It was great to get another win on the board at the Memorial Tournament last week with Patrick Cantlay claiming the title for us at 18/1. He looked imperious closing with an amazing -8/64 which was the best closing round by a winner since Jack Nicklaus established the tournament way back in 1976. Personally I seem to have a handle on Muirfield Village as that was my third win at The Memorial Tournament following on from Tiger Woods (2012 – 16/1) and Bryson DeChambeau (2018 – 50/1). European Tour tipster Paul Williams also delivered last week at the Belgian Knockout, capturing the 36-hole stroke play winner Chris Paisley at 40/1.
The week before the U.S. Open is always a fascinating scenario on the PGA Tour and in 2019 we see the RBC Canadian Open taking over from the FedEx St Jude Classic, which has now become a World Golf Championship event and will be played the week after the Open Championship. This week the field includes Brooks Koepka (OWGR No. 1), Dustin Johnson (OWGR No.2), Rory McIlroy (No.4), Justin Thomas (No.6), Matt Kuchar (No.13), Bubba Watson (No.19) and Webb Simpson (No.20).
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Course Guide: We’ve got used to the RBC Canadian Open being played at Glen Abbey, but 2019 sees Golf Canada take their national title to Ancaster near Toronto to play the classical and sub-7,000 yard Par-70 at Hamilton Golf & Country Club. This will be the sixth time that Hamilton has hosted the Canadian Open, with Bob Tway (2003), Jim Furyk (2006) and Scott Piercy (2012) winning here in the recent past. At just around 7,000 yards in length, you won’t find a shorter course on the PGA Tour this season, but Hamilton has severely tiered green complexes which offer up some stern defence.
Hamilton G&CC, Hamilton, Ontario: Designer: Harry Colt 1914; Course Type: Classical, Mid-Score Scoring; Par: 70; Length: 6,967 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 11; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with ryegrass/fescue 4″; Greens: 5,000 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.59 (-0.41), Difficulty Rank 32 of 49 courses.
Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Hamilton G&CC and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
- Hamilton: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:27; 350:28.
- Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:35; 300:30; 325:26; 350:30.
- Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:25; 300:26; 325:25; 350:22.
- Trinity Forest: 250 yards from tee: 58 yards wide; 275:54; 300:56; 325:60; 350:57.
- Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
- Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 31 yards wide; 275:25; 300:20; 325:26; 350:22.
- Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
- Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
- TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29 350:20.
- Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39 350:29.
Course Overview: Hamilton G&CC hosted this tournament in 2012. Back then, the course played soft, with preferred lies in play across the opening 36 holes before the course quickened up. With little wind to defend the course and receptive greens over the opening 36 holes, the course was very gettable and at the close ranked within the bottom 20 on the PGA Tour for difficulty. Scott Piercy won at -17/263 with 14 players breaking double-digits under par.
An original Harry Colt design, Piercy described this course as an old-style test, where position both from off the tee and into the greens is key. With severe sloping greens in places, Piercy also highlighted that distance control was required, to ensure hitting first parts of green complexes. Anything long tends to be a bad miss, so playing strategic, below the hole golf pays dividends here.
From a course perspective, Hamilton has a brutal set of par-3s which played as the 4th toughest on Tour in 2012. 3 of 4 par-3s, namely the 6th, 8th and 13th, play at 224 yards, 210 yards and 217 yards respectively. From there though 11 of the 12 par-4s play at sub 450 yards, making this a less-than-driver golf course. Risk and reward also enters the frame across a driveable par-4 at the 5th and across the 2 par-5s which only measure 542 yards and 550 yards.
The course though will look significantly different to the one we saw in 2012. 2014 saw nearly 1000 mature trees removed in a bid to direct the course back to the way it was from a visual perspective back when the Colt design was opened.
In the last 2 champions here, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy, you have pretty varying player types. Furyk is a fairways and greens man who is one of the shortest hitters on Tour. Piercy, on the other hand, is a +310 yard driver who can be the streakiest of scorers on receptive golf courses. What is linkable though is that both ranked in the top 17 in the All-Round category in the season they captured the title at Hamilton. It’s just that kind of course.
Winners: 2018: Dustin Johnson (-23); 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 | Combined Stats.
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, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Scott Piercy, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Ryan Palmer and Jason Dufner.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Valero Texas Open, which includes 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:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Ryan Armour; 2) Jonas Blixt / Webb Simpson; 4) Jason Dufner / Kramer Hickok; 6) Bronson Burgoon; 7) Matt Kuchar; 8) Scott Brown / Brice Garnett; 10) Henrik Stenson; 11) J.J. Henry; 12) Roberto Castro; 13) Scott Langley; 14) Brandt Snedeker; 15) Talor Gooch; 16) Austin Cook / Tyler Duncan / Jim Herman; 19) Chad Collins; 20) Jim Furyk / Zach Johnson / Rod Pampling.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Brooks Koepka; 2) Bubba Watson; 3) Dustin Johnson; 4) Scott Piercy; 5) Jason Dufner; 6) Aaron Wise; 7) Corey Conners / Shawn Stefani; 9) Henrik Stenson; 10) John Chin; 11) Chad Collins / Keegan Bradley / Matt Kuchar; 14) Sepp Straka; 15) Rory McIlroy; 16) Webb Simpson / Kevin Tway; 18) Jim Furyk / Rod Pampling; 20) Shane Lowry / Alex Prugh / Zack Sucher.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Johnson Wagner; 3) Sebastian Munoz; 4) Brooks Koepka / David Lingmerth; 6) Ollie Schniederjans; 7) Peter Malnati; 8) Scott Piercy; 9) David Hearn / Denny McCarthy; 11) Brandt Snedeker; 12) Roberto Diaz / Alex Noren; 14) Webb Simpson / Erik van Rooyen; 16) Wyndham Clark / Shawn Stefani; 18) Luke Donald; 19) Brandon Hagy; 20) Austin Cook.
Winners & Prices: 2018: Johnson 7/1F; 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. Past 5 Renewals Average: 66/1; Overall Average: 64/1.
- 2012: Thursday: Due to threat of heavy rain, players were allowed preferred lies for the first two rounds. Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with an afternoon high in the mid-80s. Winds SSW at 8-12 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with an afternoon high in the mid-80s. Winds SW 8-14 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with an afternoon high of 86. Winds SSW at 8-12 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with an afternoon high of 83. Winds SW at 4-8 mph
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Hamilton, Ontario, is here. 40mm of rain across the past 9 days, allied to 113mm in total across May, is likely to make Hamilton G&CC a lush test this week. Rhod Trainor, the Course Superintendent, has mentioned that the green complexes here are old and out of date from a draining perspective, so with more rain forecast for tournament Tuesday I can see the greens being receptive enough. That may also lead to some nice juicy rough, but with nigh-on perfect conditions across Thursday and Friday, scoring should be very low. From there moderate breezes are likely to be in-play across the weekend, but on a sub 7,000 yard golf course, I think scoring will be low.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 2 winners here at Hamilton G&CC since 2006 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:
- 2012, Scott Piercy (-17). 311 yards (9th), 62.5% fairways (31st), 66.7% greens in regulation (53rd), 32’3″ proximity to hole (12th), 70.8% scrambling (13th), 1.69 putts per GIR (9th).
- 2006, Jim Furyk (-13). 283 yards (47th), 78.6% fairways (4th), 66.7% greens in regulation (34th), 38’3″ proximity to hole (56th), 70.8 % scrambling (8th), 1.60 putts per GIR (1st).
Tournament Skill Average:
- Driving Distance: 28th, Driving Accuracy: 18th, Greens in Regulation: 44th, Proximity to Hole: 34th, Scrambling: 11th, Putting Average 5th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Trends – 2012 RBC Canadian Open:
- 1st, Scott Piercy (-17). SG Off the Tee: 11th, SG Approach: 33rd, SG Around the Green: 4th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 4th.
- 2nd, Robert Garrigus (-16). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 7th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 72nd.
- 2nd, William McGirt (-16). SG Off the Tee: 25th, SG Approach: 23rd, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 17th, SG Putting: 1st.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 20th, SG Around the Green: 16th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 26th.
Let’s take a view from players as to how Hamilton G&CC sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Scott Piercy (2012): “Like I said, I hit it in the rough on one hole and I advanced to 20 yards. Yeah, on 13. I had it just short right of that bunker and I almost hit it in the bunker. And I made bogey. It settled to the bottom. It’s long and settled down. So the rough is really penal. As far as the pins go, there was a couple that seemed a little dicey. No. 2, that pin was kind of like a mound. I hit it just long left of it. I’m like, I want to keep it on the green. There’s a couple that look pretty crazy. You know, it’s offensive if you’re in the fairway right now definitely. The golf course doesn’t play very long. But if you’re not in the fairway, you know, it’s going to fight you a little bit. So the greens are receptive. You can spin back wedges. You can play in with a 9‑iron, you can pull back a few tees.
I will tell you this golf course for me takes the juices out of it for me, because it’s not an exciting golf course where you generally go hit driver. It’s a lot of position off the tee, and it’s a lot of position into the green. You want to be just to that first part of the green in the middle of the green, and putting into the corners. For me, I like to be aggressive and shoot at things, but that’s really boring for me. So I would say it’s the opposite, in my mind, anyway, you know, like the Phoenix Open. You’re going out for birdies and everybody knows it. Here it’s more playing for pars and hoping that the birdies fall. Does that make sense? So because the greens are so severe in spots, you want to be below the hole, putting up into them. So if you’re below the hole, generally‑ anything below the hole, you’re not going to mess up the hole. Even if you’re short of the green you’re usually putting up to the hole. So it’s a lot of position off the tee to hit the fairways, so you have a chance to be as aggressive as you can be. Then you still got to play position to the green, pins back. You have to play short, stuff like that.”
Robert Garrigus (2012): “My caddie Brent Henley and I had a game plan starting the week. We weren’t going to pound driver all day, but the holes we could take advantage of it, we’re going to hit it. We could hit it 6 times a day which is more than I thought I was going to. I’ve hit a couple of 5‑woods and 3‑irons. My 3‑iron has been very key except for one shot on 10 I kind of fluffed it.
But it’s been a lot of fun this week. Plus I’m hitting my irons so well, and I’m putting okay. I mean, my caddie keeps telling me if you keep hitting close, you’re going to miss a couple. So don’t get frustrated. He’s been good about keeping me calm about that, because I missed some short putts. So now I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
William McGirt (2016): “Well, the greens definitely firmed up today. You didn’t really see anybody ripping wedges back off greens today. So you’re starting to get a decent first bounce on some holes. There were a couple of times where we were playing for a softer bounce, kind of flying it to the number. And watched it release. My 4‑iron on 6 released probably 20 or 25 feet. It hit just short of hole high and almost released through. So yesterday that ball would have probably released maybe five, six feet.
I love old traditional style golf courses, and this is definitely old. Donald Ross is my favourite architect, and this has a lot of Ross characteristics to it.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners here at Hamilton G&CC:
- 2012 – Scott Piercy: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2006 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 6th.
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners here at Hamilton G&CC:
- 2012 – Scott Piercy: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: level, Round 3: 2 back.
- 2006 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: level, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Dustin Johnson: MC Open/3rd US Open/1st St Jude/8th Memorial.
- Jhonattan Vegas: MC Open/MC National/MC Travelers/MC US Open.
- Jhonattan Vegas: 4th Barbasol/53rd Barracuda/44th Congressional/MC Memorial.
- Jason Day: 4th Open/9th US Open/MC Memorial/MC TPC Sawgrass.
- Tim Clark: 5th JDC/MC Greenbrier/MC Travelers/19th St Jude.
- Brandt Snedeker: 11th Open/8th AT&T National/17th US Open/MC St Jude.
- Scott Piercy: 3rd JDC/12th Greenbrier/ MC US Open/MC Memorial.
- Sean O’Hair: MC Open/MC AT&T National/63rd Travelers/MC Memorial.
- Carl Pettersson: MC JDC/6th AT&T National/34th Travelers/28th Memorial.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score here at Hamilton G&CC since 2006. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
- 2012 – Piercy – PM -8/62.
- 2006 – Furyk / Rose – AM/PM Split -7/63.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 10 – Dustin Johnson.
- 6 – Bubba Watson.
- 4 – Brandt Snedeker.
- 3 – Rory McIlroy, Jimmy Walker.
- 2 – J.J. Henry, Brooks Koepka, Scott Piercy, Nick Watney.
- 1 – Sang-moon Bae, Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Scott Stallings, Henrik Stenson, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway, Gary Woodland.
Of course we enter a new world this week on the PGA Tour, with the RBC Canadian Open moving from post-Open Championship in July to pre-U.S. Open in early June. Golf Canada seem happy with the change, with courses set to be in better condition. We must also remember that this week can be a nightmare for tipsters, punters and layers alike with U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying taking place on Monday around 9 locations in United States. Naturally players having to expend their efforts in those will not be touching down in Toronto until Monday evening at the very earliest and we should expect plenty of WDs in the direct build-up to the tournament through Monday and into Tuesday.
Traditionally, the mix of winners across the tournament before the U.S. Open is a little confusing. Up until this new PGA Tour schedule, this week always saw the annual trip to TPC Southwind in Memphis for the FedEx St Jude Classic. Memphis has produced 4 maiden PGA Tour victors in the past 9 renewals since 2010. That could be something worth bearing in mind. One of those was Daniel Berger who won at TPC Southwind at 33/1 (2016) and 28/1 (2017). For both of his wins the Floridian was ranked within the OWGR top 50.
Indeed high-class winners who had already qualified for the U.S. Open have won the week before in 2008, 2010 (12/1), 2012 (20/1), 2016 (33/1), 2017 (28/1) and 2018 (7/1F) – namely Justin Leonard, Lee Westwood, Daniel Berger (twice) and Dustin Johnson (twice). They undoubtedly took the opportunity to land a PGA Tour with no hesitation. So that’s an elite winner percentage of 55% across the last 11 renewals.
Hamilton was last played in 2012 where Scott Piercy beat Robert Garrigus and William McGirt by a single shot. 2006 saw Jim Furyk ease his way to victory beating Bart Bryant and Sean O’Hair (the defending champion) in the process.
The course is a classical Par-70 where relatively narrow fairways and relatively long rough will mean that finding the short stuff will be an advantage building block for success this week, however every single player in the top 9 in 2012 also ranked in the top 25 for Driving Distance.
My selections are as follows: