A week after the oldest major was played at Royal Liverpool, the PGA Tour heads to a royal venue of its own with Royal Montreal Golf Club, the oldest in North America, staging the RBC Canadian Open for the tenth time.
Most of the 156-man field will be seeing the new design of the course for the first time, apart from the 13 Presidents Cup players in the line-up who sampled Rees Jones’ 2007 redesign.
It’s a shortish track in PGA Tour terms, with smaller than average greens to aim it, but in near perfect conditions scoring should still be good with the 2001 edition of the event held here being won with a score of 14-under.
24 players will be swapping the Wirral for Quebec as they travel over from the Open Championship including fourth-placed Jim Furyk, who is a big favourite this week as a two-time former champion who won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker is hoping to emulate that feat, as he joins Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar in a high-class field of players all desperate for FedEx Cup points with just five tournaments left until the start of the pay-offs.
No Canadian has won his home open since Pat Fletcher way back in 1954 – there are 14 man trying to snap that long drought in its 60th year, including former Masters champion Mike Weir, the well-fancied Graeme DeLaet and David Hearn, who finished T32 in the Open.
Royal Montreal is the oldest golf club in North American having been first established in 1873, and given permission by Queen Victoria in 1884 to use the ‘Royal’ in their name. The venue has since moved twice, with the final switch to its current Ile Bizard location coming in 1959 with a 45-hole complex built by Dick Wilson. It hosted the very first Canadian Open in 1904 and eight more since then, the last coming in 2001, along with the 2007 Presidents Cup. The Blue Course is the host this week and measures in at 7,153 yards as a par 70.
An eventful renewal at Glen Abbey 12 months ago saw Hunter Mahan holing the halfway lead but abandon his challenge to fly home to Dallas as his wife Kandi was about to give birth to their first child. Brandt Snedeker stepped up with a Saturday 63 and finished off with a 70 to win the title. Dustin Johnson had tied for the lead but triple-bogeyed the 17th after driving out of bounds – sound familiar?
Leading Contenders (SkyBet odds)
Jim Furyk (12/1)
The veteran will be a popular choice this week given his sparkling recent form – nine top 20s in his last ten starts including a fourth-placed finish at the Open last week. He’s won this event twice, tied for ninth last year, and with his Ryder Cup spot sewn up he’s high on confidence. Course will be to his liking and with him being ninth in fairways hit this year his accuracy will have in in great scoring positions.
Dustin Johnson (12/1 – price boosted to 14/1)
As mentioned above Johnson found himself tied for the lead in this event last year with just two holes to go, but as he tends to his nerves got the better of him and that blocked right tee shot sailed out of bounds. A new venue this year will thwart any bad memories this year though should he again be in contention down the stretch – and no doubt he’s playing superbly well overall at the moment.
Graeme McDowell (16/1)
G-Mac is reaching his best form at a crucial part of the season, finishing ninth in the Open and successfully defending his French Open title and coming sixth in his home Irish Open. He leads the PGA Tour putting stats so far and that should keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Matt Kuchar (16/1)
Runner-up in this event last year, Kuchar had a tough time at the Open and has not been his usual consistent self as he’s not claimed a top 10 finish in his last five starts, although he does have nine for the season and is the highest ranked player in the field this week so demands respect.
Charl Schwartzel (20/1)
The former Masters champion played well at Royal Liverpool to finish tied for seventh, and has largely gone under the radar in claiming six top 20s in his last 10 starts, which has taken him back up to 22 in the world. Can be a real danger once his putter starts to warm up.
Brandt Snedeker (22/1)
Defending champion status doesn’t quite have the usual standing when the event is being held on a different course, but Snedeker’s shot-making makes it a decent switch for him to Royal Montreal. The track has been likened to Harbour Town Links when the Heritage is held – an event Snedeker won in 2011.
Graeme DeLaet (25/1)
The leading fancy with the bookies to end Canada’s 60-year wait for a home champion is the 32-year-old, who has plenty of plaudits but as yet no wins on the PGA Tour. Missed the cut at the Open so has had a few more days to prepare for what should be a big week.
Luke Donald (25/1)
Donald certainly fist the course profile, especially if we continue to compare it to Harbour Town, where he has finished second three times in the last six years, including this year as one of his four tops 10s of the season. Had a difficult Open but with his famed iron play in gear, a warm putter could have him right up there come Sunday.
With no real course form to speak of, the link with the Heritage, another RBC sponsored event on the PGA Tour, could provide some big clues for this week and it’s no surprise to again see the market leaders popping up with good records down on Sea Island.
Kuchar, McDowell, Snedeker and Furyk have lifted the title in the last five years, while Donald is continually challenging with his accurate iron play and shot making skills, given that hitting fairways is key with small greens the target.
Any of these could heat up their putters at the right time to strike, and as long as the lengthy trip from Hoylake has not taken too much out of them they should all be in the reckoning, with McDowell and Furyk in particular the men in real form.
Looking further down the list we see Carl Pettersson as an interesting 50/1 shot, especially given he’s a former Canadian Open winner (2010) and has three top 10s to his name this season. Tim Clark is the same price and has three top 20s in his last six events and is third in fairways hit this season, while he's as accurate an iron player as anyone this year.
David Hearn could also turn out to be the hometown hero and upstage DeLaet as long as he can handle the added pressure of playing at home. He certainly doesn’t mind the big occasion after a fine Open campaign and a tied sixth finish at The Players.
2pts win Jim Furyk 12/1
1pt e.w David Hearn 50/1
1pt e.w Tim Clark 50/1