Stat attack!: RBC Canadian Open preview

By John AntoniniJuly 22, 2014, 5:05 pm

The Open Championship and the RBC Canadian Open have been held on back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour since 2007, and contrary to what you might believe, there is no British Open hangover. Granted, only one British Open winner made the trek across the Atlantic to play in Canada in the last seven years – Ernie Els missed the Canadian cut in 2012 – but most of the players who play in both events find some kind of success in Canada. Three Canadian Open winners – Jim Furyk in 2007, Sean O’Hair in 2011 and Brandt Snedeker in 2013 – also played the British Open. More than half the players who competed in both events made the cut in Canada, and four or more usually finish in the top 10.

Canadian Open results of players who competed in the Open Championship

 Year Total players Top three 4-10 11+ Missed cut
 2013 31 3 1 14 13
 2012 31 0 4 17 10
 2011 29 1 5 15 8
 2010 23 1 2 10 10
 2009 25 2 3 10 10
 2008 23 1 3 11 8
 2007 20 2 3 9 6

Now that we’ve alleviated any qualms about picking a British Open competitor at the Canadian Open, which of the 24 double-dippers (at press time) is the best bet this week at the tournament being held at Royal Montreal for the first time since 2001? Furyk comes immediately to mind. The fourth-place finisher at Royal Liverpool has won the Canadian Open twice, winning on the back end of the two-week trip in 2007. Here are other Canadian Open contenders who played last week’s British Open.

Individual performances in the British and Canadian Opens

 Player Best Canadian finish following an Open appearance
 Luke Donald T-3 in 2010
 Jim Furyk Won 2007, T9 in 2013
 Dustin Johnson T2 in 2013
 Matt Kuchar T2 in 2013, T4 in 2010
 Hunter Mahan T5 in 2007, WD in 2013*
 Charl Schwartzel T9 in 2011, T28 in 2013
 Brandt Snedeker Won in 2013, T5 in 2009

*Mahan was leading through 36 holes in 2013, but withdrew on Saturday morning when his wife, Kandi, went into labor with the couple’s first child.

Let’s keep looking at Furyk for the moment. The 44-year-old recently finished fourth in the Open Championship for the fourth time in his career and he has been playing well in the U.S. in 2014. He hasn’t missed a cut on Tour for more than a year and has six top-10s this season. He appears to be a lock to make his ninth U.S. Ryder Cup team, having moved to fourth in the standings after the British. Also, Royal Montreal only plays to about 7,000 yards and could benefit those players, like Furyk, who don’t hit the ball absurdly long. Keeping the ball in play and hitting to the correct position off the tee will be a factor.

Jim Furyk since the Masters

 Tournament Finish
 Masters 14th
 RBC Heritage T-7
 Wells Fargo Second
 Players Second
 Crowne Plaza Colonial T-51
 Memorial T-19
 U.S. Open T-12
 British Open Fourth

Another player to consider is Kuchar, who is also having a stellar 2014. The world’s seventh-ranked player leads the PGA Tour with nine top-10 finishes this season, and although he doesn’t have one since the Byron Nelson Championship, he was 12th at the U.S. Open. He was co-runner-up to Snedeker a year ago and was T-4 in Canada in 2010. 

Most top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player Top-10s Wins 2nds 3rds Starts
 Matt Kuchar 9 1 1 0 18
 Jimmy Walker 8 3 0 0 21
 Dustin Johnson 7 1 2 0 16
 Bubba Watson 7 2 2 1 15
 Sergio Garcia 7 0 2 2 11
 Webb Simpson 7 1 0 3 18
 Adam Scott 7 1 0 1 11
 Rory McIlroy 7 1 1 0 11
 Brendon Todd 7 1 0 0 23
 Harris English 7 1 0 0 23
 Jordan Spieth 7 0 2 0 21

The third option might be Schwartzel. Although he hasn’t played great in the Canadian Open – a T-9 in 2011 is his best finish in three appearances – he is trending in the right direction after a T7 at the Open Championship.

The annual story surrounding the RBC Canadian Open is the fact that a native hasn’t won his national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954. Mike Weir came close in 2004, when he finished second, losing a playoff to Vijay Singh. Weir led by three after 54 holes, but he shot 72 Sunday (with three bogeys on the back nine) and eventually lost the playoff. Provincial pride runs deep and Canadians took a bit of solace in 2013 when Brandt Snedeker won. His caddie, Scott Vail, is from Oshawa, Ontario.

Here are the Canadians on the PGA Tour and how they’ve fared at the Canadian Open.

 Player Starts Cuts made Best finish
 Stephen Ames 16 7 T-5 in 2005
 Graham DeLaet 5 2 T-46 in 2009
 Brad Fritsch 6 1 T-71 in 2011
 David Hearn 11 6 T-20 in 2006
 Mike Weir 23 9 Second in 2004

Nineteen Canadians are in the field this week, including amateur stars Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners from Kent State, who were the co-Players of the Year in the Mid-American Conference, NCAA Division II Player of the Year from Barry College Adam Svensson, and Ontario Amateur winner Chris Hemmerich. Tour player Adam Hadwin, who was T4 in 2011, returns to the field as well.

One final note: If you’re looking for past performance at Royal Montreal as a predictor to success this week, stop right now. The leading finisher in the 2001 Canadian Open who is also in the field this week is John Daly, who was fourth 13 years ago. K.J. Choi and Robert Allenby were T-8.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.