Tain Lee leads list of Monday qualifiers for Rocket Mortgage Classic after playoff
Rochester — When Tain Lee knocked his approach to the first playoff hole to about 6 inches on Monday, he wasn’t quite ready to start making plans to play this week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
But as the 31-year-old from Irvine, California, wandered up to the green on No. 1 at Katke-Cousins Golf Course on the campus of Oakland University, he realized just how close the ball was. Moments later, Lee tapped in for birdie to lock up a spot in this week’s PGA Tour event that begins Thursday at Detroit Golf Club.
“I just know when you hit it tight it's always longer than it looks,” Lee said. “But this was the one time it was actually 6 inches, so I figured I can manage that. But even then, I managed to wipe my putter grip like 10 times before I had to putt.”
Nerves aside, Lee had no problem securing one of four spots in the Rocket Mortgage Classic that were up for grabs Monday. Florida’s Connor Arendell fired a 6-under 65 to finish first and make the Rocket field while Lee was in a group of nine golfers who each shot 5-under 66, leading to a crowded tee for the start of the playoff that was broken up into two groups — one with four players, the other with five.
Lee made the only birdie on the first hole while seven players made par. Ben Martin, who has played in 12 Tour events this season and ranks 165th in FedEx points, hit his approach to the first hole and was then informed he had already earned a spot in the Rocket Mortgage Classic based on his points.
Dan Wetterich from Cincinnati eagled No. 18 — the fourth playoff hole — to land the third spot while Justin Suh birdied the 18th the second time around — the eighth playoff hole — to secure the final spot ahead of Jay McLuen, who parred.
While the rest of the group played on past the first playoff hole, Lee began to process what has been a remarkable summer. He’d already Monday qualified for three events this season, and earlier this month at the Palmetto Championship, he found himself in third place after the second round and holding the solo lead on Saturday during the third round.
A tough stretch to close that round knocked Lee out of the lead, but he managed a pair of 71s on the weekend to finish in a tie for 14th in just his second PGA Tour event.
It all led to Lee’s play Monday at Katke-Cousins, including a tee shot right down the middle on his only playoff hole followed by a beautiful approach that set up the tap-in and a spot in his fourth PGA Tour event this season. Lee finished tied for 69th at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and tied for 59th at the Valero Texas Open in April.
“It means it means so much to me now,” the former Division III national champion said of playing the Monday qualifier. “That first one means a lot because you get to play in a PGA Tour event, but there's just so much on the line for me now that I didn't know about two weeks ago.
"So, yeah, I was nervous for sure on that first playoff hole.”
With Lee’s performance two weeks ago, he went from being No. 1,882 in the Official World Golf Rankings to 915. Now he’s starting to think about what it will take to earn a PGA Tour card for next season, something that would be aided by a good showing this week in Detroit.
“I’m just going to do the best I can because I figure there's no guarantee,” said Lee, who’s been playing the mini-tours for years. “You never know what's gonna happen with the points, so I'll be grinding over every shot this week. The first (goal is) make the cut and then get on to the weekend hopefully and see what happens.”
Wes Roach, who shot a 64 this month to hold the first-round lead at the Palmetto Championship, bogeyed the first playoff hole and was knocked out.
Ben Cook, who teaches out of Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland, Michigan, and was the low club pro at this year’s PGA Championship, bogeyed the seventh playoff hole to be eliminated. Hartland native Beau Breault carded a bogey on the same hole to get knocked out of the playoff while Traverse City’s Alex Scott was eliminated after a bogey on the fifth playoff hole.