The post-Open Championship PGA Tour touches down in Ontario. Steve Rawlings has the lowdown on the tournament which has seen Jhonattan Vegas strike victory two years running...
"Every now and then a player takes to a venue so strongly that you simply must play them there. This could easily be a perfect example." - Steve Rawlings on Jhonattan Vegas
The RBC Canadian Open dates all the way back to 1904 and this will be the 109th 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.
Now that the event follows the Open Championship, it isn't easy to attract the marquee names but the title sponsors, RBC, are linked to many of the world's best players and a number of them have made the trip this year.
It will be interesting to see how strong the field is next year when the tournament switches to the week before the US Open.
Glen Abbey Golf Course, Oakville, Ontario
Par 72, 7,253 yards
2017 Stroke Index - 70.37
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 29 previous occasions in total. This is the fourth year in-a-row it's hosted the event but it could well be the last. The event switches back to Hamilton Golf and Country Club (last used in 2012) and rumours are rife that Glen Abbey will disappear under a new housing complex.
The fairways are of an average width and the bentgrass greens are generally smaller than average, undulating and often protected by steep bunkering. They'll be set at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter.
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 follow Sixteen Mile Creek and the final third is the course's most diverse and interesting third.
The par four 14th, which demands a risk-reward tee-shot that flirts with creek, was the hardest hole on the course 12 months ago, averaging 4.23, but after that it's a kind finish with the last four holes averaging a combined 1.05 strokes under-par for the week 12 months ago.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:00 on Thursday (UK time)
Last Five Winners
2017 - Jhonattan Vegas -21 (playoff)
2016 - Jhonattan Vegas -12
2015 - Jason Day -17
2014 - Tim Clark -17
2013 - Brandt Snedeker -16
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 utterly irrelevant stat since. In the only other renewal here between 2009 and 2015, Brandt Snedeker won when ranking only 59th for DA in 2013, and as you'll see below, the last three winners haven't been accurate from the tee either.
Average key stats for the last three course winners:
Driving Accuracy - 61.6
Driving Distance - 11.3
G.I.R - 16
Scrambling - 18.6
Putting Average - 26.1
Hitting plenty of greens is the way to go here. The front four last year all ranked inside the top-10 for Greens In Regulation, with the winner, Vegas, ranking seventh, a year after winning when ranked fifth. Three winners before 2017 ranked 29th, 18th and 36th so it's certainly not an absolutely crucial stat and the event has been a bit of a birdie-fest of late...
Nobody made more birdies than the winner, Jhonattan Vegas, in either 2016 or '17 and Ollie Schniederjans was the only man to make more birdies than the 2015 winner, Jason Day.
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 first four home and Tony Finau, who finished tied for fifth, all played in the Open Championship last year. The 2013 winner, Snedeker, contended at Muirfield the week before he won, Jason Day had a chance to win at St. Andrews three years ago before he won here and the three players to finish tied for second behind Vegas two years ago - John Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Martin Laird, had all played at Royal Troon the week before.
Rahm's second two years ago was his best effort on the PGA Tour until he got off the mark at Torrey Pines the following January and he's far from the first to highlight a very obvious correlation between the two venues. The winner here in each of the last two years, Vegas, finished third at Torrey Pines on debut in 2011 and there are numerous other examples of players enjoying the two venues.
Recent Glen Abbey winners, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods and Jason Day are all multiple Torrey Pines winners and Bubba Watson, who finished second to Day, has also won there. Both courses have smaller than average bentgrass greens so that could be why the correlation occurs.
I recognise 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 last year's tied fifth, Tony Finau, has finished inside the top-six at TP in each of the last two years, massive outsider, Robert Garrigus, who finished alongside Finau here 12 months ago was eighth at TP in January and 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 monstrous price.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
At 150.0149/1 before the off, Vegas was a big price two years given he'd been odds-on in-running at the Barbasol Championship the week before he won but he was an even bigger price when defending 12 months ago! After five missed cuts in-a-row, the Venezuelan was generally a 180.0179/1 chance (matched at a high of 220.0219/1), 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 eight course winners this century went off favourite - Day, Snedeker, VJ Singh and Woods.
Young amateur, Jared du Toit, played in the final pairing two years ago, Davin Hearn led by two with a round to go three 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 locals tend to contend but the pressure clearly gets to them (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. An American has failed to win any of the last four editions, which is quite a stretch for a PGA Tour event.
Vegas was never outside the top-ten and never more than three off the lead although he did sit tied fifth and three adrift with a round to go and the evidence prior to 12 months ago suggests a fast start at Glen Abbey is by no means essential. The four course winners before 2017 had all trailed by at least four strokes at halfway.
Snedeker was trailing by fully eight strokes through 36 holes in 2013, Day was four back in 2015 and Vegas, in 2016, was five back. And he was still five back and trading at a huge price with just one round to play!
Vegas' remarkable comeback in 2016, and indeed his win last year form three back, both went against the grain, and the majority of course winners have been bang there with a round to go. 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.
Dustin Johnson finished runner-up at Glen Abbey in both 2013 and 2016 and he was eighth last year so the venue clearly suits him. Nobody would be surprised to see him bounce back after his missed cut at Carnoustie but since the halfway stage of the US Open his putter's been ice-cold so I'm reluctantly leaving him out.
US Open winner, Brooks Koepka, hasn't been back to Glen Abbey since he finished tied 18th in 2015 on debut but the course looks ideal for him. He was a much rawer talent back then and he lost his way on Sunday, having sat tied for fourth through 54 holes. The course may suit but fatigue could be an issue. He fell to a tie for 39th at Carnoustie over the weekend, having been in with a chance at halfway and he's perhaps best watched from the start.
I'm not in the least bit surprised to see the in-form Tony Finau is being well supported again but so far, one alternative field event, the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, is his only title and until he's crossed the line in a bigger tournament he can't be backed at skinny prices in a field as strong as this.
Bubba Watson missed the cut in both the US Open and the Open Championship but neither weekend off came as a surprise in events that simply weren't his cup of tea. In between those two MCs he won the Travelers Championship for a third time and had a chance to win the Greenbrier Classic, eventually finishing 13th. He's already won three events this season and he could very easily make it four at a venue that suits his game. He was second here in 2015 and he's value to go one better at anything above 20/1.
Jhonattan Vegas is a lot shorter than he has been in either of the last two years, but he's still worth a play at 75.074/1. Every now and then a player takes to a venue so strongly that you simply must play them there. This could easily be a perfect example.
Bubba Watson @ 27.026/1
Jhonattan Vegas @ 75.074/1
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