. Sometimes, it’s wise to slow the train, cool out and reflect. So I had a bad golf round and missed a few workouts, others have climbed much steeper hills. Perseverance is perhaps the most valuable possession anybody can possess.††

I wrote two pieces for The Caddie Network last week. The website is just a year old and flourishing. If you’re a golf fan bookmark it and learn from the men on the bag.

I looked back at Tiger’s 2000 U.S. Open romp and weighed in on the ‘incident’ between Jordan Spieth and caddie Michael Greller, which was blown out of proportion on social media – shocking, I know.

On to Hartford and this week’s picks for Greensky Shortgrass, my entry in the Caddyshacks group of PGA Tour Fantasy Golf.

Last week was the first in this, the – can you believe it? – final segment of the 2018-19 season. The condensed schedule has made the season fly by and we’re 25 days away from the final major championship, The Open at Royal Portrush, which should be a phenomenal venue.

Greensky Shortgrass needs to soar on up the standings after last week’s dismal performance – 117th in the segment but still 20th on the season out of the 855 or so competitors.

Leading our lineup for this week’s Travelers Championship is C.T. Pan, who won in Hilton Head earlier this season and finished top 10 in this tournament in 2017. Charley Hoffman has 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s at Hartford. Paul Casey has back-to-back top-5s at Hartford while Patrick Cantlay seems to play well every week and has a solid track record in Cromwell. Ryan Moore and Kevin Tway are on the bench.

Picks and Thoughts on the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

My StarNews golf column has been cut back to every other week, for reasons beyond my control.

Not a problem.

I’ll use this space to fill in the gaps of local coverage and offer my weekly PGA Tour Fantasy Golf selections. I’m certain there are three or four folks out there who read them religiously. With only an hour or two before the first tee shot is struck at Pebble Beach, here goes.

The Greensky Shortgrass boys have fared well, ranking 17th (out of 864) in the 2018-19 PGA Tour Fantasy Golf season. We finished 18th in the most recent segment, which ended last week at the Canadian Open where Rory McIlroy was not on the roster but Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Henrik Stenson were and delivered good weeks.

This week, it’s the third major of the season and a new segment. The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach evokes incredible memories from across the decades, and it certainly feels like we’ll enjoy a strong leaderboard Sunday night in prime time on the East Coast as Father’s Day comes to a fitting close.

Tiger Woods is an obvious choice. Not only does he lead the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. He also won by 15 shots here in 2000 and was T-4 in 2010. Anytime it’s a second shot competition, Woods is a smart pick. Ditto, Dustin Johnson at Pebble Beach. He loves the course and has a bad taste to rinse away after whacking up a final-round 82 in 2010 to squander a three-shot lead. Jordan Spieth has shown life after a disappointing 15 months or so. He’s won at Pebble before and won a U.S. Open on the west coast. Tommy Fleetwood seems to always appear at the majors and we have reason to believe he’ll be on form early this week.

Where’s Brooks Koepka, you might ask? On the bench with Webb Simpson. Only because each tees off late in the first round. They’re likely starters in round two.

Tyndall wins North Carolina Open; Taylor ties for 2nd

Ryan Tyndall, a pro at the Reserve at Pawleys Island, shot 7-under at Trump National in Mooresville last week to win the North Carolina Open.

East Carolina golfer Blake Taylor, of Atkinson, tied for second at 6-under. It was the second consecutive runner-up finish for Taylor, who paired with ECU teammate Logan Shuping to reach the finals of the U.S. Amateur 4-Ball at Bandon Dunes in late May.