Circle the wagons because we are headed north of the border. I have played one time in Canada, at Aroostook Valley Country Club, along the border of North East Maine and Canada. It’s a beautiful course and if you ever happen to be up in that area, I’d highly recommend it. They built the clubhouse and course in Canada during prohibition so you could enjoy a cold beer after your round, but the pro shop is in the states. Smart guys. Anyway, the RBC Canadian Open is the third longest running event on the PGA Tour, making its debut in 1904. The only tournaments that have been around longer are The Open Championship and the US Open. For an event that is sandwiched between the Open and a WGC event, the field is strong. RBC sponsors this event and also the RBC Heritage which follows the Masters. They also maintain an impressive core of sponsored golfers including the likes of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Palmer, Grame McDowell and Adam Hadwin. That doesn’t even include the LPGA starts like Brooke Henderson and Morgan Pressell. All of the pro’s mentioned above will be in the field this week.
Glenn Abbey Golf Course plays host for a final time this year. The course was founded in 1976 and was the first solo design by none other than Jack Nicklaus. Famous for the “Valley Holes”, which are holes 11-15. They use 16 Mile Creek that twists and turns across the course to protect them. More famous than the course is the 6 iron Tiger hit out of the right fairway bunker to 18 feet in 2000 to seal the victory.
Some say it is the best shot he has ever hit in his career. I still remember watching it in the men’s locker room at the U Club when I was a kid. The course is all Bentgrass which will be a change for the players this week. Most courses they have been playing of late are Bermuda greens and Zoysa fairways. The course is Par 72 and a manageable 7252 yards. This opens the course up to not just the bombers but gives the accurate, shorter hitters a fair chance as well. I have a feeling the field is going to tear this course apart. Johnathan Vegas won last year with a score of -21 under, he won the year before with a score of -12 under which but Jason day won the year before at -17. I would love to be wrong, and the course play tough because another week with the winner at -20 or better will drive me insane.
Let’s get to some picks. I’m not big on Vegas odds when it comes to picking who is going to play well at a tournament, because if DJ is in the field he is going to be the favorite. We all know good and well that he isn’t going to win every event. So here are 5 guys to watch for this week.
Kisner led or shared the lead for 54 holes last week at the Open Championship. Kisner has been up and down this season but he has had a few hot streaks throughout the year. I’d say last week started one for him, and it started with the flat stick. He is currently 17th on Tour in strokes gained putting. Couple that with being 38th in fairways hit, that is a formula for success. Obviously, he had a long week across the pond but he is a gamer. If you heard about the story from the sponsor event he played at Winged Foot, you know “This Aint No Hobby” to him. A win here would be huge for the man already sitting in 35th in the FedEx cup. You already know the Ryder Cup is the ultimate goal for him after getting a taste of team golf at the Presidents Cup.
Finau comes into the event as the highest ranked player in FedEx Cup Race without a win. He has 7 Top 10 finishes this season, most recently finishing T-9 at the Open and 5th at the US Open. I really like Finau this week. Talk about a guy that is due for a win, but his putting is what continues to be his Achilles heal. He currently sits at 129th on tour in Strokes Gained Putting. Similar to Rory, if Finau puts average he should win. Easier said than done obviously. I mean the man finished T-10 at the masters with no left ankle. Finau is my pick this week to win.
Fleetwood can flat out go low. He shot a second round 65 in the worst conditions of the week. It was cold, raining and windy yet Fleetwood seems to excel in those conditions. At the US Open he went 75, 66, 73, and nearly tied the US Open record with a final round 63 to finish in solo 2nd place. Despite all of the low scores, big drives, he is an average putter and average in approach. A guy with his talent and success across the pond, you would think he’d have a win on the PGA Tour. Maybe going north of the border will bring him enough international flare to break thru. Worst case, I see Tommy Boy finishing in the top 10 in his tune up before Firestone next week.
The Maniac from Moose Jaw returns to the land of maple leaf’s and Molson’s to take a crack at his National Championship. Adam Hadwin, aka Mr. 59, obviously can go low but he enters this tournament with his best finish in the last 2 months coming last week in Scotland.He did have a nice run earlier in the year with a T3 at the CareerBuilder, T6 at Genesis, T9 in Mexico and T12 at the Valspar. I’ve just got a feeling that the smell of that Ontario air is going to get him back on the right track and look out if he does because the man can score.
Alright, Zach Blair might be the most interesting man on tour. He’s an architecture nut, awesome twitter follow, and a serious gamer. He is also boys with the No Laying Up guys, who are some of my inspiration for this site. All that aside, Zach has had some good rounds and some decent showings this season. He started off strong at the John Deere but couldn’t get it his second round going. This past week at the rainy Barbasol Championship, he finished T15 with a 4-day total of -16. I think Zach will get it going this week as we come down the stretch, with the Wyndam being the only guaranteed event he has on his schedule. I think he will get in the PGA but it’s no guarantee.
Honorable Mention: Bronson Burgooooooon sitting at 101st in FEC standings and Stephan Jaeger sitting at 154th.
Troll Out the Red Carpet:
Our buddy Brandel got out on the golf course himself and qualified for the Senior Open Championship at the Old Course. Get your twitter fingers ready, because the tables have been turned. Chamblee is known to be one of the toughest critics in golf media. He will critique even the best golf swings down to minute details. I’m sure his left heal off the ground swing will catch plenty of flack amongst the golf community and even some players. Brandel has to be prepared for the criticism, he is opening himself to become cannon fodder. For his sake, I hope he makes the cut, or the Silver Fox is going to be crying to his young wife about how mean everyone has been to him. Personally, I hope he tanks so I can read Frank Nobilo’s twitter feed this weekend. Should be electric.
Late Nine Galloway Edition:
My goal throughout the year has been to play at least once a week and thus far, I have succeeded. Some weeks are busier than others which requires some twilight rounds. This week was one of those weeks. On Friday I didn’t make it to the course until 7, luckily it is literally a one-minute drive from my house. I swung by the house, changed, and filled a Yeti Tumbler with a Transfusion (Vodka, Ginger-ale, Grape Juice, Lime) as made popular by Riggs from Barstool’s Fore Play Podcast. I get there and I’m one of about 6 cars in the parking lot. So, I run in pay for 9 and hit the first tee.
Last time I wrote about Galloway, I had played the back, so this time I made sure to play the front. The first hole is a 494 yard, straight away Par 5. It is lined by trees on both sides and a grass bunker pilled with rip rap just off the right side of the fairway. My drive clears the gulch, leaving me about 195 in. I blade a four iron down the fairway, about 50 yards shy of the bunker guarding the front of the green. I hit a little spinner 60 degree to about 15 feet and 2 putt for an opening par. It’s currently about 95 degrees and 87 percent humidity, so the warm up process is complete. The second hole is a 166 yard par three that has a crazy green. It sits at a roughly 8 percent slope from back to front and has a huge spine that runs down the middle, with the green sloping in both directions off it. The pin is in the front left, just beyond the front bunker. I hit an 8 iron, and pull it pin high left, but am short sided with the hole location. I hit what I thought was going to be a good chunk and run gap wedge, but it rolls past the hole and stops on the spine. I two putt from there and walk away with bogey. Number 3 is a wide open, downhill, slight dog-leg right par 4. It’s listed at 416 on the card, so I take the big dog out and pipe it, leaving me less than 100 in. I hit a knock down sand wedge trying not to spin it, but it does leaving me about 20 feet for birdie. My putt mises low side but tap in for my 4. The next hole is a pretty cool hole, but one that can give you trouble. It’s a dog leg right around 3 ponds in a row. Each pond has a strip of land in between them. The hole is listed at 342 yards if you play it from the fairway, or you can take dead aim with a driver and try to hold the water protected turtle back green. I always elect to hit a 5 iron to about 125 yards and play it in regulation. Well I top a 5 iron, I guess I hadn’t had enough swing lube yet, but luckily it stops short of the pond in the rough on a downhill lie. Keeping my shoulders level with the lie, I hit an 8 iron to about 25 feet. 2 putts later and a circus par keeps the good juices flowing.
The second of three par 3’s on the front is the 5th hole, which plays 180 yards. I fan a 7 iron, leave my pitch short and take another bogey. Moving me to +2 for the 9. On to the Par 4 6th which is a hard dog leg right guarded by oak trees all along the right and pine trees thru the fairway left. I shape a nice drive around the dog leg leaving me about 115 yards into the uphill green. The flag is 20 feet beyond the front bunker, I hit a sand wedge straight into the lip of the bunker, leaving me a nice fried egg. I hack it out but barely get it on the green, blast my par putt past the hole and miss the long bogey putt coming back to finish with a double on the hole. The par 3 7th is a tricky downhill, over water, ½ island, 160-yard par 3. The pin is in the front, minus about 20 feet of drop, I hit an easy nine and stick it in the middle tier. I cozy up my birdie putt, leaving a kick in par putt. You tee off level to the green on the par 4 8th, but the fairway drops down about 20 feet until you get 150 yards from the green and then turns back up hill. I pounded my drive down what looked like the right side of the fairway, but I hit a mogul and then the cart path, kicking me into the rough on the 9th hole. There are cedar trees in my line but I hit a 60 degree over them and land on the right portion of the green. Another solid lag, gives me another par. Currently sitting at +4 heading into the gettable 473 yard par 5 9th, I feel like I can pick up a stroke here. The light begins to wane as I tee off and lose sight of my drive before it lands. When I get to my ball I’ve got 160 to the center of the green, the pin is in the back so I elect to hit a 7. I flush it, heading right toward the flag takes one hop on the green and lands in the rough just behind the green. A marginal chip leads to two putts and a par to close out the +4, 39. I head to the 10th and hit two balls on the green and putt for 15 minutes while I wait on the High Point Pizza I had called in from the course. Can’t beat, golf, pizza and a transfusion to start off the weekend.
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You never know when you are going to have to deal with Tight Lies like this one….