Canadian Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THOSE of us who closely follow this wonderful game that we all play and love so much may sometimes experience pangs of envy at the lifestyle afford to golf’s superstars. And while there is no doubt that the very best players are handsomely rewarded for their efforts, it is not always an easy life - a host of those who played 72 holes at Carnoustie on the east coast of Scotland last week have flown back across the Atlantic and will be teeing it up at the Canadian Open at the glorious Glen Abbey Golf Club.
No doubt some of them will stagger on to the first tee asking themselves what day of the week it is and wondering what on earth they are doing there. Jhonattan Vegas is the defending champion and will be going for a hat-trick of victories in the event, having also won it in 2016. It was won in 2015 by Jason Day, in 2014 by the diminutive Tim Clark, in 2013 by Brandt Snedeker, in 2012 by Scott Piercey and in 2011 by Sean O’Hair.
When Day won in 2015 he was fresh from missing out on a playoff at The Open at St Andrews by a single shot in a tournament that was won by Zach Johnson. After winning in Canada, the Australian continued his stellar form and went on to add the US PGA Championship. At the time, he was head and shoulders above every other golfer on the planet. Then followed a spell in the doldrums, instigated by his mother facing a life-or-death battle with cancer.
Thankfully, Day’s mother, is keeping much better and Day’s focus has returned to the game. He has already won twice this season and is once again looking like the player who threatened to sweep all before him three years ago.
This was the tournament where, in 2016, a young Spaniard named Jon Rahm announced his arrival on the scene. It seems remarkable that he has only been a professional for two years, such has been the impact he has made upon the game. He finished second here two years ago, producing a brand of attacking golf and power hitting that reminded everybody who watched it off the incomparable Seve Ballesteros.
Rahm has gone on to achieve astonishing things on both the PGA and European Tours. And he still plays the game in a manner that Ballesteros would have loved to watch. At a time when so many professionals seem to take forever to make up their minds about club selection and take even longer to pull the trigger, Rahm will have a brief discussion with his caddie, select his club and pull the trigger. And if the ball ends up in the rough, we all know about it as the club will be slammed into the ground and he trudges after it, muttering under his breath.
By the time he gets to the ball, it is all forgotten and, more often than not, he will produce a brilliant recovery shot. There are many who believe that Rahm will not achieve his full potential until such time as he is able to bring his temper under control; there are just as many who also believe that he simply wouldn’t be the same player if he were to calm down.
The bottom line is that he is thrilling to watch. He attacks every course he plays, hitting the ball vast distances, producing beautiful approach shots and holing putts for fun from all over the place. Rahm is a breath of fresh air, and it is to be hoped that he never changes.
One of the few players who hits the ball further than Rahm is Dustin Johnson, who also has a decent record at the Canadian Open. It would be great fun to see them paired together. While Johnson propels the ball vast distances, one of the things that is often overlooked about his game is that he hits far more fairways than he misses. He has always worked incredibly hard on his short game and has turned himself into one of the best wedge players in the business.
There will also be a huge amount of support and goodwill for Snedeker, the 2013 champion. He is one of the most likeable men on the PGA Tour and has struggled since returning from injury but there have been some encouraging signs recently that he just might be about to rediscover something like his best form. There would be no more popular winner - unless local boy Adam Hadwin is able to bring the trophy home. It is 64 years since a home player last won the Canadian Open - Pat Fletcher - and the home fans are desperate for that to change.
Hadwin surely represents the best hope of that happening.
To Win: Dustin Johnson. Could bring this course to its knees
Each Way: Tommy Fleetwood. Now a global superstar
Each Way: Brooks Koepka. Double US Open champion
Dustin Johnson. Can win anywhere, anytime
Tommy Fleetwood. Due a PGA Tour win
Brooks Koepka. Back to the peak of his powers
Brandt Snedeker. Feeling his way back
Ian Poulter. Enjoying a stellar season
Bubba Watson. Back to his very best - and then some
Tony Finau. Hugely underrated
Jhonattan Vegas. Adores this place
Adam Hadwin. Home favourite
Ben An. Due another big week
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