DETROIT – Dustin Johnson is the top-ranked player in the field and Gary Woodland is drawing plenty of attention as the recent U.S. Open champ, but make no mistake – Rickie Fowler still seems like the main draw at this week’s inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
He’s one of the most recognizable players at any tournament and is so deeply engrained with this week’s title sponsor that Fowler was asked about his level of excitement for this tournament more than two months ago. In the Augusta National press center. During Masters week. Usually players are asked about the Masters at other tournaments in the week’s leading up, but it hardly ever works the other way around.
Now the week has finally arrived and Fowler is throwing himself fully into the mix at Detroit Golf Club, where he participated in a three-hole celebrity challenge Tuesday afternoon and played a Pro-Am practice round with Kid Rock Wednesday morning.
Or ‘Bob,’ as Fowler calls the multi-platinum selling artist with a given name of Robert James Ritchie.
“Anytime you’re hanging out with Bob, it’s a good time,” Fowler said. “Today was fun to be in his hometown. I’ve heard a lot about Detroit from him, his brother, some of his friends … So to see all that come together, be out with one of Detroit’s legends today, it’s a fun start to the week.”
Fowler never looks like he’s having a bad time, but there was definitely disappointment his last time out after failing to take advantage of an opening-round 66 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. A 7-over 77 followed in Round 2 and he finished the week T-43, another major opportunity gone by.
Now there’s just one shot left for the year in next month’s British Open at Royal Portrush. This is Fowler’s last tune-up start before then and Detroit Golf Club isn’t exactly a links-style layout.
“The wind that was up yesterday, that was a good little help there. The style of golf is obviously very different,” Fowler said. “For me, I mean, if you drive the ball well out here, you can score. There’s a lot of scoring opportunities, which is nice. I think you’re going to see some potential low scores with guys playing well and driving the ball well.”
Fowler is outside the top 100 in driving accuracy, hitting just 61.3 percent of the fairways on average. But players can get away with a few misses this week and won’t find a ton of trouble off the beaten path on most holes.
The setup shouldn’t be too demanding and plenty of birdies are expected on a course that will continue to develop as a Tour venue in coming years. And it’ll be an absolute madhouse on the grounds, with one-day tickets already sold out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Fowler will command a good amount of fan attention as always, and he’ll put on a good show as a Rocket Mortgage ambassador. The city of Detroit is finally getting its own Tour event, and Fowler has played a big part in shaping its identity in year one.
“It’s just been fun to see it all come together,” Fowler said. “There is some extra stuff that we do through the first few days, but like I said, I think it hasn’t really felt like work or anything like that. We feel like we’re invested in this event and we want to see it succeed.”
Ticket sales and player feedback have been positive in the days leading up. No we’ll see if Fowler can make a run for a chance to seriously steal the show come Sunday.