GOLF

This Aussie is grateful on July 4 – for American crowds, good golf and the anniversary of his lone PGA Tour win

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The parallels between the growth of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and defending champion Cam Davis’ progression as a player are strong.

Despite the winnowing of the PGA Tour crowd by the newly minted LIV Golf, the 2022 RMC field could still be Detroit’s best yet. Event officials made a crucial date change and added several new fan gear, drawing on lessons from the first three years. They also believe that the interest generated by the LIV tour helped sell tickets.

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Meanwhile, Davis visited the Detroit Golf Club last Monday as the defending RMC champion. The Aussie learned a lot as he climbed the rankings in the first three years of the tournament. He missed the cut in the first two years of RMC, then withstood a five-hole playoff to finally win in year three – his first career PGA Tour win.

“Every year I tried to try and come back – because I love this golf course – thinking, ‘Can I do a little better? Davis recently told the Free Press. “And obviously the last time I did as well as you can do. The tournament had grown every time I had played here as well. I would say that is a pretty accurate statement. He is growing as well as me.

Davis is a big fan of golf course architect Donald Ross, which adds motivation to return to Detroit every year. The DGC is one of the under 20 clubs in North America with two 18-hole Ross courses. Davis really likes the greens, which he described as equally “great” and “difficult”.

“It’s synonymous with a lot of the best golf courses in the country, and I feel like guys are jumping at the chance to play golf courses like this,” Davis said. “And it’s just cool to see a lot of big names come out and try, because it’s a good test.”

Davis’ favorite stretch of the RMC course is known as ‘Area 313’ – holes Nos 15 to 17 – the site of his playoffs with Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann last year. The way fans rallied around him was further proof of RMC’s growing legitimacy.

“In my experience here, they were really respectful but really enjoyed the sport in general,” Davis said. “It was the 4th of July, obviously it’s the American holiday, but I was fighting an American (Merritt) coming in, it wasn’t like I felt like everyone was judging where from I was coming or supporting one person The other, they were just here enjoying some good golf, and we both play great and are treated the same.

“And I feel like it’s a really cool environment, because I could have very easily felt like the underdog there. And I think the fans here made me feel like I was a competitor like him, and I think that’s a really unique trait for a crowd to be able to do that. It was a very fun and enjoyable afternoon.

Cam Davis tees off on the 16th hole during the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club in Detroit on Sunday, July 4, 2021.

Davis isn’t the only RMC veteran in love with the tournament. Rocket Mortgage Ambassador Rickie Fowler is back for Year 4, as is Will Zalatoris, a rising star and finalist at the US Open and PGA Championship earlier this year.

Kevin Kisner is probably one of the most committed golfers in the business. The defending champion of the Wyndham Championship – which runs from August 3-7, a weekend after RMC’s new date of July 28-31 – was due to skip Detroit to defend his title in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Instead, Kisner will play back-to-back weekends at RMC and Wyndham. The move, and the recent commitments of 2021 FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay and former world number one Adam Scott, show RMC’s growing appeal, Davis said.

CHANGES AT THE DETROIT GOLF CLUB: 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic Features New Viewing Areas and Youth Golf Area

“I just think people understand that it’s a big event,” he said. “I mean, you’re not going to bring in guys like that if they don’t feel like it’s going to be a really good opportunity to prove themselves against other good players and play some really good pitches. golf under tournament conditions in front of big fans and stuff.

“I think Detroit is becoming known for being a good sports city with great fans and all that, and I feel like that’s going to continue to raise the bar for this event.”

Raising the bar at RMC is more crucial than ever amid the emergence of Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed are notable alumni of Rocket Mortgage Classic siphoned off by the tour offering extravagant scholarships. The same goes for Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 RMC champion and former Rocket Mortgage ambassador. They are just three of 48 golfers who have dropped out of the PGA Tour for LIV. (Former MSU star and 2021 U.S. Amateur Champion James Piot is another.)

“Obviously the competition is coming from LIV right now, and I think a lot of guys on the PGA Tour agree that these tournaments are worth playing, and that’s why they’re staying,” Davis said while discussing the continuous improvement of the RMC. “I think continuing to build and improve is just going to bring more and more big name players and opportunities to do more and more for the community and stuff, so I think it’s just going to go forward and up from here.”

Davis’ competition for a repeat will always be tough. World No. 16 Tony Finau and former world No. 1s Jason Day and Justin Rose will make their RMC debuts this year, lured by the date change.

Davis, however, came to Detroit whenever RMC was scheduled. The date change was as much an afterthought for him as a potential post-victory celebration: Last year, he only had time for a burger and fries from a fast food joint.

Davis’ real prize is the chance to continue developing his game while watching RMC sprout around him like a Donald Ross green.

Contact Mason Young: MEYoung@freepress.com Follow him on Twitter: @Mason_Young_0

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