Champagne Problems ๐Ÿพ


"Security!"

The conclusion of the 2023 RBC Canadian Open was one of the most memorable moments of last season. Not only did a Canadian win the national championship for the first time in 69 years, but that incredible security guard tackle of Adam Hadwin lit up social media like a bolt of lightning. Of course, we had Tommy Fleetwood (+2500) that week at Oakdale Golf and Country Club just outside Toronto. On the second sudden death playoff hole, Nick Taylor sank a 72-foot eagle putt to take the national title. Heartbreak for all those tailing Tommy and giant jubilation for Taylor as he entered Canadian sports lore for his execution in extra holes.

With the native Canadian drought broken, I believe we will get another in short time. There are six Canadians with pre-tournament odds under +8000 playing at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The classic Harry Colt design is hosting Canada's national championship for the seventh time. We have seen four editions since 2000, and the winners were Bob Tway (2003, -8), Jim Furyk (2006, -14), Scott Piercy (2012, -17), and Rory McIlroy (2019, -22). That 22 under par score set the all-time record for the RBC Canadian and gave McIlroy a seven-shot victory.

RBC Canadian Open starts in...

Count down to 2024-05-30T10:45:00.000Zโ€‹

Alright Hamilton

Harry Colt, best known for his work in Great Britain and Ireland designed Royal Portrush and Royal Liverpool, site of last year's Open Championship. The par 70 layout at Hamilton Golf and Country Club measures 7,084 yards. Two par 5s, four par 3s, and 12 par 4s cover the landscape. Those 12 par 4s have an average length of 397 yards. Three of them measure under 400 yards and four stretch over 450 yards! In many ways, the variety of the 4s is a great microcosm for the Hamilton scorecard. At times, players are challenged by difficult long iron shots, and others presented with a delicate wedge scoring opportunity.

The weather looks favorable for a golf tournament in Canada considering it is May. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 70s and very little wind. The region has received a decent amount of rain recently and it should only further help the great growth they have witnessed this spring from a mild winter. I expect the course conditions to be perfect for scoring. Will someone get to Rory's record 22 under par, probably not. But keep in mind, the top 10 on the leaderboard from 2012 and 2019 averaged 18.4 sub-par scores. Not quite a birdie fest, you will need to make putts if you plan to keep up with the Sunday contenders.

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Course conditions

โ€‹Hamilton Golf and Country Clubโ€‹

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โ€‹Ancaster, ONโ€‹

Both Piercy and McIlroy can launch it off the tee and go low. I don't believe that's the exact model for success, but it does catch our attention. McIlroy has made a name for himself north of our border winning two of the last three editions. Hamilton Golf and Country Club has 27-holes. Make sure you are handicapping the correct courses. The championship layout utilizes the West (Front) and South (Back) nines for the tournament. Only two Canadian courses have hosted more national championships than this venue. At just over 7,000 yards, it is the third shortest course on the PGA TOUR to date this season.

Hamilton will test your ball striking ability. The terrain is rugged, and players will be dealing with uneven lies all week. The greens are 6,000 sq/ft (average) and covered in bentgrass. The current landscape was renovated in 2019. Due to covid, the transformation took almost three years. The finished product is award winning and exemplifies the Colt characteristics. Nine holes have a birdie rate over 15% and 11 holes a bogey rate over that same amount. Scoring at Hamilton is a well-rounded challenge. Three of the par 3s rank in the top four toughest holes on the course.

Thirty-eight acres of fairway grass appeases the eye of the bombers. That's some serious room for these players. Avoid the 72 bunkers and attack those targets like Rory in 2019. That's our approach for building a contending card in Canada. After a sleeper finish last week in Dallas, I foresee another champagne celebration coming in Canada.

Read The Line recap ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ

It took four extra holes and 69 years, but Nick Taylor became the first Canadian to win their national championship since 1954. Much like our US Open, the venue changes every year in Canada. The last time we saw Hamilton Golf and Country Club, Rory McIlroy won by seven. In fact, he's won two of the last three editions up north. Donโ€™t worry, we have ways to deal with the betting favorite in Ontario this week.

Conquering Colt

Eight holes are carefully run along a small creek on the course. Colt's original eye created a parkland landscape of target golf that takes a minute to appreciate. I especially enjoy the routing. Like so many 27-hole facilities, each nine can stand alone. Each with its own character, players are most tested by this venue on the putting greens. I did some research looking back at the 24 players (ties) who made up the top 10 players from both 2012 and 2019. Both editions were prior to the course work, so please keep that in mind. From those two leaderboards, the largest average gain in the major strokes gained categories was with the flatstick.

The winner will need their putter to distance themselves from the pack. McIlroy and Piercy averaged gaining over six strokes on the field when they won. Classic designs always work in subtle ways. Grabbing those birdie putt opportunities cannot be missed considering the various bogey moments one will encounter. The second trend from those two leaderboards came on approach. Forty percent of approach shots come from under 150 yards, and another 30% from over 200. That combination of long/scoring iron acumen eliminates much of the field.

A majority of PGA TOUR players have the short iron skill, but just a select few can operate from that longer distance with accuracy. The best way to separate this week will be scoring on those four par 4s over 450 and the two par 5s. Rory ripped them up five years ago and his power proved to be very valuable. Great drivers have an incredible advantage on classic courses. The ability to take it deep when others always play positionally to find the fairway makes another big difference this week.

OTT play sits fourth on my list behind the putter, approach, and par 4 scoring because it is equally matched by scrambling skill. These small targets above and below the approach zones will be missed. Those same top 10s showed us that a short game is needed to contend on Sunday. Don't completely discount creativity around the greens. Hamilton does not provide just one type of short game situation. Sixty bunkers surround these greens along with short and long grass lies. Watch for a couple of timely up and downs to save par on Saturday and Sunday. Looking for an edge in H2Hs, I love this little insider aspect of the scoring breakdown.

Ultimately, my last consideration is internal motivation by the Canadian crowd of contenders. Out on TOUR, these guys are outwardly discussing the Presidents' Cup matches in September. With the Canadian winner drought conquered, I see multiple mounties from north of the border contending. A win gets them on the team headed to Royal Montreal for the matches. That inspiration is enough to motivate many of them past their weekly ceiling. These guys want to get on Mike Weirโ€™s team and the truth is they all cannot. Outside of Corey Conners, none of them have a ticket. Watch the nationalism boil over this week once again as they compete amongst each other.

With great weather, I expect an incredible show supported by an unbelievable crowd. After last year, I cannot wait for Oh! Canada.

Outright Winners - RBC Canadian Open

Sahith Theegala has five top 10 results this year. Sound familiar Xander fans...

  • Theegala is gaining five strokes (total) on the field over his last 10 starts.
  • This is going to be a scoring affair, and the PGA proved Sahith can go low.
  • He's ranked fourth in putting, tenth off the tee, and sixth in ball striking.
  • A top 10 bogey avoidance player, Theegala can definitely keep up on a par 4 heavy track that requires a variety of long and short scoring skills.

Mackenzie Hughes is the best putter and scrambler in the RBC field.

  • The 2019 top 5 included Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, and Brandt Snedeker. Hughes is that guy in this field. He finished fourteenth that year.
  • Over his last five starts, Mac is gaining three strokes on the field.
  • Hughes finished sixth at Wells Fargo and lost strokes (slightly -0.2) with his approach play.
  • Mac needs a very strong finish this week to be considered for the Presidents' Cup team.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


Amish country

Following a fast week off, the world's best women players are coming into their second major championship of the season. The 79th US Women's Open will be contested for a second time at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, PA. About 70 miles due west of Philadelphia, Lancaster is a step back in time. William Flynn's 1920 masterpiece is no exception to the atmosphere these world class women will feel out in Amish Country. Nestled amongst the rolling hills of beautiful Pennsylvania farmland, this picturesque parkland layout reminds us of how simple a great golf course can be.

Just grass, sand, trees, and a little stream can test the elite of the LPGA. In 2015, In Gee Chun won the US Women's Open at Lancaster CC with a 272 total of eight under par. Only 13 players finished 72 holes under par that week. It was a stern test and one the USGA couldn't wait to put in front of the women once again. The 27-hole facility has three nines: Meadowcreek, Dogwood, and Highlands. The old course is comprised of the Meadowcreek and Dogwood nines. A par 70 scorecard, at 6,629 yards it is the fifth longest course these ladies have seen this season.

US Women's Open starts in...

Count down to 2024-05-30T10:30:00.000Zโ€‹

Forty US Open rookies will join 24 of the top 25 in the Rolex World rankings in Lancaster. Course conditions are perfect for play. The region has received about one inch of rain over the last two weeks. We witnessed a little rain Monday and should get a little more today (Wednesday). Starting Thursday, the skies look clear, and temperatures are expected in the mid 70s. An extensive renovation of the original Flynn design was completed in 2007 by Ron Forse and Jim Nagle. Getting back to the Flynn roots really turned an above average parkland course into a major championship venue.

Even though the course is in a farmland setting, the women will be tested by many elevation changes, small greens, and perfectly positioned penalty areas. Lancaster CC boasts 72 bunkers and a creek that runs through the routing. The average green size is 6,100 sq/ft and 11 greens sit above the player on approach. This is a US Open, so only 24 acres of fairway grass cover all 18 holes. The field is 156 players, and just the top 60 and ties get to play the weekend for $12 million in prize money. Back in 2015, Chun won $810,000 for finishing first. On Sunday the USGA will give the winner $2 million!

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Course conditions

โ€‹Lancaster Country Clubโ€‹

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โ€‹Lancaster, PAโ€‹

A river runs through it

The characteristics of a William Flynn golf course are based on athleticism. Flynn loved to test golfers as athletes. As you watch the women this weekend, pay attention to all of the terrain changes. He was a brilliant builder who could marry the land and layout unlike many others. Rolling hills and closely mown areas all lead to the target and at times tragedy. To successfully navigate a national championship setup on this venerable venue one woman will need complete control of her golf ball. Sounds a lot like win number seven this season for Nelly Korda.

Although that may be true, she will earn it. To start, the course is long and plays longer. More than half the holes, competitors are climbing to these green complexes. Power is essential in the modern game and will give the contenders a decided advantage. Strokes gained off the tee is an excellent measure because it takes into consideration accuracy and power, with a bias toward length. The best drivers in the game have an advantage at every domestic major. I'm favoring the elite OTT players on our outright card.

Three of the top four GIR leaders in the field have won at least once this season. Accumulating as many GIRs as possible should be your number one priority. The green complexes at Lancaster are intricate and will keep these players on edge. Flynn was a master of dogleg holes. He is so good at challenging the simplest of fundamentals. Bending the fairway not only tests your alignment off the tee, but on approach as well. I spent 13 years as a PGA Head Professional at a classic Flynn design. Speaking from experience, he has an incredible knack for making you question your eyesight.

Greens are laid at odd angles to the fairway, bunker faces block sight lines, and he absolutely loves uneven lies. Flynn was an incredible athlete himself. Set as a par 70, the field must figure out how to score on the par 4s. There are twelve of them and that style of scorecard (par 70) favors a certain type of player. Many professionals primarily score on par 5s. You can absolutely make a living at it. When you remove two par 5s, those birdies need to come from another place. Par 4 scoring was a skill I highlighted and researched rather extensively. Guess who? Nelly leads the LPGA in par 4 scoring, but a couple other leading ladies can keep pace with her.

US Open setups require incredible scrambling skill and pressure putting. At times they can even be a little too tough, so luck comes into play. Historically, the US Open has given us some unfamiliar names on the trophy even when Lorena and Annika were at the height of their power. If there's one major where Nelly can be beat, it's this one. Or an AIG Women's Open across the Atlantic with bad weather. One small misstep by Korda and one of those contenders can win. It will take a careful combination of OTT and APP play. Certainly, a number of par saving opportunities will need to be successfully navigated and there's no doubt the best pressure putters need only apply.

The top 10 from 2015 was covered with major winners and a couple new names at the time. I expect another similar assortment this week in Lancaster. After all, it is the US Open. Will Nelly be involved until the end, yes. But at +350 we're taking our chances in this championship with a couple others on our card as wellโ€ฆ

Outright winners - US Women's Open

Brooke Henderson finished fifth in 2015, the last time the US open came to Lancaster CC.

  • Henderson is ranked third in par 4 scoring and fifth in scrambling.
  • Brooke has three top 15 results in her last three US Open starts.
  • Henderson's game is well suited for majors. She is ranked top 15 for GIRs, T2G, and off the tee.

In her last five starts, Maja Stark has three top 3 finishes including a runner-up at the Chevron.

  • In four career US Open starts, Stark has finished 13-16-MC-9.
  • Maja is a top 50 ball striker who performs best in US Open like conditions.
  • In less than two seasons on tour, Stark has 11 top 10 finishes and one win.
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