For the first time since 2019, the PGA Tour heads north for the RBC Canadian Open and some of the best golf fans and nicest folks to be found.
Canceled the last two years due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, one of golf’s oldest championships pivots to St. George’s Golf and Country Club. It’s a classic Stanley Thompson layout that has been renovated since it last played host to the tournament in 2010.
With a premium on hitting fairways and small, contoured greens surrounded by long grass and bunkers, the tournament should provide adequate preparation for next week’s U.S. Open. Five of the top-10 players in the world are on hand in a top-heavy field.
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St. George’s is a 7,014-yard par-70 featuring a quirky mix of five beefy par-3s and three par-5s. Noted architects Tom Doak and Ian Andrew rebuilt all 18 greens in 2014 and the course reopened the following year. They restored the greens to their original design, softening slopes to give tournament officials more hole locations. The surfaces are bentgrass and should roll a brisk 12.5 or so on the Stimpmeter.
Rain early in the week will make the 3.5-inch rough a nuisance to be avoided. Before we get to the fantasy golf picks, here are a few more keys to success and course notes:
- The greens at St. George’s are on average roughly 4,000 square feet, slotting them among the smallest greens on the PGA Tour. More than most weeks, Greens in Regulation and Shots Gained: Approach are critical stats for success here.
- The nature of the course—four par-3s that can stretch longer than 200 yards and six par-4s measuring between 450-500 yards—puts a premium on proximity from 175-225 yards.
- It doesn’t look like a course the pros will overpower. Hitting fairways is important and was emphasized in our model.
- There’s a ton of sand: 104 bunkers to be exact and players better be handy splashing out around the greens to save pars.
- St. George’s is on rolling terrain and uneven lies in the fairway are a defining trait, bringing to mind the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, home of the Valspar.
- Completely irrelevant as it pertains to your fantasy roster: St. George’s has the coolest looking clubhouse on the PGA Tour.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. J.T. Poston. Gained 2.5 shots on approach last week at Muirfield Village and has two top-10s in his last five starts. Elite putter should thrive on slick surfaces requiring imagination and touch.
24. Adam Long. Still seeking his first top-10 in the 2021-22 season but has shown incremental progress of late, gaining six shots on approach at Colonial and 1.8 shots Off the Tee last week.
23. Pat Perez. When I saw Perez doing a TV spot during the PGA Championship, he was in Las Vegas, still abuzz and sleep deprived. All he’s done since is finish 12th at Colonial and 26th at Memorial, gaining at least 1.8 shots on approach in three of the last four starts. Never underestimate a true professional.
22. Jhonnatan Vegas. The former Canadian Open champion thrives on shorter courses and played well last week until a Sunday 81 sent him into a tie for 37th. I’m anticipating a bounceback. He’s 19th in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds and 40th in the field in sand saves over the last 36 rounds.
21. Justin Rose. Strong record at comp courses Copperhead and TPC River Highlands, excellent putter on bentgrass and better than the field average in all the key categories. Gained 5.2 shots on approach in a T-13 at the PGA Championship.
20. C.T. Pan. Ranks fifth in SG: Approach and 19th in Good Drives Gained over the last 36 rounds. Also 21st in Sand Saves. Better than average putter on bentgrass who has made seven cuts in a row.
19. Tyler Duncan. Like his value in this field after he gained 5.8 shots Tee-to-Green in his last two starts (Byron Nelson and Colonial). Outstanding in all of the driving stats and dialed in from 175-200 yards (11th over last 100 rounds).
18. Aaron Rai. Feels like a solid course fit for the Tour rookie, who has rarely had all aspects of his game firing in the same week but understands how to post results (three top-30s in the last five outings). Fairway finder ranks 15th in scoring on 450-500 yard par-4s.
17. Adam Hadwin. Hopes to become the first Canadian to win his national open since Pat Fletcher in 1954. Terrific short game, excellent record at the Copperhead course and top-20 in SG: Approach and Greens in Regulation Gained over the last 36 rounds.
16. Cam Smith. Best iron player over the last 36 rounds. Can he find enough fairways? Lost two shots off the tee at Memorial, fading from the 36-hole lead to a tie for 13th. Strong putter on bentgrass and not many pros have more skills around the green.
15. Patrick Reed. Ballstriking took a step back last week but he’s 10th in the field in scoring on par-70 courses less than 7,200 yards over the last 50 rounds. Elite short game includes leading the field in sand saves over the last 36 and also top-30 in 450-500 yard par-4 scoring.
14. Harold Varner III. Broke hearts and piggy banks on the back nine at Colonial but the steady ballstriker (T-13th SG: Tee-to-Green, 8th SG: Approach over last 36 rds.) has added a top shelf short game to his arsenal, ranking 15th in Scrambling and ninth in SG: Around-the-Green over the last nine tournaments.
13. Tyrrell Hatton. Best in the field from 200 yards and has driven the ball better of late, gaining shots Off the Tee in three of his last four starts. Good bunker player ranks 15th in SG: Tee-t0-Green over the last 36 rounds.
12. Sebastian Munoz. Popped in the model this week because he’s the best in the field on 450-500-yard par-4s and excels from 175 yards or farther from the hole. Ranks seventh in Good Drives Gained and 19th in SG: Approach. Hasn’t missed a cut since January.
11. Keith Mitchell. Landed just outside the rankings last week and delivered a tie for 18th. Loves bentgrass, ranks 10th in scoring on 450-500 yard par-4s and controls his tee shots among the best on the Tour. Also 18th in scrambling over the last 36 rounds.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Sam Burns. Surprise winner at Colonial is a contender anytime he puts a tee in the ground. Just 90th in this field in Sand Saves, however offsets that weakness with elite ballstriking, ranking top-15 in SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach and Greens in Regulation over the last 36 rounds.
9. Brendon Todd. Impressed with his performance two weeks ago as he battled for the Colonial title. Leads the field in putting on bentgrass, ranks second in Good Drives Gained and has gained shots on approach in five of the last six tournaments. The short par-70 should suit him well.
8. Corey Conners. The Canadian with the best chance to snap the victory drought is certain to be extremely popular this week, so keep an eye on his ownership projections. Not many holes in his repertoire other than the putter and the 8.1 shots he gained on approach last week led the Memorial field.
7. Chris Kirk. After gaining shots on approach in 10 consecutive tournaments, inexplicably lost 5.1 in that area last week in a T-51 at Memorial. Gonna bank on a quick recovery and love his exquisite short game to save pars.
6. Rory McIlroy. Gained 2.8 shots on approach and 3.1 Off the Tee last week but poor putting left him in a tie for 18th. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds and is fourth in putting on bentgrass. Top-15 in the three key short game metrics as well.
5. Scottie Scheffler. Other than the PGA Championship mishap has played well basically every time he’s teed it up since the Super Bowl. Gained 5.5 shots on approach in his playoff loss at Colonial. Leads the field in Greens in Regulation and top-15 in Sand Saves.
4. Shane Lowry. One of my early favorites to win the U.S. Open next week at Brookline, he may just nab the elusive victory in another national open first. Driver cost him at Memorial but his irons and putting have been stellar since the Florida swing.
3. Justin Thomas. Shifted his scheduling philosophy prior to the last major and contended in the Byron Nelson before winning the PGA. If he can find enough fairways should be in the mix again in Toronto. Ranks in the top-6 in nine of the 15 stats in this week’s model.
2. Matt Fitzpatrick. It’s just a matter of time before he wins on the U.S. PGA Tour. Leads the field in scrambling, ranks ninth in Good Drives Gained and 13th in Greens in Regulation over the last 36 rounds. Don’t mind that he missed the cut last week.
1. Tony Finau. Historically strong on the short par-70 courses, including last time out at Colonial, when a pair of 67s on the weekend vaulted him to a top-5 finish. Gained 4.9 shots on approach in that outing. Bunker game has been sharp in the last four tournaments and ranks top-10 in the field in SG: Off the Tee and SG: Approach.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Luke Donald, Brice Garnett, Scott Gutschewski
Nick Hardy, Kramer Hickok, Ben Martin
Cameron Percy, Adam Schenk, Vaughn Taylor, Brandon Wu