If we’re being honest with each other, even though Nate Lashley was the last golfer in the field at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he wasn’t the 156th man. There were open qualifiers, sponsor exemptions and those with fully exempt status who weren’t playing as well upon arrival, so if my Power Rankings would have slotted every entrant 1-156, he’d have been nearer the top than the bottom.
Before you throw a golf shoe at me for presumably diminishing one of the best stories of the season, there is a however.
What Lashley accomplished proved why One & Doners in pursuit should take fliers. You just never know when you’re going to connect. Every season is loaded with guys who have the goods but haven’t yet delivered. Corey Conners, Max Homa, Sung Kang et al, all first-time champions on the PGA TOUR in 2018-19.
Of course, hitting on any on the week of his coronation is the hard part, and it’s already tough enough to connect with chalk. Collectively, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar have scored a cool zero points for me this season. And, of course, none is available to me again. So it goes, so it always shall be in this format.
The advice that I shared in this space last week was to be aggressive if you’re in pursuit. Like the RMC, the 3M Open is a first-time event with no course history.
Miss out on Joaquin Niemann’s T5? He’s hung up two in a row and he’s in Minnesota this week, so think no further.
Haven’t joined the Rory Sabbatini bandwagon yet? He’s fresh off a T3 and hasn’t looked this good over a long period of time in over a decade.
Sungjae Im is in his own lane in the Arnold Palmer Award race as he just might win it without a victory. With six top 10s among a dozen top 25s, he’s exactly the lethal and timely selection you want on a course like TPC Twin Cities that never had any plans on being the toughest track on TOUR.
If you can’t find a pick among those three, look at hungry upstarts Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland. Rookie Wyndham Clark also demands consideration. All three are built for two-man gamers.
Once again, front-runners are compelled to play it safe with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau and Hideki Matsuyama, but if you’re one of them and you’ve either already burned all or have at least one targeted for a remaining event, invest in the upswing of Patrick Reed or the dazzling display of low numbers for which Scott Piercy is known to produce.
Of course, there’s always the aforementioned open qualifier. No, I’m not referring to someone like Arjun Atwal, who medaled at Victory Links Golf Club on Monday and won the 2010 Wyndham Championship after open qualifying for that event – it’d be eerie if he replicated that feat – I’m talking about Doc Redman, who medaled at the OQ for the RMC last week. He then finished alone in second in the tournament proper behind Lashley.