Sunday’s final round at Carnoustie was the highlight of the golfing year to date, as an incredible number of competing narratives fought for attention with that of ‘talented nearly man, first-time major champion’ eventually winning out.
Francesco Molinari was no doubt deserving of the Champion Golfer of the year title given the composure and talent he displayed whilst playing with Tiger Woods and the circus that surrounds him, but due to his fantastic finish I couldn’t help but feel somewhat robbed of a denouement that had promised further drama, given six players were tied for the lead just 45 minutes earlier.
Nonetheless, any time we have greats of the game like Tiger, Rory and Jordan Spieth competing down the stretch with world-class operators in Justin Rose, Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood it’s a treat to watch, roll on Royal Portrush!
The conclusion of this Open has been the biggest let down. No offence to Molinari but him winning with all the other names queued up behind is hugely dissatisfying.
— Fairway Wedge (@FairwayWedge) July 22, 2018
The task of acting as the difficult second album falls to the Canadian Open, though that will change from next season when it assumes a new place in the calendar, instead serving as the prelude to the US Open.
Despite its currently unenviable position, the Canadian Open regularly draws a strong field and this week is no different, with sponsors RBC ensuring that the group of players that they support – including Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar – are all in attendance. Other entrants include US Open Champion Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and two-time defending champion Jonny Vegas, who is vying to become the just the second man this decade to secure a three-peat at an event.
The host course, for the fifth time in the past six seasons (2014 the sole exception), is Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ontario. The 7,253-yard par 72 has a classic parkland feel, with treelined fairways, a handful of water hazards and reasonably straight-forward Bentgrass green complexes. Despite the tree-lined fairways, a look at the recent winners and contenders shows that driving is really of little importance here, with bombers like Vegas and Jason Day and shorter hitters like Brandt Snedeker, Nathan Green and Chez Reavie all featuring on the honours board. Instead, given 7,253 yards is relatively short by PGA Tour par 72 standards, this looks to be a course where approach and short game is of more importance and therefore it pays to side with those who are generally good with their irons and who consistently pick up strokes on the greens. Approaches particularly from 150 yards and will be most important so we can narrow our search to that distance.
The average winning score at Glen Abbey over the past six editions has been -17 so players will need to go low to win and therefore it pays to take a look at the birdie average stats, and with a full complete of gettable par 5s, par 5 scoring is worth considering also.
With the above said, Dustin Johnson would ordinarily jump off the page, especially with a record showing a pair of runner-up finishes at the venue but odds of 7.0 leave little wiggle room and his abject performance at Carnoustie creates enough doubt that he might not be firing on all cylinders, so he’ll be left unbacked. So too will debutants, Garcia (41.0) and Fleetwood (20.0), whilst Jonny Vegas (56.0) remains hard to fancy despite his back to back wins here – the second coming off the back of 5 straight missed cuts last year.
This week’s selections
Instead, we’ll start out staking plan with 2013 champion Brandt Snedeker (46.0). Snedeker has had a challenging year, having struggled for form since suffering a rib injury in the middle of last season. However, recent signs have been encouraging as he picked up a tie for 6th at the FedEx St Jude back in June and finished tied for 3rd at the Greenbrier earlier this month, where he closed with a final round 64.
The eight-time tour winner loves Glen Abbey, with three top 5 finishes (including his win) in three visits, and has the ideal game for the track, ranking top 50 in all approach distances from 150 yards and in, whilst also ranking in the top 40 on tour in scrambling and strokes gained-putting. At a backable price, we’re getting a course specialist who knows how to win and that’s plenty good enough for me.
The next selection for me is unheralded American, Bronson Burgoon (101.0).
A missed cut at The Open can be easily dismissed on account of the fact that links golf will have been a completely alien experience to him but a look at his form prior to that reveals a man who is very comfortable with his game, with a runner-up finish at the John Deere Classic, a tie for 6th at the Quicken Loans National and tie for 30th at the Greenbrier all within the last month.
He did miss the cut at Glen Abbey in his sole appearance in 2016 but his game would appear to suit the track as he ranks 8th in par 5 scoring, 36th in strokes gained approach and 47th in birdie average.
He also appears at 13th in the list of Bentgrass green specialists, picking up 0.526 strokes per round on these greens compared to his expected strokes gained-putting. Given his form, I expect him to outrun his odds and contend come Sunday.
My final selection is another American, Chris Kirk (91.0). The four-time Tour winner has been in sneaky good form recently, with seven straight made cuts, two of which ended in top 10 finishes (Valero Texas Open & FedEx St Jude) with a further three top 25s. He also has a pair of top 25s at Glen Abbey, including 2016’s 14th place finish where he played the weekend in -8 so his game would appear well suited to the track.
Currently ranking 12th in strokes gained: approach, 51st in par 5 scoring and 44th in birdie average, Kirk is entitled to go very well here and his almost three-figure odds do not accurately reflect his chance in what is a field that doesn’t have great depth.
- Brandt Snedeker – 1.5 points win @ 46.0 (lay 4 points @ 7.0)
- Bronson Burgoon – 1 point win @ 101.0 (lay 7 points @ 9.0)
- Chris Kirk – 1 point win @ 91.0 (lay 6 points @ 10.0)