“Finally! The PGA Tour has come back to Canadaaaaa!” – The Rock if he were to tee up the action at this week’s RBC Canadian Open.
That’s right, after the past two editions of this annual tournament were cancelled due to COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions, the PGA makes its long-awaited return north of the border.
The defending champion is 2019 winner Rory McIlroy who leads a field of more than 150 golfers.
Of course, there will be several notable absences including 2018 Canadian Open winner Dustin Johnson.
The former world No. 1 and two-time major winner resigned his PGA Tour membership on Tuesday to participate in the LIV Golf Invitational, which is part of a new and controversial golf series being financially backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.
Other notable PGA and European Tour stars joining Johnson include Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson. Past major winners Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are also expected to eventually compete in LIV Golf events.
Reed was initially slated to play at the 2022 Canadian Open and his style, on paper at least, would’ve been a nice fit this year’s course at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ont.
The last time the Canadian Open was held at St. George's was back in 2010 when Sweden’s Carl Pettersson won it, however the Stanley Thompson-designed course has undergone a facelift since that tournament.
The No. 3-ranked course in Canada, according to Golf Digest, plays as a par 70 at just a tad over 7,000 yards. It features some long par-3s, several short par-5s with greens makable in two for the long bombers, and club superintendent Ian McQueen told PGATour.com the rough is "thicker than a standard Tour event."
There are plenty of tree-lined fairways, picturesque undulations, and the small greens are bordered by an assortment of bunkers that can penalize a reckless approach, especially as hole locations move throughout the weekend.
Overall, this course should favour golfers who display accuracy off the tee and with their irons, plus an ability to get out of trouble when their ball makes a trip to the beach.
With that in mind, let’s take look at the odds and see where the value is.
It’s a huge field in terms of total number of golfers though the betting odds are relatively top-heavy. In addition to the LIV golfers mentioned above, stars like Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland and Will Zalatoris are focused on preparing for next week’s U.S. Open and didn’t make the trip up to Ontario.
The three golfers with the shortest odds are current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (+850), 2022 PGA Champion Justin Thomas (+900) and the red-hot McIlroy (+900).
Scheffler has four wins this year already and was runner up at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago. He should be a contender here like he is most weeks.
McIlroy tends to play well on smaller greens, so between that and his four top-10s and six top-20 finishes in eight tournaments in 2022, he’ll have a shot at becoming the first back-to-back Canadian Open champ since Jhonattan Vegas won at Glen Abbey in 2016 and 2017.
Thomas being one of the best players off the tee and from the sand gives him a huge leg up at St. George’s. I’ll personally take JT to finish with the low score out of that top trio since his strengths align strongly with this type of course. Thomas is also excellent on long par 4s, of which this course has several, so if I was the bookmaker he’d be the chalk pick.
Not to be ignored from this top tier is Sam Burns who’s riding high off a win at the Charles Schwab. Cam Smith is also a popular play this week, however he tends to struggle from bunkers and that could cost him some strokes this weekend.
If you’re looking to avoid the chalkiest picks but are thinking the winner will emerge from this top tier, then Matt Fitzpatrick (+1600) or Shane Lowry (+1800) might be your best options. Thomas, Fitzpatrick and Lowry all boast top-10 sand save percentages and up-and-downs from bunkers are likely to be a factor in who wins.
Lowry has been steady as can be this year with only one finish outside the top 30 and no missed cuts. Fitzpatrick is a little more hit and miss. In 2022, Matty Fitz either finishes in the top 18 or he misses the cut entirely.
CONTENDERS WITH VALUE & LONGSHOTS
As you can see there's a steep drop-off once you get past the top contenders.
Tyrrell Hatton (+2800) is a tempting play from this group with his fruitful putting stats and scrambling ability, but there are options a bit further down the board if you’re seeking potential longshot contenders.
Sahith Theegala (+6000) has quietly shot under par in four of his past five outings and will look to ride the momentum from his T5 finish this past weekend at the Memorial. Theegala’s odds for a top-20 finish are a tempting +210.
Brendon Todd (+7000) doesn’t bomb it off the tee but keeps to the fairways better than most. He’s better-than-average on the greens, ranking fifth in strokes gained putting, and is more effective around the greens than he is on approach. Todd has +240 odds for a top-20 finish.
CANADIANS IN THE FIELD & PROP BETS
This is the group looking to become the first Canuck to win the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher did it all the way back in 1954. The next closest was Mike Wier who in 2004 lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh.
Corey Conners (+2000) has been the top Canadian on Tour and his odds this weekend reflect that. He’s familiar with the course and is having a solid season. If the pressure of playing at home doesn’t affect him and Conners’ putter doesn’t let him down, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in contention come Sunday.
Adam Hadwin has finished 26th or better in seven of his past 11 PGA outings since February and both Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor had top-15 finishes at the Wells Fargo in May.
Adam Svensson has quietly made three consecutive cuts, although his putting and lack of distance off the tee could hold him back.
A Svensson top-30 finish carries some decent value at +210. Speaking of prop bets, here are a handful I’m considering putting on my card in case you care to follow or fade…
Outright winner and each/way contenders: Matt Fitzpatrick (+1600), Shane Lowry (+1800), Corey Conners (+2000), Tyrrell Hatton (+2800)
Top-10 contenders with value: Corey Conners (+200), Tony Finau (+225), Tyrrell Hatton (+260), Adam Hadwin (+320), Brendon Todd (+550)
Top-20 contenders with value: Sahith Theegala (+210), Justin Rose (+210), Brendon Todd (+240)
(All listed betting odds above via Bet365 as of Wednesday afternoon)