It happened again. The Canadian Open has been overshadowed for a second consecutive year because of news related to the LIV Golf League.
The 2022 tournament took place in the shadow of several of golf’s biggest stars announcing their resignation from the PGA Tour in order to jump ship for wads of cash supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and now the 2023 tourney will begin mere days after a bombshell announcement that the PGA and European tours are joining forces with LIV in perhaps the biggest shakeup in the history of professional golf.
Also for a second consecutive year, Rory McIlroy is front and centre, both in the headlines and on the odds list as a frontrunner to win.
The tournament takes place June 8-11 at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in North York, Ont. It’s the first time the PGA Tour has held a tournament at this course, which will play as a par-72 at about 7,200 yards, with the front nine around 400 yards longer than the back nine.
“At a high level, players are going to have to hold on with two hands on the front nine. That’s where the scores are going to be a little higher,” Oakdale’s head golf professional, Alex Arychuk, told PGATour.com this week. “But then there will be a lot of birdies made down the stretch on Knudson played in its entirety.”
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, world No. 2 Jon Rahm, Victor Hovland fresh off his win at the Memorial, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth, not to mention anyone on the LIV tour, are among those not competing this week.
Despite the dearth of star power, it’s not to say the field lacks intrigue entirely. Ten of the top 30 golfers on the Official World Golf Ranking will tee off this week, led by the defending champ and odds-on favourite from Northern Ireland.
Let’s look at the top of the field and who oddsmakers have pegged as the frontrunners:
It’s little surprise to see McIlroy with the shortest odds (bet365 odds above), considering his consistent success in Canada plus all the top players choosing to skip this tournament.
McIlroy won at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ont., one year ago to earn his second Canadian Open title (his first was in 2019 at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club). His opening odds in 2019 were +1000 and he began last year’s tournament at +900, so there isn’t nearly as much value on the superstar in 2023.
Can McIlroy use this week’s breaking news as further motivation to pick up his first win since October? His top-10 (-160) and top-20 (-320) odds at Bet365 are quite chalky, so expectations are sky-high.
Since there’s little relative value on the favourite, not to mention extra attention, this week considering he was the face of star golfers who chose to not join LIV last year, some may consider fading McIlroy this week. His odds to make the cut at Bet365 are -1400 while his odds to miss are +800.
Because the Canadian Open was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, McIlroy is aiming for his third consecutive win at Canada’s most notable showcase and would become the first three-time winner since Lee Trevino won in 1971, 1977 and 1979. McIlroy can also become the first to win three consecutive Canadian Open tournaments.
Five Canadians are among the top-20 pre-tournament favourites, led by Corey Conners, who’s ranked No. 29 in the world.
Conners, per usual, is the favourite to finish as top Canadian (odds above via DraftKings). Both he and Adan Hadwin also have a series of individual props available at Sports Interaction, including decent prices on top-20 finishes (Conners at -111 and Hadwin at +180).
The last time a Canadian won the Canadian Open was all the way back in 1954, when Pat Fletcher did it. Mike Weir came close in 2004, but lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh. Weir is in the field this year with +100000 odds to win outright via Sports Interaction, +6000 to finish top-10 and +4000 to finish as top Canuck.
FIVE CONTENDERS TO CHALLENGE MCILROY
Tyrrell Hatton +1200: The Englishman has posted consistently strong results since a T34 at the Masters in April, with five consecutive top-20 finishes (two of which were top-fives). He missed the cut at last year’s Canadian Open but is one of the strongest players in the field this year. He’s ranked third in strokes gained this season, behind only Scheffler and Rahm, and has the second-shortest odds this week for a reason.
Justin Rose +1800: The veteran has been enjoying a terrific 2023 and had a nice showing in Canada in 2022 finishing T4. After back-to-back missed cuts in February and early March, Rose has earned six figures in five of his past six outings, including a T9 at the PGA Championship and a T12 at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Shane Lowry +2000: The co-runner-up from 2019 and T10 from one year ago is steady off the tee and on approach, and is coming off back-to-back top-20 finishes at the PGA Championship (T12) and Memorial (T16).
Tommy Fleetwood +2500: Coming off a missed cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge in the final week of May, Fleetwood has an excellent bounce-back opportunity this week. He’s solid around the greens and his value is slightly boosted, partly because of that poor finish in his most recent outing.
Sahith Theegala +3000: The 25-year-old is a popular play this week, even though he doesn’t have a top-20 finish since his ninth-place result at the Masters. The thinner field this week certainly helps his chances but there’s still solid value here at 30/1. His +140 odds to finish top-20 and +300 to finish top 10 (Bet365) could be tempting prop bets to consider as well.
(All odds listed above as of Wednesday and subject to change)