Another week, another national championship on the PGA Tour. This time it’s the RBC Canadian Open, smartly shortened to the social tag “#OurOpen” to help emphasize its status as Canada’s turn in the golfing world’s spotlight.
The 2018 edition of the championship will be the last time it is played in the week immediately following the British Open Championship, the spot on the schedule it has held since 1988. While that could help some with overall strength of the playing field, the flip side is the new spot beginning in 2019 is adjacent to yet another major, as the Canadian Open will be played the week before the U.S. Open.
While it may be Canada’s championship, it has been Venezuelan property the last two years, as Jhonattan Vegas has been a surprise winner in back-to-back seasons. Vegas had never before even cracked the top 25 in this event, but shot 64 on Sunday to win in 2016 and then a final round 65 last year to get into a playoff, where a first-hole birdie gave him the victory over Charley Hoffman.
Vegas was only the second player to win the Canadian title consecutively in the last 66 years. He’ll also be the third and final player this year with a chance at scoring a three-peat, something that hasn’t happened on Tour since Steve Stricker owned the John Deere title from 2009-11.
The entry list includes eight players from the current top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, coming heavily into focus now with just four weeks remaining in the regular season. While a number of players are jockeying for position in those upper ranks, another part of the field is looking for a strong showing to get them inside the top 125 line which will qualify them into the Northern Trust, the first event in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The most interesting name in this week’s field pushing for top 125 status is world No. 20 Sergio Garcia, who has missed the cut in five of his last eight starts and has only competed in 10 events where FedEx Cup points were available. He currently sits at No. 128 in the FedEx Cup standings.
At the other end of the spectrum is world No. 1 and FedEx Cup standings leader Dustin Johnson, who will try to rebound from a missed cut last week at the Open Championship. Other players who will draw a lot of fan interest include world No. 4 Brooks Koepka, the two-time reigning U.S. Open champion, world No. 11 Tommy Fleetwood, who was in final day contention at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and world No. 14 Bubba Watson, the only three-time Tour event winner this year.
That’s the set-up, and below are all the details you’ll need to stay on top of the battle for Canada’s top golf prize.
2018 RBC CANADIAN OPEN PRIMER
Tournament: RBC Canadian Open
Dates: July 26-29, 2018
Where: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Course: Glen Abbey Golf Club
Distance: Par 72, 7,253 yards
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,116,000
Defending Champion: Jhonattan Vegas
Marquee Players: Vegas, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter, Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel, Charley Hoffman, Harold Varner III, Joaquin Niemann, Troy Merritt, Steve Stricker, Adam Hadwin
HOW TO FOLLOW THE CANADIAN OPEN
Round 1: Thu 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Round 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
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RBC CANADIAN OPEN HISTORY
One of the longest-running tournaments on the PGA Tour, the Canadian Open first debuted in 1904 at the Royal Montreal Golf Club in Dorval, Quebec. An Englishman by the name of Jack Oke claimed victory at the inaugural edition with a score of 16-over-par.
Canadian-born players captured seven of the first 10 Canadian Open trophies, but since World War I, only one native Canuck, Pat Fletcher (1954), has made his way to the winner’s circle. Americans have won 72 of the Opens, with countrymen of England and Australia compiling eight wins apiece.
A tournament that was long considered a fifth major, and part of “the Triple Crown,” the Canadian Open annually drew elite fields until it was moved on the 1988 PGA Tour schedule. Now held the week after the Open Championship, the strength of its fields has dropped off significantly.
Notable winners include Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.
American Leo Diegel holds the tournament record for victories, recording four in a six year span from 1924 to 1929.
The Canadian Open has traditionally rotated between courses, but Glen Abbey Golf Course has been the most common location, as the 2018 edition will mark its 30th time as host.
Jack Nicklaus designed the course with the idea that it would be a permanent tournament home. Nicklaus never won the event, but did finish runner-up seven times.
One of the best features of Glen Abbey is a run of three par-5s in the final six holes (13, 16 and 18), including two among the closing three holes, which makes the tournament a magnet for intense final-round drama. A late deficit can be made up very quickly here.
HISTORY: RECENT WINNERS
2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21)
2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12)
2015: Jason Day (-17)
2014: Tim Clark (-17)
2013: Brandt Snedeker (-16)
2012: Scott Piercy (-17)
2011: Sean O’Hair (-4)
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT NAMES
2008-18: RBC Canadian Open
2006-07: Canadian Open
1994-2005: Bell Canadian Open
1904-93: Canadian Open
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT RECORDS
263 Johnny Palmer (1952), Scott Piercy (2012), Tim Clark (2014)
-25 Johnny Palmer (1952)
4 – Leo Diegel (1924-25, 1928-29)
3 – Tommy Armour (1927, 1930, 1934)
3 – Sam Snead (1938, 1940-41)
3 – Lee Trevino (1971, 1977, 1979)
DEFENDING RBC CANADIAN OPEN CHAMPION
Now in his eighth season on the PGA Tour, Jhonattan Vegas has three career victories. Two of them are the last two editions of the RBC Canadian Open.
After successfully defending his 2016 championship last year, it is clear: Vegas loves Canada, and Canada loves him.
Familiarity ruled the final round of the 2017 tournament at Glen Abbey, as Vegas was able to shake off five consecutive missed cuts to reach 21-under, nine strokes better than his winning performance in 2016, but a score that still required a playoff before Vegas bested Tour veteran Charley Hoffman on the first extra hole.
Vegas started the day in a tie for fifth place, but for the second consecutive year, got into the leader mix early –- this time by going out in 5-under 30.
A 2-under 35 on the second nine meant a final round 6-under 65, good enough to make a playoff he would incredibly win. Vegas and Hoffman finished a single stroke ahead of a red-hot Ian Poulter and two ahead of an ice-cold Gary Woodland.
Both Hoffman and Vegas hit their drives into bunkers on the first playoff hole, which was the 524-yard par-5 18th. Despite hitting the lip of the bunker on his approach shot, Vegas somehow still got the ball to land on the green, which led to a two-putt for birdie. Hoffman’s attempt at a hole-out birdie missed by an inch, and Vegas became the back-to-back winner.
Vegas led the field in birdies for the week, and was amazing with his putter on Sunday, gaining nearly three strokes on the field on the greens.
FINAL TOP 10
1. Jhonattan Vegas -21
2. Charley Hoffman -21
3. Ian Poulter -20
4. Gary Woodland -19
5. Brandon Hagy -18
5. Tony Finau -18
5. Robert Garrigus -18
8. Dustin Johnson -17
8. Kevin Chappell -17
10. Sean O’Hair -16
10. Seamus Power -16
10. James Hahn -16
10. Andres Gonzales -16
RBC CANADIAN OPEN: THE FIELD
With all due respect to Jhonattan Vegas, even he would admit the most formidable obstacle standing in the way of winning his third straight RBC Canadian Open title has to be the presence of the No. 1 golfer in the world, Dustin Johnson.
DJ is not just leading the world rankings and the FedEx Cup rankings, he’s also playing a course he’s comfortable with. Twice he has finished second in this event, and he added another top 10 last year with an eighth-place showing. His prodigious length gives him one more edge if its close down the stretch, thanks to the factor of three par-5s in the final six holes.
A Vegas victory would be defying the odds, but you could say that about the last two years, as well. This year, he comes to Glen Abbey with only one top 10 all season — way back in the first event on the 2018 calendar, the limited field Sentry Tournament of Champions. Another indication of his form is his current standing at No. 123 in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Brooks Koepka may be a native Floridian, but he’s shown he doesn’t mind going north with his U.S. Open victories in the last two years coming in Wisconsin and New York. The world’s No. 4 player has only played this event once, in 2015, a showing where he was tied for fourth going into the final round, but fell to a tie for 18th with a Sunday round of 74.
Bubba Watson had only a brief two-day stay at the Open, but is having perhaps his most consistently excellent season of his career, most recently punctuated with his win last month at the Travelers Championship. Currently No. 14 in the world, he nearly won the Canadian title in 2015, coming up one stroke behind winner Jason Day.
Three of last year’s top contenders would seem primed to once again make a run at the top this year. Charley Hoffman has had a below-average season by his recent standards, but his tie for 17th last week at the Open Championship gives him top 20 finishes in each of the first three majors of the season. He’s also warmed to Glen Abbey of late, with his playoff loss last year preceded by a tie for 7th in the 2016 event.
Tony Finau has been one of the best statistical performers on Tour in 2018, with seven top 10s that include a pair of second-place finishes and a fifth-place showing at the U.S. Open. He posted a tie for fifth a year ago in Canada, and is coming in off a ninth-place showing last week at the Open Championship, good enough to move him to a career-best No. 28 in the world.
Sandwiched between those two in last year’s RBC Canadian Open was veteran Ian Poulter, who made his first-ever appearance in this event a memorable one, finishing one shot out of the playoff and taking home solo third honors. Poulter’s game has bounced back decently this season, although he is coming in off a Friday 81 which caused him to miss the cut at the Open Championship.
Perhaps taking Poulter’s place as most intriguing Englishman making his Canadian Open debut this week is current world No. 11 Tommy Fleetwood. He’s had a victory in Europe this year, and has also shown the strength of his game with impressive showings in several of the year’s biggest events, including a tie for 7th at THE PLAYERS Championship, solo second at the U.S. Open and a tie for 12th last week at the Open Championship.
One more veteran who might not be immediately obvious who is worth keeping an eye on is Matt Kuchar.
Before posting a solid tie for ninth at last week’s Open Championship to move back up to No. 26 in the world, he had slipped from No. 16 in the world at the start of the calendar year to No. 27, the farthest back in the world rankings he had been since 2010. But he’s been a solid factor in this event since finishing in a tie for second in 2013, having followed that performance with top 10s the next three years.
A Canadian golfer hasn’t won his country’s national championship since 1954, when Pat Fletcher did it. This year’s field includes 16 Canadians, led by former Tour winners in Adam Hadwin, Mac Hughes, Nick Taylor and Mike Weir.
RBC CANADIAN OPEN ODDS TO WIN
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Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images