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2024 PGA Tour Preview: RBC Canadian Open

It's certainly been an exciting 12 months for Nick Taylor. A year removed from providing one of Canada's most iconic sporting moments, the Winnipeg native made a 72 eagle putt to defeat Tommy Fleetwood on the fourth playoff hole at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto. He snapped a nearly 60-year drought by becoming the first player north of the border to win the national Open since 1954.

Beginning his title defense Thursday morning, Taylor started on as poor a note possible, shooting +2, setting himself t-95th after day one. However, there are other former Champions in this field, namely Rory McIlroy, who left day one t-6th. Twice a winner at this event, the 35-year-old made his first appearance at the Canadian Open in 2019 at the site of this year's venue, Hamilton Golf & Country Club, while setting the all-time scoring record at 22 under par.

Chris Gallagher and Everett Davidson contributed to this article.

The Course

The Hamilton Golf and Country Club plays host to this week's RBC Canadian Open for the first time since 2019, which was won by McIlroy with a tournament record score of 258, and was seven strokes ahead of runners-up Lowry and Webb Simpson. Hamilton is the third-shortest course the Tour has been to this season, after Waialae at the Sony Open and Pebble Beach at the AT&T Pro-Am, and it has somewhat small greens compared to the average course the PGA Tour visits, so ball-striking, especially with mid- and short-irons will be paramount. Additionally, the course is the fifth on the Tour schedule this season to use Bentgrass greens, as the only courses that had Bentgrass before Hamilton were Augusta National, TPC Craig Ranch (CJ Cup Byron Nelson), Valhalla, and Colonial; it will be the third straight week that players will be on Bentgrass.

The Field

With Canadian fans once again expected to be out in full force, this year's 156-man field features a record 28 homegrown players. Seven of the world's top 35 golfers are also set to tee it up, including Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry. Still searching for his first victory on Tour, the former fell to Taylor in a playoff at the tournament a year ago after carding a final-round 67. He also finished runner-up at the Masters tournament last month. Meanwhile, the latter has had an outstanding track record at the Canadian Open throughout his 15-year career. Lowry has grabbed two top-ten finishes over his last five appearances at the event, including a T2 in 2019.

Chris' Canadian Open Picks

Outright: Rory McIlroy

A favorite amongst the Canadian fans, Mcilroy loves this championship. Returning to Hamilton Golf & Country Club for the first time in five years, the four-time major winner captured the event in 2019 in a seven-shot victory over Lowry. He also successfully defended his title in 2022 at Royal St. Georges. Coming into the week in good form, the Northern Ireland native has gained over 11.5 strokes off the tee and 9.5 strokes on approach combined over his last two tournaments. A two-time winner already this season, Mcilroy won the Zurich Classic in April, followed by the Wells Fargo Championship in May. Furthermore, he grabbed a T12 finish at the PGA Championship. Currently listed at +400 odds to capture the victory, count on him to outclass the rest of the field.

Outright: Shane Lowry

The runner-up finisher back in 2019, Lowry is beginning to round into form after a slow start to the year. A winner at the Zurich Classic with Mcilroy, the one-time Major winner also finished solo third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T6 at The PGA Championship. One of the best ball strikers in the game, the 37-year-old has gained over a stroke per round on approach shots in four of his last seven tournaments. He ranks fourth in the field in driving accuracy (78.1) and Stroked Gained: Approach. Furthermore, while Lowry has struggled with the putter this season, he gained 6.4 strokes on the greens during his record 62 on Saturday at Valhalla.

Sleeper: Mackenzie Hughes

A native of nearby Dundas, Ontario, Hughes will have a home course advantage at the Canadian Open. The 33-year-old estimates he has played the track over 50 times and finished inside the top 15 in 2019. Needing a solid week to catch his fellow Canadian counterparts on the Official World Golf Rankings list to secure a spot in the Olympics, the Kent State University product is also fighting for a place on the international team for the Presidents Cup. With the game to navigate the tricky Bentagrass greens present at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Hughes ranks 19th on Tour in Stroked Gained: Putting and 11th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. Expect him to be among the final groups on Sunday as he looks to go back-to-back with Taylor.

Everett's Canadian Open Picks

Outright: Tommy Fleetwood

Last year's runner-up in this tournament, lost in a playoff to Nick Taylor thanks to a 60-foot putt that Fleetwood couldn't answer. He has played in this tournament twice and hasn't finished outside the top 10, with his second-place finish following up a T6 finish in 2018. Granted, neither of those two came at this golf course, but he clearly likes this tournament, and it is a matter of time before he breaks through to win on the American circuit. Fleetwood has eight wins on the European Tour (including one earlier this year at the Dubai Invitational) and is ranked 13th in the OWGR. In 10 starts on Tour this year, he has made nine cuts and has three top-10s, with the highlight being a T3 finish at the Masters behind Scottie Scheffler and Ludvig Aberg. After McIlroy, Fleetwood has the second-best odds to win this tournament, and it would not be a surprise to see him win his first win in North America this week.

Outright: Cameron Young

Young has only played in this tournament once, and that was last year, where he finished at T57 after hovering around even-par the entire week. However, Young is an excellent ball striker. While his putting is somewhat poor (and is part of the reason he hasn't won on Tour yet despite seven runner-up finishes), it shouldn't come into play too much this week, given that these are some of the most accessible greens to putt on that the Tour plays. Young has four top-10s and a runner-up at the Valspar earlier this year, and he hasn't missed a cut in 12 starts this season. Like Fleetwood, it feels like it is a matter of time before Young breaks through, and he has been trending upward recently, so don't be surprised if it happens this week.

Sleeper: Nicolai Hojgaard

Hojgaard is a streaky young Dane who seems like he could either win or miss the cut every week, and it depends on which version of him shows up. In January, he finished runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, but since then, he hasn't had a top-10 on Tour. His best finish worldwide has been a T16 at the Masters, where he was in contention entering Sunday (and held the solo lead at one point on the back nine on Saturday). Hojgaard has a solid tee-to-green game, and he sets up well for Hamilton. He isn't the greatest putter like Young, but that shouldn't come into play too much. For Hojgaard to win, he needs to be lights-out with the driver and irons this week, and given how good he can be with them, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in contention.

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