The Punter

Canadian Open: Can baby Bear inspire Burns?

Golfer Sam Burns
Sam Burns - The Punter's pick at Hamilton

The PGA Tour heads north for one of the oldest events in world golf and Steve Rawlings is here with the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start...

  • Veterans to enjoy Hamilton again

  • Wentworth form worth considering

  • Read my European Open preview here


Tournament History

The Canadian Open dates all the way back to 1904. 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 - often referred to as the fifth major.

It's nomadic event and this year we return to Hamilton Golf and Country Club which last hosted the event in 2019.


Venue

Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Hamilton, Ontario


Course Details

Par 70, 6,967 yards
Stroke Index in 2019 - 69.66

Hamilton is a classic, old course designed by Harry Colt (Wentworth designer) in 1914. It's a hilly, traditional parkland course with small undulating poa annua greens.

Like Wentworth, the fairways are tree-lined. Although they're not quite so heavily tree lined as they once were after an extensive tree removal program in 2014, when nearly 1,000 mature trees, including silver maple, willow and ash were cleared.

HAMILTON 3.jpg

This is what Hamilton's Superintendent had to say about the work prior to the 2019 edition held here.

"The tree removal has totally changed and improved our turf conditions. The views across the course are also different. You now see the true topography of the land the way Harry Colt saw it 100 years ago. Back in 1914 when Colt came here, he didn't look for land that was forested. He looked for open land. He built this course on a big open area, and it has since changed. I love what David Oatis from the USGA, who consults for us, says about this: 'We've taken an 18-hole landscape and made it 18 one-hole landscapes.'

"The pros and the fans will notice this," Trainor added. "The feedback every spring when members come back and see the course again with these extensive tree removals, we've done has been more than positive. ... It's always, 'Wow!'"

Rory McIlroy won the 2019 edition by seven strokes in 22-under-par, but the course has changed again since with renowned golf architect Martin Ebert, undertaking a massive $11-million restoration to all 27 holes at Hamilton.

Ebert goes into detail on the challenges faced when organizing such a renovation during the pandemic in this clip here and at the end of the video he talks specifically abut the changes to the bunkering and the greens.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 17:00 UK time on Thursday.


Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2023 - Nick Taylor -17 (playoff) 95.094/1
2022 - Rory McIlroy -19 11.010/1
2020 & 2021 cancelled due to the pandemic
2019 - Rory McIlroy -22 13.012/1
2018 - Dustin Johnson -23 7.413/2
2017 - Jhonattan Vegas -21 (playoff) 180.0179/1
2016 - Jhonattan Vegas -12 150.0149/1
2015 - Jason Day -17 10.09/1


Six Tournament Winners at Hamilton

1919 - James Douglas Edgar -2
1930 - Tommy Armour -7 (playoff)
2003 - Bob Tway -8 (playoff)
2006 - Jim Furyk -14
2012 - Scott Piercy -17
2019 - Rory McIlroy -22


What Will it Take to Win the Canadian Open?

I don't know how useful the numbers are going to be given how spaced out the events staged here are, how the course has changed, the varying weather conditions and equipment development but for the record, here are the stats for the last four editions at Hamilton.

2019

1 Rory McIlroy -22 DA 6 DD 1 GIR 2 SC 36 PA 3
2 Shane Lowry -15 DA 43 DD 47 GIR 26 SC 14 PA 2
2 Webb Simpson -15 DA 9 DD 53 GIR 11 SC 1 PA 16

2012

1 Scott Piercy -17 DA 31 DD 9 GIR 53 SC 13 PA 9
2 Robert Garrigus -16 DA 5 DD 1 GIR 2 SC 3 PA 41
2 William McGirt -16 DA 65 DD 20 GIR 33 SC 11 PA 5

2006

1 Jim Furyk -14 DA 4 DD 47 GIR 34 SC 8 PA 1
2 Bart Bryant -13 DA 3 DD 56 GIR 1 SC 70 PA 15
3 Sean O'Hair -12 DA 15 DD 28 GIR 4 SC 20 PA 4

2003

1 Bob Tway -8 DA 41 DD 17 GIR 2 SC 2 PA 61
2 Brad Faxon -8 DA 34 DD 43 GIR 41 SC 4 PA 16
3 Tom Pernice -7 DA 66 DD 42 GIR 67 SC 1 PA 11

Stats Key

DA = Driving Accuracy
DD = Driving Distance
GIR = Greens In Regulation
SC = Scrambling
PA = Putting Average

Scrambling has been a fairly key stat here and after the rough had been allowed to grow in 2019, Driving Accuracy was an important stat five years ago.

Only two of the top-ten in 2019 ranked any worse than 15th for DA but how close the course plays to how it did five years ago is debatable.


Great venue for the vets

The 2006 winner, Jim Furyk, decided to play here after hearing that the place would suit him from those that played here in 2003. That edition was won by the experienced 42-year-old Bob Tway and veterans have featured in the last two editions too so experienced players are worthy of consideration.


Wentworth form well worth considering

A month after finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy here, Shane Lowry won the Open Championship at another Harry Colt designed venue - Royal Portrush - and the 2019 Open leaderboard may be worth perusing but Hamilton resembles Wentworth more than the Irish links layout.

rory mcilroy 2023 canadian open.jpg

Lowry won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth two years ago and McIlroy won the there ten years ago so form at the heathland Surrey track looks like a big plus.


Will we witness another home win?

Prior to Nick Taylor's victory last year, no Canadian had won this event since Pat Fletcher way back in 1954 but the locals often contend and one or two often finish the week in the places.

Corey Connors finished sixth form off the pace two years ago, Adam Hadwin began the final round trailing by just a stroke five years ago but faded to finish sixth, and Mackenzie Hughes was 8th in 2018.

Mike Weir was matched at 1.041/25 in-running back in 2004, having led by three with a round to go, so taking the Canadians on had been a profitable exercise up until last year but Taylor's victory may change how the home contingency fare going forward.


In Play Tactics

Piercy and Furyk were both in front after the opening day's play but Rory and Bob Tway both trailed by four strokes after round one and by five at halfway.

Rory was tied for the lead with a round to go five years ago before romping to a seven stroke win but the other course winners trailed by two and three strokes so 54-hole leaders may be vulnerable.

I'll be back later today or tomorrow with a look at the market leaders and details of any pre-event selections.


Market Leaders

Having won his fourth Wells Fargo Championship title three weeks ago, Rory McIlroy heads to Hamilton seeking his third Canadian Open title and his third win in four starts.

A second round in the 70s at the very gettable Valhalla last time out did for his chances at the US PGA Championship two weeks ago but he still finished the week inside the top-12 and he's very much the man to beat following victories in the Zurich Classic alongside Shane Lowry and at Quail Hollow.

Rory won easily here in 2019 after a slow start, firing 61 on Sunday to win by seven, so he clearly took to the place, but it will play differently this time around after the renovation.

This isn't the strongest of fields but he's slightly too short for my liking at less than 9/25.50.

Tommy Fleetwood is still yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he was cruelly denied in this event 12 months ago (matched at a low of 1.251/4) when Nick Taylor drained this monster eagle putt in extra time.

After finishing seventh in the Texas Open and third in the US Masters, Tommy's cooled off fractionally with form figures reading 49-13-26 and if Wentworth form is a good guide to this venue, that's a slight negative too given his best finish there from 12 starts is sixth.

Sahith Theegala continues to impress, and he was in-contention at Valhalla last time out until a poor final round saw him slip to tied 12th.

He's already put up top-ten finishes at Phoenix, Bay Hill, Sawgrass and Hilton Head this year and there's no reason to think he won't enjoy Hamilton.

Shane Lowry correctly admitted that Rory had been the strongest partner when the pair won the Zurich Classic at the end of April so his lacklustre finish in the Wells Fargo Championship next time out was understandable (finished 47th) but he played superbly last time out at the US PGA Championship where he finished sixth.


Selection

I'll have at least one more pick for the Find Me a 100 Winner column later today but for now my sole selection is Sam Burns.

The two-time Valspar Championship winner could be a really good fit for Hamilton, and I thought he was worth chancing at 34.033/1.

The host course for the Valspar, Copperhead, is tree-lined with plenty of elevation changes so may correlate with this venue (Jim Furyk has won at both courses) and he also has a decent record at Sedgefield Country Club which is another track that may correlate.

It's now a month since Burns' first child was born - a boy called Bear - so he has the added incentive of being a first-time father and although he missed the cut last time out at the US PGA, he finished 13th at the Wells Fargo Championship before that so his game can't be too far off.

The world number 27th has already won five times on the PGA Tour and it's interesting to see that he's chosen to play here when he didn't line up last week at Colonial.

It's a little over a year since he won the last edition of the WGC Match Play and it's almost two years to the day since he came from off the pace to beat his good friend Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at Colonial.

Burns is a no bigger than 25/126.00 on the High Street so 34.033/1 is a very fair price for a serial winner around a course that should suit. And we've got the added bonus of the 'Nappy Factor' for those that subscribe to the theory that brand new parents often elevate their game.


Now read my European Open preview here


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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