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Congratulations to Francesco Molinari backers who won at Carnoustie at 33/1. The Italian's white-hot form both across the European and PGA Tours continued at The Open where his weekend performance was superb. The poise he showed when partnered with the fast-starting Tiger Woods was truly impressive and when the inevitable back-nine heat became too much for the 14-time Major Champion, Molinari stepped up to the mark. Fearless approach play in windy conditions, top-notch scrambling and total-confidence with the putter produced 16 pars, plus birdies at the 14th and 18th, which distanced the Team Europe Ryder Cup star from the likes of the late charging and McIlroy and Rose, plus the faltering Kisner, Schauffele, Spieth and Woods. Our podcast pundit Barry O'Hanrahan tipped up Francesco on our Open podcast, a weekly production which is always worth a listen.
So on to this week then. Royal Bank of Canada's (RBC) sponsorship of the Canadian Open has seen a renaissance of sorts and that looks set to continue in the future with Canada's national Open set to move to the week before the U.S. Open in the revised 2018/19 PGA Tour schedule. Following on from the United States, French, Irish, Scottish 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 Jason Day. All Team RBC professionals are at Glen Abbey Golf Course this week for the 109th running of the Canadian Open with Adam Hadwin, David Hearn, Ben Silverman and Nick Taylor amongst a number of Canadians in the field trying to become the latest home champion since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Porsche European Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
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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. Glen Abbey also features recently laid Bentgrass green complexes and the course in 2017 changed slightly with the removal of bunkers across the 1st, 8th, 17th and 18th holes.
Glen Abbey GC, Oakville, Ontario: Designer: Nicklaus 1976; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,253 yards; Water Hazards: 12; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Ryegrass 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. 2015: 71.21 (-0.79), Difficulty Rank 34 of 52. 2016: 72.54 (+0.54), Difficulty Rank 14 of 50. 2017: 70.37 (-1.63), Difficulty Rank 42 of 50.
Glen Abbey 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 Designer Links: For research purposes, other Jack Nicklaus designs include:
Course Overview: A circa 7,200 yard Par 72 will always be attackable on the PGA Tour, but Glen Abbey always plays as tough as course and weather conditions allow. Wind looks set to be stronger than last year with the course not quite as soft as 2017, so expect mid-to-late teens required to win the tournament this week. 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, like most classical courses, it's also a course where those with an accurate all-round game can win and contend with the likes of Snedeker, Hearn, Furyk, McGirt, Bohn and Poulter all having contended in the past 4 Glen Abbey renewals. Both types of player, be they a power bomber or a plotting short game specialist, can thrive here on a course which really welcomes fantastic approach play.
5,600 sq.ft. average green complexes are small for a Par 72, but soft conditions are likely to make this a low scoring shoot-out. With scrambling relatively simple here - 7th easiest on the Tour in 2017 - look for players who can score heavily across a reachable set of par-5s which ranked as the 5th easiest on the PGA Tour last term.
Winners: 2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21); 2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12); 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'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. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Chris Kirk, Jim Furyk and Jhonattan Vegas.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the AT&T Byron Nelson and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Vegas 125/1; 2016: Vegas 125/1; 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. Average: 71/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 81/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Oakville, Ontario, is here. I'm not expecting conditions to be quite as soft as 2018, but with 12mm of rain last Sunday and 75% probability of more precipitation tournament Wednesday I'm expecting receptive conditions across the opening 2 days of competition at the very least. With temperatures from 24-26 degrees Celsius across the 4 days of competition conditions should be pretty perfect, although blustery conditions on Thursday and Friday afternoon may put the brake on scoring just a tad.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 7 winners at Glen Abbey 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 the course sets up and what specific skills it requires:
Jhonattan Vegas: "It's a lot softer than it was last year for sure. So obviously you're going to really have to adapt this week. You're going to have to fly things right next to the hole. Especially some of these holes around here, where some of that pin positions are so protected from bunkers and water, that you're going to have to hit your irons really well to score. But obviously it opens up a lot of opportunities, as well. So I think you're going to see low scores again.
It was hard to get used to, because even the past previous years, the past two times, 2015 and 2016 that I played here, conditions were really firm. So I was used to hitting, you know, all kind of different shots from the tee, and this year I had to hit more drivers. It was a whole different mentality that I had to come in and approach on different lines. It was a course that was more gettable. So I knew that from the beginning, I had to stay aggressive because with conditions soft and not much wind, a lot of birdies were going to be there. Obviously a whole different golf course, and you had to stay aggressive, which I was lucky enough to do."
Dustin Johnson: "Yeah, the golf course is in great shape. It's firm and fast. It's definitely tough to get the ball close to the hole. You've really got to land the ball on your numbers. With it being as windy as it was today, it was tough to do that. Yeah, I like this golf course. I think it sets up well for me. I like it off the tee. The conditions are really tough right now. The greens are really firm but they are rolling really nicely. So if you get some good looks at it, you can hold some putts.
Yeah, I think that's part of the success. I enjoy the course. I like bent greens a lot. These are honestly some of the best we putt on every single year, and they're probably the best I've ever seen them this year. They're fantastic."
Jason Day: "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: "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."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners here at Glen Abbey:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score here at Glen Abbey since 2008. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
The week after the Open Championship has produced some big priced winners since 2008, although we've also seen short prices mixed in at Glen Abbey hosted Canadian Opens where favourites Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker have won at 9/1 and 14/1 respectively in the recent past. Glen Abbey does seem to be a course where the best players excel with Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson (twice) and Matt Kuchar all having contended in recent renewals. But then again with Jhonattan Vegas winning the past 2 renewals at 125/1 and with Chez Reavie and Nathan Green (200/1) also having won previous Opens hosted at Glen Abbey, who really knows!
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, Robert Garrigus (150/1), Brandon Hagy (150/1), David Hearn (100/1), William McGirt (125/1), Jason Bohn (200/1), Martin Laird (150/1), Ricky Barnes (175/1), Alex Cejka (250/1) and Steve Wheatcroft (200/1) have also filled the places at Glen Abbey across 2013/15/16/17. Jhonattan Vegas has dominated in Toronto over the past 2 renewals and naturally goes for the 3-peat this week. The Venezuelan will have a chance to become the first player since Steve Stricker in 2009-10-11 to win the same tournament (John Deere Classic) at least three times in a row.
Naturally the big question this week is whether contenders at Carnoustie will bring that form forward to Glen Abbey. Day, Furyk, Snedeker and Mahan have proved that it's more than possible for elite players to contend in back-to-back weeks. Dustin Johnson had always been a peripheral figure at Royal Troon, despite a 9th place finish in Scotland prior to arriving in Canada in 2016, before finishing runner-up to Jhonattan Vegas. But Vegas shows the vagaries of the RBC Canadian Open by winning this in 2016 after holding the 36 and 54 hole leads at the 'alternate' Barbasol Championship before eventually finishing 4th. Naturally 2017 saw the Venezuelan win this for the second year running after a play-off with Charley Hoffman, arriving as he did after 5 straight missed cuts.
My selections are as follows:
It's highly unlikely that Bubba Watson will ever win his own national Open Championship. It's also highly improbable that he will ever win the Open Championship (British Open). So if the World Number 14 ever wants to win a National Open title, the RBC Canadian Open must be a priority, especially as his Canadian connections run deep. His wife Angie is Canadian and hails from Pickering, Ontario which is 20 miles the other side of downtown Toronto. Her parents still live there and Bubba, Angie and the children stay there prior to the tournament. So in my mind from a motivation perspective, I'm thinking that Bubba will have the Canadian Open still unchecked on his list of career goals - a little like when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai and announced that winning outside of North America was a huge achievement for him. As we know with Bubba, he's a player to follow on certain courses and his last 3 visits to Glen Abbey have garnered a 21st (2013), 2nd (2015) and 42nd (2017). 2013 saw him 3rd after 36 holes, last year saw him shoot -6/66 on Thursday with Volvik golf balls and in 2015 Watson lost to Jason Day by a single shot at a best price of 18/1. So yet again I'm pleasantly surprised to see 25/1 about a player who ranks 4th in the FedEx Cup standings and who is a 3-time winner in 2018. His immediate form in of 1-13-MC is the exact same that is was back in 2015 when finishing runner-up to Day who back then was the best player in the world. As he said after winning the Travelers Championship a few weeks ago with us on-board at 33/1, he doesn't want 2018 to end and I can see him at the razor-sharp end this week whether the course is soft or gets firmer. RESULT: MC
It's the case of the perfect course at a very good time for Charley Hoffman. 4 top-20 finishes across the US Open (20th), Travelers (15th), Scottish Open (19th) and Open Championship (17th) means that his price is a little guarded this week, but he was a 25/1 shot 12 months ago when losing in a play-off to Jhonattan Vegas so I'm prepared to go with it. 10th in Greens in Regulation and 21st in Putts per GIR at Carnoustie, the Nevada man was 13th after 54 holes last week. Like many, Hoffman is a true horse for a course and this feels a little like the build-up to his last victory at the 2016 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Back then Charley had form of 33-29-14 heading into a course where he'd finished 2nd and 3rd previously and the win came at 30/1. Form of 28th (2008), 16th (2013), 7th (2015), 29th (2016) and 2nd (2017) here at Glen Abbey tells you all you need to know and the soft conditions this week will play right into his hands. Indeed over the past 5 years he ranks Number 1 in this field across performances on soft golf courses in this week's Predictor Model, beating Dustin Johnson into second spot. Impressive indeed. RESULT: T29
To see Sergio Garcia at a better price than he was for last week's Open Championship, in a far weaker field, was an eye-opener, especially as I think the World Number 20 is now on an upward curve. At 132nd in the FedEx Cup standings, the 2017 Masters Champion is definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the PGA Tour Playoffs and that has to motivate. Yes he's a lock for the European Ryder Cup team, but with Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood all playing some great golf of late, Garcia must again know that he needs to step up to the plate. No player wants to 'limp' onto a Ryder Cup team, so I'm expecting great things from the Spaniard who plays the Canadian Open-Bridgestone Invitational-PGA Championship across 3 straight weeks. I can assure you that he won't want to play the Wyndham Championship to make it 4 straight on the basis that he isn't assured a FedEx Cup spot.
There are signs that Sergio's finding his best stuff. 12th at the BMW International Open featured his best ball-striking since finishing 4th at the Valspar in March as he ranked 4th for Driving Accuracy and 3rd for GIR on the week. He backed that up a week later with his Le Golf National debut where he ranked 5th for Scrambling and 6th for Putting Average, entering the final day in 3rd place. Indeed Sergio was in a tie for 2nd standing on the 18th tee on Sunday, before pushing for a birdie on the 2nd hardest hole on the course and making double bogey. An 8th place finish was the result, but make no mistake Garcia showed that he's back in business and I can forgive last week at Carnoustie where a group directly in front of his nemesis Tiger Woods was never likely to float his boat. Sergio arrives in Canada for the first time to play competitively since 2001: 4th in Vancouver (2000), 3rd here at Glen Abbey (2000) and 5th at Royal Montreal (2001) from 3 appearances is very encouraging and a PGA Tour resume which includes victories at Colonial, Westchester (x2), TPC Four Seasons (x2), Congressional, Sedgefield and Augusta tells you all you need to know about this man's ability to play on tree-lined, old-style golf courses. He doesn't mind Bentgrass either! RESULT: MC
Harold Varner III 1pt EW 125/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet** for new accounts, 18+, T&Cs apply (8 EW, 1/5 odds):
Harold Varner III is one to follow this week on the basis that he is playing some fantastic golf of late. On a course where bombers tend to thrive, I like the look of HV3 who has run into some fantastic form since the start of May. The 2016 Australian PGA Champion looked like he could be crashing out of the PGA Tour earlier this year with no finish better than 38th accompanied by 7 missed cuts when arriving at Quail Hollow in May. That classical Major Championship venue proved to be the course where Harold's fortune turned as a 3rd Round 68 placed him in semi-contention for the first time since the winter. A week later the Ohio-born man landed an each-way paying place at 500/1 at TPC Sawgrass - a result which clearly boosted his confidence at a tournament featuring the very best in the world. Of late though, Harold was still outside the FedEx Cup Top 125 before finishing 5th at Old White TPC and 6th at TPC Deere Run which now sees the Florida resident just outside the top 100 with his playing privileges for next year virtually secured. 42 birdies across 2 short, tree-lined golf courses featuring Bentgrass greens is a great haul and I don't see many reasons why Harold won't continue the trend this week at a similar golf course. He was 5th after 36 holes and 11th after 54 holes here 12 months ago before finishing 22nd and he is playing some of the best golf of his career right now. I like other results on his CV including 8th at TPC Louisiana (2016), 7th at Congressional (2016) and 10th at Sedgefield (2018) which correlate well with the likes of Glen Abbey victors Vegas, Day and Snedeker. RESULT: T17
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