Our golf tipster Jamie Worsley is back, with his full comprehensive preview of this week’s PGA Tour event, the Canadian Open. He has five selections that should whet your appetite.
Canadian Open 2023 Tips
- 2.5 pts Justin Rose each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 18/1
- 1.25 pts Keith Mitchell each way (1/5 – 6 places) – 40/1
- 1 pt Michael Kim each way (1/5 – 8 places) – 70/1
- 1 pt C.T Pan each way (1/5 – 8 places) – 100/1
- 0.5 pt Doc Redman each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 250/1
Two weeks following his commendable runner-up finish to Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship, Norway’s Viktor Hovland collected the biggest win of his career to date, in a hectic final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.
Hovland was a shot back of the lead heading into Sunday; one of 39 players who entered that final round within five shots of our trio of overnight leaders: Rory McIlroy, Si Woo Kim and David Lipsky.
Rory couldn’t get anything going and eventually finished 7th, shooting a final-round 75. Meanwhile, David Lipsky struggled in the spotlight of such a big event and though responding well to a poor start, Si Woo Kim gave himself too much to do.
It looked like Scottie Scheffler – who was one of those 5 back at the start of play – may come through the field and claim what looked an unlikely victory, though after getting to the winning score of -7 after a birdie on 16, he bogeyed 17, which ultimately left him a shot shy in 2nd.
Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark and Andrew Putnam were amongst other challengers who threatened but it was Denny McCarthy who looked to have outlasted everyone else to hold the tournament in the palm of his hand.
He arrived at the 18th hole with a one-shot lead on -8, knowing a par would see him to a first PGA Tour success; as in the group in front of him, Hovland had just set the clubhouse target of -7 thanks to a 3-under-par back nine.
Unfortunately, McCarthy missed the fairway off the 18th tee and was left having to lay it up in the fairway, needing to get up and down from around 100 yards out. He hit his approach long and wasn’t able to convert the 23ft putt for par, meaning a playoff with Hovland beckoned.
McCarthy missed the fairway on 18 again on the first playoff hole, this time laying up much closer to the green and in turn, a better shot at making par as he pitched it up to around 11ft. Whereas Hovland found the green in two, though left a lengthy birdie putt 6ft short and would himself need to hole a nervy par putt.
This he was able to do and with a devastated McCarthy not able to make his par saver, Hovland gained his fourth and by far most important PGA Tour victory, finally getting the rewards for the excellent golf he’s been playing over recent months.
He’s bound to be a huge player as we head off to the West Coast of the US for our third major of the year next week: the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club. However, before that, the tour takes a slight detour north to Canada, for the Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf & Country Club.
The Canadian Open was first staged at Royal Montreal Golf Club in 1904 – at which Englishman Jack Oke became the first winner of the event – and has taken place every year since when possible.
Two-time PGA Championship winner, Leo Diegel has recorded the most wins in the tournament with 4, followed by the trio of Sam Snead, Lee Trevino and Tommy Armour on 3 wins apiece.
Greg Norman and Nick Price, along with in more recent times Rory McIlroy and Jhonny Vegas, are among a group of players to lift the trophy twice; whilst names such as Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Dustin Johnson have also had their name etched on to the trophy.
It has been almost seventy years since a home favourite tasted victory in the event, as English-born Pat Fletcher collected the title in 1954 and we have to go back another forty years to the second of Karl Keffer’s wins in 1914 to find the last Canada-born winner; Mike Weir going closest to breaking that streak when 2nd to Vijay Singh in the 2004 edition.
Recent major contender, Corey Conners was the best of the Canadians last year at St Georges G&CC, finishing 6th, as the tournament returned following a two-year covid-enforced hiatus. The champion there was Rory McIlroy, as he held off a star-studded leaderboard with Tony Finau in 2nd and Justin Thomas in 3rd, to win for the second time in Canada and returns to defend this week.
The Canadian Open has enjoyed a nomadic status throughout much of its history, moving about through some of the country’s best courses year-on-year, though this will be the first time Oakdale Golf & Country Club will take up hosting duties.
The 18 holes in this week’s tournament will be a composite of the three 9-hole courses at the 27-hole property. The front nine will comprise of holes from the Thompson/Homenuik courses, which were both designed by renowned Canadian architect and designer of last year’s St George’s G&CC, Stanley Thompson; whilst the back 9 will comprise all holes of the Knudson course, which were designed by Robbie Robinson; a one-time apprentice to Thompson.
The resulting course will this week play as a par 72, measuring 7264 yards (though this does differ in some places); the two nines varying greatly in length, as the back plays at around 300 yards shorter. Further to this there are just three par 5s and three par 3s, with the twelve par 4s unusual for a par 72 course.
We’re a little in the dark in terms of predicting how the event will play this week but there’s enough out there to get some sort of handle.
The traditional, tree-lined course looks predominantly spacious off-the-tee, though the fairways are undulating and slope severely in places, whilst are further protected by thick rough and some strategically placed bunkers. Though ultimately it doesn’t look like the most demanding driving course in the world.
There are plenty of elevation changes from fairway to green, whilst the undulations/slopes in the fairways will leave some uneven lies, putting pressure on your approach play into the sizeable bent/poa greens – which themselves are not without severe undulations and slopes. Many are elevated and protected by run-off areas/false fronts, some imposing bunkering (typical of Thompson’s work) and more of that challenging rough.
The course starts off scoreable with a couple of sub-400-yard par 4s, though following that is a stretch of more demanding par 4s, all measuring above 460 and looks like the toughest stretch of holes on the course.
The back nine doesn’t appear to have such challenges and many are expecting the pros to eat up that nine in particular, with none of the par 4s above 432 yards and it’s also where we find the two shorter par 5s, including the 496-yard closing hole.
Oakdale is not without challenges and if your ball-striking is errant you will find difficulty around here. However, barring that handful of par 4s on the front nine, the course looks attackable throughout and I’d predict that unless some adverse weather arrives, we’ll see plenty of players approaching scores in the high teens under par by the end of the week.
- SG: Approach
- Proximity < 125 yards
- SG: Off-the-Tee or Driving Accuracy
- SG: Putting (bentgrass/poa)
- Par 4 scoring
With the lack of certainty/evidence about quite how the course will play this week I’m keen to keep things simple and I suspect quality in approach will be the key ingredient. I’m particularly eager to focus on those who have an excellent wedge game, excelling in proximity below 125 yards, with the abundance of short par 4s littered around the course.
You will need to drive it well too. There are a number of holes that the longest and best drivers will be able to take on, whilst those more dangerous are short enough that they can club down for position instead. Also, with that plethora of shorter holes, those more accuracy-dependant won’t be too overwhelmed by the setup.
Additionally, players with proven ability to putt on a bent/poa mix surface will appreciate these putting complexes and finally, contenders who play par 4s strongly can make the most of the ample scoring opportunities on those holes this week.
Correlating Events (Courses)
I won’t get bogged down too much in the correlating events this week as I like to have more concrete evidence to go off.
I see no reason why those who performed well on the Stanley Thompson designed St Georges G&CC in this event last year can’t do so on this setup this time around, with the course baring some of his hallmarks, though not quite to the same intensity. It is also worth noting that St Georges was renovated by Ian Andrew prior to last year, the same man who was brought in to renovate this week’s host course.
Further to that, three other courses to consider are: the Travelers Championship (TPC River Highlands), the Fortinet Championship (Silverado Resort) and the Rocket Mortgage Classic (Detroit Golf Club).
All three of the above are more traditional, tree-lined courses, have that bent/poa mix on the putting surfaces and typically produce relatively low-scoring affairs.
Conditions look pretty comfortable throughout the week. There are a few spots of rain forecast, though nothing too severe currently, whilst wind is set to reach little more than a mild breeze. However, lowish temperatures could make things a little tricky for early starters; fortunately, they’re not playing a course on which length looks a huge advantage.
World #3 and reigning champion, Rory McIlroy is this week’s star attraction and along with #8 Matt Fitzpatrick is one of just two players from inside the world’s top 10 in attendance; Sam Burns, Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Young and Tommy Fleetwood making it a group of six from the top 25 in the world.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk is in on a sponsor’s exemption, Nicolai Hojgaard makes use of his special membership on the tour, and we’re also graced by a number of the world’s best amateur golfers: #1 Ludwig Aberg, #3 Michael Thorbjornsen and #6 Sam Bennett.
A strong home challenge is headed by Corey Conners, with Adam Svensson, Mackenzie Hughes, Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin all top 100 players and in this week’s field. The home interest is extended to Aaron Cockerill, who’s been playing well on the DP World Tour of late, 2023 Korn Ferry Tour winner Ben Silverman and Myles Creighton, who secured his first professional title last week on the LatinoAmerica Tour.
Though getting the most out of his game at the moment, Rory McIlroy is easy enough to take on in his title defence as 5/1 favourite this week. He is followed by Tyrrell Hatton at 12/1, who looks well placed for a big week; the trio of Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick and Cameron Young coming next in the betting at 14/1.
I’m going to stay in this region of the board for my first selection and after finishing 4th in this event last year, I’m taking Justin Rose to go three better at Oakdale.
2.5 pts Justin Rose each way (1/5 – 7 places)
Rose’s resurgent 2023 has continued following his win at Pebble Beach back in February. Since missing the cut in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, the Englishman has made his next six, finishing inside the top 25 on five occasions; including putting up top 10 finishes when 6th at THE PLAYERS Championship and 9th in the PGA Championship two starts ago.
Approach play has been the clear standout area of his game this year, ranking 17th for the season. This has been particularly evident in his last two appearances, as he ranked 1st in the field in approach last-time-out in the Charles Schwab Challenge and he was the 3rd best iron player in the field when 9th in the PGA.
Additionally, Rose has been driving it solidly enough and ranks 35th in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour; he’s a top 30 par 4 scorer and part of his excellent putting over recent years shows him to be comfortable on similar surfaces to what he’ll face this week.
Aside from his 4th place finish in the Canadian Open last year, he has historically had an excellent record in the Travelers Championship, with multiple top 10s including a 3rd place finish, whilst he’s also finished 6th in the Fortinet Championship.
Rose ranks only behind McIlroy and Hatton from this field in strokes-gained total over recent months and I’m expecting him to continue his strong form this week in Canada.
1.25 pts Keith Mitchell each way (1/5 – 6 places)
Keith Mitchell was in excellent form earlier in the year, recording two top 5 finishes in the space of three starts when 4th at Pebble Beach and 5th in the Genesis Invitational. His form had tailed off, though despite the underwhelming final results in his last two starts – where he’s finished 58th in the PGA Championship and 48th in last week’s Memorial – signs have been much more positive and I’m taking him to step up on them this week.
Mitchell sat 10th at the halfway point of the PGA Championship and inside the top 20 after round three, before a final-round 77 resulted in him dropping down the leaderboard. A week where he drove the ball typically well, ranking 7th.
It was a similar story at last week’s Memorial, where he was within 4 of the lead going into the final round but dropped to 48th due to shooting 79 on Sunday. Most eye-catching about that performance was that he finally found something in approach, gaining strokes over the first three rounds before his poor all-round display in round four impacted his stats for the week.
Still, it was Mitchell’s best approach performance for three months, pointing to a player moving in the right direction and when combined with his driving prowess – of which he ranks 5th on tour this season – signifies a player who looks to be hitting the ball well enough to contend this week.
Further encouragement is found in his 7th place finish in the event last year, a year in which he also finished 6th in the Travelers Championship, both times putting well on similar surfaces. If he can make further improvements with his irons this week, I’d expect him to go well.
1 pt Michael Kim each way (1/5 – 8 places)
Michael Kim has been in excellent form over recent starts, in which all areas of his game have looked in decent condition. I’ve been particularly impressed by his ball-striking there and if he can replicate that this week, he looks a lively outsider in Canada.
His actual best finish of the year came back in March when 5th in the Puerto Rico Open. However, the fields in his 7th place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship and 6th in the Charles Scwhab Challenge mean we can upgrade those efforts significantly above Puerto Rico.
He gained strokes across the board in both of those finishes, though hit it particularly well. Ranking as the 6th best ball-striker in the Wells Fargo and was 12th tee-to-green when we last saw him at Colonial. Further to this, his two approach performances in those finishes rated as two of his three best of the year.
This level of ball-striking makes him a good fit for this week, as does his top 30 ranking in par 4 scoring and with evidence of his suitability to the course on offer from a 3rd place finish in the Fortinet Championship in 2016 – even his solo tour victory on the John Deere could be a decent comp – Kim ticks plenty of boxes for Oakdale.
1 pt C.T Pan each way (1/5 – 8 places)
C.T Pan made his return from a four-month absence because of a wrist injury on the Korn Ferry Tour in March. He missed the cut there, as he did when stepping back up to the PGA Tour on his next two starts in the RBC Heritage and Wells Fargo Championship.
However, his 4th place finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson on his latest start suggests he’s shaken off the cobwebs following his prolonged absence and he looks a nice price to kick on from there this week, on a course which should suit.
Pan actually showed positive signs in his two missed cuts prior, gaining strokes with the irons at the RBC Heritage and in all areas but approach in the Wells Fargo. He put it all together in Texas, ranking 8th T2G and 27th on the greens, culminating in that much improved finish.
Pan’s steady, accurate, all-round game has seen him gather a strong book of form on these types of tree-lined courses. His lone PGA Tour victory came at the RBC Heritage in 2019, whilst he’s also recorded finishes of 6th in the Fortinet Championship and 8th in the Travelers Championship.
This emphasises his ability to perform on courses similar to that he’ll face this week and I’m taking the former star amateur to keep it rolling in Canada.
0.5 pt Doc Redman each way (1/5 – 7 places)
I’m going a little speculative with my final selection but with some attractive correlating results and coming into this week off-the-back of his best approach performance since 2021, Doc Redman looks a big outsider worth chancing this week.
Made cuts have been hard to come by for Redman this year but his 30th at the AT&T Byron Nelson just under a month ago was his second-best of the year, behind finishing 16th at the Valspar Championship in March. This result was engineered almost exclusively by a field-leading approach performance, in which he gained over 2.2 strokes in three of the four rounds.
His approach performance at TPC Craig Ranch didn’t come out of the blue. Redman put up some positive numbers in each of his missed cuts in the Wells Fargo Championship and Mexico Open, whilst when missing the cut in the RBC Heritage, his second-round approach performance of +3.4 strokes was his best single round since 2021.
In addition to that recent quality in approach, Redman has been driving the ball solidly, finding plenty of fairways and his generally solid putting ability has often been on show on similar surfaces to this week.
The former US Amateur champion played a little golf in Canada when first turning pro and with a 2nd place finish in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, along with a 3rd in the Fortinet Championship, providing proof of his ability on similar setups, I’m more than happy to take the chance on him here at a huge price.