Rickie Fowler avoiding 'full-court press' with pals over Detroit tournament

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Dublin, Ohio – Rickie Fowler is giving some gentle nudges. That’s about the best way to describe it.

While the 10th-ranked player in the world is all in for the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic as the company’s PGA Tour pitchman, he’s laying off putting a ton of pressure on some of his high-profile pals to join him when the tournament takes place June 27-30 at Detroit Golf Club.

Rickie Fowler

“Not any hard convincing,” Fowler said Wednesday at Muirfield Village after completing his pro-am round for this week’s Memorial Tournament. “I’ve talked to a few of the guys and I know Rocket wanted to try and get as strong of a field as they could.

“I never want … I’m not putting the full-court press on anyone. I tell them about it and if it fits the schedule then we’d love to have you guys there and be part of the tournament. But at same time you want guys to be comfortable and play the schedule they want to and what they’ve set out. So if it doesn’t fit somebody’s schedule, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s gonna be a great tournament with a good field and I think it will be a successful first year.”

It’s not like the field is void of big names roughly a month out from the first shot being hit. Fowler will be joined by Dustin Johnson, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, as well as No. 9 Xander Schauffele, whose commitment was announced on Tuesday. Also among the players already set to appear are Bubba Watson (No. 18), Gary Woodland (No. 22), Kevin Kisner (No. 27) and Billy Horschel (No. 42).

But there are some marquee names still out there. Of course, every tournament is hoping Tiger Woods will play, but he’s notorious for waiting until the deadline to commit. On Wednesday, he was giving no hints of his plans beyond the U.S. Open in two weeks at Pebble Beach.

Fowler is tight with players the likes of sixth-ranked Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith, who has climbed to 29th in the world after a rough start to the season. Thomas and Speith are playing with Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds of the Memorial this week and it’s hard to gauge whether either will play in Detroit.

Thomas is playing for the first time since the Masters because of a wrist injury while Speith has put together back-to-back top-10 finishes in each of the past two weeks, including a tie for third at the PGA Championship. His only commitments after this week are to the U.S. Open and the British Open, making a trip to Detroit possible.

“I think I made progress this week,” Speith said after an eighth-place finish last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge. “I know exactly what I need to work on before I start … next week in my swing to make it even better. I've just got to get some repetitions in with it to fine tune it. It was the best I drove the ball for sure. It's just the shots I missed were because I overdid what I was trying to do. I didn't trust I was doing it right.”

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For Thomas, the upcoming schedule likely won’t change because of his injury. He’ll play the U.S. Open, then is committed to the Travelers Championship the week before the Tour stops in Detroit. Playing three straight weeks seems unlikely coming back from a wrist injury, but Thomas declared himself healthy on Wednesday.

“I’m great,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. That’s the reason I took the time off when I did. … It’s great to come back to a place that’s as close to home as I could possibly get and a place that I’ve played a lot and I enjoy.”

While his pals are still up in the air, Fowler is clearly looking forward to playing at Detroit Golf Club. It’s something he knows the folks at Quicken Loans have been looking forward to for years and he’s happy to be a part of PGA Tour golf returning to Michigan for the first time since 2009.

Jordan Spieth

“It’s been fun to kind of see that partnership grow over the years (with Rocket Mortgage),” Fowler said. “I’ve enjoyed it and see the commitment of Dan Gilbert and everyone involved with Rocket to help revitalize Detroit a little bit and bring it back to where it once used to be.

“I think having the Tour get back to having an event there after it’s been 10 years since a tournament was there, I think it’s gonna be a great week. I’m looking forward to it.”

Fowler said he hasn’t spent much time with Gilbert, and despite the stroke the Quicken Loans founder suffered this week, Fowler is still hoping he’ll be recovered in time to make it out to the tournament.

“I’m looking forward to spending some more time around him and with what he’s doing in Detroit and trying to turn it into what it used to be and turning around some of the parts of downtown and the surrounding areas and bringing some life to the area, so it’s been cool to see,” Fowler said. “Hopefully we’ll get some good time together, maybe the tournament week.”

It’s a week Fowler hopes also comes with his second victory of the season. He won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February and had consecutive top-10s at the Masters and the Wells Fargo Championship. He missed the cut last week but is looking for a turnaround at the Memorial, a tournament he’s twice finished as the runner-up.

If it all puts him in a position to win next month in Detroit, all the better. Even so, he’s confident it will be a successful week.

“We can hope for some good weather because I know we’re gonna have a great fan turnout,” Fowler said. “It’s obviously a great sporting town and I know they’ve missed having golf up there. To be partnered with Rocket and have that relationship and be involved with the tournament, everything seems to be heading in the right direction. It’s gonna be a fun week.”

Rocket Mortgage Classic

When: June 27-30

Where: Detroit Golf Club

TV: Golf Channel, CBS

Purse: $7.3 million


Twitter: @mattcharboneau