With thunderstorms in the Detroit area earlier in the week, players were presented with ideal scoring conditions in the morning hours of the first round of the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic. The man who finished fast to win last week's 3M Open began in the same fashion Thursday as Tony Finau signed for a bogey-free 8-under 64 to command a share of the lead with Canadian Taylor Pendrith.
Finau put together a ball-striking clinic at Detroit Golf Club as he gained over four strokes on approach and nearly another two off the tee. In fact, the 32-year-old was so in sync with his driver and irons in hand that he ranked outside the top 45 in both short-game metrics.
If Finau's putter heats up -- as it did Sunday at the 3M Open -- the rest of the field may be in trouble as he searches for his second victory in as many weeks. Along with Pendrith, Webb Simpson and Michael Thompson combined strong approach play with timely putting to sit two strokes off the lead at 6 under. Both of these PGA Tour veterans sat outside the top 100 of the FedEx Cup standings entering the week and have already made headway on their positioning thanks to their first-round efforts and will be a storyline to follow over the next 54 holes.
T1. Tony Finau and Taylor Pendrith (-8): Basketball is often described as "a game of runs" and it is possible that golf may soon be seen in a similar light. From Patrick Cantlay in last year's FedEx Cup Playoffs to Xander Schauffle's midsummer stretch, players such as Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler have been able to put together memorable quality runs. So this begs the question: Can Finau accomplish something similar?
Three times a winner on the PGA Tour and twice in less than a year, Finau is striking the ball as well as anyone and could finally propel his name into the upper echelon of the game. Connecting on all 18 greens in regulation in the first round at Detroit GC, it is clear that the rest of Finau's tournament -- and season -- will simply depend on the putter.
"Yeah, felt like that a little bit, but it's a whole different week," Finau said. "This game's a funny game because sometimes you play well and the next week you're a little flat, sometimes you play well and you keep it going. It was nice to keep it going after last week and keep it going today."
Tony Finau hit all 18 greens in regulation in a round today for the first time in his PGA Tour career.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 28, 2022
He's gaining 4.45 (!!) strokes tee to green per round on the field in his last 5 rounds played.
T3. Michael Thompson, Webb Simpson, Cameron Champ, Lee Hodges, Matt Wallace (-6)
T8. Stephan Jaeger, Taylor Moore, Sam Ryder, Si Woo Kim, Zach Johnson and nine others (-5)
The postseason is nearing and the last few days have been extremely kind to someone like Jaeger. With those players who left for LIV Golf officially removed from the FedEx Cup standings, the 33-year-old jumped from 133rd in the season-long race to 125th without having to pick up a club. The movement inside the bubble continued in the first round as Jaeger fired a 5-under 67 and is now projected to move to No. 111 based on his current positioning.
"I want to tell you not much because it doesn't -- you know, I'll be fine either way. It doesn't change my life in a sense," Jaeger said of the pressure to qualify for the postseason. "I've got a great support team at home and my wife's always there. Yeah, I want to. Do I need to? No, I'll be fine either way. I try to keep as much perspective in that sense as I possibly can. It's not the end of the world and I know I'll be back. Yeah, it's a great start, so kind of pedal down to the floor this week and try to make something happen."
Homeless Hubbs cashes in
Not all holes-in-one are the same as Mark Hubbard found out on Thursday. Striking the 10th ace of his life -- per his brother Nathan -- the man known by some as "Homeless Hubbs" was disgusted by his swing on the par-3 11th, dropped his club and ultimately saw his tee shot drop into the bottom of the cup.
"Honestly, it was pretty embarrassing," Hubbard said. "I looked up and it was a perfect one-yard draw. Wyndham [Clark] actually was like, as soon as I let go, he's like, 'Dude, that better not go in,' but sure enough it landed and trickled in like a putt. Yeah, I think that's probably going to end up being one of my favorite hole-in-ones I ever had just because of the situation. And none of them even gave me high-fives after."
Biggest FedEx Cup movers from Thursday
From here on out, the postseason will be on the mind of competitors as every shot is magnified when one's job security is on the line. After just 18 holes of play, some have already seen their names race up the FedEx Cup standings and will hope to remain inside the coveted top 125 in order to qualify for the first playoff event in Memphis in two weeks.
|Name||Official FedEx Cup Rank||Projected FedEx Cup Rank|
2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic updated odds and picks
- Tony Finau: 33/10
- Taylor Pendrith: 8-1
- Webb Simpson: 14-1
- Cameron Champ: 16-1
- Cam Davis: 28-1
- Sahith Theegala: 28-1
- Patrick Cantlay: 28-1
- Kurt Kitayama: 35-1
- Will Zalatoris: 35-1
- Si Woo Kim: 35-1
- Charley Hoffman: 40-1
- Lee Hodges: 40-1
- Callum Tarren: 40-1
- Matt Wallace: 40-1
- Troy Merritt: 40-1
The weather forecast for Friday looks fairly similar to Thursday which means the wind will pick up during the afternoon wave. As such, it may be prudent to look to a player on the golf course early in the morning and Kitayama fits the criteria. Carding a 5-under 67 in Round 1, the two-time DP World Tour winner went around Detroit GC in a bogey-free fashion while connecting on 17 greens in regulation. Ranking sixth in strokes gained tee to green, Kitayama gained roughly two strokes both off the tee and on approach. He arrived in Detroit off a successful two-week stint in Scotland which saw him finish runner-up to Xander Schauffele at the Scottish Open.