RBC Canadian Open Preview

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While a new golf series launches in London this week, the stars of the golf world are still committed to the PGA TOUR and many of them will be showing up this week in Toronto.

The star-packed field this week includes the winner of the Wanamaker (Justin Thomas), the World No. 1 and Masters champ Scottie Scheffler, the winner of the fifth major (Cameron Smith), and the delayed defending champ Rory McIlroy. There are a handful of other big names lined up as well, perhaps adding the event to show their support for the TOUR or maybe they just want some reps before next week's U.S. Open at Brookline.

The full field of 156 will be trimmed to the top 65 and ties, as usual, after 36 holes.

The host course this week will be St. George's Golf and Country Club. Let's hop right in and talk about the track.

The Course

St. George's Golf and Country Club is a classical course, laid out by Stanley Thompson in the 1920s.

The course has been touched up over the years including a green restoration in 2014 by Tom Doak and Ian Andrew. They flipped from poa annua to bentgrass in the process.

Looking at the scorecard, we see a par 70 that plays to just 7,012 yards. Unlike most par 71s, it has three par 5s and five par 3s.

It is short by TOUR standards but shouldn't be a complete wedgefest, as the trio of par 5s are relatively short. On the flip side, four of the par 3s play over 200 yards and five of the par 4s stretch over 460 yards. The result is a good blend of short and long holes.

The par 5s are really where the golfers need to feast and that is exactly what we saw the last time it hosted (2010). Playing about as easy as it could that week due to soft and receptive conditions, the field averaged 0.46 eagles per 72 holes which would put it around 10th to 15th in the annual ranks for ease of eagles. However, they scraped together less than 14 birdies per 72 holes which is easily below TOUR average. That makes Carl Pettersson's 11-under 60 even more impressive.

Off the tee, golfers will see tight, tree-lined fairways with loads of bunkers (104) and rolling terrain. It's not a course that is going to demand distance.

Based on the 2010 setup, the rough is actually penal, and something you want to avoid. The field averaged just 49.6% GIR when missing the fairways back in 2010. A part of that is due to the rough penalty and some of that is due to the size of the greens, just 4,000 square feet on average which ranks among the smallest on TOUR.

The classical course combination of tight corridors, tricky rough, and small greens really lent itself to a particular style of golf. It was not the bomb-and-gouge approach. There are a handful of similar courses that pop off the page when you look at the 2010 leaderboard. I will point some of those out in the correlated course section below.

The bentgrass greens have a lot of slope in them. Back in 2010 they were prepped around 11 feet on the stimp due to all that undulation. Whether it's advancement in agronomy, the 2014 restoration, or a mix of both, they look to prep them at 12 feet on the stimp this week so a bit faster than before.

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Quotes on the Course

Nathan Green: "A course like this is a good test, a test, you gotta drive it straight. And then with the greens being so severe, you've gotta really hit the ball in the right spot. So it's not a course I don't think that suits anyone in particular. I think it suits a long hitter or short hitter. Short hitters have as much chance here as the bombers, so I just feel like it's a good level playing field.

I think there's a lot out there that you just won't be able to hit the green from the rough. So you certainly gotta be in the right spot, but the fairways are running pretty hard and fast, so it's tough to sort of aim for like half of the fairway. You gotta use the whole fairway, and they're pretty slopey. So just getting the ball in play is probably the number one concern." -2010

Dean Wilson: "The rough's really long, so it's really difficult to get it to the green, if you're in the rough. It's almost impossible, so you're chipping out. So you know, to shoot a low score you have to get it in the fairway first and then from there get it on the green and make the putt. That sounds like what we do every week, but if you miss it in the rough, it's going to be tough just to, you know, get a par and get to the next hole." -2010

Mike Weir: "I think there's probably a couple greens out there that are semi-flat, and there's probably 15 of them that are very severe. So I guess overall consistency of very difficult greens, I can't think of any outside of really Augusta that are this difficult." -2010

Correlated Courses

Looking at the contenders from the 2010 RBC Canadian Open leaderboard, here are the crossover courses:

Sedgefield CC
Harbour Town GL
Waialae CC
El Camaleon

Distance is not the name of the game this week. These correlated tracks are mostly classical designs with a penalty for missing fairways and smaller greens.

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high of 72 degrees, 30% chance of rain. Winds around 10 to 15 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 70 degrees, 20% chance of rain. Winds around 10 to 15 MPH.

The course looks to be getting hit with some pre-tournament rain but it opens up after that for a beautiful week of golf in Sunny and Low 70s weather. Winds look to be steady all week around 10 MPH with gusts flirting with 20 at times.

Golfers to Watch

Justin Thomas
Missed the cut in his post-PGA hangover but is back in action this week on another shot-makers course. When it comes to superstars playing on classical courses, JT might be best-equipped. He has all the shot shapes in his bag and he also has distance in the tank to take advantage of course-strategy decisions when needed. It would be somewhat surprising if he's not back in the mix this week.

Rory McIlroy
He's the "defending champ" this week but his win came back at 2019, on a different course (Hamilton). This week's layout would probably not be one that Rory circled as a great course fit but you could say the same thing about Hamilton and he went on to win that 2019 edition.

Matt Fitzpatrick
He would have been inside of the top 10 at the midpoint last week if he just putted to his career baseline. Instead, he posted the worst measured putting week of his career and missed the cut. Can he rebound just one week later or is it the start of a putting slump? My bet would be on the former.

Aaron Cockerill
The Canadian is enjoying the best season of his career over on the DP World Tour. He has a pair of podium finishes, something he failed to find in his first six years as a pro. Those big finishes helped secure him a new management deal and a sponsor's spot in this week's field where he'll be making his PGA TOUR debut. That brings nerves into the equation but he should at least be a name to consider in weekly fantasy formats.

Mackenzie Hughes
There are a few Canadians on my ranking list this week (Conners, Hadwin) but Hughes checked in at #21 so you could easily make the case for him belonging on the board. He was a part of the first-round lead story last week and he has a pair of top 15s on his tournament resume.

Adam Svensson
Speaking of Canadians in the field, Svensson is still searching for his breakout on the PGA TOUR. He does have a pair of top 10s this season and three of his top eight finishes on TOUR have come on courses that fall in the correlated course section.

Ranking the Field

1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Justin Thomas
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Cameron Smith
5. Matt Fitzpatrick
6. Sam Burns
7. Shane Lowry
8. Tyrrell Hatton
9. Tony Finau
10. Corey Conners
11. Harold Varner III
12. Patrick Reed
13. Sebastian Munoz
14. Justin Rose
15. Keith Mitchell
16. Adam Hadwin
17. Chris Kirk
18. Rasmus Hojgaard
19. Jhonattan Vegas
20. Sahith Theegala