This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
RBC CANADIAN OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.368M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Course: Hamilton Golf and Country Club
2018 champion: Dustin Johnson
The Canadian Open was last played at Hamilton Golf and Country Club seven years ago, and it's a course Canadians consider to be one of their crown jewels of golf. A few days before the 2012 tournament, Scott Piercy described it as "boring golf." Oops. That sorta made for an awkward awards ceremony days later when, of all people, Piercy hoisted the trophy. "That was taken a little out of context," the ugly American, er, Piercy said at the time. "I like to hit driver a lot, and this golf course I felt took the driver out of my hands. I did say, however, that at the end of the week if the score is good, it is exciting. So I'm pretty excited." Yes, in any country, no matter the exchange rate, Winning > Boring.
But Piercy's faux pas does give gamers insight into how to approach this week. Canada's national championship will be played at Hamilton for only the sixth time in the 110 editions of the event, which makes it the third-oldest tournament in the world behind the Open Championship and U.S. Open. Hamilton is tiny. Under 7,000 yards. Piercy opened with an 8-under 62 en route to 17-under. Jim Furyk won at 14-under in 2006 and Bob Tway at 8-under in 2003. Before that, you have to go back decades to find when they played Hamilton previously – it was 1930, when Tommy Armour won. And before that, a century ago, 1919, when none other than J. Edgar Hoover ... wait, what? [checks notes] ... actually, when J. Douglas Edgar won by 16 strokes, which set and still shares the record for largest victory in PGA Tour history (yes, one better than Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach). None other than Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet were in the field that week, so we want to know what ol' J. Douglas was having for breakfast back then.
Since 2012, the only change of consequence to the course was the removal of trees – thousands of them, as indicated by Golf Course Management magazine online. The article went on to say that it's really important for Hamilton to be dry, because that is one of the prime defenses of the track. If wet, golfers can attack the pins without fear. And the course apparently does not dry out fast.
Hamilton ranked middle of the pack on the difficulty meter in both 2006 and 2012. The hardest hole in 2012 was the 446-yard 18th, which is the way it should be. Three of the next four hardest holes were par-3s, all more than 200 yards. So, the par-3s are hard. The two par-5s, neither longer than 550 yards, are not. We'll delve deeper in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
Well, here we are five paragraphs in and the field hasn't even been mentioned. And what a potent top of the field it is, with four of the top six in the world rankings in attendance. RBC, one of the titan sponsors on the PGA Tour, has had its tournament moved from the unenviable position in between a major and a WGC to the week before the U.S. Open, and it has paid off. Brooks Koepka likes to play the week before a major, so he's here, along with Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson. There's also a boatload of RBC pitchmen, led by Johnson, along with Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Furyk and Canadians Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners. This would probably be a good time to mention that no Canadian has won this tournament since Pat Fletcher in 1954. And before that, Karl Keffer in 1914. Only six Canadians have won going back to the tournament's inception in 1904. (Maybe that's because they can play golf like only two months out of the year, right?) And of the six, only Keffer was actually born in Canada.
After two weeks of invitational-sized fields, we're back to 156, making everybody's goal of 6-for-6 significantly harder.
Weather-wise, it looks as if they might get their dry conditions, or at least mostly. It's been rain-free though that's expected to change on Wednesday. But the rest of the week should be clear. Otherwise, temperatures will be in the 50s and 60s, with minimal wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Hamilton (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Par-3 scoring
2018 - Dustin Johnson (Glen Abbey)
2017 - Jhonattan Vegas (Glen Abbey)
2016 - Jhonattan Vegas (Glen Abbey)
2015 - Jason Day (Glen Abbey)
2014 - Tim Clark (Royal Montreal)
2013 - Brandt Snedeker (Glen Abbey)
2012 - Scott Piercy (Hamilton)
2011 - Sean O'Hair (Shaughnessy)
2010 - Carl Pettersson (St. George's)
2009 - Nathan Green (Glen Abbey)
Since we don't have too much info on Hamilton, we'll relay what Furyk told the Toronto Sun: "It's a great old-style golf course. I've won there and I've missed the cut there. I don't think it's going to be a power dominated golf course ... it's more about hitting the spots and controlling the golf ball around there and keeping the ball under the pin." We noticed something interesting from examining the stats of the first page of the leaderboard in 2012 and 2006: Most of the top guys did not excel at greens in regulation, as we almost always see on the PGA Tour. Piercy and Furyk were far back. Instead, putting and scrambling were the most prominent connections to a good week. Among the top-6 finishers in 2012, four of them were top-6 in SG: putting; Piercy ranked fourth. In 2006, Furyk led the field in putting and also scrambled well. Now, we're not sure about what Piercy said about taking driver out of their hands. He was ninth in distance off the tee when he won and Robert Garrigus, who tied for second, led the field. Garrigus was the exception who did not putt well, but he bludgeoned the ball down the fairway, allowing him to be second in GIR and first in proximity. He also was third in scrambling.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,900 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 11-2)
Yes, Johnson is the No. 1 guy on the board, $200 ahead of Brooks Koepka, and that seems right. We know this course can neutralize the longer hitters and might come down to a putting contest, but there aren't many weeks, no matter the circumstances, where Johnson doesn't get our attention. Imagine finishing second at the Masters, second at the PGA and fifth at THE PLAYERS while winning a WGC and having no one talk about you. Well, we're talking about you, DJ.
Brooks Koepka - $11,700 (6-1)
By finishing fourth at the Byron Nelson, Koepka did a good job putting to bed the notion that he doesn't try at non-majors. He's probably using this week more as a Pebble Beach tuneup that actually trying to win, but of course he's good enough to win regardless.
Matt Kuchar - $10,500 (18-1)
Kuchar had an ugly trunk-slam last week at the Memorial, ugly because of his golf and his nonsensical attempt to get a free drop on a ball in a fairway divot. Kuchar just can't seem to get out of his own way of late when it comes to not looking liking a spoiled brat in public. Regardless, this is just the type of course he loves, one where shot-making and thinking is critical.
Webb Simpson - $9,700 (20-1)
This was a tough call between Simpson and Justin Thomas ($10,000), who we believe is healthy and can make a dent this week. But we turn to Simpson for his strong short game, and how a shorter course is more up his alley than Thomas'. Simpson has also been top-20 in three of his past four starts, with one of them doubling as a top-5 (at THE PLAYERS).
Tier 2 Values
Scott Piercy - $9,300 (25-1)
Piercy is kinda/sorta the defending champion, Hamilton Division. He has never been a great putter, but two of his best seasons putting were 2012, when he won, and this season. He's currently ranked 58th in strokes gained: putting. Furthermore, despite his deep desire to unleash the driver, Piercy does well on shorter tracks, recently tying for third at Harbour Town and for 19th at Colonial. He is ranked T3 in par-3 scoring.
Brandt Snedeker - $9,000 (30-1)
Snedeker's putter needs no introduction – he's ranked 15th in strokes gained: putting. He is also ranked an elite second on Tour in strokes gained: around the green. His trouble begins on the tee, but the shorter track should minimize his disadvantages. Snedeker was 34th at Hamilton in 2012 and tied for 19th in his last outing at Colonial.
Shane Lowry - $8,600 (40-1)
Lowry's game took a downward turn after his big win at Abu Dhabi in January. But it's headed in the other direction after a tie for third at Harbour Town and an impressive top-10 at the PGA Championship (T8). The burly Irishman is not the best putter around, but he's far from the worst. Without enough measured rounds to be considered in the stats, Lowry nonetheless would rank in the low-70s in strokes gained: putting.
Ryan Palmer - $8,200 (50-1)
With a good week, the 69th-ranked Palmer could crack the top-60 and qualify for the U.S. Open. He's finished top-10 in half of the tournaments in which he's made the cut (5-of-10), including last time out at Colonial. Palmer is 11th in greens in regulation, a not-too-shabby 66th in SG: putting and he tied for 19th at Hamilton in 2012.
Tier 3 Values
Erik van Rooyen - $7,800 (100-1)
The South African has definitely been earning some serious frequent flyer miles. In the past month or so, he's gone from India to Africa to China to the PGA in New York, back to Denmark, and now Canada. But first he stopped off in Ohio to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he made it. So he'll add Pebble Beach to his itinerary next week. Van Rooyen has been climbing the world rankings and is now inside the top 100 thanks to top-10s in India, Africa and, most importantly, Bethpage.
Joaquin Niemann - $7,700 (60-1)
Finishing tied for 27th (at the Memorial) and for 31st (at Colonial) in your past two events may not sound like much, but those results constitute Niemann's two best finishes in seven long months. The young Chilean certainly has been enduring a sophomore slump. While he has made 13-of-19 cuts, there's been only one top-25. Here's the problem: Niemann is ranked 41st in strokes gained: tee to green but a horrid 201st in SG: putting. Last week on the tricky greens at Muirfield, he ranked 39th in the field in putting and gained more than a stroke on the field in two of the four rounds.
Graeme McDowell - $7,600 (80-1)
One of the elite putters on Tour – he's ranked seventh in SG: putting – McDowell has made 11 straight cuts dating back to the fall season. He played Harbour Town and Colonial, albeit without a high finish. Unless he wins, it doesn't appear McDowell will make it back to Pebble Beach, where he won the U.S. Open nine years ago.
Corey Conners - $7,500 (80-1)
Every year we foolishly try to pick one Canadian, and this year we have put the jinx on Conners. The Ontario native is ranked 14th in strokes gained: off the tee and an elite sixth in greens in regulation. He's also ranked T26 in par-3 scoring. He can't putt worth a lick, though that didn't stop him from winning the Valero back in April. Candidly, at this point the pressure is so great on a Canadian to win this title, we don't expect it to happen. But Conners perhaps has the most upside of any young Canadian player.
Peter Malnati - $7,100 (150-1)
Malnati is one of the worst drivers on Tour – he's short and wayward – so he probably had Hamilton marked on his calendar all year. Considering that, making two-thirds of your cuts, 12-of-18, with seven top-25s actually seems pretty good. Malnati is ranked 19th in strokes gained: putting and 32nd in scrambling but also a way-better-than-average 54th in strokes gained: approach. He's also T26 in par-3 scoring. He's tied for 17th last week at the Memorial. He was also T40 at Colonial and T16 at Harbour Town.
J.J. Spaun - $7,000 (150-1)
Spaun has made 13-of-19 cuts this season and has done some of his best work on shorter tracks, including his best finish, a tie for third at Mayakoba. A few weeks back, he tied for 28th at Harbour Town. Spaun is ranked 33rd in greens in regulation, which goes a long way toward reaching the weekend.
Johnson Wagner - $6,800 (Field, 15-2)
Wagner is ranked ninth on Tour in greens in regulation and 35th in strokes gained: putting, yet is 146th in the FedEx Cup point standings. He is really short off the tee, averaging under 280 yards. But that won't be such a detriment this week, which is why we think he's got a good chance of playing four rounds, and maybe four good ones. Wagner has played only 13 tournaments all season and has made eight cuts.
Nate Lashley - $6,700 (Field, 15-2)
Lashley seems to be on the cusp of something. He's 133rd in the FedExCup Standings, but he hasn't played all that much. He's teed it up in just 12 tournaments, and he's made nine cuts, with four of them top-25s. He's ranked 26th in greens in regulation and 36th in strokes gained: putting, numbers that should serve him well this week. He might have a confidence boost, too, as he just qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday.