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Congratulations to Henrik Stenson who deservedly won his first Major Championship at Royal Troon last week. His duel with Phil Mickelson over the closing 36 holes was of the highest order and the two of them defied gnarly, windy conditions with runner-up Mickelson being 11 shots ahead of J.B. Holmes who jumps into the USA Ryder Cup team's automatic spots as a result of his sole 3rd place. As I have said many a time, players mature mentally at a variety of paces and Henrik was as solid as a rock to capture a Major title that his talent has deserved for many years. We also had a good week with Sergio Garcia delivering an each way return in the without favourites market and Aaron Baddeley winning the Barbasol Championship at 55/1. I know plenty of you were on board, let's hope for more of the same in Canada.
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, Woods and reigning World Number 1 Jason Day who defends his title this week. All Team RBC professionals are at Glen Abbey Golf Course this week for the 107th running of the Canadian Open, with 14 Canadians in the field trying to become the latest home champion since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
Course Guide: Glen Abbey Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design that has some unique aspects. 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 with Poa Annua; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 71.60 (-0.40), Difficulty Rank 28 of 43 courses. 2015: 71.21 (-0.79), Difficulty Rank 34 of 52.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Glen Abbey and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
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 firm, if not slightly faster than last year, although a constant afternoon breeze across the whole tournament may see scoring slightly higher than we have seen here recently. There's a threat of thunderstorms during the tournament as well, but not to the extent that we've seen in the United States across recent months. Fairways are some of the most difficult to hit on Tour, but this is a course where bombers can power their way into contention with little second thoughts for accuracy from off the tee. However it's also a course that rewards accuracy and a strong all-round game, hence the likes of Hearn, Furyk, McGirt and Bohn have all contended in the past 2 renewals. 5,600 sq.ft. average green complexes are small for a par-72 and greens in regulation numbers are always quite low. So to date this has been a course where in-form or streaky putters have had a distinct advantage on a set of green complexes which 12 months ago were described as some of the purest on Tour.
Winners: 2015: Jason Day (-17); 2014: Tim Clark (-17); 2013: Brandt Snedeker (-16); 2012: Scott Piercy (-17); 2011: Sean O'Hair (-4); 2010: Carl Pettersson (-14).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week which are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published RBC Canadian Open predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Dustin Johnson (Predictor No.1), Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Emiliano Grillo.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to TPC Sawgrass/Mauritius and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. 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: 2015: Day 9/1F; 2014: Clark 66/1; 2013: Snedeker 14/1; 2012: Piercy 50/1; 2011: Sean O'Hair 100/1; 2010: Pettersson 80/1; 2009: Green 200/1. Average: 74/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Oakville is here. For once this season the weather forecast for this week looks pretty straightforward. Fast conditions will prevail with this part of Canada receiving little precipitation in recent months. There's a low threat of thunderstorms in the early hours of Friday. Afternoon starters across all 4 days will also play in 10-15 mph winds which will be consistently from the west.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 5 winners at Glen Abbey since 2004 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how Glen Abbey has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:
Jason Day (2015): "I've never seen - I mean, for how soft the grass is on the fairway, I've never seen the balls bounce so high. It's 333 yards on one of the holes. I think it's 6, and I hit 3-wood nearly in the water. I mean, they're bouncing and rolling pretty quickly. I think the good thing about it is it's still playable. I think the conditions are set up perfect. The greens, the course superintendent and staff is doing a phenomenal job with the course set up. It was very tactical. You get out early, the ball wasn't bouncing as much. But as the sun heats up the ground, it's going to firm-up and start bouncing a lot more, not only the fairway, but the greens, which will make scoring conditions a little harder in the afternoon. But I still think with the winds that we have going on, if we hit it anywhere near the pin, the greens are so pure that you can just roll them in."
Hunter Mahan (2013): "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 (2013): "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 (2013): "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."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners here at Glen Abbey:
Incoming form of Canadian Open winners since 2009 (all venues):
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bent Poa mix greens PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
The week after the Open Championship has produced some big priced winners since 2008, although that trend has been stopped in its tracks at the last 2 Glen Abbey hosted Canadian Opens where favourites Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker have won at 9/1 and 14/1 respectively. Glen Abbey does seem to be a course where the best players excel with Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar all having contended behind Day and Snedeker in those renewals. Scratch the surface though and there's value to be had. Chez Reavie and Nathan Green (200/1) won the previous Opens hosted at Glen Abbey. Carl Pettersson (80/1), Sean O'Hair (100/1), Scott Piercy (50/1) and Tim Clark (66/1) have all won this title (at other venues) at big prices. Then in terms of each way returns, David Hearn (100/1), William McGirt (125/1) and Jason Bohn (200/1) have also filled the places at Glen Abbey in 2013/15.
Naturally the big question this week is whether contenders at Royal Troon will bring that form forward to Glen Abbey. Day, 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 Johnson and Day rightfully dominating the market at around 5/1 respectively. Instead there's a case for backing some longer prices this week as 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 3 domestic tournaments after next week's PGA Championship to capture a FedEx Cup top 125 spot before the 21st of August. So I can't help but think a couple of longer prices from the depths of the current standings will contend at Glen Abbey.
Bookmaker Offers. A couple of bookmakers have extended their each-way terms again this week plus there are a couple of other offers out there:
My selections are as follows:
Matt Kuchar headlines this week, a player who might take inspiration from Henrik Stenson's triumph last week. As we know, I have been touting a Kuchar win for a chunk of this season and the RBC Canadian Open grabs me as a tournament that he'll feel he can actually win. Yes, either Jason Day or Dustin Johnson could win at a canter and they have been priced accordingly, but Kuchar with a 2nd in 2013 and 7th here 12 months ago, clearly loves the course and will be fired up to grab a win that would seal his automatic Ryder Cup spot.
Kuchar's non-Major form reads 3(Firestone)-4(Muirfield)-6(Colonial)-3(TPC Four Seasons)-3(TPC Sawgrass) so I'm more than happy to take the price. Kuchar is always the sort who can be easily marked by the layers on the basis that he builds up to his wins so obviously in advance. 3 consecutive top 5s were needed before he won at Harbour Town in 2014; 2nd at Colonial preceded his win at Muirfield Village in 2013; 5 top 13 finishes in 6 prior appearances paved the way for his Players Championship triumph in 2012; with 3 top 10s in 4 appearances (6 in 8 prior) arriving before he won at Ridgewood in 2010. Bookmakers weren't so aware back in 2010/12 when Kooch went off at 40/1 and 55/1 at The Barclays and Players, but his last 2 strokeplay wins have been at 22/1 and 18/1 respectively. As Henrik proved last week, every dog has its day and with Kuchar hitting greens in regulation for fun I can see him right in the mix come Sunday. RESULT: T9
Argentine Emiliano Grillo is playing some outstanding golf in recent times. 17th at Bay Hill, 17th at Augusta, 11th at Muirfield Village, 14th at Firestone, 2nd (he lost in a play off after shooting -17/267) in Japan at the ISPS Handa Global Cup and 12th last week at Troon are a strong set of results for the World Number 40, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. All of these results were on course debut and Emiliano was 7th after 54 holes at Bay Hill, led for periods of time at Muirfield Village where his putter fired on the Bent/Poa Annua mix greens and was 3rd after 36 holes at Firestone South which again features that Bent Poa mix. All are big tournaments featuring classical golf courses and it appears that little intimidates the 23 year-old who grew up and still lives in Florida.
His debut Open Championship appearance at Troon featured a final round pairing with Rory McIlroy and where many would have cracked, Emiliano shot a closing 70 for a magnificent 12th place finish. Grillo only shipped 8 bogeys last week which was third best in the field (Mickelson 4, Stenson 7) and that kind of unflappable play will serve him well at Glen Abbey this week - a course which he actually has experience of. Grillo played here 12 months ago, shot -8/64 to lead on Thursday and went out in the fourth last group on Sunday with Jim Furyk. He eventually finished 22nd after a disappointing Sunday, but it's clear that the Argentine loves the course and 12 months on he's developed a better mentality. Remember he won his maiden PGA Tour title at Silverado this season - a classical, tree-lined course featuring Bent Poa Annua mix greens - and he also has 3-top 10 finishes on Nicklaus designs on the European Tour. RESULT: T43
Danny Lee suffered the rare occurrence of not being able to defend his PGA Tour title when the Greenbrier Classic was cancelled a fortnight ago, so he took the opportunity to fly to Scotland a week earlier than planned for the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. Lee finished 3rd on the North Sea coast, beaten only by Alex Noren and Tyrell Hatton, whilst he took some notable scalps such as Patrick Reed, Russell Knox, Graeme McDowell, Branden Grace and Troon-focussed duo Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. Last week's blow-out was hardly a surprise, but I like the look of the Texas-based New Zealander whose putter is warming after months in the freezer. This will be a Glen Abbey debut for Lee, but as last season proved he loves playing 'up-state' golf. 1st at Old White TPC was followed by 3rd at Deere Run, 4th at RTJ GC and 6th at a fiery Firestone. He then showed a great temperament to debut well and finish strongly to capture 2nd at the season closing Tour Championship at East Lake. 2016 has been quieter due to his putting issues but 4th at TPC Scottsdale, 9th at Quail Hollow and 3rd place a fortnight ago highlight to me a player who could come good in Canada this week. RESULT: T32
Jon Curran makes plenty of sense this week on a course where a top-notch short game is at the very least equal to ball-striking in its importance. Jon, who hails from Massachusetts, pops-up on courses where lower scoring is possible and with 8 consecutive cuts made he's having a decent season which has already included 4th at Sea Island, 11th at TPC Scottsdale, 9th at TPC San Antonio and 2nd at Muirfield Village where he was in a play-off with eventual winner William McGirt. So why Jon this week? Well Curran can clearly play up-state golf as his place of upbringing would suggest. He's undoubtedly par 72 positive and 3 of his PGA Tour top 10 finishes have been on Bent/Poa Annua mix green surfaces namely 8th Silverado (2014), 10th TPC River Highlands (2015) and June's 2nd at Muirfield Village. I like him when he gets into contention and on the 28th June, in partnership with his Massachusetts buddy Keegan Bradley, he won the CVS Health Charity Classic at Rhode Island CC beating plenty of notable talent. RESULT: MC
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