Who'll reign at the Rocket? Detroit News writers pick their favorites, dark horses

The Detroit News

Detroit — Come Sunday evening, as the sun starts to set on Detroit Golf Club, somebody will be popping champagne on the clubhouse's back patio. Two years ago, it was Nate Lashley, who added some beers, and then some more beers, to the celebratory menu, before enjoying a night on the town at MGM Grand Detroit. Last year, it was Bryson DeChambeau, whose hands were apparently so callous from booming moon shot drive after moon shot drive for four days, it took him, let's just say, a bit too long to unseal the cork.

The third Rocket Mortgage Classic starts Thursday, with a field of 156 players — two ranked in the top 10 in the world, 14 of the top 50, and a bevy of former major champions, three who've won them in the last calendar year, hence anyone dare suggest the field isn't strong.

Joaquin Niemann has four top-10 finishes but is still searching for his first win this season.

"It's still a strong field," DeChambeau said. "Anytime you've got players in the top 50, 100, they're still great players. We're all really good, we're within a couple shots of each other, so anybody can win."

So, who will it be this week?

The News' Tony Paul, Matt Charboneau, John Niyo and Craig Yuhas make their picks to hoist the 2021 trophy, and offer up some dark horses worth watching, too.

Tony Paul

Favorite: Matthew Wolff. It'd be easy to take Bryson DeChambeau, given the dominance he showed on the Donald Ross gem a year ago. But I wonder if there might be some scars from his Sunday meltdown at the U.S. Open. So, enter Wolff, who finished second to DeChambeau last year, and seems to be in a much better place these days after taking a two-month mental-well-being break. He also contended at Torrey Pines.

Dark horse: John Pak. He was a late entry, and most casual golf fans won't know his name, so allow me introduce you. He's the college golfer of the year, out of Florida State. And as Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa have proven in the last couple years, it doesn't take long for these young guns to win.

Matt Charboneau

Favorite: Bryson DeChambeau. Probably not worth overthinking this one, so we’ll go with the big-hitter. The defending champion is still simmering from a Sunday meltdown at the U.S. Open, and he’s vowed to hit the ball even farther this week. That’s an advantage most years, but especially so with the wet conditions this week.

Dark horse: Doc Redman. The feel-good story from two years ago when he won the Monday qualifier and finished second to Nate Lashley in the inaugural event, Redman has been playing well. He tied for second two weeks ago at the Palmetto Championship and could tap in to some good vibes this week.

John Niyo

Favorite: Joaquin Niemann. It's hard not to pick Bryson DeChambeau to repeat after the way he overpowered Detroit Golf Club a year ago. But I'm going with Niemann, who was my wild-card pick in 2019 and went on to finish tied for fifth in that first go-around. He's due for his breakthrough win and is among the tour leaders in driving distance, birdie average and par-5 scoring.

Dark horse: Cameron Tringale. A birdie-fest means a flock of contenders can come from just about anywhere, as Nate Lashley proved a couple years ago. Tringale's not that far under the radar, obviously, posting a couple of top-10s earlier this spring. But he has proven he can go low here and seems to have a good feel for the greens at DGC.

Craig Yuhas

Favorite: Joaquin Niemann. He’s been one of the most consistent guys on the PGA Tour for a while now, making the cut in nearly every event he’s played this year. He’s a good putting weekend away from winning. And it could be this week.

Dark horse: Kevin Kisner. Lost in the Bryson DeChambeau show last year was how well Kisner played, finishing third. He was tied for fifth last week at the Travelers Championship and should be feeling good about his game heading into this event.

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