In one of the most historic weeks in the history of golf, on Tuesday, the PGA Tour announced they would be merging with the LIV Golf and the DP World Tour to end their one-year rivalry. In the background of this significant headline and with the US Open on the horizon, the Tour heads north for the RBC Canadian Open this week. Hosted at Oakdale Country Club in Toronto, it is the 37th different venue to hold the national tournament. Won a year ago by Rory Mcilroy, the current world number three, defended his crown after he won at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in 2019. He carded a final round 62 to fend off a Sunday charge from both Tony Finau and Justin Thomas.
Originally designed by renowned Canadian Golf architect Stanley Thompson in 1926, Oakdale Golf and Country Club was an 18-hole venue before Robbie Robinson added nine more holes in the 1950s. Just 35 minutes from Toronto's downtown core, it is the 37th different course to host the national Open. The track measures over 7,200 yards from the back tees and is tree-lined with a thick rough. It also features the Black Creek that runs throughout the property and will come into play on four holes. Furthermore, with sloped fairways and tight landing zones, many greens also feature false fronts and significant undulation, placing emphasis on accuracy both off the tee and on approach shots.
Sandwiched between the Memorial Championship and the US Open, the field at this tournament is less strong than a year ago when Thomas, Finau, Scottie Scheffler, and Cameron Smith made the trip up North. However, highlighted by the return of the two-time defending champion in Mcilroy, he will try to complete the rare three-peat by winning the event thrice on three different courses. Joining him is the reigning US Champion, Matt Fitzpatrick. Set to defend his title at Los Angeles Country Club next weekend; the 28-year-old already captured a victory this season after winning the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. Rounding out the field, Cameron Young is making his debut in Canada, while Sam Burns and Justin Rose are back after impressive showings a year ago.
Finally beginning to find his form after a disappointing missed cut at both the Players Championship and the Masters Tournament, Mcilroy has recorded back-to-back top-ten finishes at the PGA Championship and the Memorial Tournament a week ago. Playing in the final group at Muirfield Village, the 34-year-old carded a second-round 68 followed by a third-round 70. However, he could not make a push on Sunday, making a disappointing six bogeys en route to a 74. Currently leading the Tour in driving distance (326.2), the key the Northern Irishman will come with his wedges and his putter. He ranks just 20th in approach shots from 50-125 yards. Moreover, the four-time major champion is just 164th in the world in strokes gained on the greens (-0.238).
Quietly putting together one of the best seasons on Tour, Hatton has enjoyed a red-hot stretch of golf as of late. The 31-year-old has recorded five Top 10 finishes this season, including a tie for third at the Wells Fargo and a tie for fifth at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Now up to 16th in the official world golf rankings, the England native has the game to attack the tight fairways and narrow greens at Oakdale Country Club. He ranks 65th on tour in driving accuracy by hitting nearly 62 percent of his fairways while also ranking fifth in stroked gained total (2.033). Set to play in a group with Matt Fitzpatrick and highly touted amateur Ludvig Aberg, it is only a matter of time before Hatton is again victorious.
Choosing to take last week off, Rose was in the mix during his last start at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The 42-year-old carded three straight rounds in the 60s, followed by a Sunday 70 to finish T-12. He has now finished inside the top 25 in each of his last four tournaments. Continuing to benefit from his world-class iron play, the former world no. 1 is seventh on the Tour in scoring average (69.628) and 69th in greens in regulation (66.33). He is also 8th in proximity to the hole average (34' 11") and 36th in scrambling (64.0), which should set up well at Oakdale Country Club. Furthermore, with a strong track record at this event, the Johannesburg native carded a final round of 60 a year ago to finish T-4.
Still searching for his first victory on the PGA Tour, Theegala has come close many times in his young career. The 25-year-old has seven top-ten finishes to his name, including a T5 at the RBC Heritage and a T9 at the Masters Tournament in April. Not coming into the tournament in excellent form, the California native has finished T-56, T-40, and T-58 in his last three starts. Nonetheless, he still has the seventh-highest birdie average in the world (4.29) while remaining 36th in strokes gained putting (0.367). One of the shorter players off the tee, this course should set up well for his game, and if the weekend turns into a scoring fest, look for the Pepperdine University product to break through.
Continuing to enjoy success at the Canadian Open, Lowry finished runner-up to Mcilroy in 2019. Along with this, he also tied for 10th at St. Georges a year ago. Aiming to grab his first win since the Open Championship in 2019, the 36-year-old has racked up back-to-back top 20 finishes at the PGA Championship and the Memorial Tournament. One of the elite ball strikers in the field, the Ireland native is ranked 22nd in fairways in regulation (65 percent), 14th in strokes gained approach (0.653), and 17th in proximity to the hole (36' 2"). While his putter has largely held him back this season, if Lowry can get hot on the greens, expect him to be among the final groups on Sunday afternoon.
One of the many homegrown players in the field this week, Taylor will draw less attention than Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes, and Adam Svensson. However, the Manitoba native has come close to winning twice this season with a runner-up finish both at the Waste Management Pheonix Open and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Moreover, while he has missed the cut in his last two starts at the PGA Championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge, the 35-year-old has been able to bounce back after missing out on the weekend in the past with finishes of T-23, T-7, T-20, and T-10. He also continues to run hot with his irons by picking up stroked in nine of his last 11 starts. Looking to become the first Canadian to win the tournament since Pat Fletcher in 1954, he offers tremendous value at +7500.
Cover Photo courtesy of RBC Canadian Open