Nate Lashley, the last man to get into the tournament, has had to go through unimaginable circumstances to get to this point in his career
This was the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic and we had quite a storyline with 36-year-old Nate Lashley, ranked 353rd in the world at the start of the week, dominate proceedings in Detroit.
His story is out on its own for tragedy, guts and a late slice of luck to even play this week…
Rocket Mortgage Classic report: What happened in Detroit?
After opening rounds of 63-67-63 for a six-shot lead Sunday was always likely to be a case of how Lashley could handle his big moment – and he dealt with it beautifully, posting a 70 for a six-shot victory and a place on the PGA Tour for two years as well as a spot in the Open in a few weeks as well as next year’s Masters.
Two birdies in the first three holes gave him the ideal start, something his nearest challenge, JT Poston, couldn’t achieve with a double-bogey at the 2nd.
After three days Lashley had only dropped one shot, after a shoved short putt at the 9th he had two bogeys on his card for a level-par outward half and still six clear.
A big drive at the 13th set up a wedge approach and another birdie and he closed it out in style with a birdie at 17 after an exquisite up and down.
At the end of the year we’ll likely look back at this as one of the stand-out weeks as the last man in was the last man standing.
This is how his caddie Ricky Romano describes him: “You’re seeing the talent that he possesses. You’re just seeing Nate for who he is. He’s a really calm, cool dude. He’s a man’s man. You can go and just drink beer with him, he loves sports. I’ve been telling him, ‘I want everybody to know the Nate Lashley that I know.’ And he’s showing it right now.”
Former US Amateur champion Doc Redman also enjoyed a huge Sunday with a 67 to finish second, giving him temporary membership of the PGA Tour and a place in the Open Championship at Portrush.
Redman currently only has status on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and he was another who was playing on Monday for his starting spot this week.
Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini tied for 3rd with Wes Roach.
Rocket Mortgage Classic report: Any talking points?
Just a bit. Lashley’s back story is unlike any other. His parents and girlfriend died in a plane crash in 2004 – his dad was piloting the private plane – when returning from watching him play in a college event when he was at the University of Arizona.
He returned to Tucson while they were due to fly back to their hometown of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Three days later he discovered that their plane had come down in Wyoming.
Thirteen years later he finally got a PGA Tour card at the age of 34, in 2012 there was a period when he worked in selling real estate.
“I thought I was pretty much done with golf,” he said.
The loudest cheers on 18?
From @NateLashley's sister and girlfriend.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 30, 2019
But he then went through the LatinoAmerica and former Web.com Tour and last year he finished 172 on the money list.
Hence why he had to Monday qualify for this event, Lashley shot a bogey-free 68 to miss out by two. Last week at the Travelers he was the first alternate and never hit a shot, this week he got the final spot thanks to a late injury to David Berganio Jr.
Rocket Mortgage Classic report: Anything else?
In his first start since his US Open triumph Gary Woodland missed his second cut of the season. Both he and the 2016 US Open champion Dustin Johnson were three shots shy while last week’s winner Chez Reavie and Bubba Watson also had blank weekends.
Woodland mixed eight birdies with five bogeys in his second-round 69 but it wasn’t good enough.
“I’ve got some work to do (for Portrush), just tighten some things up. I wasn’t prepared as much as I probably should have been this week. But two weeks off, I’ll have plenty of time and I’ll be ready to go.”
Cameron Champ already has one victory on the PGA Tour, winning in October last year, and there was plenty of fanfare for the big-hitting youngster. This season has generally been a collection of missed cuts but on Friday he matched the lowest nine-hole score and the longest birdie-eagle streak.
The 24-year-old had a ridiculous eight-under 28 on the front nine thanks, going under par for six straight holes – par, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle, par, birdie.
“The hole looked pretty big for a while,” he said.
The back nine was a very different affair, a 37 giving him a 65, and his weekend followed suit with efforts of 75-73.
Speaking of huge-hitting youngsters Viktor Hovland closed with a 64 for his lowest round as a professional while Chile’s Joaquin Niemann posted four rounds in the 60s to record his second straight top-five finish.