Rocket Mortgage Classic First Round Predictions and Golf Picks

We’ve reached our final round of games for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which means it’s time to throw our darts!

Our first-round leading streak ended at one last week. After knocking out Cameron Young at the Open, we failed to identify Scott Piercy as the first-round leader at TPC Twin Cities. But, I have once again selected four players to return to this market at Detroit Golf Club.

From the weather reports, it looks like players who leave early will have an advantage, a key part of my handicap.

With that in mind, here are the four players I’m targeting at Rocket Mortgage Classic. All odds courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook and are reflected at the time of writing.

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Rocket Mortgage First Round Predictions

First round leader bet #1 – Denny McCarthy (+4500)

McCarthy has been playing terrific golf lately, posting three top-10 finishes in his last four starts.

More importantly, McCarthy finished Thursday T-10th or better in two of those four starts. Also, in his last start at John Deere, he finished T-5 on Thursday just four strokes off the pace of the first lap.

While he doesn’t have the greatest run history at the Detroit GC — an MC in 2021 to pair with a T-21st in 2019 — McCarthy ranks highly in my first-round statistical model. In his last eight opening laps, he is sixth overall in the peloton.

denny mccarthy travelers championship withdraws coronavirus
Denny McCarthy
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During this period, McCarthy’s greatest advantages are around the greens. He is 10th in birdies or better earned, ninth in SG: Par 5 and SG: Par 4 – 350 to 400 yards and fourth or better in both putting measures.

Additionally, McCarthy is fifth in SG:Total and first in SG:Put over his last eight opening rounds. Additionally, McCarthy tends to do well on Donald Ross designs – over his last 12 laps on the qualifying tracks, he’s seventh in SG: Total and first in SG: Putting.

For these reasons, I will support McCarthy at what I consider to be an excellent price.

First round leader bet #2 – Russell Henley (+5500)

Frankly, I’m shocked by this number on Henley, which I value much higher than his odds suggest.

This season on tour, Henley is tied for fourth in first-round points and third among players with at least 17 rounds. Moreover, this area seems to be a natural asset to Henley’s game as he ranked T-11th in the first round of scoring last season.

In terms of my statistical model, Henley ranks fourth overall in my 12-turn model and first overall in my 24-turn projection.

In the latter pattern alone, Henley is first overall in good drives earned, GIRs earned, and birdies or better earned. He also ranks fourth in SG: Approach and seventh overall in SG: Par 5’s.

Russell Henley
Russell Henley
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Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that – in his last 12 opening rounds on courses where scoring is “easy” – Henley is second in the pack in SG: Total while leading the pack in SG: Ball Striking.

If the Georgia product can just throw his putter, he should have a great chance to lead after Thursday in Detroit. Play it at +4500 or better.

First round leader bet #3 – Wyndham Clark (+6000)

Regular readers of this column will know that Clark has already burned me a lot, but I’m not ready to give it up.

Over his last 12 opening laps, Clark ranks third in the field in SG: Total and fifth in the field in SG: Putting. In addition, he is 16th in this period in birdies or better won and 21st in bogey avoidance. He’s also tied for ninth in first-round scoring on tour this season.

In terms of output in my statistical modeling, Clark ranks seventh in the field in my eight-round model. During that span, Clark is most impressive in birdie records — he leads the field in birdies or better earned — and in approach — 19th in SG:Approach.

Clark also ranks 13th in putting from five to 10 feet and 22nd in close range from 100 to 125 yards.

Finally, Clark has a decent record at Detroit GC. In his lone appearance in 2019, he finished tied for 17th. As for his first round, he shot a four-under 68, five shots off the pace that year.

Given his early start time, expect another strong showing Thursday from Clark.

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Denny McCarthy shoots.
Denny McCarthy shoots from the tee.
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First round leader bet #4 – Lee Hodges (+10000)

This is purely a value bet as my model rates Hodges much higher than his odds suggest.

Over his last eight opening rounds, Hodges ranks 19th overall in my statistical model. Even if he lacks strength on the approach (67th in SG: Approach), there are many other positive points to take into account. For example, he is 13th in good drives won, 15th in GIRs won and 17th in birdies or better won.

Also, if you look at Hodges’ last 24 opening rounds, he ranks eighth overall in birdies or better won, so we know he’s capable of scoring under favorable conditions. Additionally, if you consider his last eight opening rounds on courses with “easy” scoring conditions, he ranks ninth in the field in birdies or better earned.

While Hodges doesn’t boast a spectacular finishing record over the past few weeks, his first-round results remain strong. Dating back to the Charles Schwab Challenge, Hodges brings a 68.33 first-round scoring average to the Rocket Mortgage. That’s nearly a stroke and a half shy of his first-round scoring average throughout the season.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to take a flyer on Hodges at 100/1. While a lot has to go well, his ability to birdie quickly should give bettors a chance to cash in on that ticket.

About Teresa G. Wilson

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