Damien Kayat previews the PGA Tour's Canadian Open taking place at St George's Golf and Country Club.
2021/2022 US PGA Tour
St George’s Golf and Country Club, Etobicoke, Toronto, Ontario
Final dress-rehearsal before US Open
Billy Horschel’s commanding performance at Muirfield came slightly out of leftfield. In any event, the current BMW PGA champ is one of the game’s good guys and I was glad to see him win his seventh US PGA Tour title.
The tour now moves to Canada for the 111th edition of the Canadian Open. This will be the first edition in two years (the last two editions were cancelled due to Covid concerns).
The third longest-running national open in world golf, this event used to hold a similar position to that of the Players (an unofficial 5th Major). Jack Nicklaus notoriously failed to win the event despite an incredible seven runner-up finishes.
But its popularity has dwindled significantly in recent years. It used to be the event immediately following the Open Championship. The rejigged schedule now has it languishing a week ahead of the US Open (arguably a worst position to be in).
Still, there are some heavy hitters in attendance as players wind up for next week’s ‘Battle of Brookline’ (the 21st century version).
This Stanley Thompson design should prove to be the ideal warm-up for next week’s US Open (that perhaps explains the presence of some of golf’s biggest names).
Next week’s test in Massachusetts isn’t your stereotypical US Open behemoth. It places a premium on accuracy with extreme rough in play (this explains why St George’s has allowed the rough to get pretty brutal this week).
This tight, tree-lined test is not too dissimilar from Colonial. It isn’t about to be brutalized by anyone. The Bentgrass greens run at around 12.5 on the stimp and require some finesse.
Players will need to scramble well to succeed around Royal St Georges. I think that participation this week could provide a real advantage in Boston next week. Having said all that, a fair amount of rain has fallen in the Toronto area recently (and more is expected). This should soften conditions and make scoring a bit easier.
Scheffler, Burns to renew rivalry
World Number One Scottie Scheffler will be looking to consolidate his game ahead of next week’s US Open. He and Sam Burns will renew their rivalry following their Colonial play-off.
They have been serial winners this season and this course just sets up perfectly for the pair. It’s nice to see US PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas in the mix this week.
Despite winning at Southern Hills, Thomas did battle a hook throughout the week. He obviously feels that this tight test will be the ideal prep to iron out some of those driving kinks.
It’s slightly surreal to think of Rory McIlroy as the reigning Canadian Open champion (he won the event when last staged at Hamilton in 2019).
Rory’s game has been a Frankenstein’s monster of late. If the wedges happen to work then the putting starts to suffer. He will be desperate for some good form ahead of another tilt at that elusive fifth Major Championship.
2021: no event due to Covid
2020: no event due to Covid
2019: Rory McIlroy (-22)
2018: Dustin Johnson (-23)
2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-12) *playoff
2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12)
To Win Outright:
Scottie Scheffler 9/1 | Justin Thomas 10/1 | Rory McIlroy 10/1 | Sam Burns 14/1 | Cameron Smith 14/1
Chris Kirk- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
Chris Kirk could be a nice dark horse pick this week. He has been completely rejuvenated in recent months. Over his last 11 events, Kirk has three top 10’s and a further three top 25 finishes. Kirk has a brilliant short game that could come to the fore at Royal St Georges. He currently sits fifth on tour for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. Furthermore, only five players in this field have converted more eagles than Kirk this year. That should come in handy in damp, low-scoring conditions.
Adam Hadwin- To Win- 45/1 | To Place 19/2
There is real value in backing home favourite Adam Hadwin. Firstly, Hadwin has played well in front of his home crowd before (he had top 10 finishes at the 2015 and 2019 Canadian Open). But it’s his par 3 play that really appeals to me. Royal St Georges is a quirky course with five par 3’s (four of which measure over 200 yards). Hadwin currently ranks third in SG: Par 3. He also ranks fourth in sand saves (there are a plethora of bunkers surrounding these Bentgrass greens).
The Man to Beat- Matthew Fitzpatrick- To Win 20/1 | To Place 44/10
It’s can only a matter of time before Fitzpatrick breaks his duck on tour. He went into last week’s Memorial in fantastic form, finishing second at the Wells Fargo and fifth at the US PGA Championship. But his putter abandoned him on Muirfield’s famously fast Bentgrass greens. That obviously is a slight deterrent giving that Royal St Georges’ greens are also laid to Bentgrass. But I think his ultra-accurate style will suit this course far better than Memorial. He should avoid much of the sticky stuff and that will be vital this week.