Who'll tee it up in Detroit? Tournament brass recruiting PGA Tour's stars
Here's what we know, so far, about the PGA Tour's first-ever tournament to take place inside the city limits of Detroit:
The Rocket Mortgage Classic will be June 27-30. It'll be at Detroit Golf Club, the historic Donald Ross beauty located south of Seven Mile and west of Woodward Avenue. The course will play more than 7,300 yards, longer than average for a PGA Tour course. And the prize money will total $7.3 million, right at average for full-field, non-major championships.
And here's what we don't know:
Who the heck is going to be playing in the tournament?
Well, that remains a work in progress, and one that likely won't start coming into focus until after the Masters in early April, according to tournament executive director Jason Langwell, who, along with Quicken Loans executives, has traveled to five PGA Tour tournaments — including the starry-field Phoenix Open and Genesis Open in recent weeks — to meet with players and agents and start making the pitch for Detroit.
Langwell described an "excellent" response from his early interactions.
"We are very encouraged about the enthusiasm we feel from players and agents," Langwell said prior to attending the Genesis Open in Los Angeles last week. "We expect to make some announcements in the next month or so about some early commitments."
Typically, for a June tournament, commitments for some of the bigger names would've already started rolling in by now. But this season is a different animal, given the PGA Tour's altered and condensed schedule.
This season, the PGA Tour moved its signature event, The Players Championship, from May to March, because the PGA Championship is moving from August to May. That means there's one major every month from April through July.
Because of the new schedule setup, many players are taking a wait-and-see approach with their commitments, Langwell said. They're searching for a "new normal," he said.
Detroit does have plenty going for it, in terms of attracting some of the game's biggest names, however.
For starters, its place on the schedule is a plus. The June 27-30 dates put it two weeks after the U.S. Open, and three weeks before the British Open. Many players prefer not to play the week after a major championship, or the week before. And most players won't take the entire month of between majors, either. Of the four PGA Tour stops between the season's third and fourth majors, Detroit boasts the biggest purse, edging out the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., by $100,000. Two of the other three, the Travelers and the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., typically haven't been big draws, while the other tournament, the 3M Open in Blaine, Minn., is a new Tour stop.
There also has been a lot of buzz about the PGA Tour's commitment to Detroit, which hasn't been lost on the players.
It's not just about the tournament itself, though. Many players choose which tournaments they play in based on extracurriculars, particularly what events or activities there might be planned for wives and/or children, said Lake Orion's Tom Gillis, a longtime player on the PGA Tour who now plays on the Champions Tour.
In announcing its sponsorship of the PGA Tour tournament, Quicken Loans officials pledged that tournament week will include lots of entertainment, including concerts.
Other perks, like luxury courtesy cars or prime sports tickets (the Tigers are home that week, vs. the Rangers and Nationals), also are welcomed by the PGA Tour's stars.
"The response has been excellent to putting a Donald Ross design on the schedule and the player/player family experience we have planned," Langwell said. "Those are just a couple of examples of the things that come up in conversations with players that they are responding excellent to.
"This has us excited about an excellent response to commitments."
Langwell said he expects commitments to start picking up steam between the Masters, set for April 11-14, and the PGA Championship, set for May 16-19.
It's never too early to start speculating, however.
For instance, you can bet the house on Rickie Fowler, the No. 9-ranked golfer in the world and a pitchman for Rocket Mortgage, being in the field. Jason Day, the 11th-ranked golfer, lives in Ohio, is a season ticket-holder for Dan Gilbert's Cleveland Cavaliers, and would make sense as an entrant. The resurgent Tiger Woods was a regular at the old Buick Open in Grand Blanc, as well as The National, which Quicken Loans sponsored for five years before landing the Detroit tournament. Then again, Woods was sponsor-committed to the Buick, and at The National, his charity foundation was the beneficiary, so stay tuned on that front.
Jordan Spieth? Dustin Johnson? Phil Mickelson? Hold, please.
Justin Thomas? Brooks Koepka? Bryson DeChambeau? All three could be tough sells, given they have committed to playing the Travelers the week before. Combined with the U.S. Open, that'd be at least three consecutive weeks of competition should either of them decide to play in Detroit, too.
Now, there's another little caveat that is working in Detroit's favor, and that's the PGA Tour's strength-of-field rule, which was instituted a few years back. The PGA Tour, in an attempt to boost the draws for some of its more lackluster tournaments, installed a requirement that, while complicated, basically says if you're a full-time PGA Tour member, you have to add a stop that you haven't played the previous four seasons.
Given Detroit is a brand-new stop, that would be a qualifier for just about everyone (that said, so would the 3M Open). The only exceptions to the rule: If you've already scheduled at least 25 PGA Tour tournaments, you don't have to add a previously skipped stop; and the rule doesn't apply to players with at least 20 PGA Tour wins, a minimum of 15 years on the PGA Tour, and who are 45 or older, such as Mickelson.
There also is the possibility that the field could be modest this year, and then get better deeper into the PGA Tour's four-year commitment to Detroit, as the best of the best take a wait-and-see approach — with regard to things like how the course plays (birdies galore?) and the fan support (the bigger and rowdier, the better).
Tickets will go on sale in the coming weeks.
For what, we know.
For whom, stay tuned.