Canadian Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
A STELLAR cast will assemble at the magnificent Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, for the latest staging of the Canadian Open, with the organisers hoping that this year's event comes somewhere close to matching the drama witnessed 12 months ago when Jhonattan Vegas beat Martin Laird, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson by a shot after Candan amateur Jared du Toit had thrilled the home crowds by coming within three shots of winning his national Open.
Tjhe field is led by world No 1 Dustin Johnson, who will be joined by the likes of Bubba Watson, Si Woo Kim and Bryson DeChambeau. Johnson, who has been top of the rankings since February, has three PGA TOUR victories this season to lead the FedEx Cup standings. Watson last competed at the RBC Canadian Open in 2015, where he finished runner-up to Jason Day. He has had a wretched season but there have been recent signs that the big-hitting left-hander is starting to rediscover his best form once more.
Si Woo Kim is coming off the biggest win of his career, taking top spot at the the Players Championship to climb to No. 32 in the Official World Golf Ranking and 22nd on the FedEx Cup Standings.
DeChambeau, a popular player with fans, finally fulfilled his promise with a victory at the John Deere Classic.
What the locals really want, of course, is a home winner and in Adam Hadwin they may finally have found the man to deliver that victory. He won the Valspar earlier in the season but it has been his all-round consistency that has really caught the eye as he has established himself as one of the top players on the PGA Tour. Hadwin is a young man who thinks about the game, and who works hard to develop his skills.
He will be hoping that conditions are tricky, as he likes nothing more than having to manipulate the ball in the wind, hittiing low punch shots into the breeze and cuts and draws against the crosswind. He also happens to be one of the very best putters on Tour. But he will know that all of Canada expects him to win, and that adds its own pressures. The last Canadian-born champion was Pat Fletcher back in 1954.
It was won in 2010 by Carl Petterson, in 2011 by Sean O'Hair, in 2012 by Scott Piercey, in 2013 by Brandt Snedeker, in 2014 by the diminutive Tim Clark and by Jason Day in 2015. Mike Weir, the former Masters champion, appeared to have the title at his mercy back in 2004 when he was at the peak of his considerable powers. He went into the final round leading by three shots.
Weir started off with a double bogey, but fought back and was still three in front with only eight holes left. Weir bogeyed three holes on the back nine but still had a chance to win the tournament with a 10-footer on the 72nd hole and beat Vijay Singh. When he missed the putt, the two entered a sudden-death playoff. Weir missed two more chances to win the tournament: a 25-foot putt for eagle on No. 18 on the first hole of sudden-death, and a five-foot putt on the second playoff hole. On the third playoff hole, Weir put his third shot into the water after a horrid drive and lay-up, and Singh was safely on the green in two and went on to win.
The point of relating this is to highlight the pressure on the shoulders of a home golfer who carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Hadwin is the latest to try to live up to those expectations, and he is not alone.Graham DeLaet, Nick Taylor and David Hearn have all been there or thereabouts on the PGA Tour, although DeLaet's failure to win a regular tournament is one of golf's great mysteries. Can any of them lay this bogey to rest?
Hadwin will be among the favourites, but he will have to be at his very best if he is to win. The sponsors have also extended a special exemption to du Toit, who will be desperate to recapture the form he demonstrated 12 months ago.
DeChambeau is certain to attract a huge amount of attention. The young American plays the game his own way. All his irons are the same length (the length of a standard six iron) and he uses the same swing to hit every shot. He describes himself as The Scientist, and found himself something of a figure of fun when he joined the Tour and struggled. But it all came right at TPC Deere Run and he proved that he possesses huge heart by holing a series of crucial putts on the back nine. Never a golfer who could be accused of being short on confidence, DeChambeau's self-belief has now gone through the roof. Now that he has won once, he may just go on and become a serial champion.
This tournament has been won by some of the game's legends - Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Billy Casper, Curtis Strange, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Lee Trevino, who won it three times.
Former champion Snedeker had a chance to win again last year. Out in the last group, he had a day to forget and will arrive at Glen Abbey feeling that he has a point to prove. Make no mistake about it, Snedeker is a world-class golfer who possesses a short game that most of us can only dream about. His putting stroke is not one that you would teach, or try to emulate, but it works for him. And if he has his eye in, he is the man to beat.
Chez Reaviie. Underrated performer
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