RBC Canadian Open: Stallings worth chancing again

Scott Stallings – fancied by The Punter again
Scott Stallings – fancied by The Punter again

Our man looks forward to this week's PGA Tour action, north of the border, where he fancies a strong course correlation to reap rewards at the Canadian Open. Read Steve's in-depth preview here...

“Scot Stallings played some incredible golf at the Barbasol Championship last week. He came close to winning despite missing umpteen short putts and it was always going to be hard for him to back up Saturday’s 11-under-par 60 in round three.”

Tournament History

The RBC Canadian Open dates all the way back to 1904 and this will be the 108th edition. It's the third oldest national open and prior to the establishment of the PGA Tour it was one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, but not anymore.

Now that the event follows the Open Championship, the majority of marquee names take the week off and the big names in attendance tend to be associated with the sponsors, RBC.

World number one Dustin Johnson and last week's runner-up, Mat Kuchar, currently ranked 12th in the world, are the standout names this year and now that Brandt Snedeker has been forced to withdraw, Charley Hoffman, who ranks 38, is the only other player in the field inside the top-40 of the world rankings.


Venue

Glen Abbey Golf Course, Oakville, Ontario


Course Details

Par 72, 7,253 yards
2016 Stroke Index - 72.54

Glen Abbey was the first course Jack Nicklaus designed on his own and it opened for business in 1976. With the exceptions of 1980 and 1997, it was the event's permanent home between 1977 and 2000 and it's staged the championship on 28 previous occasions in total.

The fairways are of average width and the bentgrass greens are generally smaller than average, undulating and often protected by steep bunkering.

The back nine features the "Valley Holes" starting with a tee shot at the 11th to a fairway some 60 feet below. Holes 12, 13 and 14 then following Sixteen Mile Creek and the final third is the course's most diverse and interesting third.

There have been a few changes to the bunkering since last year's renewal but I can't see it making any difference to the course's playability.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:00 on Thursday


Last Five Winners

2016 - Jhonattan Vegas -12
2015 - Jason Day -17
2014 - Tim Clark -17
2013 - Brandt Snedeker -16
2012 - Scott Piercy - 17


What Will it Take to Win The Canadian Open?

Chez Reavie ranked fourth for Driving Accuracy in 2008 and the 2009 winner here, Nathan Green, found more fairways than anyone else but it's been an irrelevant stat of late.

Last year's winner, Jhonattan Vegas, ranked only 59th for DA and 12 months earlier, Jason Day won having ranked just 73rd, and the second and third, Bubba Watson and David Hearn, ranked tied 43rd for DA. The 2013 Glen Abbey winner, Brandt Snedeker, like Vegas, won with a DA ranking of 59th.

Tiger Woods ranked number one for Driving Distance when he won in 2000 and Vijay Singh ranked 5th in 2004, but the three winners at Glen Abbey before Day won two years ago ranked 34th, 32nd and 58th so bombing it off the tee didn't look essential but I'd definitely favour it over accuracy.

Day ranked second for DD in 2015 and the runner-up, Watson, ranked first. Last year's winner, Vegas, ranked 11th and Dustin Johnson, who hit it further than anyone else, finished runner-up. Power over accuracy from the tee looks the way to go.

Vegas ranked fifth for Greens In regulation 12 months ago but that hasn't been an essential stat given the three winners before him ranked 29th, 18th and 36th.

This is a hard event to weigh up statistically and Vegas threw another spanner in the works last year when he won with a Putting Average ranking of just 57th given the five course winners before him all ranked inside the top-ten for various putting stats.


Is There an Angle In?

I've theorised that playing in the Open before travelling to Canada could be a negative but recent evidence suggests it's anything but. The 2013 winner, Snedeker, contended at Muirfield the week before he won, Jason Day had a chance to win at St. Andrews two years ago before he won here and the three players to finish tied for second 12 months ago - John Rahm, DJ and Martin Laird, had all played at Royal Troon the week before.

Rahm's second 12 months ago was his best effort on the PGA Tour until he got off the mark at Torrey Pines in January and he's far from the first to highlight a very obvious correlation between the two venues. The winner did too. Vegas finished third at TP on debut in 2011.

Day and Bubba, first and second here in 2015, are both winners of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and recent Glen Abbey winners, Brandt Snedeker and Tiger Woods are multiple Torrey Pines winners. Both courses have smaller than average bentgrass greens so that could be why the correlation occurs but other than that I don't really see why they correlate.

I recognise that one could argue that Woods, Day, Watson, Snedeker and Rahm are just high quality players that can win anywhere but in addition to those five and Vegas of course, it's also worth highlighting that the 2009 winner of the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, Nathan Green, who was a huge outsider, also finished runner-up at Torrey Pines in 2006 at a massive price.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

At 150.0149/1 before the off, Vegas was a big price given he'd been odds-on in-running at the Barbasol Championship the week before and the 2008 and 2009 course winners, Reavie and Green, were very hard to fancy too.

It seems it's either the favourite or a rank outsider takes the spoils here though as four of the seven course winners this century went off favourite - Day, Snedeker, Singh and Woods.

Young amateur, Jared du Toit, played in the final pairing 12 months ago, Davin Hearn led by two with a round to go two years ago and Mike Weir was three clear after 54 holes here in 2004 but they all fell short to varying degrees. No Canadian has won this event since Pat Fletcher way back in 1954. The pressure clearly gets to the home contingency (Weir was matched at 1.041/25 in-running!) so if any of them get in to contention again this time around they may well be worth taking on.
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In-Play Tactics

It's a bit of a confusing picture but recent evidence suggests a fast start at Glen Abbey is by no means essential. The last four course winners have all trailed by at least four strokes and the last three were at least that far back at halfway.

Snedeker was trailing by fully eight strokes through 36 holes in 2013, Day was four back in 2015 and last year's champ, Vegas was five back. And he was still five back and trading at a huge price with just one round to play!

Vegas' remarkable comeback could be a one-off though. Green sat fourth in 2009 but he was only one shot off the lead and the other eight players to win or make it to a playoff were all sitting first or second after 54 holes.


Market Leaders

Dustin Johnson looks like a perfectly reasonable price given he shot 64 around Royal Birkdale on Saturday and that his course form figures read W-2-2.

I don't know why he withdrew in 2008 but given it was nine years ago I'm not going to worry about it, especially given how good his course form claims are after that.

He will feel as though he perhaps should have won 12 months ago, and he hit a low of 1.794/5 early on in round three, but he came even closer to victory here in 2013 when he threw the tournament away with a wayward drive at the penultimate hole after he'd done well to even make the cut!

DJ shot 75 in round one in 2013 to sit tied for 126th and he was still 11 strokes back at halfway before a third round 63 put him in-the-mix. He clearly plays the track well when in the mood and I thought there were definite signs of improvement last week.

The world number one is going to spring back to life at some point and he looks a very fair price to do so here given the opposition.

If Matt Kuchar can lift himself to contend after last week it will be a monumental effort. He's going to feel beat up after what Jordan Spieth did to him on Sunday and he sounded afterwards as though it might take a while to get the defeat out of his system. If indeed he ever does.

"You only get so many chances...to taste it with five holes to go, it's a hard one to sit back and take."

I can see him starting OK and his course form reads MC-2-7-9 so Glen Abbey clearly suits him but if he hit a wall at some point there wouldn't be anyone that could blame him and his prominent position in the market is another reason to be keen on DJ.

Selections

I've played D.J and there are a number of players I could have backed with Torrey Pines form. C.T Pan was second this year, K.J Choi was runner-up in 2016 and 2013 and J.B Holmes, Harris English and Scott Stallings were all beaten by Jason Day in a playoff in 2015.

All those are reasonably priced and I've had small bets on them all but the one I really couldn't leave out was Stallings. In addition to finishing third in 2015, he won the Farmers in 2014 and although his form here is poor so far (two missed cuts) he arrives in Canada in exceptional form having finished fifth at the Greenbrier Classic and third at the Barbasol Championship. And like last year's winner, Vegas, he traded at odds-on at the Barbasol before getting beat.

Well aware of the course correlation, I backed an out of form Stallings at 320.0319/1 last year so taking 75.074/1 about him this time around feels a bit uncomfortable - especially after he let me down last week after I'd made him my sole selection.

He played some incredible golf at the Barbasol Championship last week though. He came close to winning despite missing umpteen short putts and it was always going to be hard for him to back up Saturday's 11-under-par 60 in round three.

I've also thrown a few pennies at another of last year's selections - the 2010 Farmers winner, Ben Crane.


Selections:
Dustin Johnson @ 8.415/2
J.B Holmes @ 55.054/1
Scott Stallings @ 75.074/1
Harris English @ 85.084/1
C.T Pan @ 180.0179/1
Ben Crane @ 230.0229/1
K.J Choi @ 330.0329/1


I'll be back with the In-Play Blog on Thursday or Friday.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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