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So we had some fun while it lasted with Padraig Harrington last week who was right in the hunt at 175/1 until he hit his drive into the gorse on the 6th on Monday. It was good to see the 3-times Major Champion in the heat of yet another Open Championship battle, but ultimately the excellent short game of Zach Johnson overcame a stellar list of elite players at the Home of Golf.
So on to this week then. Royal Bank of Canada's (RBC) sponsorship of the Canadian Open has seen a renaissance of sorts. Following on from the Irish, United States, French and (British) Open Championships through the early summer, the Canadian derivative includes a Champions' list which includes Snead, Palmer, Trevino (3 times), Norman (twice), Price and Woods. 2015 sees a field containing Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and the exciting talent of Brooks Koepka. Meanwhile, the European Tour travels to Switzerland for the Omega European Masters at Crans which features Sergio Garcia, Bernd Wiesberger, Danny Willett, Lee Westwood and one Patrick Reed. Paul Williams has cast is eye over both host course Crans-sur-Sierre and the field and you can read his thoughts on that event here.
2015 Punters League
The Open Championship leg of the Punters League has its own prestige and John Andrews captured the weekly £/€25 Paddy Power free bet with the inspired selections of Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Jordan Spieth. A deserved winner I think you'll agree! John jumps up to 7th in the overall league after 28 weeks with Sean Colgan leading still. New entrants are always welcome, so enter your 6 players across the Canadian Open and the Omega European Masters on our 2,500-strong facebook group now!
The RBC Canadian Open visits the well-known Glen Abbey Golf Club, south-west of Toronto for its 106th edition. Here's my Canadian Open preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: Glen Abbey Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design that will throw up some unique aspects this week. The course plays with a 35-37 split with the inward nine featuring Par 5s at 13,16 and 18 - the 16th was converted into a Par 5 for the 2009 renewal. At 7,253 yards the course is relatively short by modern standards, but tree-lined fairways give a classical feel and mildly undulating green complexes make this a reasonable if not overly taxing challenge. We also face a further complexity this week in terms of green grass mix. Glen Abbey has always featured mixed bentgrass with poa annua greens, but eight of the greens were damaged in the winter of 2013 so those green complexes have been replaced with pure bentgrass leaving 10 of the original mixed surface greens.
Glen Abbey GC, Oakville, Ontario: Designer: Nicklaus 1976; Course Type: Classical, Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,253 yards; Water Hazards: 12; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Bentgrass Poa Annua 3"; Greens: 5,600 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 71.60 (-0.40), Difficulty Rank 28 of 43 courses.
Course Overview: A circa 7,200 yard Par 72 will always be attackable on the PGA Tour so expect plenty of red numbers this week. Course conditions will be as firm as the professionals have seen here for many a year, but tranquil conditions will still allow for attacking golf. Fairways are some of the most difficult to hit on Tour, but the key to victory is hitting around 50 greens or more across the tournament and then letting the putter do the scoring.
Winners: 2014: Tim Clark (-17); 2013: Brandt Snedeker (-16); 2012: Scott Piercy (-17); 2011: Sean O'Hair (-4); 2010: Carl Pettersson (-14); 2009: Nathan Green (-18); 2008: Chez Reavie (-17).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Canadian Open predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Matt Kuchar (Predictor number 1), Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Luke Donald.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Wells Fargo Championship / Spanish Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: Clark 66/1; 2013: Snedeker 12/1; 2012: Piercy 50/1; 2011: O'Hair 100/1; 2010: Pettersson 80/1; 2009: Green 200/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Oakville, Toronto is here. We may see a slightly different test this week as Ontario has been particularly dry throughout July. The 2009 Canadian Open hosted here was played in soft conditions, but 2015 should see conditions firmer than 2013. Winds will be light and the tournament looks set to feature dry, sunny weather with temperatures in the mid to high 20s Celsius.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 4 winners at Glen Abbey since 2004 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages: Driving Distance: 32nd; Driving Accuracy: 26th; Greens in Regulation: 13th; Proximity to Hole: 18th; Scrambling: 30th; Putting Average 8th.
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 4 winners at Glen Abbey.
So let's take a view from players as to just what the key attributes required are at the Glen Abbey hosted Canadian Open this week:
Hunter Mahan: "The small type of greens, that's going to make you focus on your distance control out there because if it's a little off, there is not much room for error on these greens, especially when the pins are tucked on the spot. The rough is at a good length where it's not super penalizing, because I don't think anybody wants to come off the British Open and the U.S. Open and shoot a couple over, you know? You make it a little bit too hard, and that's when you're going to start losing some guys."
Brandt Snedeker: "It's a lot of fun to play. If you're playing well, you're going to make a lot of birdies; if you're not, you're going to struggle. It's one of those courses where you know you've got to make birdies. It's actually kind of a comforting feeling because you know you have to be aggressive all day long."
Matt Kuchar: "It's got a lot of tight, difficult driving holes. There are a lot of holes where you step up and you've really got to hit a good drive or you're in the rough and most likely in the trees as well. So, if you're driving the ball well, it's a lot of shortish irons and very scorable. If not, playing from the rough, this rough is not much fun to play from."
The bookmakers traditionally do well at the RBC Canadian Open with Chez Reavie, Nathan Green (200/1), Carl Pettersson (80/1), Sean O'Hair (100/1), Scott Piercy (50/1) and Tim Clark (66/1) all winning at big prices. Yes favourite Brandt Snedeker took advantage of Hunter Mahan's withdrawal after 36 holes to win here at 14/1, but William McGirt (125/1) and Jason Bohn (200/1) still filled the places alongside Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar at Glen Abbey.
Naturally the big question this week is whether contenders at St Andrews will bring that form forward to Glen Abbey. Furyk, Snedeker and Mahan have proved across the past 2 renewals that it's more than possible for elite players to contend in back-to-back weeks, but favourite backers will need to decide who to go after with Day, Bubba, Kuchar and Furyk all at sub 20/1. Instead there's a case for backing some longer prices this week. The Canadian Open always features a number of players who are fighting for their PGA Tour careers. It's worth remembering that the majority of rank and file Tour pros only have the new challenge of Robert Trent Jones Golf Club next week, followed by Montreaux and Sedgefield to capture a FedEx Cup or Money List Top 125 spot over the next 4 weeks. So I can't help but think a couple of longer prices from the depths of the current standings will contend at Glen Abbey.
Key Bookmaker Offer: Paddy Power have again gone 6 places each-way at the Canadian Open. Full details and latest odds here.
My selections are as follows:
I backed Luke Donald here 24 months ago at 25/1 to much derision. Donald was at the start of his decline and despite registering 9th at Firestone South and 4th at Conway Farms in the weeks after the Canadian Open, he missed the cut when we were on board at Glen Abbey. So with Luke's form now firmly in the ascendancy I'm happy to grab 28/1 this week. It's great to see the Chicago, Illinois domiciled Englishman enjoying his golf again and his return to swing coach Pat Goss has certainly started to bear fruit. A long game which now sees Donald hitting far more greens in regulation has started to have positive knock-on effects with the rest of his game and it was only a few weeks ago that Donald showed real grit to qualify for both the US Open (sectional qualifying) and the Open Championship (via the Travelers). Luke now finds himself amongst a nice run of form namely 7 (TPC River Highlands) -7 (Gullane)-12 (St Andrews) and he should be motivated to go well this week on his 3rd visit to Glen Abbey. A shortish par 72 where plenty of short game is required must enthuse Luke and the World Number 60 needs to ascend into the Top 50 to grab a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone in a fortnight. His record on Nicklaus courses is excellent and he was 3rd here in Canada at St Georges GCC in 2010 directly after finishing 11th at Sandwich.
Matt Kuchar's comment about driving the ball well to generate approaches with short irons around Glen Abbey got me thinking about short course specialists who are striking the ball well presently. Former John Deere Classic champion Brian Harman has been playing some great stuff in 2015 and I've been impressed by how he's pushed on this season rather than dining out on his maiden win last July. Brian started 2014 well by contending at Waialae (eventually finishing 13th) and 11th at PGA National, 8th at TPC Sawgrass, 10th at Colonial and 3rd at TPC River Highlands has been a decent return. 24th whilst defending his title a fortnight ago saw opening rounds of 67-68 whilst playing in a marquee group with Jordan Spieth and Brian continued to hit the ball beautifully in Fife last week. The 28 year-old Sea Island, Georgia resident clearly has a liking for up-state golf and his CV contains plenty of linkable form across Riviera (3rd 2014), Harbour Town (7th 2014), Sedgefield (3rd (2013) and Bethpage Black (2012). 19th in the Canadian Open hosted at Hamilton G&CC in 2012, Harman is sure a slight warming of the putter is all that's needed to challenge as he did at River Highlands a few weeks ago. "I am close to playing really well. Just going to try to keep doing what I'm doing."
In this game you have to remain patient with players and I'm playing Matt Jones again this week after a disappointing missed cut at TPC River Highlands a few weeks back. As I said back then, Jones is quietly in contention for a spot at the President's Cup and his chances were helped last week at St Andrews where his 30th place finish was his best ever Major performance. That boost can only help at Glen Abbey where the attacking mantra of the tournament, allied to the need for strong putting, should be right up the 35 year-old Aussie's street. Jones has always been Par 72 positive so it's not much of a surprise that 2 of his 3 top-7 finishes in 2015 have been at Pebble Beach and Bay Hill. So arriving in Toronto with little expectation and buoyed by St Andrews we could well see Jones contend this week. Matt has plenty of linkable form across Torrey Pines (5th 2009), PGA National (4th 2008), Old White TPC (2nd 2013), Deere Run (5th 2009/10) and Sedgefield (5th 2013).
I think it makes sense to follow some appropriate triple-digit plays this week at a tournament where the lesser lights always feature:
The enigma that is Andres Romero is back in busines as he makes his standard late bid to save his Tour privileges for another season. Romero is just as likely to miss the cut as see the weekend - 9 MCs vs 8 paycheques in 2015 - but when on form the guy can surprise and undoubtedly he's putting very well at present. Qualifying for and finishing 14th at Chambers Bay was a head-turner a few weeks back; since then 6th at Greenbrier and 10th at Barbasol have seen the 34 year-old Argentine move up to 166th in the FedEx Cup standings and 141st in the Money Earnings. Canada has always been kind to Romero who has finished an amazingly consistent 3rd (Shaughnessy 2011), 21st (Glen Abbey 2013) and 20th (Royal Montreal) across his 3 visits, so a Top 5 finish this week would help enormously. More encouragement can be taken from Romero's Nicklaus course record which includes 12th at PGA National (2014), 2nd at Muirfield Village (2012) and 3rd plus 2nd at Montreux (2012/13).
Daniel Summerhays often flatters to deceive but you can't argue that he performs well Up-State and that he likes a Nicklaus course. Summerhays' second season on Tour was his breakout one and 4th at Muirfield Village in June was followed by 5th at Old White TPC in July. 2013 then followed a similar pattern with Summerhays hitting a red-hot July's worth of form across a 9th at Old White TPC, 4th at Deere Run and 2nd at the Nicklaus designed Annandale. As one of the shorter hitters on Tour who likes to score well when his game is in all-round positive shape, it makes sense that Daniel's opportunities are limited, so I was interested to see him finish a creditable 27th at Chambers Bay in June which was then followed-up by a contending 8th at Deere Run last time out. I think Glen Abbey could be right up his street this week.
Luke Guthrie is another I really like the look of this week and his story is an interesting one. The Quincy, Illinois 25-year-old came to prominence in 2012 when he scored himself two back-to-back victories on the web.com Tour at Hillcrest CC (-22/262) and Midland Country Club (-17/271). Both courses featured Bentgrass Poa Annua greens. Guthrie had preceded these wins with an appearance at his local Tour event, the John Deere Classic, where on only his 2nd full Tour appearance he finished 5th. Since becoming a PGA Tour rookie in 2013 there have been more downs than ups, but his record on Nicklaus designs is pretty staggering. An initial 6th at Nicklaus GC in Kansas back in 2012 was then followed by 3rd at PGA National (2013), 4th at Lake Malaran (Guthrie led huge chunks of the European Tour event) and 8th at Muirfield Village (2014). Guthrie is clearly a talent who can putt brilliantly and prefers resort scoring, so it's been interesting to see an uplift in form recently at Old White TPC (37th) and Deere Run (14th) where he led for parts of Round 2. At 132nd/137th in the FEC/Money List, Guthrie needs results quickly, but that's more than possible with a game that's clearly trending upwards.
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