The Area 313 Celebrity Challenge kicks off events at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Tuesday. The Detroit News
Detroit — Joey Garber better brace for some pretty hefty crowds. Garber, a Petoskey native and PGA Tour rookie, not only will have a bevy of friends and family following him around Detroit Golf Club this week — he’s also paired the first two rounds with one of the hottest young names on Tour, Viktor Hovland, whose professional career is just two weeks old.
“He’s a good dude,” Garber said Tuesday, after the tee times came out. “Played with him at Torrey (Pines). I’m looking forward to it.”
Hovland, 21, who’s from Norway, is coming off a decorated amateur career at Oklahoma State, and was this year’s low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open. He turned pro last week before the Travelers Championship, and is racking up the sponsor’s exemptions.
He will tee it up with Garber, 27, and Australian Cameron Davis, 24, who like Garber is a rookie on the PGA Tour this season. The threesome tees off on No. 10 at 8:25 a.m. Thursday, and then on No. 1 at 1:55 p.m. Friday.
It’s among the more intriguing groups for the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Here are seven others.
Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Keith Mitchell — 12:55 p.m. Thursday (No. 1), 7:25 a.m. Friday (No. 10)
Woodland committed to Detroit a long time ago, and there was barely a peep at the time. Then he won the U.S. Open, holding off Brooks Koepka in the process, and all of a sudden Rocket Mortgage Classic tickets starting selling at a rapid pace. Snedeker is no slouch, either, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion and a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, and Mitchell collected his first PGA Tour victory back in March, The Honda Classic.
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Chez Reavie — 1:05 p.m. Thursday (No. 1), 7:35 a.m. Friday (No. 10)
This is a big one here, with two major champions in Johnson (2016 U.S. Open) and Reed (2018) Masters, and two perennial members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Their personalities are different; Johnson is so cool and calm, Reed is more of an acquired taste (he did break a club at the U.S. Open). They’re joined by Reavie, who came to Detroit with the Travelers Championship trophy packed snugly in his luggage.
Bubba Watson, Billy Horschel, Hideki Matsuyama — 7:25 a.m. Thursday (No. 10), 12:55 p.m. Friday (No. 1)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a group with more collective talent than this one, led by Watson, who counts two Masters championships (2012, 2014) among his 12 PGA Tour victories. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares here. He shapes the ball a lot, and the doglegs are subtle here. Matsuyama, most believe, will win a major or two, though stunningly he hasn’t won since 2017. Horschel, meanwhile, won the FedEx Cup in 2014.
Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Charles Howell III — 7:35 a.m. Thursday (No. 10), 1:05 p.m. Friday (No. 1)
There won’t be any bigger gallery on the course the first two days than the one following this group, and that’s all because of Fowler — who’s not just the unofficial host of this tournament, he’s one of the most popular golfers on the planet, especially among kids. Expect a whole lot of Puma and orange here. He’ll be joined by Kisner, who won the WGC-Match Play in March, and Howell, who won the RSM Classic in November.
Ernie Els, Brian Harman, Sung Kang — 12:45 p.m. Thursday (No. 10), 7:15 a.m. Friday (No. 1)
Els, the “Big Easy,” was a late entrant into the field, committing just before last Friday’s 5:30ish deadline. It’s a treat for golf fans; while he isn’t the player he was, he is a legend, a Hall-of-Famer, who, you should remember, once went toe to toe with Tiger Woods. He’s won four majors, two British Opens and two U.S. Opens. Kang won the Byron Nelson in May, for his first PGA Tour victory. Harman, a lefty, has two PGA Tour wins.
Max Homa, J.B. Holmes, Cameron Champ — 1:15 p.m. Thursday (No. 10), 7:45 a.m. Friday (No. 1)
Here’s a rare group where each player has won on the PGA Tour this season. Champ, the young sensation out of Texas A&M who can hit the driver about a mile longer than you or I, earned his first PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farms in October. Holmes, a two-time member of the United States Ryder Cup team, won the Genesis Open at Riviera in February. And Homa got his first PGA Tour win at the Wells Fargo in May.
Danny Lee, Harold Varner III, Beau Hossler — 8:05 a.m. Thursday (No. 10), 1:35 p.m. Friday (No. 1)
These are three 20-somethings who haven’t won a whole lot yet — only Lee has a PGA Tour victory, at the 2015 Greenbrier — but don’t be surprised if they have many trophies between them before too long. Lee can go super low; Varner, one of the most popular guys on the PGA Tour, was squarely in the hunt at the PGA Championship for three rounds; and Hossler lost in a playoff to Ian Poulter at last year’s Houston Open.
Detroit Golf Club member Randy Gillary tours the course ahead of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The Detroit News