- The PGA Tour shifts north of the border this week for the historic RBC Candaian Open. Here's a full preview, including course and field information as well as tee times and predictions.
A week after an electric British Open saw Tiger Woods contend for a major championship and a flawless Francesco Molinari become the first Italian man to win a major, the PGA Tour shifts north of the (American) border for the historic RBC Canadian Open. Having first been played in 1904, it's the third oldest tournament on the PGA Tour schedule behind just the British and U.S. Opens.
The event has an impressive list of past champions—Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, to name a few—and was once considered a cant-miss event for the best players int he world. That's no longer the case, mainly due to its being sandwiched between the British Open one one side and the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship on the other, but there are still a number of good players teeing it up this week at Glen Abbey. Jhonattan Vegas enters as the two-time defending champion.
Here's everything you need to know.
The golf course
Glen Abbey, which opened in 1976, was actually the first solo-design job by Jack Nicklaus. The Candian Open has moved around quite a bit throughout the years, but Glen Abbey has played host to 25 Opens, more than any other track. It's located in Oakville, Ontario, about an hour's drive northwest from Niagra falls and about an hour and a half from Buffalo.
It's a picturesque layout that will play as a 7,273 yards par 72. There are a couple signature holes on the back nine, including the 11th, which features a 150-foot drop off between the tee and fairway, the longest of any shot on the PGA Tour. There's also the par-5 18th, which saw Tiger Woods hit one of the most famous shots of his career.
In 2000, Woods took a one-shot lead over Canada's Grant Waite into the 72nd hole before finding a fairway bunker down the ride side. That left a 218-yard approach over water the entire way, and instead of playing safely by laying up, Woods took the long route and smashed a towering 6-iron to the back edge of the green. He'd two-putt for birdie, and the win was his ninth of that PGA Tour season (this was back when the tournament was in September).
Players have had no trouble scoring at Glen Abbey, and birdies have often come in bunches. Like, nine-in-a-row type bunches. That's right—Mark Calcavecchia set the PGA Tour record by birdieing nine holes in a row during the second round of the 2009 Open. He birdied 12-18 (he started on 10) then also 1 and 2. This scoreability, coupled with the treelined design, serve as a stark contrast from the classic links we saw last week at Carnoustie.
This tournament took a significant hit when the PGA Tour revamped its schedule after the inception of the FedEx Cup in 2007. It moved from September, which wasn't ideal as Ontario gets pretty cold by then, to July, directly following the British Open and preceding the WGC-Bridgestone Invitaitonal and the PGA Championship. That means any top 50 player in the world who plays the Canadian Open will be playing four weeks in a row, something not a lot of guys want to do.
So what happens when you take a historic, prestigious event and put it in a undesirable spot on the schedule? You get a roughly average PGA Tour field—there are two top-10 and six top-20 players in the world playing this week. World No. 1 and RBC endorser Dustin Johnson is playing, fresh off a missed cut at the British Open. U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka will be looking to become the first guy since Woods in 2000 to win the U.S. and Canadian Opens in the same year. Rising star Tommy Fleetwood will be there, as will Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar.
Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old Chilean sensation with four top-10s in his first 10 career PGA Tour starts, received a sponsor's exemption. Another 19-year-old with boatloads of talent will play: Norman Xiong, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner as the best college golfer. The winner of last week's Barbasol Championship, Troy Merritt, will bring his full beard to Canada, and Jhonattan Vegas will attempt to three-peat as champion.
As you might expect, there will be a strong Candian presence—20 Canadians are competing, highlighted by world No. 55 Adam Hadwin and former Masters champion Mike Weir.
A full list of tee times can be found here, but here are a few notable groupings (all times EST):
Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar—8:00 a.m. Thursday*/1:15 p.m. Friday
Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Adam Hadwin—8:10 a.m.*/1:25 p.m.
Brooks Koepka, Jhonattan Vegas, Tommy Fleetwood—1:15 p.m./8:00 a.m.*
Sergio Garcia, Charley Hoffman, Brandt Snedeker—1:25 p.m./8:10 a.m.*
* denotes 10th-tee start.
2017- Jhonattan Vegas (-21)
2016- Jhonattan Vegas (-12)
2015- Jason Day (-17)
2014- Tim Clark (-17)
2013- Brandt Snekeder (-16)
2012- Scott Piercy (-17)
2011- Sean O'Hair (-4)
2010- Carl Pettersson (-14)
2009- Nathan Green (-18)
2008- Chez Reavie (-17)
2007- Jim Furyk (-16)
Dustin Johnson +600 - Pre-Noustie, hadn't finished worse than T-17 in stroke-play since Sept. 2017
Brooks Koepka +1100
Tony Finau +1400 - Making strong case for Ryder Cup pick, with top-10 in all three majors this year
Tommy Fleetwood +1600 - Yet to win on this side of the pond
Bubba Watson +1800
Charley Hoffman +2200
Matt Kuchar +2500
Joaquin Niemann +2800 - Could become just fifth teenager to win on Tour
Billy Horschel +3300 - Tied for second at Barbasol last week
Brandt Snedeker +3300
Kevin Kisner +3300 - Fresh off tied for second at Carnoustie
Sergio Garcia +3300 - Missed three of five cuts since wife gave birth to first child
Ian Poulter +4000
Cameron Champ +4500
Gary Woodland +4500
Byeonghun An +5000
J.B. Holmes +5000
Jhonattan Vegas +5000 - Two-time defending champ has one top-10, five MCs this year
Keegan Bradley +5000
Jamie Lovemark +5500
Adam Hadwin +6600
After a really hot streak where we nailed Koepka at the U.S. Open, Watson at the Travelers and had Beau Hossler at the Quicken Loans, where he finished 8th, we cooled off significantly last week as our pick, Jon Rahm, missed the cut at the British Open (though I did peg Molinari has a high-value sleeper).
I've already forgotten about that Rahm pick. We're going with another young, native Spanish speaker this week in Joaquin Niemann. It's never easy picking a teenager with literal braces on his teeth to beat a field that includes Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, but Niemann is a prodigious talent who has proven he can contend. What I like most about this kid is his play on Sundays—his last three final-round scores: 65, 64, 65. And while most of the players this week were either at the British Open or Barbasol, Niemann had a week to rest and prepare.
Give me the young Chilean.