RBC Canadian Open
It was a case of the ‘same old, same old’ for us to the Memorial last week as a promising position for us through 36 holes and going in to Sunday was once again dashed for us over the weekend.
On Saturday morning our headline pick Cameron Smith sat at the top of the tree while our three figure poke Keith Mitchell sat handily placed in the top ten. Sadly though Mitchell fell away tamely on Saturday while Smith who also faltered on Saturday to sit second heading in to Sunday then capitulated completely on day four.
Sadly this has been the story for us over the past couple of months as everything, which to be fair went our way on the weekends last season, has been going against of late. Still the positive is that we keep putting ourselves in position and as long as we do this it is only a matter of time before Sunday’s become our friend again.
The event itself was won by Billy Horschel. Horschel who has been very much on our radar this year put everything together on Saturday producing a sublime 65 to open up a five shot lead while our man Smith floundered. From there on in it was just a case of him nursing the lead home, which he did with relative comfort on Sunday closing out with a 72.
So we move on hopefully to better things and it’s for the final warm up event before next weeks US Open, the RBC Canadian Open, which makes a welcome return to the schedule after a two year hiatus due to Covid-19.
In 2019 the RBC Canadian Open moved from its historical slot the week after the British Open to being played the week before the US Open. With the event then being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 this week will represent the second time the event has filled this slot in the schedule.
The RBC Canadian Open was first played in 1904 and has been played continuously since, bar breaks during WWI and WWII and then over the past two years.
The event is the third longest standing on the PGA Tour calendar behind the US Open and Open Championship.
The event has historically hopped around different courses in Canada however since 2013 it has been played at Glen Abbey GC in Oakville, Ontario every year apart from in 2014. This year however we move to St George’s G&CC in Toronto, Ontario, a venue which last hosted this event in 2010.
With the event coming the week before a Major Championship you would perhaps expect a lot of the big names to be sitting this week out, however a combination of some elite players preferring to play the week before a Major, coupled with next weeks US Open taking place in the North East of the US, means we have a pretty strong field.
The field is a pretty top heavy one with Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy all teeing it up, with the first two vying for favouritism. Behind them we have Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry.
St George’s G&CC GC is a par 70 measuring just over 7000yds.
Unlike most par 70 layouts though as opposed to the normal mix of two par fives and four par three’s alongside the par fours, St George’s features five par three’s and three par fives, four of, which measure over 200yds, and three gettable par fives.
The greens are bentgrass.
The course is a parkland track, featuring tree lined fairways all be it with a bit of room off the tee apparently.
The course, which was designed by Stanley Thompson opened in 1929 and this will be the sixth time it has held the RBC Canadian Open. The two most recent time the event was held here was in 2010 when Carl Pettersson triumphed.
Since that 2010 edition the course has undergone a significant redesign, which took place in 2014 with all of the greens being redesigned and changed to bentgrass at that time. The bunkers then underwent a full redo the following year.
With one eye on next weeks US Open the greens, which are surrounded by thick, penal rough are expected to run about 12.5. With the course featuring wider than average fairways but smaller than average greens it is expected the course will be very much a ‘second shot test’.
With a course in play that has not been used since 2010 recent event form/history is probably worth little to nothing this week, however for what it’s worth I have listed the winners of the event going back to when it was last played here below.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2019 R McIlroy
2018 D Johnson
2017 J Vegas
2016 J Vegas
2015 J Day
2014 T Clark
2013 B Snedeker
2012 S Piercy
2011 S O’Hair
2010 C Pettersson [Played at St George’s G&CC]
Taking a closer look at the leaderboard from the 2010 edition that was held here and we see that behind Pettersson finishing in the top ten there was a plethora of shorter hitters including Luke Donald, Tim Clark, Bob Estes, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder, Jeff Quinney and Charlie Wi in the frame, which if we factor in that the course back then played to a par 70 at sub 7000 yards would certainly lead us to believe this will be a shorter hitters paradise.
What we do need to bare in mind though is that of course the game has moved on in the past decade meaning the bigger hitters are more than capable of overpowering this type of track. Having said this though at first glance this would certainly appear to be a layout where the shorter hitters can compete.
Another factor to consider is the events position in the schedule prior to the US Open and how this may impact things and to this end we may be best looking further back in to the history books at the Fedex St Jude winners, the event which used to fill this slot along with the 2019 edition here and last year’s one off event the Palmetto Championship.
Looking at these we see that since 2010 alongside two wins for Dustin Johnson, there have been wins for Harrison Frazar, Harris English, Ben Crane, Fabien Gomez and Daniel Berger twice and then more recently McIlroy in this event in 2019 and Garrick Higgo at the Palmetto last year.
There are two things that stand out to me here. The first is that outside of the wins for Rory, DJ and to a lesser extent Berger, who wasn’t as established as he is now, there is, as we know already, clearly the opportunity for a shock result the week before a major.
The second and perhaps more interesting fact is that not since Harrizon Frazar hacked up in the US Open sectional qualifying the Monday before, has a player come through that qualifying and then gone on to win that weeks PGA Tour event.
What this tells me is that we either need to be looking for someone this week who is already exempt for Brookline, or someone who fails to get in and is fully focused on this weeks task in hand, rather than someone who does get in at the last minute and is perhaps thinking ahead to next week re travel plans for him and his family and just the overall excitement of making the field for arguably the biggest event of the year.
Finally to tie in the overall thought of the potential for shocks the week before a Major I thought I would return to a theme, which I highlighted before the years first two Majors and look at the recent winners on the PGA Tour the week before a Major was played. You will therefore see a list below going back to the start of 2018.
2022 – AT&T Byron Nelson [Pre – PGA] KH Lee
2022 – Valero Texas Open [Pre Masters] JJ Spaun
2021 – John Deere Classic [Pre Open] L Glover
2021 – Palmetto Champ [Pre US Open] G Higgo
2021 – Byron Nelson [Pre – PGA] KH Lee
2021 – Valero Texas Open [Pre- Masters] Jordan Spieth
2020 – Houston Open [Pre- Masters] Carlos Ortiz
2020 – Safeway Open [Pre- US Open] Stewart Cink
2020 – WGC – Fedex St Jude [Pre-USPGA] Justin Thomas
2019 – John Deere Classic [Pre-Open] Dylan Fritelli
2019 – Canadian Open [Pre- US Open] Rory McIlroy
2019 – Byron Nelson [Pre- PGA] Sung Kang
2019 – Valero Texas Open [Pre Masters] Corey Conners
2018 – WGC Bridgestone Inv [Pre- PGA] Justin Thomas
2018 – John Deere Classic [Pre Open] Michael Kim
2018 – WGC Fedex St Jude [Pre- Open] Dustin Johnson
2018 – Houston Open [Pre- Masters] Ian Poulter
As we can see from this list if we exclude the three WGC’s where you would always expect a bigger name to be focused on bagging the trophy only two of them, the 2021 Valero Texas Open and this event in 2019 have been won by big names, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, and in Spieth’s case having been winless for so long he was clearly 100% focused. With the remaining twelve though having been won by ‘lesser names’ it is clear that in general it makes sense to swerve the marquee names when they tee it up the week before a Major as they will most likely be using the event as a tune up.
After some possible rain and storms early in the week fingers crossed we look set for a dry four tournament days with temperatures in the low 70s.
The wind looks like it could be a slight issue with the potential of gusts in excess of 15mph across the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
ADAM HADWIN –40/1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 35th
With little to go on with regards to course history this week one obvious route to head down is that of siding with the home players and one who I can’t escape from is Adam Hadwin.
With many of the big names no doubt having one eye firmly on next week’s US Open it goes without saying this will not be the case for the Canadian contingent teeing it up this week, who will without doubt, aside from a Major Championship victory perhaps, view this as the one they really want to win.
With this of course comes pressure of a different kind however Hadwin has shown over the years that he is capable of handling that pressure in his home Open posting three top tens since his first start in the event in 2010 on this track, with his best finish of fourth coming way back in 2011, before he held a PGA Tour card. Most recently he then posted a sixth place finish in 2019 at Hamilton G&CC, which is situated less than an hour from here.
While the obvious angle with Hadwin this week then is the ‘Canadian one’ there is plenty more to like about his chances, which have lead me to him over some of the other home contingent, starting with his form over recent months, which has seen him post four top 20 finishes, including a run of three top ten’s, which started at the Players.
Most recently Adam posted a solid 18th at the Memorial, which after a poor 76 on day one saw him notch three rounds of par or better and rank 19th from tee to green for the week, again after a poor day one on that front.
If we then look at Adam’s stats for the season his strength has been very much in his long game and particularly in his approach play for which he ranks 30th, while he also ranks 27th for good old fashioned GIR, and with a ‘second shot test’ expected this week this should certainly play in to his hands.
Hadwin has one previous win on the PGA Tour to his name at the Valspar in 2017 and as well as showing of course that he can get the job done out here, I do find this of specific interest this week as the Copperhead Course holds an affinity with the test the players will face here in that both tracks feature five par three’s. With Adam then having shown he can win on a comparable test and sitting 13th on par three scoring on tour this season, this is a big positive.
Hadwin made his Canadian Open debut on this track in 2010 opening with rounds of 68 and 66 before finishing a creditable 37th. Returning now a far better player I can see him producing a big week this time around and threatening to bag a huge win for his career.
PATRICK REED – 45/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - WITHDRAWN BEFORE START
Next up this week I am going to give another chance to a player we sided with last week Patrick Reed.
Reed made our team at the Memorial on the back of a strong performance over the previous couple of weeks, particularly at Colonial where he had finished seventh on the back of a strong tee to green performance, an area where he had already shown signs of improvement in at the PGA Championship.
At the Memorial though unfortunately Patrick got off to a poor start on Thursday and although he produced a much improved effort on Friday to make the cut in the end it was an ‘up and down’ week, which saw him finish 53rd. Still there was some good stuff in there, notably on Friday where he gained nearly 2.5 shots from tee to green and if you add this to the fact that he ranked 23rd in GIR for the week and ninth around the greens and there was still plenty of encouragement. Indeed but for an eight on his 15th hole on Sunday his finish would have looked a lot better.
Something to build on then but what I particularly like about Reed this week is my hunch the course will be to his liking. Firstly since he has been on tour Patrick has shown a real liking for the Copperhead track, home of the Valspar, which as noted earlier I think could tie well here, posting two runner up finishes and another top ten, while he also has three top 20s, including two top seven finishes over the recent years at Colonial, including recently of course, another track, which could be a decent guide to here. Let’s not also forget that Reed’s maiden tour win came on another par 70 layout at Sedgefield CC.
Finally looking at par 3 scoring and he sits reasonably high on the par 3 efficiency from 200-225 yards at 25th on tour.
Reed has clearly been working hard on his long game and of late there have been definite positive signs with his iron play in particular. From that point of view then at decent each way odds I am happy to chance this proven winner again in an event that I expect him to be fully motivated in and potentially could suit his game.
CT PAN– 66/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - WITHDRAWN BEFORE START.
With little to go on with regards to past course form here when I first started to approach this event I looked at several different strands including potential correlating courses, par three scoring, allowing for the five par three’s, and par three scoring over 200 yards, based on the fact that four of the short holes are on the card in that region, and one name that kept coming up was that of CT Pan’s.
With following my hunches one of my golden rules then, even if CT’s odds are a little tighter than I had hoped for I felt I couldn’t leave him out.
Starting then with the correlating courses and while you wouldn’t necessarily draw huge comparisons design wise between them Pan has produced a lot of his best work on shorter par 70 or par 71 tracks including his win at Hilton Head, a runner up at Sedgefield CC and a third place at Colonial, which may perhaps link more closely to here set up wise.
He has also produced some strong results at the Par 70 PGA National and the par 71 at Riviera, while his bronze medal at the Olympics came on a shorter par 71.
Moving on then to CT’s par three performance and that then gives us some interesting numbers as he sits 22nd on tour in par three scoring in general and sixth on tour in par three efficiency from 200-225 yards, a stat which it should be noted double defending Valspar Champion Sam Burns sits highly in, which as already mentioned a course, which could link well here.
Having pinpointed CT then as a player who could fit well here my enthusiasm for him was heightened even further once I saw that when he first turned pro the former standout amateur had gone down the route of plying his trade on the Mackenzie Tour of Canada. A route, which lead him to immediate success in 2014 when he posted two wins.
From that point of view then the Olympic bronze medalist must clearly be comfortable on Canadian soil and this is a view which was reinforced with a 14th place finish in his one previous start in this event.
With regards to recent form and while CT hasn’t been pulling up any trees he has been producing a consistent run of results, which has seen him make seven straight cuts with a best of 15th at the tough Wells Fargo. Clearly then he is ‘close’ and as we know there is very little for the top level players performance wise between a 30th place finish and seriously contending.
On a layout then, which I expect to suit his game and on comfortable territory I can see a big week ahead for Pan and I am keen to have him onside.
BRENDAN TODD – 66/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 13th
Next up I will take a chance that Brendan Todd can build on his recent third place finish at Colonial CC on a track, which again, with due speculation noted. May well prove to his liking.
Since his renaissance in 2019 Todd has become renowned as one of the most accurate players off the tee on tour who also possesses a great putting touch and who has done some of his best work on shorter par 70 layouts, such as at Colonial, and of course on par 71 layouts such as Mayakoba and Bermuda, where he encountered three par fives.
This season campaign has been an up and down one for Todd so far however since an eighth place at the Valero Texas Open in April he has found a bit more consistency making three of his following four cuts including the recent third place.
At his best on tracks, which don’t require big hitting off the tee Todd is another player who performs strongly on the par three’s ranking 22nd in overall par three scoring and fifth in the par three efficiency from 200-225 yards.
As we saw with Todd in 2019 when he gets his tail up he can get on a roll and having posted his best finish last time out since his back to back wins in 2019 I am happy to risk him this week.
BEN MARTIN 200/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 53rd
Finally this week at big odds I am going to throw a dart that while plenty of big names are focused on the US Open next week or lesser names are likewise focused on the fact they have made it through qualifying for next weeks Major, Ben Martin can seize an opportunity to gain some hugely needed Fedex Cup points as he battles to regain his tour card.
Martin came across our radar earlier this year when he all but lead the Corales event from wire to wire only to be pipped in to second place on the 72nd hole after missing a short put to make the play off. With so much on the line for Martin and what a win would have meant to him, understandably he was hugely emotional afterwards and his post fourth round interview will be one of the abiding memories of the 21/22 season.
Since then it has been a struggle once more for Ben on the PGA Tour as he tries to take advantage of the sporadic starts he gets, however he has at least continued to add some Fedex Cup points to his tally making three out of the four solo starts he has made since.
All of this then leaves Martin 163rd in the Fedex Cup standings and in need of a big week when he gets a chance.
So on to this week then and Ben does at least arrive with some momentum having finished tenth on the Korn Ferry Tour a week ago and as a player who is known at his best to find plenty of greens and thrive on shorter tracks this test may just be to his liking.
To expand on this further and Ben’s history on tour is littered with strong performances at shorter venues like Sawgrass, Hilton Head, Waialae CC and Colonial while whether coincidence or not his two best results, his win at the Shriners and his runner up at the John Deere both came on tracks with three par fives.
At the odds of course we should be prepared for a damp squib of a performance from Ben and a missed cut, however of those available around the 200/1 mark he is the one who appeals the most and I am happy to roll the dice.
UPDATED 8th JUNE
DANNY LEE - 250/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 10th...
I added Danny Lee as a DK play for the week last night however following Patrick Reed's withdrawal I have chosen to also add him to our main team.
Let's be honest this is a bit of a flyer as Lee is capable of going from the sublime to the ridiculous in a short space of time on the course and with more of the latter over recent years there is every possibility that we are looking at him having a weekend off come Friday evening.
Equally though the 31yr old has shown some glimpses of his best stuff this season when notching back to back top seven finishes on shorter tracks in Bermuda and Mexico before Christmas. In addition more recently and pertinently for this week he produced rounds of 64 and 65 on his way to a 23rd place finish at Colonial a couple of starts ago.
Over the years Lee has played nicely at the Copperhead course and has produced some other strong perfomances at Colonial, as well as at other shorter tracks such as TPC River Highlands, while his one tour win came at the Greenbrier on another short par 70 so he has plenty of form at the right places. Furthermore for whatever reason Danny seems to enjoy his time in Canada having made his last five cuts in this event finishing sixth and 20th in the last two editions.
Lee arrives here this week on the back of a confidence boosting performance on Monday to qualify for next weeks US Open so, in an event that could quite easily throw up a big priced shock winner, it seems a good time to take a chance on him at huge odds.
UPDATED 7th JUNE
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - CALLUM TARREN - DK VALUE $6700 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 23rd
It's been a tough baptism for Callum Tarren on the PGA Tour this season however after a fifth place finish earlier in the year in Puerto Rico recently he has started to string a little bit of consistency together making his last four cuts if you include the Zurich Pairs.
This week the Englushman should be in good spirits having qualified for the US Open on Monday in the Canadian qualifier and I can see him producing another solid week here.
PICK 2 - DANNY LEE - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED 10th - DK POINTS 85
Another player who came through US Open final qualifying on Monday was Danny Lee with the New Zealander making it through in Georgia.
Lee has struggled of late although he did produce a much stronger effort at Colonial recently posting rounds of 64 and 65.
A hugely inconsistent player as a whole Danny has actually been incredibly consistent in Canada over the recent years making his last five cuts across the various venues with a best of sixth and buoyed hopefully by Monday's effort I'll risk him to produce the goods here once more.