RBC CANADIAN OPEN: The good ol’ Week After Major Comedown is in full effect this week, as many of the world’s top players have elected to stay home and recharge following a grueling few days at Carnoustie. But several big names– many of them affiliated with title sponsor RBC– have made the trek to lovely Ontario for the RBC Canadian Open, an event with a proud history but a lousy slot on the current PGA Tour schedule.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the headliner, and if you thought his Open flameout was going to fatten his price this week you’re in for a disappointment, as DJ is currently trading at 6.6 at BETDAQ, placing him securely atop the market. He’s followed by countrymen Brooks Koepka (13.5), Tony Finau (16.5), and Bubba Watson (19.5), but the field has a healthy international flair with names like Tommy Fleetwood (22.0), Sergio Garcia (49.0), and Ian Poulter (64.0), so the tournament organizers have to be pleased, all things considered. Should be a fun week.
Glen Abbey Golf Club in the Toronto suburb of Oakville will serve as the host venue for the sixth time in the past seven years and the 30th time overall; it’s a Jack Nicklaus design (Nicklaus’ very first design) that tips out at 7,252 yards and encourages aggressive play off the tee, as players will be wanting short irons and wedges into the small, slippery greens. The driver will be out of the bag early and often, so we’re looking for guys who excel with that club in their hands and can also heat up with the short irons. Just such a player– Jhonattan Vegas– followed up his win here in 2016 with another one last year, and this week he’ll look to become the first player since 2011 to win the same PGA Tour event three times in a row. If you like his chances you can currently hop aboard at 66.0, but it’s worth noting that Vegas has had a rough go of it lately, finishing 40th or worse in each of his past eight starts.
There are some intriguing options this week, and based on some of the recent winners at Glen Abbey– Vegas, Nathan Green, Chez Reavie– it’s clear that this is the type of place where the long-odds guys can sneak up and get one. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Joaquin Niemann (36.0)- He may be short on experience, but he sure seems to have everything else– at just 19 years old, Niemann has exploded onto the scene in his first few months as a professional, racking up six top-25s– including four top-10s– in his first ten PGA Tour starts. And he only seems to be heating up– if you just take his past six starts, it’s five top-25s and three top-10s. He closed with a Sunday 65 at the John Deere two weeks ago and has had a week off to rest, so he won’t be dealing with any of the fatigue or confidence issues that may have followed some of the guys back from Carnoustie. Glen Abbey is a course with small, subtle greens and GIR percentage has been a key stat in this tournament in years past, so it seems perfectly suited for Niemann, who would rank second on Tour in both GIR and Proximity to the Hole if he had played enough rounds to qualify. He’s on a sponsor’s exemption this week, but something tells me he won’t be needing too many more of those going forward. Don’t be afraid to back the young Chilean here– a breakthrough win is right around the corner.
Cameron Champ (52.0)– Though Glen Abbey isn’t particularly long, it’s a course where the longer players have excelled, and right now there’s simply no one out there any longer than Cameron Champ. The 23-year old Texas A&M product is averaging an incredible 342.7 yards per drive on the Web.com Tour this season, where he ranks third on the money list and has reeled off five consecutive top-10 finishes, including a win in his last start, the Utah Championship. That victory locked up Champ’s PGA Tour card for next season, but this week he gets a taste of the big time on a sponsor’s exemption (yes, another guy on a sponsor’s exemption– definitely a first for me) . And considering his recent form, this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. Glen Abbey is the type of course that can be overpowered and taken advantage of, which is right up Champ’s alley, but there’s a lot more to his game that raw distance– he ranks 5th on the Web.com Tour in Greens in Regulation, 4th in birdies, and 2nd in eagles. Related: this tournament has yielded the second-highest eagle rate of any event on the PGA Tour over the past five seasons. I know many won’t like this play because Champ hasn’t yet proven himself on the Big Tour, but he’s red hot, Glen Abbey has produced some strange winners, and he seems like he has the right style to take on the course. I’m willing to take a chance at better than 50/1.
Shane Lowry (122.0)- Lowry has endured a difficult season thus far, failing to find the top-10 in fifteen PGA Tour starts and missing the cut at both the U.S. Open and last week’s Open Championship. But he finished 28th in the Irish Open, 16th in France, and has made the cut in six straight “regular” PGA Tour events, so there are some glimmers of hope if one looks hard enough. And he’s changing things up this week by splitting with longtime caddy Dermot Byrne in favor of his brother Alan, who is apparently a pretty handy golfer in his own right. Something like that could backfire, obviously, but it could also shake Lowry out of his slumber and create some magic. And though he missed the cut on debut here last year, Glen Abbey seems perfect for Lowry– a place you can let the driver rip and get aggressive. The putter will have to cooperate, but Lowry should not be overlooked at a price like 122.0.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Tommy Fleetwood (1.91) vs. Tony Finau (1.91)
Fleetwood continues to shine in the big events, but sandwiched in-between his runner-up at Shinnecock and T12 at Carnoustie were a couple of pretty forgettable performances, a T59 at the BMW International and a missed cut at the Open de France. And though Glen Abbey should suit a fairways-and-greens type like him, he’s never played the course before, while Finau has never missed the cut in three career appearances here and finished T5 last year. Plus, Finau has eight top-25s and four top-10s in his last ten starts, so he’s been playing some tremendous golf lately. Recommendation: Finau at 1.91
Matt Kuchar (1.94) vs. Kevin Kisner (1.79)
Kisner’s runner-up finish at the Open was a career highlight, and it came out of the blue– prior to last week, Kisner had missed three cuts in his previous six starts and had failed to find the top-50 in that span. I’m just not sure he can be trusted this week. Kuchar, meanwhile, has logged two top-15s in his past three starts and has a great record in this event, with four top-10s in his past five appearances. Recommendation: Kuchar at 1.94