PGA Tour best bets: RBC Canadian Open

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Billy Horschel held a five-stroke lead heading into the final round at The Memorial Tournament. His lead on Sunday fluctuated between two and four strokes throughout the round, but Horschel finally put it away with a 53-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole to earn his seventh victory on the PGA Tour (and eighth worldwide) at a price of 65-1, winning by four strokes over Aaron Wise. Horschel rose to a career-high OWGR of No. 11. 

Horschel will sit out this week to prepare for next week's U.S. Open. However, five of the OWGR’s Top 10 will make the trip north of the border to play in the RBC Canadian Open, which is being held for the first time since 2019 after being canceled the last two years due to COVID-19. 

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler's demise was greatly exaggerated after a missed cut at the PGA Championship, won by Justin Thomas (10-1). Scheffler (9-1) lost in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago and would have won if not for an impressive Sunday putting display from Sam Burns (18-1). Rory McIlroy (11-1) is the reigning and defending Canadian Open champion courtesy of his 2019 victory at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. Cameron Smith (14-1) held the 36-hole lead last week at The Memorial but shot 42 on the front nine Sunday to drop to 13th place. 

Matt Fitzpatrick (20-1) had impressive tee-to-green numbers last week but missed the cut due to losing more than 7.5 strokes putting. Shane Lowry (20-1) and his form has slipped a bit from its peak in March and April, but he has played consistent golf all season. Corey Conners (22-1) leads the Canadian contingent along with Adam Hadwin (50-1). Tony Finau (30-1) was fourth two weeks ago at Colonial and has two Top 5s in his last four starts. 

​The Event​

The RBC Canadian Open, organized by Golf Canada, was first played in 1904. The tournament has been held annually (besides multiple years off for World Wars I and II and COVID-19). This year's Canadian Open will mark the 110th edition and it is the third-longest event on the PGA Tour schedule behind The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. It is the only national championship that is a PGA Tour-managed event.

The Open Championship, the U.S. Open and the Canadian Open have been referred to as the "Triple Crown of the PGA Tour." Only two players have won this Triple Crown in the same year (Lee Trevino in 1971 and Tiger Woods in 2000). Only six players have won all three national opens (Trevino, Woods, Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer and McIlroy). 

In 2019, the tournament became part of the Open Qualifying Series, with the top two players not qualified for The Open Championship earning spots in the field.

The event has been held all over Canada, with Jack Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey being the most frequent host with 30 Canadian Opens. Royal Montreal Golf Club is second with 10. Mississaugua Golf & Country Club and Hamilton Golf and Country Club have each hosted six, while Toronto Golf Club and St. George's Golf and Country Club, this year's venue, have hosted five.

A Canadian player has not won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954. 

The Course

St. George’s Golf and Country Club is in Etobicoke, Ontario, which comprises the West End of Toronto. It will host the Canadian Open for the sixth time but only the second since 1968 (last in 2010). According to Golf Digest, it currently ranks as the No. 3 golf course in Canada, No. 25 outside of the United States and No. 35 in the world.

It was designed in 1929 by Stanley Thompson and re-designed by Tom Doak and Ian Andrew in 2014, which entailed changing all of the greens to Bentgrass. The course is a tree-lined parklands design playing as a Par 70 of 7,014 yards. 

Though it ranks as the 14th-shortest course on tour, it plays longer than its yardage due to all of the elevation changes. It is not your typical Par 70, as it features five Par 3s and three Par 5s.

Five of the Par 4s are more than 465 yards and many of the 10 Par 4s play either uphill or downhill. Four of the Par 3s measure more than 200 yards and are among the most visually stunning holes on the course. 

St. George’s is heavily tree-lined and features an undulated landscape with rolling hills where golfers will play across valleys and must contend with uneven lies, thick rough, elevated bunkering and sloping greens.

The fairways are Ryegrass, while the 4-inch rough is a mixture of Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue. The greens are pure Bentgrass and average just 4,000 square feet, which makes them the third-smallest set of greens on tour. In 2010, the greens ran at an 11 on the stimpmeter. To prepare players for the U.S. Open, the tour might set them up even faster this year.

The course has 91 bunkers, the second most on tour, but only two holes with water danger.

Correlated courses include Silverado, Waialae, Innisbrook, TPC River Highlands and TPC Potomac. 

Recent Winners/History

2021: No Tournament

2020: No Tournament

2019: Rory McIlroy (-22/258); Hamilton; 10-1

2018: Dustin Johnson (-23/265); Glen Abbey; 7-1

2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21/267); Glen Abbey; 125-1**

2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12/276); Glen Abbey; 125-1

2015: Jason Day (-17/271); Glen Abbey; 9-1

2014: Tim Clark (-17/263); Royal Montreal; 66-1

2013: Brandt Snedeker (-16/272); Glen Abbey; 14-1

2012: Scott Piercy (-17/263); Hamilton; 50-1

2011: Sean O'Hair (-4/276); Shaughnessy; 100-1***

2010: Carl Pettersson (-14/266); St. George's; 80-1

Playoff win over Charley Hoffman**

Playoff win over Kris Blanks***

Statistical Analysis​

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)

We have little data to go on considering St. George's has not hosted the Canadian Open since 2010. Nevertheless, the fairways are tight and tree-lined and the greens are small, so iron play is always a great place to start.

1. Cameron Smith, 33.7

2. Scottie Scheffler, 29

3. Shane Lowry, 27.9

4. Justin Thomas, 27.4

5. C.T. Pan, 23

6. Luke Donald, 22.9

7. Nick Taylor, 21

8. Harold Varner, III 20.1

9. Luke List, 19.3

10. Tony Finau, 19.3

11. Sam Burns, 18.5

12. Jhonattan Vegas, 17.6

13. Vaughn Taylor, 17

14. Adam Hadwin, 16.9

15. Austin Smotherman, 16.6

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (Last 36 Rounds)

St. George's is not long, measuring just over 7,000 yards, but these are tight fairways with rolling, hilly terrain, so a proper combination of length and accuracy will benefit players greatly.

1. Rory McIlroy, 27.3

2. Keith Mitchell, 25.7

3. Luke List, 24.3

4. Cameron Champ, 23.2

5. Corey Conners, 22.9

6. Justin Thomas, 20

7. Chris Kirk, 19.7

8. Hayden Buckley, 18.4

9. Paul Barjon, 17.9

10. Matt Fitzpatrick, 17.5

11. Tony Finau, 17.4

12. Trey Mullinax, 15.8

13. Seth Reeves, 15.4

14. Sebastian Munoz, 15.2

15. Ryan Armour, 14.4

Good Drives Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

1. Martin Laird, 54.9

2. Corey Conners, 36.3

3. Brian Stuard, 35.3

4. J.J. Spaun, 34.6

5. Shane Lowry, 30.1

6. Nate Lashley, 27.9

7. Sebastian Munoz, 27.6

8. Ryan Armour, 27.1

9. Matt Fitzpatrick, 24.2

10. Brendon Todd, 23.7

11. Scottie Scheffler, 22.2

12. David Lipsky, 22.2

13. Doug Ghim, 20.7

14. Adam Schenk, 20.5

15. Jim Herman, 20.5

Strokes Gained: Par 4s 450-500 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

Seven of the 10 Par 4s at St. George's measure between 450-500 yards.

1. Shane Lowry, 25.8

2. Sebastian Munoz, 22.8

3. Rory McIlroy, 19.8

4. Justin Thomas, 18.2

5. Rory Sabbatini, 16.8

6. Scottie Scheffler, 14.5

7. Ryan Armour, 13.4

8. Tony Finau, 13.4

9. Aaron Rai, 12.6

10. Martin Laird, 11.6

11. Tyler Duncan, 11.4

12. Corey Conners, 11.1

13. C.T. Pan, 10.7

14. Matt Fitzpatrick, 10.4

15. Cameron Smith, 9.6

Strokes Gained: Par 3s 200-225 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

Four of the five Par 3s measure more than 200 yards. 

1. Brian Stuard, 8.5

2. Andrew Novak, 8.1

3. Vaughn Taylor, 7.9

4. Stephan Jaeger, 6.8

5. Luke List, 6.7

6. C.T. Pan, 6.1

7. Brendon Todd, 5.9

8. Corey Conners, 5.7

9. Patrick Reed, 5.7

10. Matt Fitzpatrick, 5.1

11. Aaron Rai, 5

12. Satoshi Kodaira, 4.9

13. Chris Kirk, 4.8

14. Cameron Champ, 4.8

15. Adam Hadwin, 4.7

Strokes Gained: Par 5s (Last 36 Rounds)

This week, we have a rare Par 70 that has three Par 5s. All three are likely reachable in two for the entire field.

1. Cameron Smith, 24.8

2. Rory McIlroy, 24.5

3. Keith Mitchell, 22.9

4. Scottie Scheffler, 22.1

5. Matthias Schwab, 18.1

6. Matt Fitzpatrick, 18

7. Sam Burns, 18

8. Justin Thomas, 17.9

9. Cameron Percy, 16.8

10. Jhonattan Vegas, 15.4

11. Martin Trainer, 14.2

12. David Lipsky, 14

13. Cameron Champ, 13.6

14. Scott Brown, 12.6

15. Brandon Hagy, 12.6

Scrambling Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

The major difficulty at St. George's lies on and around the firm, narrow and often elevated Bentgrass greens. The greens are severely undulating, with many run-off areas, and surrounded by bunkers, often below the level of the green, making getting up and down difficult.

1. Matt Fitzpatrick, 23.7

2. Shane Lowry, 18.4

3. Bill Haas, 14.8

4. Jonathan Byrd, 14.8

5. Justin Thomas, 14.8

6. Patrick Reed, 14.2

7. Dylan Frittelli, 13.6

8. J.T. Poston, 13.2

9. Rory McIlroy, 12.8

10. Peter Malnati, 11.2

11. Tony Finau, 10.8

12. Jim Knous, 10.7

13. Pat Perez, 10.7

14. Andrew Novak, 10.1

15. Harold Varner III, 10

Strokes Gained Total: Courses < 7,200 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

Finally, we will look at total strokes gained on shorter golf courses.

1. Justin Thomas, 61.1

2. Corey Conners, 57.6

3. Rory McIlroy, 50.2

4. Shane Lowry, 49.2

5. Matt Fitzpatrick, 43.6

6. Tony Finau, 41.1

7. Sam Burns, 34.5

8. John Huh, 34.1

9. Justin Rose, 33.8

10. Keith Mitchell, 33.1

11. Charley Hoffman, 33

12. Adam Svensson, 32.6

13. Mackenzie Hughes, 31.7

14. Harold Varner III, 30.3

15. Scottie Scheffler, 28.9

Selections​

Matt Fitzpatrick (18-1 BetMGM)

Not the most ideal price, but many are liking Fitzpatrick next week at the U.S. Open considering he won the U.S. Amateur in 2013 at Brookline. He was terrific tee to green last week at The Memorial but uncharacteristically dreadful with the putter, having lost more than seven strokes over the course of two days. Fitzpatrick has six Top 10s this year, including a runner-up at the Wells Fargo last month. 

Tony Finau (30-1 DraftKings)

Finau's game looks as if it’s coming together. He was second in Mexico and fourth at Colonial in two of his last four starts. Finau ranked first in SG: Tee-To-Green in Mexico, second in SG: Off-the-Tee at Potomac and 10th in SG: Tee-To-Green at Colonial.

Tyrrell Hatton (30-1 PointsBet)

Hatton has not missed a cut this year (11-for-11). Nevertheless, he has not really contended since March at Bay Hill. However, he is not that far removed from good form. He ranks first in this field for SG: Short Game (Putting + Around-the-Green) and SG: Putting over the last 24 and 36 rounds. 

Keith Mitchell (50-1 Westgate Superbook)

Although Mitchell does most of his damage off the tee as one of the longer and better drivers on tour, he has shown he can also go well on shorter Par 70s, evident by his seventh-place finish at Waialae in January. He is especially good on the Par 5s, ranking only behind Smith and McIlroy over the last 36 rounds. 

Chris Kirk (50-1 DraftKings)

Kirk has had a consistent season so far, with three top-seven finishes (Honda, Arnold Palmer, PGA Championship). He ranks 14th this season in SG: Tee-to-Green. He also stands out in  SG: Around-the-Green (fifth) and SG: Off-the-Tee (28th).

Justin Rose (80-1 DraftKings)

Rose's form has been choppy to say the least, but he has shown some signs of late, finishing 13th at the PGA where he ranked in the top 10 for both SG: Approach and Greens in Regulation. Several of his European Ryder Cup contemporaries are now part of the cash grab on the LIV Golf tour, giving up their pursuits of making another team. Meanwhile, Rose's best friend, Henrik Stenson, is the captain of the 2023 team, but Rose does not want to rely on that friendship to earn a spot. 

Aaron Rai (130-1 DraftKings)

Rai is not a big hitter off the tee, but that shouldn’t hurt him on a shorter course. He led the field at The Memorial for SG: Putting and was sixth for Driving Accuracy. 

Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed​

Last week at the Porsche European Open, Kalle Samooja began the final round at 2-over par and seven strokes behind 54-hole leader Victor Perez, who was attempting to win back-to-back events on the DP World Tour. Samooja, at 150-1 odds, shot an 8-under 64 to win his first DP World Tour event.

This week, the tour moves to Sweden for the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed. The DP World Tour and Ladies European Tour co-sanction this event, as 78 male and 78 female players will compete in the same tournament for the same prize money but from different tees. For the purposes of this event, we will only focus on men's selections. 

Sweden's Alex Noren is the 10-1 favorite in his home event. Fellow Swede Alexander Bjork (22-1) finished sixth in the inaugural version of this event last year. Edoardo Molinari (22-1) has three Top 10 finishes in his last five events. Romain Langasque (28-1) is next on the odds board, followed by Henrik Stenson (30-1), who serves as the co-host of this event along with Annika Sorenstam, who will be playing on the ladies side. Jonathan Caldwell (200-1), last year's winner, had never finished better than fifth on tour but won at 150-1. 

​The mixed version of this event was created in 2020 by the European Tour and Ladies European Tour and named the Scandinavian Mixed hosted by Henrik and Annika, bringing 78 men and 78 women together for the first time to compete in the same tournament for the same prize money (playing from different tees). The first event was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020, however it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Official World Golf Ranking points are offered for both tours, along with points toward each tour’s season-long competitions, as well as Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup points.

The Halmstad Golf Club hosts for the first time. Listed as a Par 72 of 6,909 yards for the men and 6,681 yards for the women, the classical course features tree-lined fairways and numerous doglegs. Strategic placement off the tee is the game rather than bomb-and-gouge. However, the putting surfaces are relatively flat (Bentgrass) and will produce a lot of birdies. The course hosted the 2007 Solheim Cup, which was won by the American team 16-12, as well as the 2011 European Amateur Championship.

Selections

Henrik Stenson (30-1 BetMGM)

Stenson has been home in Europe for the last few weeks. The co-host of this event is long past his form of being a Top 5-10 player, as he was five years ago, but he can still find fairways and hit solid approach shots — and not only compete but win against weaker fields. 

Sebastian Soderberg (35-1 BetMGM)

Sweden's Soderberg has rebounded nicely after having his heart ripped out last month at the British Masters (Thorbjorn Olesen made a 30-foot eagle putt and a 36-foot birdie putt on the last two holes). After a missed cut in Belgium, he posted a Top 5 at the Dutch Open two weeks ago. 

Jason Scrivener (35-1 BetMGM)

Scrivener was the 54-hole co-leader of this event last year and held the outright lead at one point on Sunday before a poor back nine dropped him to a sixth-place finish. He has shown he can play well in this part of the world with a third last year in Denmark. 

Thriston Lawrence (41-1 Boyd Sports)

After opening with a 78 last week, Lawrence was only bettered by two players over the final 54 holes as he battled back from a near-certain missed cut to finish inside the Top 20. Lawrence earned his DP World Tour card by winning the weather-shortened Joburg Open in November, and he has taken full advantage with three Top 10s and six Top 20s this season. 

Marcus Kinhult (50-1 Bet MGM)

The 2019 British Masters champion has not won on the DP World Tour since but does have a victory this year in the Scandinavian-based Nordic Golf League. He showed some promise earlier this year on the main tour with a third in Qatar and an eighth in Kenya.

LIV Golf 

Although we’re just one week away from the U.S. Open, the biggest story in the golf world this week is the debut of the LIV Golf tour at Centurion Club just outside of London. LIV Golf has been the subject of much controversy considering it is financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. This fund is controlled by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who rules an authoritarian regime. There are no democratic institutions in Saudi Arabia , and elements of repression are evident. Human rights activists, women's rights activists, journalists, former insiders and dissidents are systematically repressed through tactics that include torture, jailing and killings, and bin Salman is said to use a group of assassins known as the Tiger Squad to carry out extrajudicial killings. He was personally linked to the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist from Saudi Arabia who had criticized the Saudi government. 

Despite the shoddy human rights record in Saudi Arabia, Greg Norman was willing to become CEO of LIV Golf Investments in 2021. There are 48 players in this first event competing for $20 million in individual prize money and another $5 million in team prize money. Overall, $255 million in prize money is allocated over an eight-event schedule. Many notable players were paid substantial sums of money to participate in these events. 

The highest-ranked player to commit to LIV Golf is OWGR No. 13 Dustin Johnson (9-2), who has reportedly been paid $150 million to commit to the series after declaring his loyalty to the PGA Tour just a couple of months ago. Talor Gooch (9-1) won his first PGA Tour event in November at the RSM Classic but has also elected to join the group. Louis Oosthuizen (11-1) and Sergio Garcia (12-1) were both rumored to join and it was confirmed they are in the field. 

On Sunday, Kevin Na (16-1) became the first member of the PGA Tour to resign in order to participate in LIV Golf, providing a statement that said, "If I exercise my right to choose where and when I play golf, then I cannot remain a PGA Tour player without facing disciplinary proceedings and legal action from the PGA Tour. ... I hope the current policies change and I'll be able to play on the PGA Tour again." 

Phil Mickelson (30-1), who likes to position himself as an “agent for change” in golf, stepped away from the game for a few months after saying the quiet part out loud, that this is essentially a cash grab from nefarious characters. He committed to the series Monday. 

Overall, 16 of the OWGR Top 100 are in the field. Hudson Swafford (50-1) is the only player who has won this season on the PGA TOUR (American Express).

Other players in this field include Lee Westwood (28-1), Ian Poulter (28-1), Graeme McDowell (50-1), Martin Kaymer (50-1) and reigning U.S. Amateur champion James Piot (250-1), who just turned professional last month. 

The Format

The name LIV is a reference to the Roman numeral for 54. The number represents two things: the score if every hole on a Par 72 were to be birdied and the number of holes to be played at LIV events.

The 54-hole tournaments will have no cut and will feature 48 players drafted into 12 four-man teams, with shotgun starts. The first seven events will have $20 million purses with an additional $5 million split among the top three teams each week. A team championship concludes the schedule with $30 million on offer to the top three players and an additional $50 million in team prizes.

First place at every LIV event will take home $4 million. Last place even gets $120,000.

Prior to the event, there will be 12 captains selected by LIV Golf. They will select teams, starting with the captain with the highest OWGR position. After the first round of the draft, the selections will continue as a snake draft.

​The Centurion Club, host course this week, is a Par 72 of almost 7,100 yards. 

​Selections

Bernd Wiesberger (20-1 Westgate Superbook)

Wiesberger has made seven consecutive cuts on the PGA and DP World Tours. He won last year in Denmark and will be under the radar this week. 

Charl Schwartzel (30-1 Westgate Superbook)

Schwartzel has two Top 10s in his last four starts (eighth at the Byron Nelson and 10th at The Masters). The South African has the opportunity to use this tour to reinvigorate a career that has zero victories since 2016. 

Branden Grace (40-1 Westgate Superbook)

Centurion Club has a linksy feel and Grace has always been comfortable with links golf, as evident by his 2012 victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He has a victory in each of the last two calendar years and it would not surprise to see another one in any of these eight LIV Golf events.

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