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Rocket Mortgage Classic Preview: 'Should Be A Shootout,' Says CBS Sports' Colt Knost

(CBS Detroit) -- The PGA Tour returns to Detroit for the third instance of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This year's field will face a Detroit Country Club course where the previous two winners went low. With the course largely unchanged and some recent weather to soften things up, this year's Rocket Mortgage Classic should be another birdie-fest.

The field set to take on the club's North Course is solid. The highest-ranked player is last year's champion, Bryson DeChambeau, at sixth. He shot 23-under in the debut of his new, bulkier physique. And that added strength helped him overpower the course. Can he do it again?

"This was kind of the first look at Bryson DeChambeau and his new power game he's brought in, the change in his body," says CBS Sports on-course reporter Colt Knost. "And he just absolutely destroyed the field last year, winning by three shots. And he's a heavy favorite again this week. So it'll be interesting to see if he can back that performance up that he had here last year."

Patrick Reed, ranked ninth, is the only other top-10 player showing up this week. Reed has four top-10 finishes since his win at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Webb Simpson, the world's 15th-ranked player, has only played in four events since the start of April, and three of those were majors. He'll look to improve on last year's eighth-place finish. Hideki Matsuyama, ranked 18th, has also found limited success since his April Masters win.

"There's a lot of big names," Knost points out. "You have Phil Mickelson, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler. Bubba Watson is in the field, along with Matthew Wolff, Max Homa. I think it's a very, very solid field, pretty top-heavy, but definitely a week where you could see maybe a lesser name really make a big splash and turn his season or career around."

The field will face a Detroit Country Club track that has yielded its fair share of birdies over the last two years. The Club's North Course, originally designed by Donald Ross, was updated in preparation for its inaugural event in 2019. A par-72 stretching to 7,370 yards, the Tour's oldest course is a bit of an anachronism on today's PGA Tour. It's a classic course in an age when venues are modernizing to counter the power game.

The North Course's front nine, lined with trees, is a little more challenging than the back nine. Any course will reward distance, but accuracy off the tee helps here as well. The opening hole, a 397-yard par-4, is original to the course, and tees off near the base of a bent oak that marked a Native American trail between Detroit and Saginaw. The fourth hole, one of two par-5s on the front nine and the course's longest, extends to 635 yards. The green is still very reachable in two shots.

On the back nine, the 14th, 15th and 16th holes came together a couple years ago to form 'Area 313,' where birdies can fly. Fans will be on hand again this year to create a festive atmosphere for a set of holes that provides some scoring opportunities. The series starts with a 555-yard, risk-reward par-5, depending on how it's approached. The 15th hole is a par-3 that plays longer than its 160 yards might suggest. The 16th hole, a 446-yard par-4, offers scoring opportunities for those who can navigate the green.

"It really sets up well for the guys that can bomb it, because they can cut a lot of the doglegs," notes Knost about the North Course. "They take the fairway bunkers out of play. And with the unfortunate weather they've had here in Detroit the last week, the golf course is going to play extremely soft, which makes these players just absolutely throw darts at these pins, and they're gonna make a lot of birdies. So, unless the wind blows, a lot, this golf course isn't going to have much defense. It's going to give up a lot of low scores and should be a shootout."

Here are the favorites:

Bryson DeChambeau (15-2)

DeChambeau is the defending champion at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He torched the field last year, in his only event at Detroit Golf Club. And he remains possibly the Tour's longest driver, leading in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. His last win came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he followed up with a tie for third at the Players Championship.

Hideki Matsuyama (14-1)

Matsuyama has only one top-10 finish this year, and that was his Masters win back in April. He's never cracked the top 10 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic either. In 2019, he finished 13th, and in 2020, he finished 21st. But Matsuyama has been relatively consistent on this course and played well on other courses designed by Ross.

Patrick Reed (14-1)

Reed has five top-10 finishes in his 15 events this year. That includes a win at the Farmers Insurance Open back in January. He's also playing relatively consistently, particularly around the green, where he ranks eighth in Strokes Gained: Putting. He missed the cut at last year's Rocket Mortgage but placed fifth the year before.

Watch the Rocket Mortgage Classic Saturday, July 3 and Sunday, July 4, 3:00 – 6:00 PM ET on CBS.


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