Detroit News sports writer Tony Paul on the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic after spending a day on the historic course. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News
Detroit — If you get there early enough and have a little bit of good fortune during next month's Rocket Mortgage Classic, you could find yourself seeing a whole lot of golf shots — and barely have to rotate your head, let alone your body.
From one spot on the course at Detroit Golf Club, you'll be able to see approach shots into the very reachable (for the pros, not you or me) par-5 14th hole, tee shots at the short par-3 15th hole, and tee shots at the medium-length 16th hole.
Organizers of the first PGA Tour stop in Detroit are banking on the three-hole stretch setting a new standard for fan experience.
Signature hole? Psshh. Every course has that.
"It's gonna be kind of the epicenter," said Jason Langwell, executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, set for June 27-30. "It'll create a stadium-like experience.
"Many other events have a signature hole. This is a three-hole stretch."
On the PGA Tour, as with any other business venture, branding is key, and they're showing no signs of slacking off on that front here.
That's why the stretch is being called "Area 3-1-3" — recognize the area code? — with a little twist thrown in. If a pro at any point over the four days manages to get an eagle on 14, an ace on 15, and a birdie on 16, then said pro is going to trigger a payout of $313,000 to charity.
The pro will get to designate half that payout to the charity of his choice.
It sounds unrealistic, and to be sure it is — because of the needed ace on 15. But at just about 150 yards, it is the shortest par on the course, and depending on the pin position, there will be plenty of close calls over the four days, if not multiple aces.
Want proof: At media day Tuesday — attended by a few good golfers, and dozens of very suspect ones — several shots were hit close on the par 3.
The 14th is a par 5, some 550 yards, with a modest Lake Andrew protecting the front of the green. We might white-knuckle that approach, but you can bet Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson sure won't.
"They will reach that with irons ... somehow," Langwell deadpanned.
Meanwhile, the par-4 16th is pretty straight forward, a little over 400 yards. There are lots of birdies in store for there, though you wouldn't know that from the ink-stained hacks who got a glimpse Tuesday.
So, you just never know. Some charity could be in line for a big, big payday.
And if not this year or any year, it's still mighty find branding by the Rocket Mortgage Classic folks, which strongly believes it's found its Xanadu in those three holes.
To kick things off in "Area 3-1-3," Fowler, the unofficial spokesman of the tournament as a Rocket Mortgage pitchman, and Johnson, the No. 2-ranked player, will participate in a scramble on those three holes the Tuesday before the tournament. Both Fowler and Johnson will be teamed with a few local celebrities.
"It'll be a ton of fun," Langwell said. "A really great opportunity, and a way for us to help build the brand."
Rocket Mortgage Classic
When: June 27-30
Where: Detroit Golf Club
TV: Golf Channel, CBS
Purse: $7.3 million