Rocket Mortgage Classic

Rocket Mortgage Classic

Rocket Mortgage Classic
Detroit, Michigan
Winner: Nate Lashley

The account of Nate Lashley scoring his first victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic will be found in the files of the PGA Tour under the listing of “Unreal.” It’s the story of Lashley scoring his first victory in his second year on the tour, leading wire-to-wire and winning by six shots, not as a crackling young prodigy but as an apprehensive 36-year-old; not as an established star but as the No. 353 player in the world; who got into the tournament at the last minute, as an alternate; and not with bright thoughts but with the memory from 2004, of his mom, dad and girlfriend flying out to watch him play in a collegiate tournament and then dying when their small plane went down in the mountains.

“Yeah,” Lashley said. “I think about my parents all the time.” After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2005, Lashley was on-again-off-again in golf, then went through the Latinoamerica Tour and won his PGA Tour card in 2018, off the Tour (now Korn Ferry).

In his two years on the PGA Tour, his only top-10 finish was a tie for eighth in the Puerto Rico Open in February. In the Rocket, he took the lead in the first round and then ran away with his first victory. He shot Detroit Golf Club in 63-67-63-70 for a 25-under 263 and won by six strokes.

“It was surreal,” Lashley said. “There was a lot going through my mind.” It was 15 years of grief, pain and doubt. Lashley left some heavy traffic in his wake. Dustin Johnson, No. 2 in the world, shot 71-71, and Gary Woodland, who won the U.S. Open two weeks earlier, shot 73-69, and both missed the cut by three strokes. Both had strange outings.

“I’ll go home and figure it out,” Johnson said. In two rounds, he made 12 birdies, but also six bogeys and two double bogeys. Woodland made 13 birdies, but 11 bogeys. “I wasn’t prepared as much as I probably should have been,” he said. Among the marquee names, Bubba Watson also missed the cut and Rickie Fowler made it but tied for 46th.

Said Lashley, leading by one after his opening, career-low, nine-under 63, “Hopefully … continue to play well and lock up my card.” He followed with a 67 and still led by one. “The way I’m playing,” he said, “I feel like I should be out here every week.”

Then another 63 lifted him to a six-shot lead on J.T. Poston. Lashley said he always thought he could play the tour. “It was just a matter of getting out here and getting comfortable,” he said. In the final round, he holed a 15-foot downhiller at No. 1, then a 10-footer at No. 3. “The birdies really calmed me down,” he said. Two of his three bogeys in the tournament had him even through the turn, then he birdied 13 and 17, both from seven feet, for a 70 and his first win. And memories of his mom and dad and the crash.

“It happens all the time,” Lashley said. “I think about my parents all the time … thinking about them today, even walking up 18, even before I hit my second shot.”


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