Remember last year when Ernie Els won the Open Championship and ventured back across the pond to uphold his commitment to play in the Canadian Open?
Yeah, that didn't go so well.
He didn't play too poorly, but it was hard to blame him for missing the cut. In fact, no one who contended in the British played well in the Canadian last year. Such is life after a hard week in a major championship, a long flight, lots of media responsibilities, a possible practice round, and dealing with jet lag and an early Thursday tee time.
It's just a tough week from the fantasy perspective. It's a good field -- better than most years, in fact, because Glen Abbey GC is a course they love, I suspect. But it takes some guts to pull the trigger on a big gun with all the disclaimers above and with several big-purse tourneys just around the corner. Let's look for a little value in our picks this week.
Glen Abbey is a solid, traditional-style course, which is somewhat rare for a Jack Nicklaus design. The finish is exciting, with two of the last three holes being par-5's. There are plenty of birdie opportunities here, but there's trouble all over the place as well. Great ball strikers, as opposed to great putters, have done well the last three times Glen Abbey has hosted the event: 2009 Nathan Green), 2008 (Chez Reavie), 2004 (Vijay Singh).
Be sure to check before you select a golfer -- guys are known to hit the wall at this point after a couple of weeks overseas, and there might be a couple of late WD's. Jerry Kelly, who has a great record at Glen Abbey and has been playing well, is out.
1. Graham DeLaet. I've been riding the Canadian's good play for awhile now, and for good reason: he's 1st in GIR%, 39th in driving accuracy, 14th in driving distance, 24th in birdie average, 6th in total birdies, and he's contended in almost every event in the States over the past two months. He was 45th the last time the event was held at Glen Abbey in 2009, but his game is on a different level now. Only drawback is that he played the weekend at Muirfield, but I think he'll welcome the softer conditions in his homeland this week.
2. Hideki Matsuyama. Get used to this name. The 21-year-old Japanese sensation has been tearing up the Japanese Tour and was a legitimate contender last week at Muirfield. I'm dismissing the jet lag theory for him -- he's used to flying around from Japan, after all -- and his tee-to-green game is impressive. If you're going to take a flyer this week, he's a great choice.
3. Matt Kuchar. Dismissing everything I said above because the Kuch is an ATM. If I'm going to use a big gun, it's him. He is a lock to make the cut and should be in the mix with his steady tee-to-green game and excellent putting.
4. Daniel Summerhays. He's red hot, with a T9 at Greenbrier, T4 at John Deere in which he had a chance to win on the 72nd hole, and a loss in a playoff (P2) last week at Annandale. His stats have been terrible all year, but the last three weeks he's had streaks of between 9 and 15 consecutive fairways and greens hit each tournament. Ride the hot hand.
5. Bob Estes. There are a couple of spots to potentially use Estes each year, and this is one of them. He was T8 in 2009 and T14 in 2008 at Glen Abbey. His stats are down a little this year, but I like taking veterans on courses where they've played well before.
6. Morgan Hoffman. The kid hasn't treated me wrong the last few weeks as he's been a regular on the leaderboard. He can make a lot of birdies and has three top-15's in his last four events. Playing some great golf on courses he's not familiar with, so there's no reason to think that won't continue.
7. Camilo Villegas. He started off hot at Muifield, but tailed off quickly and should have had plenty of time to get accustomed to the proper time zone after missing the cut at The Open. He has been showing up on the leaderboard early in tournament very often, still waiting to put four rounds together. He was T25 at Glen Abbey in 2009.
8. Brandt Snedeker. He finished T5 on this course in 2009 and is playing incredibly well. I just can't fully recommend anyone who gutted it out in contention last week -- too many things can potentially impact his play. I'm saving him for the FEC Playoffs, but I'd be surprised if he didn't post a top-15 this week.
9. Chez Reavie. Past champion and good ball striker. Currently ranks 2nd in driving accuracy and 29th in GIR%. Missed a beat last week, but is back in familiar territory now.
10. John Rollins. The ball striker's ball striker has no history here, but this is the type of course on which he excels. He won this event (different course) in 2002, but has also won in Reno and performed well at The Travelers (TPC River Highlands), which are similar-looking courses. He's off first on Thursday, so he'll have a clean course to plow through.
Strength of the field: Lots of big guns playing this week, including Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Hunter Mahan, Billy Horschel, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els.
Player to avoid: Dustin Johnson. His game left him on the weekend at Muirfield… and he played at Muirfield last week. Two big strikes against him. He's never played the week after The Open and missed the cut here in 2008.
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