The First Tee – RBC Canadian Open

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly June 3, 2019 18:37

The First Tee – RBC Canadian Open

This Week

The RBC Canadian Open isn’t at Glen Abbey this year – Johnny Vegas faders can breathe a sigh of relief – but instead it’ll be at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, where the event was played in 2003, 2006 and 2012. This will be a high-scoring week of DFS as this course is very conducive to scoring, with past winners scoring -17, -14 and -8 in bad weather in 2003, and the cut coming at -1, E and +4.

The Course

Hamilton G&CC is a very short par-70 course, listed this week at 6967 yards. The two par-5s are 542 and 550 yards, and only one of the twelve par-4s is above 450 yards, so the longer hitters here will have a natural advantage off the tee as typically the driver is kept in the bag off the tee to ensure the fairways are hit. In 2012, only eight of the holes played above par – all four par-3s plus the four longest par-4s – and 27 eagles were made on the par-5s; while staying below par on the par-5s is important, par-3 and -4 scoring will be the ones to focus on.

Off the tee, golfers will be looking at narrow fairways – at the 300 yard marker, the front-9 average is just 28 yards across while the back-9 average is a touch wider at 31 across – but not much in the way of hazards, as there are only a few trees at this course and the only actual hazards are some wells and creeks. The main concern here is the thick poa/bluegrass rough (expected to be 3.5” thick), which can make for some very wonky lies on approach shots and will take some extra club to punch out of.

Positioning for the second shot is so important here, so looking at golfers who stay close to the center of the fairway is a good start, as they’ll be able to avoid the thick rough and will normally have good angles into the small greens. The typical approach shot will be in the 50-125-yard range as the course is so short, so that’s another area of focus.

The greens here are incredibly small, ~5000 sq. ft. on average, but they were still hit at a strong rate when the event was played here in 2012 – 67.59%, which is higher than an average tour stop. The greens have a lot of back to front slope in them and in hot conditions would be tough to hold, but Ontario has seen a ton of rain this spring so the course should actually be pretty soft so the ball should hold its position fairly well. They’ll be slower than what’s been seen recently (~11.5 on the stimpmeter) and are a mix of poa and bentgrass.

Comparable courses/events:

Silverado Resort (Safeway Open) – A short course with slow poa greens and narrow fairways. Crappy spring weather in Ontario is more like fall California weather this year, so conditions could be similar (although wetter in Hamilton).

Innisbrook (Valspar) – Different grass types, but narrow fairways and small slow greens should be similar to this week as a ball-striking course. Less-than-driver, open enough to the wind, thick rough.

Colonial (Charles Schwab Challenge) – A par-70 with tiny bentgrass greens, Colonial rewards precision more than power. They both have slow greens and tough rough.

Muirfield Village (Memorial) – Bent/poa course with small greens and less-than-driver off the tee. Thick penal rough although the fairways are much wider here. Soft rainy conditions of last week should be similar to what golfers see this week.

 

The Stats

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Putting
  • Off the Tee
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Par-4 Birdie or Better %
  • Greens in Regulation
  • Approach Shots: 50-125 Yards
  • Driving Accuracy / Distance from Edge of Fairway
  • Par-3 Scoring

Top-Tier Golfers

Dustin Johnson ($11900): While Hamilton G&CC isn’t Glen Abbey, something about the Canadian Open speaks to DJ, as he’s won once in Canada and finished runner-up twice; unfortunately he didn’t play in 2012 so there’s no course history to speak of, but historically he’s been a very effective player on bentgrass/poa courses, and one this short should be right up his alley.

DJ’s coming off a solo second at the PGA Championship and has yet to miss a cut this season, and he’s also picked up two wins – one at the WGC Mexico, and once on the Euro Tour in Saudi Arabia. He’s a longer player – 11th in All Drives distance this year – who’s not the most accurate off the tee, but he’ll be able to club down to keep his ball in the fairway this week; even if DJ struggles to find the fairway, he’s still the 8th-best golfer relative to par when hitting the rough (26th in proximity), so there’s not as much to worry about. On his approach shots, he’s picking up .688 strokes/round and finding the green in regulation at a 69.8% clip, and his putting has been out-of-this-world good with the fourth-most strokes gained putting and the lowest three-putt percentage.

His salary is the highest this week, but there’s enough value in the field that he’s worth paying up for.

Jim Furyk ($8800): Furyk’s form has been very strong this year with seven top-25s in 12 events and he’s coming off a T33 and T13 at two comp courses, and in his two shots at this course he’s missed the cut on the number (two rounds of par) and won. His stats reflect a player that should find a ton of success here:

  • 97 in Par-4 Scoring (8th)
  • 1st in Driving Accuracy (75.45%) / 9th in Distance from Edge of Fairway
  • 14th in SG: Approach (+.716/round), 13th in Greens in Regulation %
  • 2nd in Proximity from 50-125 Yards, 14th relative to par from that number

Those all demonstrate the prototype of a short, accurate golfer which is what’s needed here, although he’s not without his issues – his lack of scoring isn’t ideal for DFS, but at $8800 he offers a great chance to pick up position points, and he tends to avoid bogeys at an ideal clip.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

D.J. Trahan ($6700): A back injury derailed him earlier this spring when he had to withdraw from the Byron Nelson, but Trahan is back this week (in as a late alternate) and although he’s struggled since April with three missed cuts and the W/D, prior to that he had ripped off three straight finishes of T18 or better. Trahan’s never played here.

Statistically, he’s a bit of a mixed bag:

  • 110th in SG: Approach, but 10th in Greens in Regulation
  • 203rd in Proximity from 50-125 Yards, but -0.167 relative to par (T52) from that distance
  • 99th in Par-4 Birdie or Better, but T8 in Par-4 Scoring (3.97)

While he’s played some easier courses (Puerto Rico, Punta Cana), he’s still got very good birdie numbers (4.26/round) and he ranks 40th in SG: Tee to Green. At this price tag, even as his putting has been terrible (166th), he’s worth a long look at sub-1% ownership.

 

Danny Willett ($7400): His form has been up-and-down all year, with six made cuts to six missed cuts, but Willett played well at Muirfield last week (T27) and had a T42 at the Valspar, and has always found more success at short tracks although he’s usually better in tough scoring conditions.

He ranks a dismal 87th in SG: Tee to Green but that’s mostly due to poor driving (-0.306 strokes OTT, 171st), as even on his good weeks Willett is at best a middle-of-the-pack golfer off the tee. Luckily, Willett is much better with his irons as he’s hit 69.7% of greens in regulation and picks up the 16th-most strokes on approach per round. There’s not much else going for him statistically, but the Englishman fits the course from a narrative perspective and from his history at comparable courses.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly June 3, 2019 18:37

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