It has been a tumultuous year for pro golf since the PGA Tour was last in Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The defection (and subsequent blacklisting) of dozens of pros to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series has depleted the PGA’s star power, with the new tour’s third event (at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey) teeing off head-to-head with the fourth annual outing at Detroit Golf Club.
That includes notable names such as former Rocket Mortgage frontman Bryson DeChambeau and fan favorite Phil Mickelson, decamping for the big (and guaranteed) money of the new competition.
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And yet, the highest finisher in last year’s tournament to make the jump is Jason Kokrak, who finished tied for 12th. The 11 golfers who finished ahead of him are all still on the PGA Tour (at least for now). Only five will be returning to Detroit.
Here’s how those top 11 have fared on tour since the PGA’s most recent visit to Detroit.
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T-8: Kevin Kisner
Last season: The Georgia alumnus finished his 2020-21 season with a lot of whiffs — three finishes of 63rd or worse, plus a missed cut — and one big win — taking his fourth career title (and first since 2019) at the Wyndham Championship with 66s in the final two rounds in August in Greensboro, North Carolina.
This season: Kisner has been equally hit or miss — birdie or bogey, in golf terms, we suppose — with nine missed cuts (including a stretch of four straight, two of them majors, in May and June) and five top-10 finishes. His best finish: Second place in match play at the World Golf Championships in Austin, Texas, in May. Still, he has rediscovered his mojo over the past month, coming into Detroit with a T-6 finish at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and a T-21 finish in the British Open at St. Andrews last weekend. He’ll be back in Detroit this week.
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T-8: Seamus Power
Last season: Power also got hot soon after his time in Detroit; after tying for eighth the next week, he won the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky in mid-July. That included an opening-round 65 and back-to-back 67s to force a playoff with J.T. Poston at 21 under par. Power prevailed with a par on the sixth playoff hole — the fourth time he and Poston played No. 18 in the playoff.
This season: Power’s season peaked with a tie for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, though he has four other top-10 finishes. He has also missed the weekend nine times, including at St. Andrews last weekend. He won’t be trying to make the cut in Detroit, however; he’s skipping the Classic for the first time in four years.
T-8: Sungjae Im
Last season: The 24-year-old Korean went from Detroit to the Quad Cities for the John Deere Classic to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics; his finish there (T-22) was his best until he took third in the BMW Championship in late August.
This season: Im started hot, with a win at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas in October, then ran off top-20 finishes in four of his next five tourneys. He looked to be getting hot again as summer approached, with three straight top 15s, but missed the cut at the U.S. Open and Scottish Open, then tied for 81st at St. Andrews. He’ll be skipping Detroit for the first time, too.
T-8: Mark Anderson
Last season: Anderson, 36, had just three finishes higher than 30th: Bermuda in October 2020, Detroit and the Barbasol two weeks later. He finished the season with a missed cut, a tie for 59th and a tie for 57th, and missed getting his PGA Tour card.
This season: The South Carolina alumus hasn’t fared much better on the Korn Ferry Tour, with six missed cuts and two top-10 finishes in 15 events, including a tie for second in April’s Club Car Championship in Savannah, Georgia. He also will not be playing Detroit.
T-6: Brandon Hagy
Last season: It was boom or bust for the 31-year-old to finish the 2020-21 campaign. The booms: a tie for 18th at the John Deere a week after Detroit and a fifth-place finish at the Barracuda Championship (which uses the “modified Stableford” scoring system, assigning points for scores, rather than counting against par) in Truckee, California. The busts: three missed cuts.
This season: The California native couldn’t repeat his success in Truckee, missing the cut last weekend. That’s one of 16 missed cuts in 28 events this season. His best finish so far? A tie for 21st in the Valspar Championship — in which he shot a final-round 68 — in the Tampa Bay area in March. Hey, the Tigers looked good in central Florida in March, too.) Hagy will try to fare better than they have within Detroit city limits this week.
T-6: Bubba Watson
Last season: The two-time Masters champ surged in Detroit with eight birdies during his final round. His finish to the season was pretty much the exact opposite, with a tie for 51st in the 3M Open in Minnesota, a tie for 46th in the Wyndham and missing the cut at The Northern Trust in the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
This season: Watson has played a light load, with just nine events — and none since a tie for 30th in the PGA Championship in late May, when the 43-year-old tore up his knee. He has made the cut six times, though that has featured just two top-10 finishes: a tie for ninth in December’s QBE Shootout and a tie for fourth in New Orleans in April. He’ll be sitting out Detroit, too.
T-4: Hank Lebioda
Last season: After firing a 66 in the third round and a 68 in the fourth in Detroit, Lebioda followed up with a tie for eighth at the John Deere. But after that, it went sideways, with a withdrawal in Minnesota and missed cuts at the Wyndham and The Northern Trust.
This season: The 28-year-old started his season with missed cuts in six of his first seven events. In all, he has 13 misses and 13 makes in 26 events, with a top 15 in Houston in November as his high. He’ll be well-rested for this week in Detroit after missing last week’s cut in Truckee.
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T-4: Alex Noren
Last season: The 40-year-old Swede (by way of Oklahoma State) missed two straight cuts after Detroit, then tied for 16th in the Olympics in Tokyo. That vaulted him to a tie for fourth in The Northern Trust and he closed with a tie for ninth in the BMW Championship to finish his season.
This season: Last weekend’s second-place finish, by one point, at the Barracuda was a season best (and one of only three top 10s) — but it was marred slightly by the decision Noren made July 12. Sitting in the first alternate spot for the British Open after a tie for 30th in the Scottish Open, Noren elected to head to Truckee for a guaranteed tourney, rather than wait to see if a spot opened up. Two days later, TWO spots opened at St. Andrews. There’s no major conflicting with the Rocket Mortgage Classic, but just to be sure, Noren’s sitting out this week in Detroit.
T-2: Joaquin Niemann
Last season: The course at Detroit Golf Club appears to agree with the 23-year-old Chilean’s game; he finished tied for fifth in 2019, skipped the event in 2020 and tied for second last year as part of the three-man playoff. Also agreeing with his game: the course in Tokyo, where he finished tied for 10th in the Olympics in August. Niemann finished 29th at the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta in September, but his notable number for his final round was 113 — the minutes he took for 18 holes (playing by himself thanks to a Brooks Koepka withdrawal) to set an East Lake Golf Club record.
This season: He should also love L.A., where he picked up his second career Tour win, at the Genesis Invitational in February. He has been steady this year, with nine top-25 finishes and just four missed cuts in 21 events, but he’s still looking for a breakthrough in a major, finishing tied for 35th, tied for 23rd, tied for 47th and tied for 53rd in this year’s Masters, PGA, U.S. Open and British. He’s also skipping Detroit this year.
T-2: Troy Merritt
Last season: Maybe the Boise State alumnus was too busy watching his Broncos play football; Merritt made the cut in just two events after departing Detroit — a tie for 39th at the 3M Open three weeks later, and a tie for 51st at the Barracuda.
This season: Merritt has made 16 of 22 cuts this season, but with only six top-25 finishes and two top 10s — both ties for fourth, at Pebble Beach in February and at the Texas Open in San Antonio in April. More recently, Merritt followed a pair of missed cuts at the U.S. Open and the Travelers with a tie for 30th in the Scottish Open. He’ll be going for his third straight top-10 finish in Detroit this week.
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1: Cam Davis
Last season: Davis closed his time in Detroit — four birdies, a bogey and an eagle in the final seven holes to force a playoff for five holes with Merritt and Niemann — far better than he did the season. He played five more events, with his best finish coming two weeks later in Minnesota: a tie for 28th.
This season: Maybe Davis, a 27-year-old from Australia, draws strength the farther north he goes? That would explain the Seattle resident’s tie for third in the RBC Heritage in Toronto in April, as well as his sixth-place finish at the Barracuda in Truckee — hey, it’s Northern California, at least. The 6-foot-4 Davis will be back to defend his title in Detroit this week. Detroit Golf Club is north of PART of Canada, at least.