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Canadian Open Preview: Golf Up North

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Well, so much for an experienced caddie helping Adam Scott during the final round of a major. As the third round neared its conclusion last Saturday, part of the discussion centered around a possible final-round pairing of Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, which as any golf fan knows, would have put Tiger in the same group as his former caddie Stevie Williams. Woods, however, could not hold up his end of the bargain and missed out on the final pairing, so the conversation shifted to Scott and his relationship with Williams. Just how much would Williams' experience in the majors help Scott during his final round? The answer may never be known; after all, there's no way to quantify just how much influence a caddie has over a golfer. But one thing is certain. Adam Scott crumbled during the most important four-hole stretch of his career, and there was nothing Williams could do about it. Now, I'm not trying to diminish the role of a caddie on the golf course. Often a caddie plays a vital role in getting a golfer to the finish line. But in the end, what matters most is not the caddie or his influence, it's the golfer himself. More specifically, it's the space between the golfer's ears that matters most.

This week:
RBC Canadian Open

Last Year:
Sean O'Hair shot a final-round 68 on his way to a playoff victory over Kris Blanks.

Players to Consider:

1. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker played very well last week, for the most part, and he's had his moments at this event, though not on the current course. Nonetheless, Snedeker should play better on the weekend if he's near the lead this week.

2. Vijay Singh

Singh quietly played well last week as he ended up in the top-10 at the Open Championship, and he's played fairly well in his two tries at Hamilton Golf and C.C., including a top-10 in 2003.

3. Jim Furyk

Speaking of Hamilton Golf and C.C., Furyk won this event when it was last held at the current venue in 2006. He also won the following year on a different course, which further proves his commitment to this event.

4. Sean O'Hair

O'Hair is playing fairly well this season, which is miles ahead of where he was last year entering the Canadian Open, yet he managed to pull off a win here. O'Hair also played well on this track in 2006 when he earned a top-3 finish.

5. Ernie Els

Normally I'd avoid a player coming off such a huge win as Els this week, but Ernie's been here before, he knows the drill. That said, it would be wise to keep an eye on how he starts Thursday.

Players to Avoid:

1. Ben Curtis

Curtis surprised the golfing world earlier this year when he pulled off a win and a runner-up finish during an impressive four-week stretch. But his game has fallen off since, including a missed cut last week at the Open.

2. Bob Estes

Estes has a solid track record at this event, but his best results have come at other venues than Hamilton C.C. Estes has made five consecutive cuts, but he's failed to crack the top-30 in any of those starts.

3. Tim Clark

Clark has had his moments this season, but he's inconsistent. That is to be expected, though, with any player coming back from a major injury. Clark is coming off a missed cut at the Open, and while he should make the cut this week, it's doubtful he'll accomplish much on the weekend.

4. Brian Gay

Gay is the only player in the field this week who missed the cut in 2003 and 2006, the last two times this event was held at Hamilton Golf and C.C. If that weren't enough, he's also missed five of his past seven cuts on the PGA TOUR.

5. Retief Goosen

Outside a top-10 at the U.S. Open last month, Goosen has really had a tough go of it on the PGA TOUR the last couple months. Goosen has missed the cut in three of his last five events on the PGA TOUR, and there's no reason to think that trend turns around this week.


This week:
RBC Canadian Open

Group A

1. Jim Furyk
2. Sean O'Hair

It looks like a three-way race in Group A with the two players I've selected and Matt Kuchar. I'm more than a little concerned about leaving Kuchar off the squad this week, but I have to go with my instinct, which tells me O'Hair is in for a good week.

Group B

1. Ernie Els
2. Hunter Mahan
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Kevin Streelman

Plenty of good options in Group B this week, but Els and Snedeker should be on just about every team. Mahan will also be a popular choice, which leaves only the fourth spot to make a major move this week. I'm going with Streelman, who is coming off a top-10 at the John Deere Classic and appears to be rounding into form entering this week.

Group C

1. Vijay Singh
2. David Hearn

Singh will be a very popular choice this week, so the separation will come from the second player chosen in Group C. Hearn looks like a solid option as he's made the cut in nine of his 10 most recent starts and is playing in front of the home crowd this week on Canadian soil.

Starters Round One

1. Jim Furyk
2. Ernie Els
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Vijay Singh

I'm taking no chances early on this week as the top players from each group will get the nod Thursday. Furyk over O'Hair is an easy call, not only because of his track record here, but also because of O'Hair's general inconsistency. The decision wasn't quite as easy in Group B as I had to leave Mahan on the bench. But it seems to make sense as both Snedeker and Els come in with some momentum from last week. I actually struggled with the decision in Group C as well as I believe Hearn is in for a good week, but Singh is the logical pick to start round one this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Furyk has a strong hold on the starting spot in Group A, but that could change if O'Hair shows his winning form from last year. If not, I'll be more than fine starting Furyk all four rounds this week. As mentioned, I'll need to keep a close eye on Els early on this week. Although I expect he can handle the emotion of his big win last week, I still would like to see it first. As for the other spot, Snedeker looks like a great option all week, and it will take a solid start from Mahan or Streelman to unseat him. If everything holds true to form, I'll find a spot for Mahan on Friday, and Streelman will have to wait until the weekend. Group C is Singh's to lose, but Hearn could find a spot early on if he starts well. I'll likely lean toward Singh on Sunday either way as Hearn has had trouble closing this season.