PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open preview/picks

PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open preview/picks

RBC CANADIAN OPEN: While the impending launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour has taken center stage in pressrooms and around water coolers this week, the more compelling tournament will be a continent away in Canada, where a top-notch field that includes World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and five of the world’s top ten will tee it up in an event that dates back to 1904, the RBC Canadian Open.

Though this championship is one of the oldest in the world, it hasn’t been held since 2019, as Canada’s stringent COVID policies forced the event’s cancellation in both 2020 and 2021. And this week’s venue, Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club, last hosted this tournament in 2010, so this will be a new experience all around for most of the field.

Originally designed by Stanley Thompson in 1929, St. George’s is a classic tree-lined course that was extensively renovated in 2014 but retains plenty of old-school quirks like the small, knobby greens and undulating fairways which seldom leave a player with a level lie. It’s a par-70 that plays considerably longer than its listed 7,014 yards on account of several lengthy par-4s and four par-3s which measure over 200 yards. The rough is lush and penal and the greens are firm and fast, making this excellent preparation for next week’s U.S. Open. One other thing that merits a mention is the extensive bunkering around St. George’s, with 104 total bunkers spread out over the property and many in strategic locations. Most Tour players are pretty proficient from the sand these days, but it’s something you may want to consider in your evaluations this week.

Rory McIlroy currently heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 10.0, but he’s closely followed by Scottie Scheffler (10.5), Justin Thomas (12.0), and Cam Smith (13.5), making this one of the more top-heavy markets in recent weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Corey Conners (27.0)- Incredibly, a Canadian hasn’t won this tournament since Pat Fletcher in 1954, with Mike Weir’s runner-up finish in 2004 the closest we’ve seen this century. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that Corey Conners will be the man to end that drought, and it just may happen this year. Conners is one of the finest ball-strikers in the world, ranking 8th on Tour in strokes gained off the tee and 21st in strokes gained tee-to-green, and he absolutely flushed his irons at the Memorial last week, leading the field in strokes gained on approach. He’s now finished 21st or better in 4 of his past 5 starts, with three of those being top-15s, so he’s playing beautifully and seems primed for a big summer. He’ll put himself in the mix this week and, if a few putts fall, may just claim his place in Canadian golfing lore.

Jhonattan Vegas (74.0)- It’s always a wild ride for the man known as Johnny Vegas and last week was certainly no exception, as he found himself in contention through three rounds at the Memorial before a disastrous final round 81 left him in a tie for 37th. He’s been known to post a big number from time to time, but he posts plenty of low ones too and he’s been in fine form lately, finishing 27th or better in 4 of 6 starts heading into last week (and in case you’re not impressed with “27th or better”, those finishes were 27-4-18-15. Not too shabby, eh?). Vegas has good vibes north of the border, winning this event in both 2016 and 2017, so he enters this week with plenty of confidence and a little bit of game. He’s worth a bet at the current price.

Tyler Duncan (101.0)- Give a pro a little bit of confidence and he can go a long way, and after a rough start to the season Duncan has clearly regained his confidence and has been producing some nice results lately, logging three top-15 finishes in his last six starts, including a T15 at Colonial last time out. Many have compared the layout of Colonial to St. George’s, and Duncan, who ranks 193rd on Tour in driving distance, should feel very comfortable on another old-style course that the bombers won’t be able to overpower. With its subtle undulation and tee-to-green bentgrass, St. George’s will likely be reminiscent of some of the courses that Duncan grew up on in his home state of Indiana. At a price like 100/1, I’m always happy to take a chance on someone in good form who will be in a comfortable situation. That description fits Duncan nicely this week.

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