Rocket Mortgage Classic 2023 First Round Leader Picks: Davis Riley Worth the Gamble

This week marks the fifth installment of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The weather for the 2023 version has been a little up and down to start the week, but it looks like there will be clear skies and decent temperatures for the first two days at least. Wind is expected to rise up a little in the afternoon on Day 1, and this venue has seen a clear trend towards early starters on Thursday.

The poa greens perhaps get long in the tooth in the afternoon, or simply the hotter summer weather takes its toll after lunch. Either way, all four of the first four versions of this event have produced at least one morning first-round leader. In total, the morning starters have held the lead after 18 holes at Detroit Golf Club exclusively on three occasions and split the difference with the afternoon wave in 2020, when there was a three-way tie for first. In short, the morning section of the draw has never been closed out of the first-round leader win at this event, so sticking mostly with that side for 2023 first-round leader plays should be a priority.

As always, this column will use OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to identify the best value options for Rocket Mortgage Classic first-round leader selections.

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Rocket Mortgage Classic First Round Leader Bets

In terms of setup, Detroit Golf Club is a par 72 over 7,300 yards, but it still plays relatively easy given the larger fairways and easy-to-hit greens. This event has often boiled down to a putting contest, and while off-tee play is also crucial, for a one-round bet we will want targets who offer at least some semblance of upside with the putter (or at the very least a player on the upward trend with that club).

Davis Riley First-Round Leader (+8000) at DraftKings

Davis Riley First Round Top 5 (+1400) at BetMGM

Speaking of elite putters, what about Davis Riley? He gained 6.2 strokes on the greens last week and has gained over four strokes putting in an event three times over his last 12 starts (not including the week of his team win at the Zurich). The state of his game is absolutely impossible to define at the moment, as he has gone from gaining multiple strokes on approach to losing multiple strokes on approach in the span of two weeks. However, as mentioned previously, he is a great spike putter and the fairways this week are so wide that even he should be able to find them. In all seriousness, Riley has a coveted morning tee time and is an elite talent when he is able to put everything together. He may be closer to doing that than he appears as he did produce rounds of 63 and 64 last week and comes off as the perfect upside target at a juicy +8000 on BetMGM for Round 1.

Luke List First Round Leader (+9000) at BetMGM

Luke List First Round Top 5 (+1600) at BetMGM

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of putting ability is Luke List. List struggles on the greens most of the time but every now and again does have his moments with the flat stick — and has had enough of those moments in his career to rack up numerous top-5 finishes and a win on the PGA Tour. List has been in a deep funk most of the season but has shown signs of life of late, having made four of his last five cuts and finishing 33rd last week while gaining over a stroke on the greens. This week sets up great for strong off-tee players, and List certainly has the same kind of player profile as last year’s co-first-round leaders, Tony Finau and Taylor Pendrith. With an early tee time, a more expansive course and some good momentum, List is a solid yin play to Riley’s yang and makes for a nice add at +9000/+1600 in the first-round leader outright and first-round leader top-5 departments.

Rocket Mortgage Classic First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Longshots often hit in the first-round market and are worth adding to betting cards. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

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Callum Tarren First Round Leader (+10000) at BetMGM

Callum Tarren First Round Top 5 (+1800) at BetMGM

Tarren got hot around this time last season, and he is showing signs that he may be ready to replicate that feat once again. He finished 33rd last week at the Travelers gaining over six strokes tee to green, and he is just a month or so removed from a 29th placing at the PGA Championship that saw him gain over six strokes putting for the week. Tarren has also shown a propensity for these easier PGA Tour layouts and managed a 20th at this event last season, one week after shooting a 63 and finishing seventh in Minnesota. He profiles well from a setup perspective too, as his off-tee work has been the strongest part of his game lately and he should have plenty of spots on Thursday to unleash the driver. Tarren comes with an early tee time, much like the first two selections, and has even longer first-round leader odds. With the theme this week being to target some long shots who are carrying solid form and a proven ability to go low, Tarren fits the bill and should be an easy add to Thursday bets.

Chesson Hadley First Round Leader (+13000) at DraftKings

Chesson Hadley First Round Top 5 (+1800) at BetMGM

Hadley has played this event a few times prior and has not found much success yet, as his 54th placing in 2021 is his best finish at Detroit Golf Club in four career starts. Still, he is back for more this year (a good sign in and of itself), and for 2023 he brings in some solid recent form. Hadley is more of an iron- and putter-driven player, and last week he was able to gain a monstrous nine strokes around the greens and putting on his way to a 24th-place finish. He will need a good day with the driver to go low, but he has shown better consistency with that club of late and is not afraid to be aggressive when the setup allows it. He raced out to a tie for first on Thursday a couple of starts ago in Canada, and at big +13000 odds on DraftKings, he makes sense to target this week for a repeat performance.

Geoff Ulrich

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