2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard, grades: Cam Davis wins, outlasts Troy Merritt on fifth playoff hole

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A week after one of the longest playoffs in PGA Tour history at the Travelers Championship, the Rocket Mortgage Classic tried to match it as this week's playoff between Joaquin Niemann, Cam Davis and Troy Merritt went five holes deep on Sunday at Detroit Golf Club.

Niemann unfortunately ejected early after making bogey at the first hole, the par-4 18th, as Davis and Merritt both made par. The worst part for Niemann is that he had not made a bogey over the first 72 holes of the tournament before hitting his approach over the back edge on 18 and failing to get up and down for par in the playoff. It was an unfair ending for somebody who had played so wonderfully all week.

Davis was seemingly fortunate to even be in the playoff, as he made eagle at the 71st hole in regulation when he holed out from a greenside bunker. He finished with another 3 to shoot 31 on the back (with a bogey!) and sneaked into the extra holes with Merritt and Niemann. 

After Niemann's exit, Davis and Merritt went to the par-3 15th hole. They both made pars and then did so again at the next, and everyone began to wonder if this really was just a Travelers playoff redux in a new town at a different course. After birdies on No. 14, I was convinced we were going another eight holes this weekend. However, on a return to that par-3 15th, Davis -- who objectively played cleaner golf in the extra session -- finally won the tournament.

Davis missed his birdie putt, one of a handful over the last hour that would have won him the event, but Merritt failed to get up and down from some thick rough just short of the green. Davis' look of disbelief over his first Tour win matched ours over a playoff finally ending.

"It's been pretty hectic ever since the 17th hole," he told CBS Sports' Amanda Balionis. "I tried to put it as much out of my mind as I could and hit every shot for what it was worth. As simple as that is to say, it's so hard to do when the pressure is on like that."

Davis has been a nice pro for a while, but his success on the PGA Tour has mostly happened since the beginning of 2020. All four of his top-10 finishes have come since the Sony Open last season, the second week of a very strange year. His world ranking of 134 probably belies his skillset. Davis is a very modern player – incredible off the tee and strong with his iron play. That his short game won him this tournament at the end should be both an encouragement to him and a foreshadowing of what could be if he raises the floor in those areas.

The thing that stood out the most to me throughout the day with Davis is how confident he was over every shot. Picking up tees before shots hit their apex, flushing irons in difficult situations all over the yard. He looks like a star. Whether the 26-year-old Australian will eventually be one remains to be seen, but for one day in a city thousands of miles from his home country, Davis hit every shot demanded of him to emerge as the best player on the best tour for this single week. Grade: A+

Here are the rest of our grades for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Troy Merritt (2nd): Listen, his play was awesome all week, but I'm simply here for this incredible quote from somebody I did not expect to say it. The quote came on Saturday evening as Merritt played his way into the final pairing with Niemann. He was putting above field average after a year in which he's really struggled at times with his flat stick.

"I just attribute it back to basketball, you know, as a shooter, when you go through slumps, shooters shoot," said Merritt. "Putters got to putt, just keep hitting putts. You've got to make them on the golf course, not necessarily on the putting green. You've just got to keep that confidence up knowing that they're going to go in at some point and fortunately we hit that corner and they've been going in more often than not." 

Troy Merritt dropping "shooters shoot" lines! Grade: A

Bubba Watson (T6): After his brutal finish at the Travelers Championship last weekend at TPC River Highlands, Watson was awesome on the back nine on Sunday in Detroit. His 32 represents a 9-shot swing from last week's final nine, and he touched it off with a curler for birdie at the last. Respect for somebody who this time last week said he just wanted the opportunity to throw up all over himself again. He got it, and he did the exact opposite. Grade: A

Bryson DeChambeau (MC): The big fella missed the cut on Friday and would not talk to the media after either the first or second round, ostensibly because he did not want to address his current status with now-former caddie, Tim Tucker. This, of course, set off another round of the decades-old question about whether athletes should be required to speak to the press. I'm not very interested in the answer to that question, but I do think it's a tell on yourself that you're reading off a rolodex of sponsors when things are going well and won't chat when they're not. This was DeChambeau's second missed cut of the season. Grade: F

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Davis missed the putt, but Merritt could not get up and down for par so Davis is your winner.

July 4, 2021, 11:04 PM
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@FirstCutPod via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 11:03 PM
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@GOLFonCBS via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 11:02 PM
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Great shot by Davis on the par-3 15th. Should have about 12 feet for the win. Merritt is short and in some thick rough.

July 4, 2021, 10:56 PM
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Pair of 4s for these guys, and we're onto the 5th (!) playoff hole.

July 4, 2021, 10:53 PM
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Wow, two elite second shots on the par-5 14th. Eagle putts forthcoming, but looking like they'll probably be two-putt birdies.

July 4, 2021, 10:48 PM
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Davis absolutely blisters his drive and could make a run at 3 here. Merritt pummels his drive as well. Very nice.

July 4, 2021, 10:44 PM
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@PGATOUR via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:43 PM
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@GOLFonCBS via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:39 PM
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Merritt pours in the 5-footer to tie the third playoff hole. Onto the 14th.

July 4, 2021, 10:39 PM
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Davis has a pretty straightforward two-putt upcoming for par, but Merritt has some work to do after a poor tee shot. He leaves himself probably 5 feet for par.

July 4, 2021, 10:36 PM
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@GOLFonCBS via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:27 PM
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Par-par on the second playoff hole, and they are off to the 16th tee box.

July 4, 2021, 10:25 PM
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@PGATOUR via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:19 PM
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Davis and Merritt make par, although Davis' was not a great one. They head to No. 15, a par 3, for the second hole of the playoff.

July 4, 2021, 10:18 PM
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@GOLFonCBS via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:17 PM
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Niemann had not made a bogey for 72 holes. He just made one on the 73rd. Not good.

July 4, 2021, 10:15 PM
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All three guys pump their drives on No. 18 on the first playoff hole.

July 4, 2021, 10:05 PM
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@PGATOUR via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:04 PM
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@JustinRayGolf via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:04 PM
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@GOLFonCBS via Twitter
July 4, 2021, 10:00 PM
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Playoff?! Cam Davis, Joaquin Niemann and Troy Merritt head to a sudden-death playoff at Detroit Golf Club.

July 4, 2021, 9:59 PM
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