Dazzling debut: Low scores, large crowds aplenty at Rocket Mortgage Classic

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Detroit — The sun was shining on Thursday, temperatures were soaring, and the scores were low.

It was the opening round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the PGA Tour event more than five years in the making, and with fans lining the course at Detroit Golf Club, a better debut would be hard to envision.

Area 313 — hole Nos. 14-16 — was the hotspot as predicted and the players could feel the excitement all around the Donald Ross layout.

“We had a nice crowd all day,” said Rickie Fowler, the Rocket Mortgage brand ambassador who got things rolling by holing out for eagle on No. 17. “(Area 313) was early in our round, so we had more people for our back nine, which is the front nine today. It’s definitely nice to have the turnout we’ve had so far. I know we’ll have even more people tomorrow and I know the weekend’s sold out. It’s great to see the support here.”


Grounds tickets for the weekend have been sold out for the past couple of weeks, and judging by the crowds on Thursday, there will be no shortage of folks coming in for Friday’s second round.

The tournament doesn’t comment on specific attendance numbers, but officials did say the feedback they’ve been getting from fans has been nothing but positive.

It’s been the same sort of feeling from the players, who raved about the course during practice rounds and reveled in the low scores on Thursday.

Rickie Fowler hits out of the rough along the 13th green during the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club.

“Had a great time downtown, and the golf course is a lot of fun to play,” said Kevin Kisner, who shot 6-under 66. “We’re missing some of that aspect on the PGA Tour anymore, so we’re enjoying making some birdies once in a while.”

One hundred twenty-one players shot under par for the round, but few believed the prime scoring conditions would last.

“The golf course is a beautiful golf course,” Bubba Watson said. “It’s a great test. I think when the wind picks up it makes it even harder or more fun, however you want to word it. But the greens are where you get in trouble real fast, so that’s where you’ve got to pinpoint your irons in the right spot and then try to make a couple of putts here and there.

“I think as the week goes on you’re going to see the greens are going to firm up, the ball is going to roll out in the fairway a little bit, so it’s just going to make it a little bit tougher and you’re going to have to make sure you play for position.”

Added Kisner: “I think the course will start to show its teeth a little more as the week progresses and the greens can always get a little more difficult.”

While fans were happy to see the big names like Watson, Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland, they had some local flavor, as well.

Jackson native Brian Stuard shot a 6-under 66 followed by Petoskey’s Joey Garber, who finished with a 5-under 67. Former Michigan State golfer and Grand Rapids native Matt Harmon shot 1-under 71.

For Stuard, who played at Oakland University and won the 2016 Zurich Classic for his only PGA Tour victory, the opening round Thursday was the perfect way to showcase golf in his home state.

“I think it just kind of — you realize how great of a golf state Michigan is, how many great golf courses we have here,” Stuard said. “I think that, you know, not having a Tour event here the past how many years has been kind of a negative. But you just kind of miss out on some of these courses. Detroit Golf Club is such a great place.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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