Fantasy Golf Picks: Canadian Open Sleepers & Strategy
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Canadian Open Preview
What. An. Open. Championship. Moving on...
Once a sanctuary for the game’s elite, the Canadian Open, and its unfortunate slot on the PGA schedule, has devolved into the answer for obscure trivia questions like, “How the f*** did Nathan Green ever earn his Tour card?” The PGA’s third oldest tournament (established 1904), and a National Open, has been relegated to a John Deere Classic level of prestige. It’s been 15 years since the Canadian Open’s last relevant moment: Tiger Woods’ iconic 216 yard 6-iron from the bunker, over the water on the 18th hole to best the immortal Grant Waite by a stroke and complete the triple crown (US Open, Open Championship, Canadian Open all in the same season) for the first time since Lee Trevino accomplished the feat in 1971. While Vijay Singh (2004), Jim Furyk (2006 & 2007), and Brandt Snedeker (2013) have all prevailed north of the 49th parallel in the past decade-and-a-half, you’re also going to see a slew of PGA curtain jerkers posing with a not-nearly-as-awesome new trophy bestowed to the victor, especially at this year’s venue, Glen Abbey.
Canadian Open Key Stats
Sand Save Percentage
Greens in Regulation
Proximity 125-175 Yards
Glen Abbey has served as the “home” venue for the Canadian Open since Jack Nicklaus got his grubby mitts on the grounds and molded it in his likeness in 1976. The course hosted the event in 19 of the next 20 years, then, someone told Canadian Open organizers there are actually other inhabited places in the country outside Toronto. Who knew?
The last time players laced up the soft spikes at Glen Abbey (2013), Hunter Mahan was running away with the tournament before bolting Saturday to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, gifting a million dollar payday to Brandt Snedeker. Skimming past Glen Abbey leaderboards quickly reveals the type of the players who succeed: Shot makers who give themselves ample birdie chances and can recover from the sand. Hitting fairways are certainly important, but there’s enough wiggle room off the short grass to recover with quality ball striking. However, driving distance won’t really move the needle. In 2013, only three of the Top 10 longest hitters in the field finished inside the Top 15. In 2009, again, three of the top 10 bombers ended up in the Top 15; in 2008, just one.
There’s still one outlying factor to consider: The players hopping a jet from St. Andrews to Toronto and adjusting to the five-hour timezone swing. This will undoubtedly affect players differently, but based on the past performance of those in the Canadian Open field that have played the weekend at The Open Championship, it’s not a huge drawback. While the winner doesn’t normally emerge from that pool of players, they don’t exactly flame out either. The Monday finish in Scotland will likely cloud matters a tad, but how much of an impact is unknowable, so I’ll choose to ignore it in the face of arbitrarily applying to the field. If a player’s style of game matches the set up, consider them solid picks.
Canadian Open Picks
Luke Donald & Brooks Koepka - Very quietly, Luke Donald is playing solid golf again. It’s been a trying year for the former world number one. He had to qualify for the US Open through a sectional event and needed a Sunday 66 at the Travelers to grease his way into the Open Championship, but the recent returns have been nothing but encouraging; Donald’s played 10 of his past 12 rounds in the 60s, making seven straight cuts and posting three consecutive T12s or better (Travelers, Scottish Open and The Open Championship). If his reincarnated putting stroke and sand play persist, expect the Brit to avenge his 2013 MC with a slot on the first page of the leaderboard. One of these weeks, Brooks Koepka is not going to two-putt every green while in contention and post a ridiculously low number. Koepka's elite eagle rate (9th) and Par 4 birdie average (3rd) will generate loads of scoring chances; he just needs to avoid those squiggly numbers on the scorecard he seems to enjoy so much. Following his T10 at St. Andrews, Brooks now hasn’t finished worse than T22 in any of his past four events, and against a weaker field, will be one of the favorites. If you want to play it safe, take Jim Furyk over Donald. Me, I like to live dangerously.
A-List Alternates: Jim Furyk & J.B. Holmes
Brandt Snedeker & Hunter Mahan - It’s never a bad time to go chalk in a weak field event, especially when you’re likely not running out of season-long starts for either. For defending Glen Abbey champion Brandt Snedeker, victory hinges on his masterful work on the greens. In all seven of his career wins, he’s finished Top 10 in the field in Strokes Gained Putting; considering he currently sits fifth in that stat, he shouldn’t have many issues replicating his 2013 success. Don’t worry about his MC at The Open either, he got caught in in the Tom Watson trap. Being the good guy he is, Snedeker thought the darkness was his ally, agreeing to let Watson finish Friday evening in almost pitch black instead of marking his ball and coming back the next morning. The result: A double on the Road Hole and an early flight to Toronto. Don’t overlook his recent form, though, before St. Andrews, Snedeker posted four straight Top 10s. With no finish better than T39 since early May, Hunter Mahan is no lock to even play the weekend at this point, however, he’s shown the ability to stalk pins at Glen Abbey and go low. Even through his struggles this season, Mahan’s still putting admirably (25th), has solid proximity out of the rough from both 125-150 yards (28th) and 150-175 yards (65th), and makes a ton of birdies (or better!) on Par 4s (9th). He’s worth a gamble on a familiar course.
Jason Day & Matt Kuchar - It’s tough imagining Jason Day has much left in the tank after missing out on the Open Championship playoff by a stroke, but coming off consecutive T10s (both in Majors) it’s too tough to fade him. Ditto for Matt Kuchar. While his precipitous rise in results (T39 to T26 to T12 to T2) stalled at the Open Championship (T58), Kuchar does appear to be over his mid-season malaise and trending back in the proper direction. Kuch finished T2 in 2013, and seems to have an affinity for playing the week after The Open, collecting three T4s in his past five Canadian Open starts.
B-List Alternates: Aaron Baddeley, Graham DeLaet, Nick Watney & Troy Merritt
Austin Cook &
Will Wilcox - Who is Austin Cook you may ask? Well, he's a name I recognize from Sunday leaderboards. That’s about it, really. Oh, he was an all-American at the University of Arkansas in 2011 too; that’s a positive. So is four T25s in five career PGA starts, coming off a T6 last week at the Barbasol. He’s a pure flyer no one else is going to have, and in a depleted Yahoo! C-List, why not take an upside gamble? Cook wasn’t the only success story from the Barbasol. With a T2 showing, Will Wilcox notched his second straight T10 and, more importantly, earned his PGA Tour card. It’s unsurprising to those who track the numbers, as Wilcox has been a statistical darling this season. For the year, he sits inside the Top 10 in an alarming amount of pertinent categories: Sand saves, greens in regulation, total driving, scoring average, ball striking, scrambling, eagles per hole, Par 3 scoring average, Par 4 scoring average and putting from beyond 25-feet. Wilcox’ story checks out, take him.
Jesus, another withdrawal. Will Wilcox pulled out too. Plug Charley Hoffman in his spot.
C-List Alternates: Pat Perez & Tony Finau
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