Will Zalatoris headlines first wave of Rocket commitments; here's who's joining him

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Five golfers in the top 50 in the world rankings, including U.S. Open and PGA Championship runner-up Will Zalatoris, are among the first wave of commitments to next month's Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Zalatoris (world No. 12), Tony Finau (17), Kevin Kisner (31), Cameron Young (32) and Justin Rose (47) were announced Wednesday morning as having committed to Detroit's lone PGA Tour stop, set for July 28-31 at Detroit Golf Club.

Rocket Mortgage paid ambassador Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and defending champion Cam Davis also announced their commitments Wednesday.

Will Zalatoris catches his ball on the eighth hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club, Friday, May 20, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla.

This is a later-than-normal first wave of commitments for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, a delay attributed to two key factors: The emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour, which has lured eight of the world top 50 away from the PGA Tour, including former Rocket Mortgage spokesman Bryson DeChambeau and regular Rocket Mortgage Classic participant Patrick Reed; as well as the tournament's new place on the calendar, immediately before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The controversial LIV tour is playing a tournament opposite the Rocket, in New Jersey.

“We are excited to announce such an accomplished group of players joining us in Detroit this summer, and this is only the beginning of our player commitments,” Jason Langwell, executive director of the RMC, said in a statement Wednesday. “Having golfers of this caliber commit to play in the Rocket Mortgage Classic speaks to the momentum that we are building and the desire of top players to be part of our event."

Zalatoris, 25, is the headliner of the early commitments, given his performance in major championships since arriving on the PGA Tour last year. He has yet to break through with a win, but has six top-10 finishes in his eight major-championship appearances. On Sunday, he lost by a shot to U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. He has eight top-10 finishes in 18 PGA Tour tournaments this season.

Finau, 32, is a two-time PGA Tour champion who has five top-eight finishes in majors in the last three years. This will be his second Rocket Mortgage Classic appearance, finishing tied for 53rd in 2020.

Kisner, 38, has won four times on the PGA Tour, most recently at the 2021 Wyndham Championship. He's played the Rocket Mortgage Classic every year, finishing third in 2020 and tied for eighth in 2021.

Young, 25, a teammate of Zalatoris' at Wake Forest, appears to be one of the game's top up-and-coming players, with five top-three finishes this season, including a tie for third at the PGA Championship.

Rose, 41, is the biggest name announced Wednesday, as the 2013 U.S. Open champion and former No. 1 player in the world. A five-time Ryder Cup participant, this will be his first appearance at the Rocket.

Day, 34, like Rose, is a former No. 1-ranked player in the world, and a former major champion (2015 PGA Championship). This will be his third straight appearance in Detroit he finished tied for 14th in 2021.

Kuchar, 44, a five-time Ryder Cup and five-time Presidents Cup player with nine PGA Tour victories, will be making his Rocket Mortgage Classic debut.

Davis, 27, broke through in a big way in Detroit last year, earning his first PGA Tour victory in a five-hole playoff. He has three top-10s this season.

Fowler, 33, has served as unofficial tournament host since the inaugural event in 2019. The five-time PGA Tour winner's best finish here was tied for 12th in 2020. 

Rocket Mortgage Classic officials have been waiting patiently for commitments amid the changing landscape of golf, with several big names — DeChambeau, Reed, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Abraham Ancer and, most recently, Brooks Koepka — taking big-time money to play on the LIV tour, a decision that has earned them banishment from the PGA Tour and cost them sponsorships. Rocket Mortgage axed DeChambeau after his exit. Mickelson, whose beef with the media brought national attention to last year's RMC, reportedly received $200 million from LIV/

Fowler has expressed some interest in the LIV tour, though has said he remains committed to the PGA Tour for now. Bubba Watson also disputed early reports he would join the Saudi-financed tour and had said he plans to again play Detroit, where he's raised a lot of money for the tournament's primary charities. But Watson suffered a torn meniscus in late May; he was expected to return by early July, but that's still TBD.

Being the week before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs also has led to complications. Many players are waiting to set their schedule until they have a clear picture of their standing in the season-long points race, which awards $75 million in bonus cash, $18 million to the winner.

Michigan's two PGA Tour card-holders, Brian Stuard (Jackson/Oakland) and Ryan Brehm (Traverse City/Michigan State), also will play in Detroit.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984