Detroit's Rocket Mortgage Classic has staying power; extension deal reached

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Rocket has no plans to fizzle anytime soon.

The PGA Tour, Rocket Companies and Detroit Golf Club members have reached agreement on an extension of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation who isn't authorized to speak publicly ahead of Monday's expected official announcement.

The new deal is expected to run through 2026 with an option for 2027.

Cam Davis celebrates with his caddie after he hits an eagle out of the sand trap on hole No. 17 during the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, which he won in a five-hole playoff.

The 2022 RMC, set for July 28-31, will be the fourth in the tournament's run. The Tour determines event dates annually. The original contract between the PGA Tour and Detroit Golf Club called for a four-year deal.

Detroit Golf Club's membership voted on the extension this week, and while results haven't been announced and there were dissenters who aren't keen on the course's closure for the lead-up, tournament and followup weeks, the decision has long been a foregone conclusion for a club that has benefited greatly from the exposure the tournament has brought, most notably a rise in members.

Rocket Companies sent out a news advisory at noon Friday for a press conference at DGC on Monday. Rocket ambassadors Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson will attend the press conference, held the same day as the Rocket's Fall Classic, held for tournament sponsors and supporters.

The tournament, the first the PGA Tour has ever hosted inside the city limits of Detroit, has had an up-and-down run. The first year, 2019, drew large galleries — perhaps more than 40,000 for the week — while the second, in 2020, had no galleries because of COVID-19. This year's tournament, over July 4 weekend, brought fans back, with officials claiming attendance numbers were on par with the inaugural tournament — Phil Mickelson's presence, and the ensuing drama he helped stoke in a battle with the local media, certainly helped there — though the PGA Tour doesn't release official figures.

Other star players like DeChambeau, Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Matthew Wolff, Hideki Matsuyama and Max Homa, among others, have played in the Rocket Mortgage Classic over the course of the three-year run. The course, an old Donald Ross classic (which the grounds crew, miraculously, made playable this July, despite relentless rain for several days before and during competition), and tournament officials' hospitality have drawn rave reviews from players who have competed.

Also in the tournament's three-year run, the Rocket Mortgage Classic has raised more than $4 million for local charities, including for the event's new chief mission, to end Detroit's digital divide by 2025. The 2020 tournament raised more than $2.7 million — more than twice the 2019 total — despite no ticket sales. The 2021 charity haul will be announced in late October.

It long was billionaire Dan Gilbert's vision to bring the PGA Tour to the city of Detroit, and in 2019, after years of Rocket sponsoring the PGA Tour and five years of sponsoring a tournament outside Washington, D.C., to the tune of tens of millions it finally happened.

That marked the PGA Tour's first annual stop in Michigan since the Buick Open, in suburban Flint, closed up shop after the 2009 tournament, amid the financial crisis that crippled the nation's automakers.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic already is the second-longest-running annual PGA Tour event in Michigan history, behind the Buick Open, which was played for a half-century. The Western Open was held eight times, non-consecutively, at various courses, from 1904 to 1961, while the Motor City Open also was held eight times, non-consecutively, at various courses, from 1948 to 1962.

RMC champions have included Nate Lashley, DeChambeau and, this past year, Cam Davis in a playoff.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984