RBC Canadian Open: Bubba can strike again
The PGA Tour heads to Glen Abbey in Canada this week and Dave Tindall looks for more profits with these three selections...
"Bubba hasn’t always got it right at Glen Abbey but he returned home from the Open at St. Andrews three years ago to finish runner-up."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places
It seems strange to see Bubba Watson at 20/1 this week given that he's the PGA Tour's only three-time winner this season.
The most recent of those trophies was lifted at the Travelers Championship last month and since then he's finished T13 at the Greenbrier (his joint best finish there) and suffered his usual flop at the Open Championship which, quite frankly, is irrelevant and best ignored.
Bubba hasn't always got it right at Glen Abbey but he returned home from the Open at St. Andrews three years ago to finish runner-up after shooting 68-67-68-69. He also opened with 66 last year before fading.
So what's going on in Bubba's head when he plays here and does well?
"I'm part Canadian since I married a Canadian." A bit muddled but I see where he's coming from.
Bubba once expanded on that. "Winning a national Open and an Open that is part of my family now, me being part of Canada, I guess you could say. I've got two flags at the house, so it's a big deal. It would be a great honour, but a big deal for the family as well."
At the very least, that makes me think we're on a trier. There won't be any going through the motions after his return from Scotland.
As for the course, he said a couple of years ago: "I hit driver I think everywhere except the last hole, No. 9. Just trying to have short irons in here."
Looking at Future of Fantasy's list of top performers on Driver Heavy courses and Dustin Johnson is the only player taking part this week above him on the list of players who thrive on such layouts.
Johnson is a big threat if we take his Open performance as just an example of bad tactics. Ironically, if he employs the same ones here and just keeps wielding the big stick, he should go well. As the son-in-law of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, he too is "part Canadian" and form of 8-2-2 here suggests both focus and aptitude for the course.
Brooks Koepka was T18 on his one knock here and it could have been better than that after three 68s put him fourth with a lap to play. Of course, since then he's become a double US Open champion so is arguably a better bet at 11/1 than DJ at 13/2.
Tommy Fleetwood looks short enough at 16s after a tough week at Carnoustie while it's hard to see Tony Finau at 16s when Bubba is 20s. Finau has won once ever; Watson has won three times this season. Market leaders tend to do well here but it's Bubba who represents the value at 20s.
Assessing past form at Glen Abbey, I want big hitters this week and one who fits the bill is Jason Kokrak.
He's 14th in Driving Distance this season (310.3 yards) and also sixth longest in this field over the last eight weeks.
Kokrak gave it a go at Carnoustie but couldn't get anything going but before heading over to Scotland he's finished tied third at the Greenbrier where he opened 65-64. True, he had some weekends off before that too but the American has had four top eight finishes this season so pops up fairly regularly.
Glen Abbey has four par 5s and 21-under was the number last year so we also want a player who makes lots of birdies and eagles. Kokrak has made 11th most eagles on the PGA Tour this season and is 18th in Par 5 Birdie or Better leaders.
He's had two previous visits to Glen Abbey, walking away with T31 and missed cut. aTht doesn't look great but he shot middle rounds of 68-69 on debut in 2013 and was in the top 25 going into Sunday while he shot 3-under 69 in round two last year, before just missing the weekend.
At the Greenbrier, Kokrak noted: "I started off the season pretty strong, and trying to get better and better, and putting all the pieces together right now.
"Just a few minor changes and just kind of freed it up a little bit this week. I feel good. I'm happy with the way I wedged it. I'm happy with my irons. Putter could have been a little bit better, but gave myself a lot of chances."
He's 125/1 and backing him at that sort of price on this sort of course is a pretty decent long-term project.
Finally, I'm going to take a punt on J.B. Holmes at 50s. From T13 at Memorial (like this, another Jack Nicklaus layout) to third at St. Jude and second at the Travelers he was one of the Tour's form horses in June.
July has brought two missed cuts but given that his round scores in those events were 73-70-70-69, Holmes has hardly lost it. As a huge hitter, I'd expect him to have a good record here and that's the case in part due to T16 on debut and T14 last year in his three starts at Glen Abbey.
Colleague Steve Rawlings has often pointed out the correlation in form between Glen Abbey and Torrey Pines, the home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Bubba has won at the latter while Holmes has form of 4-33-6-2 on his last four visits to the California course.
At the Travelers, he said: "I've won out here before. I know what it takes. I'm playing well right now, so hopefully I can keep giving myself opportunities." He's well worth a bet at 50s to get in the mix here.
Another I considered was Harold Varner at 80s. He's coming in on the back of a pair of top six finishes and was T6 at halfway in this event last year before falling to T23.
Matt Kuchar always enjoys Nicklaus tracks and has a second place and two other top 10s in his last four Glen Abbey appearances. Without threatening to win, he banked a solid T9 at Carnoustie so there's no reason why he can't have another big week in Canada.
Finally, a mention for monster hitter Cameron Champ, who sounds like a comic-strip character.
As well as launching the ball vast distances, he can play too. Last week he won the Utah Championship and that was his fifth straight top 10 on the Web.com.
I'm not quite sure if the 40/1 is terrible value or actually quite good.
Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
(After the Open Championship)