There is no better time to consider adding bombs to your card than in a Birdie Fest like the Rocket Mortgage Classic. In 2019 Nate Lashley and Doc Redman were both alternates that needed to qualify the week-of to get into the field, and they went on to finish 1-2, so if that’s any indication, anyone in this field of 156 is capable of winning, or at least seriously contending, as long as they carry a hot putter. I’m pot-committed on Bryson DeChambeau this week, so that means I’ll be digging in for some longshot values more now than ever to jam him into some stars and scrubs lineups. Here’s a look at my favorite value bargains of the week at the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Pricing from Draft Kings
Patton Kizzire ($7,400)
Over the last 24 rounds, Patton Kizzire rates out #1 in SG: TOT on Easy Scoring courses. That alone is enough for me to get onboard with Kizzire at this price, and considering his game is elite in Approach (11th) and Putting (2nd), it’s no surprise to see that formula result in repeated success at birdie fest putting contests.
Kizzire has 2 T3s in his last 5 starts. That’s the optimistic way of looking at it. The pessimist in me would say that he comes into the Rocket Mortgage Classic having missed three consecutive cuts, one of them coming at the Palmetto Championship where he was a popular play and poised to make a run versus an equally hapless field. But in Kizzire’s defense, the Rocket Mortgage Classic will play more like the Byron Nelson birdie fest than any of those three most recent courses he’s faced. I really like TPC Craig Ranch as a comp for this week. We’re going to see similar wet conditions, an equally as bad field, and similarly low scores at the top of the leaderboard, ultimately rewarding the best putter that week as the winner. In Kizzire’s T3 finish at the Byron Nelson, he gained 6.5 strokes on Approach and 6.8 Strokes Putting. If he can repeat that once again at the Rocket Mortgage, he’ll be looking at another finish inside the Top 3.
Troy Merritt ($7,100)
Troy Merritt used to be a guilty pleasure bet of mine, but his sustained run of mediocrity since the COVID restart has warded me off for quite awhile. That was until the last couple months, however. Since then over his last 7 starts, Merritt’s fired off 3 T10s at the Valspar, Byron Nelson, and Charles Schwab. Over that same span, he’s missed only one cut, and has been leaning on his explosive putter during this heater, which ranks #1 SG: P L24. Normally I would fade a player who’s relied on a streaky putter to score well, but as we go into this week’s Birdie Fest, backing the best recent putter in the field doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Merritt has gained 2.9+ strokes putting in 6 of his last 9 events and has lost strokes putting in just one event over the last 3 months.
Beyond just the putting stats though, Merritt is popping in all the other key categories I’m looking at this week too. He’s one of only 10 players in the field to rate out above average in BoB Gained (15th), Opportunities Gained (7th), Scoring on Easy Courses (32nd), and Poa Putting (13), and of that list of 10, he’s by far the cheapest on Draft Kings.
Looking at course history, he finished T8 in his last appearance at the Rocket Mortgage, which is impressive considering he lost 3.6 strokes on Approach that week, so that plus the recent hot streak he’s been on suggest even more room for improvement this year. Beyond the Rocket Mortgage history, Merritt’s also got a T7 finish at the 3M Open to his name, an encouraging sign at the #1 comp course I’m looking at for Detroit Golf Club.
Rob Oppenheim ($6,400)
We’ve reached rock bottom here at thepgatout.com. I am writing up Rob Oppenheim as a player you should actually seriously consider playing on Draft Kings this week.
So here’s the deal. In a weak field, pure birdie fest, there’s going to end up being plenty of viable options in the $6K range, and especially if you’re someone like myself who’s looking to fit Bryson DeChambeau into your lineups, you’re going to need to dip deep into the $6K range. The easier the course gets, the more it levels the playing field for ball striking and emphasizes a good putting week. Oppenheim is one of few players down in this range who has the upside to catch fire with his putter. At the last pure Birdie Fest we saw on Tour, he gained 7.9 strokes putting at the Byron Nelson (finishing T26), and at the last Donald Ross Birdie Fest, he gained 5.9 strokes putting at the Wyndham Championship (finishing T15).
Rob Oppenheim is one of only 8 players in the field this week who ranks above average in Easy Scoring Conditions (26th), P4: 0-400 (39th), Good Drives Gained (63rd), BoB Gained (56th), Opportunities Gained (26th), and Putting (58th). For the $6K range especially, it’s the performance at Easy Scoring events that I’m trying to hone in on. I really don’t care if your recent form at courses like Muirfield Village, Torrey Pines, or Quail Hollow haven’t been great; the type of game those courses demand are not at all translatable to what’s needed to compete at Detroit Golf Club. Events like the Palmetto, Byron Nelson, Puerto Rico Open, AT&T Pro-Am, and The AmEx, however, do translate well as Easy Scoring events like the Rocket Mortgage, and that happens to be the list of all the events Oppenheim has made it through the cut at in 2021.
Oppenheim has gained strokes on the field in 67% of the rounds he’s played in Easy Conditions over the last 2 years, which is the 13th best percentage in this field. At this price, I’ll swallow my pride and take my chances on Oppenheim seeing the weekend in Detroit.
Sepp Straka (+10000)
There’s a first time for everything, and this sentence I’m about to type is without a doubt a first timer for me. There’s a lot to like this week about Sepp Straka!
I’m mostly ignoring Course History this week with so little data to go off of and the lack of course familiarity that’s been needed to dominate here historically. The two past winners here have already proven that course history isn’t a must, but it’s difficult to ignore that Straka’s T11 finish in 2019 and T8 finish in 2020 make him the only player in this field who’s finished inside the Top 20 in every Rocket Mortgage Classic ever. He even gained strokes in all 4 major SG categories in both past appearances here.
Straka’s been a great putter on Bent and Poa over the course of his career, so it makes sense that he would find success putting on this track which features a blend of both grass types; he’s gained 2+ strokes putting in both of his Rocket Mortgage appearances. It also makes sense then, that he would enjoy similar success on the same blended Poa/Bent grass at TPC River Highlands, where he just went on to finish T10 at last week, gaining 2.3 strokes putting.
Sepp Straka is an Easy Course killer, ranking 9th in the field in easy scoring conditions. If the putter continues to stay hot on these mixed Poa/Bent surfaces, look for Straka to remain in contention once again in Detroit this week.
Sebastian Munoz (+11000)
It’s not often I endorse the Thursday GOAT for 4 rounds, but we also don’t often face a course that asks you to go low for 4 rounds to compete, and going low is what Mr. Munoz does best, so as an outright flyer, why not?
If this week goes on to become the putting contest we expect it to be, you’re going to want outright exposure to severely volatile, streaky putters with the ability to get white hot. Well, Sebastian Munoz ranks 8th SG: P over the last 24 rounds, and that’s entirely credited to the 10.2 (!) strokes he just gained on the greens 4 starts ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He also ranks 36th in Birdies or Better Gained, 9th in Prox 100-125, and 3rd in P4: 350-400, all great indicators for success at this week’s event. Bogey Avoidance (106th) has been the problem area that’s prevented Munoz from sustaining runs at the top of the leaderboards, and more importantly, holding him back from closing a First Round Leader push in 2021, but a course as easy as Detroit Golf Club should mitigate those blowup opportunities and allow Munoz to focus on what he does best: making birdies.
Cameron Davis (+16000)
I remember my first instinct at the AT&T Byron Nelson was to scroll down the board to find Cameron Davis and lock him into my core. The man has always been a DK Scoring machine, especially on Par 5s, and always brings Birdie or Better upside with him. Unfortunately to my disappointment, he chose not to tee it up at TPC Craig Ranch, so instead, this will be the first opportunity we’ve had to play Cam Davis in a pure Birdie Fest since The AmEx, where he went on to finish solo 3rd with a score of -20, his best finish of the season.
Davis joins the same elite company as Rob Oppenheim, gaining strokes on Easy Courses 67% of the time over the last 2 years. Those results are highlighted by the aforementioned T3 at The AmEx, a T6 at Sanderson Farms, T12 at the 3M Open, T14 at the AT&T Pro-Am, and a T15 at the Wyndham Championship, all within the last calendar year. His recent results haven’t been astounding with just one T30 in his last 5 starts, but that’s been almost entirely the fault of his poor Around The Green game, which was accentuated at grinder events like the Memorial, Charles Schwab, PGA Championship, Wells Fargo, and Valspar. Davis won’t have to worry about any of that at this week’s birdie fest, though. He’s gained 5+ stroke putting in 2 of his last 6 starts, so as long as he can reach a high percentage of greens in regulation, he’s going to be a threat to go very low this week.