DETROIT — The leaderboard has looked different every day at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which means we should be in for an interesting final round on Sunday.
Last year’s winner, Nate Lashley, went wire to wire to win the tournament, which won’t be replicated this time around. In fact, Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Wallace are the only players currently in the top 10 who were in the top 10 after the first round.
Anything can happen in the final round, so here are five players to watch as we come down the stretch in Detroit:
Simpson, who won two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage and withdrew last week after a member of his family tested positive for the coronavirus, has been hitting his irons well and it showed in his second round on Friday, when he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation. The one green he didn’t hit, he knocked it in from the bunker and made birdie anyway.
He credits his solid iron play to some work on the range he and caddie Paul Tesori did after his first round at Colonial.
“We went to the range after the round and we just started doing an old drill that we’ve kind of done throughout me and Paul’s time together, just in and out of it, but we started doing it again, saw results that second round,” Simpson said. “Even though I missed the cut, I still hit it a lot better and I think doing that just simplified my mindset when I go to the range and when I go to the golf course of what we’re trying to do.”
Great approach shots are crucial at Detroit Golf Club, which we saw last year when Lashley made 22 of his 28 birdies from 10 feet or less. Simpson is loose, hitting the ball well and he is also first on the tour this season in fourth-round scoring average.
Hovland, 22, has been quietly moving up the leaderboard each round. He was tied for 46th after the first round, then jumped up 26 spots to T-20. Back-to-back scores of 67 have propelled him into the top 10 and it feels like Hovland has another good round in him.
After his round Saturday, Hovland said he thinks he could’ve had a lower score than what he came out with.
“The first six holes were pretty slow. I actually did a good job just kind of keeping myself at even par. Made a good save on 5 and 6, just really wasn’t hitting it very good,” Hovland said. “But I made a nice birdie on 7 and made a nice one on 8 to kind of get me going. Made another nice putt on 9 and that’s when I kind of, like, you know, OK, play a good back nine and just keep plugging at it. So, all in all, it was a pretty solid day, but definitely could have shot a little lower.”
He hasn’t received a ton of attention, but he finished T-11 at the Travelers Championship the week prior and T-21 at the RBC Heritage before that. He has been slowly moving forward and progressing with his game, so this could be an opportunity for him to put it all together and get a win.
Wallace hasn’t received the attention he did at the Travelers Championship after deciding to continue playing in the tournament. His two playing partners withdrew after the first round; Denny McCarthy tested positive for COVID-19 and Bud Cauley didn’t feel well and pulled out. So Wallace played his Friday round all by himself, then missed the cut.
After his first round on Thursday, Wallace felt some confidence about where his game was headed, especially on the greens.
“I think I said then it was the best I was playing and I wasn’t putting very well, and now you get the putter back and this game’s all about putting,” Wallace said. “I kind of forgot it over time, but this game’s all about putting. Yeah, got the putter going and able to shoot a score.”
He has moved on and now has three rounds in the 60s at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He’s 4 shots off the lead and has the distractions behind him. This seems to be the first tournament since golf returned that he has been able to put together a complete week, and he now has a chance to finish it off strong.
In his third round on Saturday, DeChambeau didn’t miss a single fairway in his first 10 holes while averaging 324.1 yards off the tee. He has said he still feels as though he’s at his B-game and he has another level he can hit, but he is playing some good golf.
He has finished in the top 10 in every tournament he has played in since the return of golf and again has himself in position to win. While his driving distance keeps turning heads, the greens remain the main challenge at Detroit Golf Club. In what might be a surprising stat, through his first two rounds, DeChambeau was second in strokes gained putting behind Maverick McNealy.
After his third round, DeChambeau said he is close to getting to where he wants to be, but knows there’s still something missing.
“To get to my A-game, it’s going to have to be way more comfortable with my driver and more repeatable with my driver,” DeChambeau said. “Obviously it’s not bad, right, but I feel like there’s another level. I felt that before and I want to reach that level. And then my iron play, I need to figure out why I’m hitting it on the heel and missing it a little right every once in a while. That’s something I need to clean up.”
He birdied four of his last six holes on Saturday and has only one bogey his past two rounds. If he can put all phases of his game together on Sunday, he is going to be tough to beat. He hasn’t faded in the final round this season, sitting at fourth in final-round scoring average.
Wolff surged up the leaderboard Saturday with consecutive 64s. He missed the cut at the Travelers Championship and RBC Heritage, so this might be the tournament he puts it all together and comes out on top.
He seemed loose on Friday and Saturday and has the confidence he needs to help him go low.
“Yeah, it was a great round of golf out there today. I heard an ice cream truck circling the property and seemed like every time I heard that, I had made birdie or made a putt, so I’ve got to give a lot of credit to that,” Wolff said. “I think on the fifth hole I made that long one — more birdies, more ice cream, so that was my mindset from that point on and probably going to be the same one [Sunday].”
He wasn’t thinking about the cut Friday, but he is certainly thinking about winning on Sunday.