Cam Davis won the Rocket Mortgage Classic over the Fourth of July weekend, and it was no small feat. The tournament had one of the most tightly packed leaderboards of the year, and Davis had to battle Troy Merritt and Joaquín Niemann in a three-way playoff to win the title (it’s also his first win on the PGA Tour). Niemann exited the playoff after one hole, and it took four more for the Australian to finish off Merritt.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 4, 2021
The Rocket Mortgage has become a closely watched PGA Tour event since its debut in 2019. That’s partially because because it has a late June or early July time slot that used to belong to the now-defunct Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour calendar. That tournament leaned on sponsor relationships and athlete ambassadors to draw a great field every year, and in its brief existence, the Rocket Mortgage has done the same (likely because Quicken owns Rocket Mortgage). Tiger Woods and Justin Rose were both multi-time winners of the old tournament, and last year’s winner was brand ambassador Bryson DeChambeau (who—more on this later—had a lousy weekend).
This year, the golf was exciting. The course at Detroit Golf Club, which hosts the event, presented a bit more of a challenge than it did in 2019 or 2020. In those years, the winning scores were 25 and 23 strokes under par, respectively; the players absolutely tore up the classic Donald Ross layout. (Last year, eventual winner and heavy hitter DeChambeau talked at length before the tournament about how the course’s fairway bunkers were simply not far enough away to be an obstacle for him.) This year wasn’t as much of a blowout: The players who made the playoff all did so at 18 under par. Here’s how the tournament unfolded.
The leaderboard was jam-packed for the entire week, and especially late in the tournament.
When the leaders played the first hole on Saturday’s third round, 10 players were tied at 10 strokes under par for the week. That logjam didn’t last long, as players continued to pour in birdies and jockey for position atop the leaderboard.
But the tournament was still very close on Sunday. Niemann and Merritt entered the day tied for the lead at 14 under, and 10 more players were within four shots of the lead.
Alex Norén moved into contention by carding a final-round 64 to get into the clubhouse at 17 under; he was tied for the lead with Hank Lebioda as the day’s final groups played the back nine. (Bubba Watson, after a back-nine implosion at the Travelers Championship last week, also shot a 64 on Sunday. That got him to 16 under, just off the pace.)
Playing in the final group, Niemann and Merritt each birdied the 17th hole to move to 18 under for the week. Playing in the group ahead of them, Davis eagled the 17th and birdied the 18th to also move to 18 under.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 4, 2021
Niemann and Merritt were each positioned to win with an 18th-hole birdie if the other failed to make one. Neither did, which set up the three-man playoff. On the first playoff hole, Niemann eliminated himself by making bogey, while Davis and Merritt made pars to continue the playoff. It didn’t end until the fifth playoff hole, when Merritt missed a putt and gave Davis the win.
Side note: It was the second week in a row in which an event went to a sudden-death playoff. The weekend prior, Harris English beat Kramer Hickock in an eight-hole playoff at the Travelers.
The weekend’s biggest drama wasn’t even on the course.
The most explosive news of the week came right before the tournament started. DeChambeau, the Rocket Mortgage defending champion, split with longtime caddie Tim Tucker on Wednesday night, hours before the tournament began. DeChambeau’s camp tried to put an amicable spin on the situation, and his agent, Brett Falkoff, described the split to ESPN almost like it was a divorce.
“That doesn’t mean forever, but it means they are not working together now,” Falkoff explained. “They met last night and decided to move on. It’s just an accumulation of things, and it’s never easy when a player and caddie split up. They just decided the best situation for now was essentially to not be together anymore.”
DeChambeau had Tucker on his bag for all eight of his wins as a PGA Tour player, including the 2020 U.S. Open and two FedEx Cup playoff events. DeChambeau refused to talk to the media during the Rocket Mortgage tournament, but Yahoo Sports speculated the move “blindsided” the world’s No. 6 player. He then missed the cut, failing to play the weekend in an event he won last year.
DeChambeau wasn’t the only golfer who had a miserable week. Phil Mickelson was the subject of a Detroit News report about how a Michigan bookie allegedly cheated him out of half a million dollars around 20 years ago. Mickelson’s team didn’t dispute the report but was furious about the timing, seeing it as an attempt to embarrass Mickelson while he played the Rocket Mortgage for the first time. Mickelson said he wouldn’t return to the tournament, then backed off that somewhat. It’s still unclear if he’ll play the Rocket Mortgage again.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!