Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the schedule-adjusting of the 2019 PGA Tour season was the world’s second biggest country: Canada.
Once such a highly-respected tournament that it was long-considered the fifth major, the RBC Canadian Open has seen a precipitous drop-off in the strength of its field since it was moved to an undesirable position in mid-July back earlier in the 2000s.
However, it was moved to June for the 2019 season, and being held one week before the U.S. Open, an impressive array of the world’s best will be in contention, simultaneously wanting to both win in front of one of the Tour’s largest and most passionate crowds, and getting their game in peak form before the season’s third major.
Among those who will be at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, this year’s host site, is world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, making his first competitive start since winning his fourth major championship in his last eight major starts, in addition to world No. 2 and defending champion Dustin Johnson, who has posted runner-ups in the season’s first two majors, and world No. 4 Rory McIlroy, who will be making his first career appearance in Canada.
Canadian golf fans will undoubtedly be cheering hardest for their own, desperate to see a Canadian-born player win the event for the first time in more than 60 years, but with so many elite players in attendance, and so many potentially intriguing storylines, Canada wins regardless of who ends up holding the trophy on Sunday.
Tournament: RBC Canadian Open
Dates: June 6-9, 2019
Where: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Course: Hamilton Golf & CC
Distance: Par 70, 6967 yards
Architect: Harry Shapland Colt (1914)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,368,000
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
TV & Online
Rd 1: Th 03:00-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fr 03:00-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 01:00-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 03:00-6:00 pm (CBS)
Rd 4: Su 01:00-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Su 03:00-6:00 pm (CBS)
Before an unfavorable move on the PGA Schedule in the 2000s, the Canadian Open was considered to be among the Tour’s most prestigious non-majors. Notable past winners include Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, and Tiger Woods. The fields have weakened considerably since that Tiger victory over Grant Waite in 2000 though.
The event has bounced around a number of Canada’s best courses in its history. In recent years, Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ontario had become the primary venue, but this year’s edition will be held at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, also in Ontario.
Hamilton has hosted five previous Canadian Opens, most recently in 2012, which featured a one-stroke victory by Scott Piercy. In something of a statistical anomaly, the last four editions at Hamilton had a combined leading margin of just two strokes after 72-holes (two one-stroke victories, two playoffs), but when the other Hamilton-held tournament is added, that number shockingly jumps to 18 strokes.
That outlier was the 1919 Canadian Open, which England’s James Douglas Edgar won by an incredible 16-strokes, a margin of victory record that has been tied, but not broken in the 110 years since. Edgar’s closest competition that year was the legendary Bobby Jones, a man he is credited for mentoring. Edgar also won the 1920 edition, but was only given the chance to compete in one more, as he was murdered under mysterious circumstances in August of 1921, a case that was never solved.
Stat of the Week
The number of years since a Canadian-born player has won the Canadian Open.
The pre-WWI Canadian Open was dominated by Canadians, but since the event took a break from 1915-1918, the event has been won by a maple leafer just once: Pat Fletcher in the 1954 edition. The four-stroke win was Fletcher’s only PGA Tour victory.
There have been some close calls in recent years, however. Former Masters Champion Mike Weir lost a playoff to Vijay Singh in the 2004 edition, and David Hearn held a lead with just two holes to go in the 2015 Canadian Open, before being based by a surging Jason Day and Bubba Watson.
The Canadian contingency does not have any big names in the current game, but that will not stop the ones in the field from getting the loudest cheers from the enormous crowd.
Their best chance at seeing a Canadian-native holding the Open trophy could be Adam Hadwin, who is the highest-ranked Canadian in the field at No. 79 in the world. The 31-year-old from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan has not done a lot since finishing runner-up at the Desert Classic in January, but posted top-7 finishes in this event in 2011 and 2015, although he missed the cut the past two years.
The better bet might be Corey Conners, the world No. 83, who won the Valero Texas Open just two months ago, although he has not fared well in his few Canadian Open starts.
MacKenzie Hughes is a bit further back at No. 218, but he finished T8 here last year, and reached 10-under in a T32 effort in 2017. He also finished T8 in his last Tour start, at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago.
Hole of the Week
No.18, Hamilton Golf & CC
Par 4, 442 yards
Rating: Second toughest
This classic finale demands precise positioning off this elevated tee. Ancaster Creek snakes across the fairway 285 yards out, so a three-wood or hybrid is the prudent play.
The approach shot climbs 175-200 yards uphill—often from a downhill lie—to a severely back-to-front sloping green set in a giant amphitheatre with bunkers on either side.
One of golf’s greatest finishing holes!
Five Storylines To Follow
1. Koepka’s Return to Action
When we last saw the now-World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, he was raising the Wanamaker Trophy for the second consecutive year, the award given annually to the winner of the PGA Championship.
Establishing himself as the modern day King of the Majors, Koepka claimed his fourth career major, all of which have come over his past eight major championship starts. Normally unshakeable on the big stage, the 29-year-old did make things interesting at Bethpage Black when a back-nine Sunday slide temporarily turned a seven-stroke 54-hole advantage into a late one-stroke lead, but he was able to steady himself over the final few holes while his main competition, Dustin Johnson bogeyed 16 and 17.
Now, one week before the next major, the U.S. Open, where Koepka also happens to be the two-time defending champion, he tees off in Hamilton in search of just his third career victory in a “regular” event.
He missed the cut here a year ago, but was in contention through 54-hole holes in his other attempt, the 2015 version, when he had three rounds of 4-under 68 before a Sunday 74 dropped him into a tie for 18th. Armed with the Tour’s third best scoring average, Koepka should not be dismissed just because the stakes are not as high as they will be in a week.
2. DJ Returns
Koepka’s closest competitor in the OWGR, world No. 2 Dustin Johnson will also be in the field this week, and also for the first time since the PGA Championship, where he finished runner-up for the second consecutive major.
He may be second to Koepka in most respects as of late, but this week, DJ arrives in Hamilton as the defending champion, as a blazing Sunday 6-under 66 allowed him to emerge from a four-way 54-hole tie to claim his 19th career PGA Tour victory.
DJ now has a win and two runner-ups in Canada, and is coming into this year’s edition in the midst of a typical season by his standards, with a victory and two runner-ups among seven top 10s.
He is also armed with the Tour’s second best scoring average and leads in strokes gained: total. His now 20 career victories stand in stark contrast to his just one career major championship, something that Koepka’s feats are further highlighting, but that will be more of a discussion in a week.
3. Rory Looks For Form
After Koepka and DJ, the highest-ranked player in this week’s field is world No. 4 Rory McIlroy, who like Koepka is also a four-time major champion, but with the last of those coming in 2014, the 30-year-old from Northern Ireland is again feeling pressure to get back into the winner’s circle on the big stage.
He will attempt to get his major game tuned up by playing in Canada this week, a country were zero of his 161 career starts have taken place. Rory is having a very strong 2019 season, having won THE PLAYERS Championship in March, and posting a Tour-leading nine top-10s in just 12 season starts.
However, McIlroy is not coming in especially hot having missed the cut at last week’s Memorial Tournament, the second event in a row that he left with an over-par score.
With his history of winning and his No. 1 Tour ranking in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he is clearly a threat anywhere, and has a great shot of being in the mix in Hamilton this week, despite recent struggles with his game, and inexperience on the host course.
4. Furyk’s History
The RBC Canadian Open’s all-time money winner is 49-year-old Jim Furyk, a two-time champion of the event, including the 2006 edition, contested at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
Just when it looked like the recent Ryder Cup Captain might be coasting until his upcoming acquisition of Champions Tour eligibility, Furyk was suddenly having a resurgent season, having posted finishes of 18th or better in six of his first nine season starts, including a second-place finish to Rory McIlroy at THE PLAYERS Championship.
However, the man who leads the Tour in driving accuracy then saw his season stall out with three missed cuts from April to May. Now, in two starts since that missed cut streak, it has been a mix of the good and bad Furyk. He was in the mix two weeks ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge, reaching second place in the field before an awful Sunday dropped him into a tie for 13th. Then he was all over the place at last week’s Memorial Tournament, posting two rounds of 3-under 69, but poor rounds on his other two days meant a T33.
Furyk did reach 9-under par in Canada last year, but that was only good enough for a T45. That T45 was much better than the 75th place finish he had the year prior, although much worse than the top-4 finishes he had in each of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions. To say he is a wild card this week is an understatement.
5. Justin Thomas Looking To Rebound
Last month’s PGA Championship was on track to become the first event in PGA Tour history to include every member of the OWGR’s top 100 players, but former No. 1 and current No. 6 Justin Thomas withdrew early in the week with a wrist injury.
The 2017 PGA Championship winner felt ready to return to action last week at Jack’s Place, but his performance showed a tremendous amount of rust. In his first action in nearly two months, the 26-year-old followed up a respectable 1-under 71 in the first round with a disastrous 8-over 80 on Friday to miss the cut by a mile.
Like McIlroy, Thomas’ start this week will the first of his career in Canada, but also like McIlroy, he has a history of winning, something he did three times in the 2018 season. Thomas is still looking to add win No. 1 of the 2019 season though, and of his five top-10s, three of which were inside the top 3, none have come since late February.
The field this week includes four of the top-10 ranked players in the world (No. 1 Koepka, No. 2 Johnson, No. 4 McIlroy, and No. 6 Thomas), and all are included in our power rankings, as are two of the three players ranked in the top-20 (No. 13 Matt Kuchar and No. 20 Webb Simpson).
The only player with a top-20 ranking not included in our list is No. 19 Bubba Watson (the field’s sixth-ranked player), who’s had an up and down season thus far.
|10||Shane Lowry||42||40-1||8, 3, MC, 24|
|9||Jim Furyk||49||50-1||33, 13, MC, MC|
|8||Webb Simpson||20||22-1||MC, 12, 24, 35|
|7||Justin Thomas||6||16-1||16, 23, 31, 32|
|6||Scott Piercy||60||33-1||19, 41, 2, 3|
|5||Matt Kuchar||13||22-1||MC, 8, 2, 12|
|4||Rory McIlroy||4||8-1||19, 16, 48, MC|
|3||Brandt Snedeker||50||40-1||MC, 1, 5, 30|
|2||Brooks Koepka||1||7-1||2, 28, 2, 40|
|1||Dustin Johnson||2||6-1||1, 4, 2, 56|
Top Sleeper: Austin Cook
In recent years, scoring has been an absolute necessity at the RBC Canadian Open, with six of the past seven editions being won with a score of 16-under or better, including the past two tournaments, where the winning score eclipsed 20-under.
Enter Austin Cook, who finished 9th in birdies at last week’s Memorial Tournament, despite carding just one in the third round. He had six on Sunday to shoot a 2-under 70, his third under-par round of the week, to finish T27, his third outing in his last four with a result inside the top-30.
Cook looked similarly good at the previous week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, where he played the middle rounds in a combined 8-under and also finished ninth in the field in total birdies.
He has not been super consistent in his sophomore season on Tour, but has undeniably played much better as of late, and looks close to contending for his second career Tour victory. He hits lots of fairways and cards lots of birdies, a consistent formula for success in this event.
“I get lots of fans up here, thanks to Wayne. Thanks, Wayne, I appreciate that. I get lots of fans, and it’s great. It’s always fun to play for a big crowd, to have them cheering you on.
“I’m sure Wayne had something to do with it (the extra support), they wanted us to wear our favorite hockey jersey when we hit the shot on No. 7, so I had the Gretzky jersey on,” said 2018 Canadian Open Champion Dustin Johnson, who wore the jersey of Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for a hole during last year’s pro-am.
Being engaged to Gretzky’s daughter for many years now, a relationship that has produced two children, Johnson is closely associated with the NHL legend, which garners him a tremendous amount of support in this event.
Full Field & Odds
Not a huge surprise to see the bookmakers list the field’s top-3 ranked players as the heavy favorites, especially considering they’re also essentially the three best players in the world.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson leads the way as the winning pick with 6-1 odds. But Brooks Koepka (7-1) and Rory McIlroy (8-1) are not far behind, and round out the only three players in the field with single digit odds.
Justin Thomas is next at 16-1, while Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson – both at 22-1 – round out the top-5 favorites in Canada.
1. Dustin Johnson (6-1)
2. Brooks Koepka (7-1)
3. Rory McIlroy (8-1)
4. Justin Thomas (16-1)
5. Matt Kuchar (22-1)
5. Webb Simpson (22-1)
RBC Canadian Open | Hamilton Golf & CC | Hamilton, Ontario | June 6-9, 2019