Detroit — In a little less than two months PGA Tour golf will be back in Michigan.
More specifically, it will be playing within the city limits of Detroit for the first time.
It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the first discussions about the world’s top golf tour coming back to Michigan and playing in the city began roughly eight years ago. It was then that Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans approached the Tour with the idea.
At that time, there simply was no opening on the PGA Tour schedule. A few years later, when the The National hosted by Tiger Woods was looking for a title sponsor, Quicken Loans stepped in.
But they did so with a caveat — they wanted, eventually, to play golf in Detroit.
“They were really clear at that point in time — and their leader, Dan Gilbert, had made significant investments in Detroit and would continue to do so,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Thursday. “They were totally committed to their city and when the time presented itself they wanted to know that we would be open to bringing the PGA Tour back. So we said we would be. A lot of things go into that, but that is important and once the time was right we’d be open to it.”
That time is now.
The inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic will be played June 25-30 at Detroit Golf Club and Monahan was in town on Thursday to talk about the first-year event, one that is taking the area by storm.
“I go back to the community and the importance of sharing this story to the world at this point in time,” Monahan said. “The response … I’ve never seen an event, 55 days out, with one corporate, private hospitality structure on 18 left (available). This thing is basically sold out and that is remarkable.
“And a golf course that plays 7,300 yards, par-72, a great, classic golf course. We don’t get to play many 120-year-old golf courses, that is truly unique.”
A city like Detroit might not seem like the typical spot for a golf tournament. That’s exactly why it appealed to Monahan and the PGA Tour.
While running top-level golf is their business, so is making an impact on communities and Detroit stood out to them, something that was pushed by Gilbert and Quicken Loans’ commitment to the city.
“It’s the pride the people have in this city,” Monahan pointed to when asked why the tournament has already been getting plenty of support. “It’s the area and where it is in its life cycle and how it’s re-surging and how it wants to continue to push itself. To have a PGA Tour event coming back here after not having one since 2009, I think it’s creating an energy that is palpable 55 days out.”
The tournament has secured commitments from some big-name golfers, including Dustin Johnson, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, and Rickie Fowler, a Quicken Loans partner. Bubba Watson is another big name and that, Monahan says, is significant considering players have until a week before the event to commit.
Of course, every event, new or old, is looking for one name — Tiger Woods.
Tournament officials have been doing what they can to see that Woods plays in Detroit, but it’s likely that decision won’t come until late in the process.
It is clear that the Rocket Mortgage Classic would become an even bigger deal if the Masters champion decided to play. He’s had a long history in Michigan, regularly playing in the Buick Open when it was played at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc.
But even without Woods, the tournament is shaping up to be quite the event, one Monahan is excited about.
“I would tell you that you always want to have Tiger play in your event,” Monahan said. “But you’ve got 46 events in the course of the schedule and he’s going to play in 16-18 events. If you look over course of our schedule I think the depth of our player fields today — and look at the players that have committed thus far and the fact the community has responded. That’s all happened without knowing whether or not he’s going to play.
“So this event as a first-year event I think it is going to be remarkable and to me it will eclipse any prior first-year event. That’s in terms of crowd, in terms of charitable contributions that will be made, and I think you’ll have a great field. Having Dustin and Rickie committed this early is pretty exceptional, and that list is only going to continue to grow.”
Rocket Mortgage Classic
When: June 27-30
Where: Detroit Golf Club
TV: Golf Channel, CBS
Purse: $7.3 million
2018 winner: Inaugural event