[PHOTO: NurPhoto]

Question 1: Who won, and how?

Australia’s own Cam Davis, and there are a couple of ways to answer the “how”. First off, he was solid, an adjective that doesn’t quite reach “great”, and that’s on purpose. Davis, whose only previous PGA Tour win came at this very tournament in 2021, with the exact same 18-under score, in a playoff against Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann, went off in the second-last group, trailing the leaders Akshay Bhatia and Aaron Rai by just a shot. However, it was a jam-packed leaderboard, and if you had told almost anyone that Davis would shoot a 70, they would quite reasonably tell you that he wouldn’t win. This is, after all, a tournament dating back to 2019 where every champion not named Cameron Davis has reached at least 23-under.

And yet, it turned out to be a shockingly mediocre day for pretty much every contender. Rai, in the final group with Bhatia, shot 72, Cam Young (Davis’ partner) did one worse with a 73, and Bhatia couldn’t do better than an even-par 72. In every case, it was comfortably their worst round of the tournament. Even the players who made a move, particularly Davis Thompson and Min Woo Lee, both of whom finished a shot off the pace, only shot 68 and 69, respectively; gone were the 66s that seemed to be handed out like candy in the third round.

Under those conditions, Davis’ 70 was enough to get the job done. However, we can’t talk about his win without mentioning the signature moment of the day, when Akshay Bhatia, tied with Davis at 18-under, came to the last hole. Facing a crosswind, he piped a drive 273 metres down the middle, hit a perfectly decent approach to 32 feet, and with a birdie putt to win it, he left it woefully short. Then this happened:

Davis definitely deserves credit. After the round he credited a hypnotherapist for transforming him in the space of a couple of weeks, and he hung tough all day to be in a winning position. On top of that, he had to execute two gutsy up-and-downs on 17 and 18, the first for birdie, the second for par. But as he acknowledged afterwards, he needed Bhatia’s first three-putt of the week, and only his second bogey, to get the win.

The clubs Cameron Davis used to win the 2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic

Question 2: Who had the worst day?

Bhatia kinda/sorta gagged it on 18 after a tremendous week with that three-putt, but truly his disappointment comes down to a single putt left wide. Not so for Cameron Young, who had a miserable afternoon in his latest failed attempt to win on the PGA Tour. Young has been a runner-up seven times in his career, and is pretty inarguably the best player on the PGA Tour right now without a win, but despite starting one shot off the lead, his back nine was poor enough to shoot him all the way down the leaderboard.

What went wrong? On a practical level, the putting – Young came into the week 127th in Strokes Gained: Putting on tour, and though he wasn’t quite that bad this week (50th for the tournament), he was among the worst in the field on the final day (66th of 74), and his back nine especially was a highlight reel of putts left short.

Photo: Gregory Shamus

Worse than that, he looked like he was completely miserable throughout the closing stretch, to the point that Trevor Immelman in commentary was moved to talk about the need to “be kind to yourself” in pressure moments. And, oh yeah, he cracked his own driver in a particularly weird incident on the 14th hole.

Young is red hot right now – he shot a 59 last week – but this is the kind of day that seems to confirm everything we thought about his ability to perform when a win is at stake. To the extent that we’ve seen negative momentum build around these types of losses, particularly with Rory McIlroy at the majors, this feels like a particularly rough outcome for Young.

Question 3: What did they say?

Here are the best quotes from the main contenders… you’ll be shocked to know Young didn’t speak with the media after his round.

Cam Davis: “From where I was a couple of weeks ago to today, just a completely different person. This is a little emotional, actually. I wouldn’t wish what happened to Akshay on anyone, but I’ve done a lot of grinding to kind of get myself out of a hole and just all of a sudden to do that, it’s pretty good.”

Aaron Rai (on if he feels different when it comes down to the 18th hole with a chance to win): “Yeah, I would say so. I mean, it’s cliche to try to stick to the process and really get into what I would normally do over a shot, but yeah, my body definitely feels different. I’m sure that’s the case for most of the guys in that situation. Definitely a little bit of adrenaline, definitely feel a little heavier, for sure. Again, those situations are great to experience just being able to manage those things and figure out what the tendencies are in those situations and hopefully just be a little bit better for it the next time.”

Akshay Bhatia: “It sucks. No other way to put it. I mean, [it] just sucks.”



Question 4: What are the three other stories I should know about?

1. Remember how we said Cameron Young had a bad day on the greens? Well, the worst putter in the field by Strokes Gained was Joel Dahmen, and it sunk him. In fact, his 76 was the second-worst score of the day, and it took him from three shots off the lead to a T-25 finish. Still, between this and his previous start at the Canadian Open, a T-10, one of the tour’s most popular players is starting to show form.

2. Maybe the best day for anyone besides Cam Davis came from Rico Hoey, who not only had the only 67 of the day, but shot all the way up to T-6 and made $US300,000 to boot. For Hoey, an American-Filipino born in Manila but raised mostly in California, this came out of nowhere – his PGA Tour season thus far has included a raft of missed cuts and a previous best of T-14. This is a tidy payday for the 28-year-old, and a big first step in keeping his card.

3. The week was also great news for Nick Dunlap, who earned the first top 10 of his PGA Tour career… or should we say, the first top 10 of his professional PGA Tour career. Since shocking the world by winning the American Express earlier this year as an amateur, he’s come close but hasn’t quite cracked the number yet. His 14-under score earned him a T-10 finish, and a tidy $US206,233 that he actually gets to keep.

Cam Davis: Trophy Hunting

Question 5: Should we talk about hypnotherapists?

Cam Davis truly seemed to be at his wit’s end, and more than a little down in the dumps, after a series of mediocre finishes on the PGA Tour and two missed cuts at the PGA Championship and the US Open. Now here he is a couple weeks later winning on tour, and the first person he credited was his hypnotherapist, named Grace. Davis’ experience is just another indication of the various ways golfers are honing their mental games in 2024.

“I honestly haven’t been in a very good place mentally at all for the last six months or so,” Davis said in Detroit. “I felt like all the opportunities have been slipping out of my hands as the year progresses without playing very good golf. I had a great week at the Masters [T-12, securing a return to Augusta National next April, although this win reaffirms the invite] and it feels like since then it all had just left me. I felt like a change of direction was definitely needed, something that I was actually going to stick to because I’m definitely someone that will start doing something and if it doesn’t feel like it’s helping straight away, it’s very easy to drop it. Sticking with the work that I’m doing with Grace has made a very big impact very quickly. I felt a lot better last week even though the score didn’t show it, and to have it turn into this this week is hard to believe, really, because I was not in a good place two or three weeks ago.”

You can bet the hypnotist trend is only going to continue after Davis’ success… Whoever Grace is, we expect her phone may be ringing more than usual in the next couple of weeks.