Saturday, August 13, 2022

2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard: Taylor Pendrith pushes ahead going into the weekend at Detroit GC

The two men who commanded a share of the lead after the first round separated themselves from the pack on Friday at the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic. While both Taylor Pendrith and Tony Finau put together strong second rounds, it was the Canadian who was able to outdo last week’s 3M Open winner by a single stroke courtesy of a 7-under 65 on Friday.

Sitting at 15 under at the halfway point, Pendrith’s margin over Finau may only be one stroke, but it is three strokes over Lee Hodges, who currently occupies the third spot on the leaderboard. While the difference between the top two men and the field may be substantial, it is not insurmountable over the course of 36 holes.

Not only will Finau attempt to chase down the 31-year-old rookie, but so will big names such as reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay and Rookie of the Year candidates Cameron Young and Sahith Theegala. The young guard will look to capture their first victories of the 2021-22 season while PGA Tour veterans Adam Scott, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson hope to catch lightning in a bottle and seek passage to the proverbial fountain of youth.

With a trophy, FedEx Cup points and future exemptions on the line, the action is sure to heat up over the weekend at Detroit Golf Club.

The leader

1. Taylor Pendrith (-15): Long off the tee, deft with his wedges and capable on the greens can best describe Pendrith’s first 36 holes around Detroit GC. Converting birdie opportunities on nearly half of the holes he has played, Pendrith has carded only two bogeys thus far. 

This feat is all the more impressive when considering this is only Pendrith’s third start since returning from a rib injury that sidelined him since the Players Championship. He has collected back-to-back top-15 finishes in his return to competition and is now perfectly positioned to breakthrough for his first victory on the PGA Tour.

Pendrith ranks fourth in both strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained approach while also being second in the field in strokes gained putting. About as lethal as a combination can get on the golf course, Pendrith has experienced less-than-stellar moments around the green and may be an area where nerves arise over the weekend.

Other contenders

2. Tony Finau (-14)

3. Lee Hodges (-12)

T4. Cameron Young, Russell Henley, Stewart Cink (-10)

T7. Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott, Sahith Theegala, Stephan Jaeger, Si Woo Kim, Scott Stallings  (-9)

Pendrith and Finau have developed some breathing room, but if they slip up or even stay put there are a number of quality players ready to pounce and take full advantage of their Moving Days. While the three rookies (Hodges, Young and Theegala) possess the firepower needed to catch their fellow 2021 classmate, Scott’s veteran presence on the leaderboard is a welcomed sight as his last opportunity for victory came nearly one year ago at the Wyndham Championship.

“You know, experience is one of the few things I for sure have going for me every week out here, so I should use that to my advantage,” said Scott. “If I do find myself in a position over the weekend or I’m in contention coming down the stretch, I certainly feel like I may have an edge. I’ve been in that position a lot and I feel comfortable there, and I hope to be in that spot.”

Rookie of the Year race heating up

It has been quite some time since the PGA Tour has experienced an eye-catching Rookie of the Year contest. With players like Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris claiming the honors in recent years, this season’s campaign could very well come down to this weekend. As it stands, it is fair to suggest Cameron Young holds the slight edge over Sahith Theegala, yet that all could change by Sunday.

Young has contended with impressive consistency in the 2021-22 season and captured six podium finishes including a runner-up result to Cameron Smith at The Open. Meanwhile, Theegala only has a pair, but has arguably had better opportunities to win as he squandered leads on the 71st hole of the WM Phoenix Open and the 72nd hole of the Travelers Championship.

“It’s not really a goal that I had or even now that I’m close that I feel like I need to get or anything,” said Theegala about the Rookie of the Year award. “It’s just those guys, like Davis [Riley], Mito [Pereira]. I mean, Cam Young by far is the frontrunner right now in my opinion and more deserving right now. If I happen to have a great couple weeks here and in the Playoffs, then maybe that might change, but like I said, I think Cam’s 9 or 10 under today. Yeah, he’s such a talent and I think he’s deserving of it.”

Another day, another ace

Take a bow, Mr. Sabbatini. The Olympic silver medalist followed in the footsteps of Mark Hubbard from Thursday and connected from distance with an ace on the par-3 15th. While he did not know it at the time, the 46-year-old’s hole-in-one proved to be a crucial difference-maker for his weekend aspirations, as he sits at 3 under after 36 holes and right on the cut number.

2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic updated odds and picks

  • Tony Finau: 8/5
  • Taylor Pendrith: 9/4
  • Cameron Young: 11-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 12-1
  • Lee Hodges: 14-1
  • Russell Henley: 18-1
  • Adam Scott: 25-1
  • Sahith Theegala: 28-1
  • Scott Stallings: 35-1
  • Si Woo Kim: 35-1
  • Stewart Cink: 40-1

If you have the confidence in Henley converting crucial putts, he may be your man over the final 36 holes, as he leads the field in strokes gained tee to green. Unfortunately, the University of Georgia product also finds his name outside the top 100 in strokes gained putting and has struggled to seal the deal when looking back to his performances at last year’s Wyndham Championship and the Sony Open in January. It is more than fair if Henley is not your cup of tea, but if not him, it is conceivable to believe this tournament will turn into a two-horse race between Finau and Pendrith. 

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