Rocket Mortgage Classic awards exemptions to three likely future stars

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — They're not the biggest names in golf.

But given the Rocket Mortgage Classic's history of picking sponsor's exemptions, there's a good chance they'll be a force on the PGA Tour in pretty short order.

Rocket officials announced Monday they are awarding sponsor's exemptions to Michael Thorbjornsen, Chris Gotterup and Cole Hammer into next week's fourth playing of the PGA Tour stop at Detroit Golf Club. A fourth exemption will be awarded to the winner of the John Shippen tournament, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, ahead of tournament week.

Michael Thorbjornsen has received a sponsor's exemption into the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

"Future stars start here," Jason Langwell, executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, said in a statement Monday. "We are thrilled to welcome Michael, Chris and Cole to Detroit."

Thorbjornsen, 20, is still an amateur — fifth in the amateur world rankings — and was named All-America after his sophomore season at Stanford. He won the 2021 Western Amateur and Massachusetts Amateur, competed in this year's U.S. Open, and finished fourth at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship, the highest showing by an amateur in the tournament's long history.

Gotterup, 22, recently turned pro after a decorated college career at the University of Oklahoma, where he won the Jack Nicklaus Award and was the NCAA's top-ranked player. He finished tied for 43rd at this year's U.S. Open, and he finished tied for seventh as an amateur at the Puerto Rico Open in March and tied for fourth at the John Deere Classic earlier this month.

Hammer, 22, also recently turned pro, after winning a national championship with the University of Texas. He's played three PGA Tour events and four majors, including the 2015 U.S. Open at the age of 15.

Not receiving an exemption was recent Michigan State grad James Piot, who seemed to be a shoo-in to receive one after winning the 2021 U.S. Amateur championship — until he signed on to play the LIV golf tour. Piot isn't a PGA Tour member so he faced no banishment for signing on with LIV, but LIV is holding its third tournament the same week as the Rocket Mortgage Classic, so he's obligated to play that.

Previous sponsor's exemptions awarded by the Rocket Mortgage Classic have gone to such players as Viktor Hovland (now ranked ninth in the world), Will Zalatoris (13th) and Sahith Theegala (62nd).

They gave one to Matthew Wolff in 2019, he nearly won the tournament in 2020 (runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau) and seemed on his way to becoming a force for years to come — but he fell off drastically, and also signed with LIV, giving up his PGA Tour membership. (DeChambeau, too, has joined LIV, giving up his PGA Tour playing privileges as well as his Rocket Mortgage sponsorship deal.)

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is set for July 28-31, the last event before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Tournament officials are expecting additional player commitments this week, following the British Open.

There will be 156 players in the field, including four from Monday qualifying at The Orchards.

Rocket Mortgage Classic

When: July 28-31

Where: Detroit Golf Club

Defending champion: Cam Davis

Tickets: Starting at $70; details at

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984