Even if you aren’t a fan of golf, the sheer sporting theatre on Sunday as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson battled it out for the Claret Jug was truly something to behold. Two of the sport’s heavyweights going at it hammer and tongs in a battle for the greatest prize in golf was the perfect conclusion to a fascinating if at times rather tawdry to watch Open Championship.
Ultimately it was Stenson who lifted the Claret Jug to the packed grandstand after a record-breaking performance, and the Swede – and most in The Open field – can enjoy a week off prior to the fourth and final major of the calendar, the PGA Championship, next week.
You can get the sense that the Canadian Open is an annoyance, rather than a real highlight, for the world’s top golfers, sandwiched as it is between two majors and with the Olympic Games – not exactly golf’s finest hour admittedly – on the horizon. It’s only down to the influence of sponsors RBC that the likes of Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are in town.
You can make a case then for backing the players who won’t have next week’s PGA Championship as a distraction in mind: Day will defend his crown there, while Johnson will surely be looking to add a second major to his haul given that he stands a fantastic chance of winning. The Canadian Open is a mere aperitif to the main course for these guys.
That notion is kind of backed up by the tournament’s history of winners. Day in 2015 and Brandt Snedeker in 2013 lifted the trophy as bookmakers’ favourites, but since 2011 the other champions have been priced at 40/1, 80/1 and 100/1. As such, there are opportunities for the ‘lesser lights’ on tour to take centre stage here.
Profile of a Winner
The Glen Abbey course, in Oakville, Ontario, offers a stack of scoring opportunities, particularly on the par 5s, and that is reflected in the last two winning scores here: Day’s -17 and Snedeker’s -16, which indicates this will become something of a shootout. Typically, we would expect the best players in the world to prosper on grinder’s courses, so the agreeable conditions here mean that the player who takes to the course best will surely win.
Going long off the tee is the starting point, while a craft short game from fairway, rough or bunker will surely help as well. Crucially, Day played the par 5s in -11 last year, so an ability to convert on the longer holes is essential.
Tee times could be a factor too. It’s going to be roasting in Oakville this week, so an early starter will benefit from more agreeable temperatures, while according to the forecast the wind gusts could be anything up to 39kmph in the afternoon. So an early tee slot should be agreeable.
Our Betting Tips
William McGirt (50/1 e/w)
With six top-ten finishes this season, McGirt has confirmed his rise from talented tour pro to potential tournament winner; a detail he cashed in on at The Memorial Tournament in May, where he broke his PGA Tour duck.
He may have missed the cut at the two subsequent majors, but a seventh place finish in between at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in a stacked field shows that he is still striking the ball well. Incidentally, he may have missed the cut at The Open but only 19 players putted better than him on Thursday/Friday according to the stats.
Remember we spoke about the par 5s? At Royal Troon, McGirt played the longer holes in -4 in his two rounds, and in his win at the Memorial he played the par 5s in -9 and the par 3s in +1 as an indicator of his preference for the longer stretches.
He has a second place finish to his name at Glen Abbey in 2013, and as such his 50/1 price looks a tad generous this week.
Ryan Palmer (66/1 e/w)
Palmer is such a long price due to his inconsistency, but the good news is that in birdie-fest tournaments played in hot conditions he really seems to come into his own. A fourth in the Texas Open and a third at the Dean & Deluca – both in the last couple of months – are testament to that.
Palmer’s penchant for par 5s is obvious – one glaring example would be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he finished level par but played the long holes in -10, and even at Troon he was -5 for the lengthy stretches. Given the room off the tee at Glen Abbey, he should be in business.
He’s made the cut in his last three visits to Canada, and ranks inside the top 20 of the PGA Tour for Par 5 Scoring and Driving Distance. He is also a three-time winner on tour, and it is always handy having somebody who has been there and done it when the pressure is on in your portfolio.
Harold Varner III (90/1 e/w)
Lastly we’ll advise a small stake on Varner III, who is amongst the tour’s most improved players. He made the cut at The Open for starters – many quality operators didn’t – and his ability to whack it off the tee (ranking 21st for Driving Distance) manifests itself in Par 5 Scoring (14th).
Varner ranked 17th for Driving Distance and 30th for GIR at Troon, so clearly the mechanics of his game are in good order, and with four top-10 finishes to his name this term here’s a guy who has the potential to land inside the money places.