Inside the Ropes
RBC Canadian Open
Hamilton Golf and Country Club, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Hamilton Golf and Country Club
Yards: 6,966 per the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Bentgrass/Poa annua; 5,000 on average
Rough: Fescue, Bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass at 4”
Water Hazards: Ancaster Creek crosses nine holes
Course Architect: Harry Colt (1914); Redesign builder Tom Clark 1990-present
Winner’s Share: $918,000, 500 FedExCup points
Defending Champion: Sean O’Hair defeated Kris Blanks on the first playoff hole to win his fourth-career PGA TOUR title.
Date: July 26-29
Notes: Gamers, the RBC Canadian Open has been held on THIS course just four previous times in history: 1919, 1930, 2003 (Bob Tway) and 2006 (Jim Furyk). Please remember this if you a “horses for courses” enthusiast. Last year this tournament was played in Vancouver at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club.
As of Monday evening, there are currently 12 of the top 30 players from the FedExCup standings entered.
There are currently five defending RBC Canadian Open champions in this week’s field. Only one, Jim Furyk (2006) has claimed victory at this course. Furyk (2006-2007) is only one of six men ever to defend their championship and the last one since 1950-1951.
If you’re looking for first-time winners, you might need to look elsewhere as Nathan Green (2009) and Chez Reavie (2008) are the only players to accomplish this feat since 2000.
Young Guns versus Middle Guns versus Old Guns
In 32 events on TOUR in 2012, the “Young”, on the strong back of 27-year old Scott Stallings have regained their advantage over the “Middle” 15-14-3. The “Old” guns win bragging rights this week though as they took the third major of 2012.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28) and now Scott Stallings (27) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35) and Zach Johnson TWICE (36).
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and now Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors!
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Hamilton Golf and Country Club might play just less than 7,000 yards but the last two times the TOUR has played here, 8-under-par (2003, Bob Tway) and 14-under-par (2006, Jim Furyk) were the winning scores. According to the course’s website, the only reason Furyk went that low was because the course was wet that week from heavy rain. It usually is set up fast and firm but as we saw last week at The Open Championship, Mother Nature works on her own schedule. Looking back on the numbers from 2003 and 2006 two things immediately jumped out at me: If you don’t hit many fairways, you better be able to putt. Jim Furyk was T34 in GIR but was No. 1 in putts per round. Bart Bryant was second and he was No. 1 GIR but T50 in putts per round. Sean O’Hair was T4 GIR and T4 putts per round. And he was third. Reading through the holes on the course the words “well-bunkered” appeared more than not so guys who are going to thrive this week better get the ball on the green or have superior sand play on top of clutch putting. I’m looking for guys who can grind out pars and take advantage of their opportunities. After the last two weeks, not counting The Open Championship obviously, on TOUR where 20-something under has won, now we’ll see who can keep their wits about them and their golf ball in play.
The Top 15
I added a few more due to the currency exchange rate…
Matt Kuchar: Omitted by yours truly last week due to his lack of history on links courses, Kuchar proved that this break-out season was not looking to slow down whatsoever. He was right in the thick of things heading into the weekend but he didn’t fire, finishing 72-72 but still was T9. Kuchar is steady off the tee and is top 20 GIR. He also is in the top 10 in scrambling.
Hunter Mahan: The best ball-striker on TOUR also should be flying high with confidence this week as he comes off his T19 finish at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Mahan is a guy who is always in the mix when par is a good score because he just pounds fairways and greens. His scrambling numbers are the only thing that would give you pause this week but if that’s the only drawback, well, I’m fine with that. He plays difficult and easy courses well so he should have no problems this week if he does what he normally does each week.
Jim Furyk: The only player to defend his RBC Canadian champion of the last 50 year, Furyk is back to a country where he’s had great successes. After finishing a disappointing T4 at The U.S. Open, Furyk has to find his groove as he’s finished T34 (AT&T), MC (The Greenbrier) and T34 last week at The Open Championship. A solid ball-striker and even better scrambler, Furyk has no problem grinding week-in and week-out. Plus he’s the defending champion here from 2006 and second on TOUR in three-putt-avoidance.
Bo Van Pelt: BVP has taken up residence in this category more weeks than not in 2012 and this week is no different. Sitting 22nd in ball-striking and 13th in total putting makes him hard to overlook. He’s played here before, finishing T20 in 2006 so he’s familiar with his surroundings. His MC last week was only his third in 17 events in 2012. In his last event before The Open he finished second to Tiger Woods at Congressional.
Vijay Singh: He’s finished T6 in 2003 and T35 in 2006 back when he was in his early forties but Singh showed last week that his game isn’t ready to destroy the Champions Tour just yet. Singh matched his best result of 2012 with his T9 last week at The Open. I’ve learned over the years that when Singh gets hot, he can keep it going for a few weeks. Sure, I have no clue if he’ll make any putts (or which putter he’ll use for that matter) but when his ball-striking is on he can have a chance. I wouldn’t go out of my way this week to reach for him, but I’ll take a grizzled veteran who can keep his ball in play instead of some of these bomb-and-gouge youngsters.
S.Y. Noh: He’s made 11 cuts in a row and has showed no signs of slowing down. He shouldn’t, he’s young! His putter and play from the rough have bailed him out all year long and he’ll need both of those facets working this week. He’s 130th in driving accuracy but yet 33rd GIR. He’s shown he can get the ball in the hole on the more difficult courses on TOUR and he’s made 18 of 22 cuts this year.
Roberto Castro: Thanks to his ball-striking, ninth on TOUR, Castro has had a very nice rookie season. In his last nine events, his only MC was his first U.S. Open so I’ll give him a break. He backed up his T7 two weeks ago with T18 last week so I’m reaching a bit yet still playing a warm hand.
Sean O’Hair: His solo-third here in 2006 shows that he’s more than comfortable with the surroundings north of the border. His recent form has been decent as well with T22, T7 and MC in his last three outings. Similar to Noh, he finds ways to hit GIR even though he is 126th in driving accuracy. His short game and putting leave a bit to be desired but this is one of the “horse for course” picks in my top group this week.
Brandt Snedeker: The 36-hole leader at The Open last week has shown again that he’s awfully resilient when returning from injury. His ball-striking doesn’t rank highly in this group but his putting and scrambling are stellar. He’s eighth in scrambling and fifth in strokes gained-putting and that will keep him in most tournaments where par is a good score. His T3 last week backs that up.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s struggled recently after dealing with a rib injury but the 2011 Masters champion has plenty of game. He’s only played four times since the beginning of May so I’m hoping he’s finally healthy and knocked his rust off.
Graham de Laet: The Canadian will have the weight of a nation on his shoulders this week but his ball striking, currently 15th on TOUR, should be able to carry that weight. He’s made the cut in nine of his last 10 events and looks to be finally healthy. He’s also seventh on TOUR in GIR from other in the fairway.
Scott Piercy: In the midst of a very solid season, Piercy has finished his last two tournaments T12 and third. Piercy’s numbers might not jump off the page but he’s playing some excellent golf and tends to run hot in patches. He’s currently ranked 23rd in the all-around category and is 20th on TOUR in finding the green from other than the fairway. His current form is the driving force for me this week.
Kyle Stanley: After struggling from early March through the U.S. Open, Stanley has started to turn his game in the right direction. In that stretch, Stanley missed seven cuts and his best finish was T49. Since the U.S. Open, Stanley has made the cut in his last four starts (T60, T22 and T19) and had a very solid week last week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes before the wind knocked him back on Sunday (+6) to finish T39. He’s 13th in ball-striking and his struggles with the putter won’t be as magnified this week where 25 birdies aren’t necessary to win.
Ryan Palmer: When we last left Palmer, I was projecting him for a big finish at the John Deere Classic. He ended up MC and broke a streak of T9, T5, T3 and T15 finishes. Palmer’s form and his ability to get up and down will be his keys this week to regaining his momentum in 2012.
Ernie Els: I don’t think he’s going to back up last week’s Claret Jug with a win this week but Els’s ball-striking last week was breath-taking. Sure, he didn’t make any putts last week, except the one that counted, but his constant pounding of fairways and greens can make him a factor again this week. He played pretty well on a Harry Colt-designed course last week…
Slap Shots: Underdogs who could surprise
Gary Christian: The Englishman’s worst round in his last 18 on TOUR is 71. In that span he’s made four of five cuts and hit the top 20 three times. His lack of distance off the tee this week will not be a huge disadvantage due to the shorter course at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. His accuracy will be an advantage as will GIR number (35th).
Greg Owen: Another Englishman who’s been playing solid golf of late. He’s made the cut in six of his last seven events and has been T31 or better in five of those starts. He currently ranks ninth in GIR this year and is 10th in GIR from other than fairway so don’t let his driving accuracy numbers scare you off.
Will Claxton: Currently 12th on TOUR in ball-striking, Claxton has made 15 cuts in 21 events in 2012. He was T5 last week at the True South Classic so his current form allows me this “stretch” this week.
David Hearn: Hearn, a Canadian as well, finished T20 here in 2006 on the back of his solid short game and putting. He’s a decent enough ball-striker and is more of a factor in tournaments where major birdies are not required.
Billy Horschel: He was third last week and is currently fourth on TOUR in ball-striking. That ball striking has helped him to the weekend nine of 11 times in 2012. Coming off his career-best finish last week, he should be happy to fly under the radar with some of the big names teeing it up this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: RBC Canadian Open (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Sean O’Hair
Group 3: David Hearn
Group 4: Scott Brown
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
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Jim Furyk-- He has cooled off in the last month, but I'm looking for him to rebound on a course that he won his first Canadian Open in '06.
Matt Kuchar-- Last week Kuchar notched his seventh top 10 of the season with a T9 at the British Open. He faces a much weaker field here and on a course that he should do well on.
Sean O'Hair, Kyle Stanley, Rory Sabbatini
Ernie Els-- Recently, Els has been in one of those up and down patterns, where he plays well one week and then not so well the next week. Still, it's pretty hard to fade Els when he is putting this well.
Brandt Snedeker- One of the big surprises last week was the play of Snedeker in the Open after 36-holes. He considerably cooled off on the weekend, but he still managed at tie for third place. Snedeker does have a pair of top 10s in three starts at the Canadian Open, however this is his first start on the Hamilton course.
Hunter Mahan-- I'm starting to run low on starts with Mahan, so I'll have him on the roster this week, but will only use him if it's clear he has a good shot at the title.
Bo Van Pelt-- His missed cut at the Open was a surprise, because before that he looked great at the AT&T National, where he finished in second place. He earned his first top 10 at the Canadian Open last year when he tied for sixth place and the last time this event was at the Hamilton course in '06 he finished in a tie for 20th place.
Ryan Palmer, Charlie Hoffman, Tim Clark, Robert Castro
Charl Schwartzel-- I was surprised that he missed the cut at the Open because he had been playing solid golf coming into the event.Schwartzel played in his first Canadian Open last year and he had a very respectable T9 finish.
Scott Piercy-- He had last week off, but prior to that he had a T12 at the Greenbrier Classic and a third place at the John Deere Classic. His first top 10 at the Canadian Open came last year when he tied for eighth place.
Vijay Singh, Jeff Overton, Harris English, Bud Cauley, Bob Estes
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The Open Championship (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Jim Furyk
Group 2: Sean O’Hair
Group 3: Tim Clark
Group 4: Scott Brown
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at the RBC Canadian Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.