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RBC Canadian Open Preview: Golfing the Great White 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.

As the chatter erupted Sunday night following yet another failed attempt by Tiger Woods to capture a major victory, the question occurred to me - when, if ever, will our focus be on something other than Tiger's pursuit of another major victory? It seems fitting that the man who actually lifted the trophy this week went through a bit of trouble trying to capture a major victory himself. It feels like ancient history, but it wasn't that long ago that serious questions surrounding Phil Mickelson's ability to win even one major were a prominent talking points leading up to every major. Mickelson put that talk to rest with his win at the 2004 Masters, but such is the nature of expectations. Just a few years later, questions arose once again about his ability to win another major after a very disappointing finish at the 2006 U.S. Open. Mick put those questions to rest with his fourth major title at the 2010 Masters, but after yet another heart-breaking loss at the 2013 U.S. Open, it seemed that some old wounds had resurfaced. This time around, however, Mickelson quickly ended any speculation about a mental block by winning the very next major. Phil's British Open win will take the pressure off for a while, at least 10 months, until the next U.S. Open when question will arise about his ability to win that specific major. As for Tiger, the heat will continue to rise until he finally breaks through again. You see, that's our deal with Tiger. We'll never stop paying attention, the focus will always be on Tiger. Even when the second-best player of this generation wins his fifth major, we'll still be asking questions about Tiger.

This week:
RBC Canadian Open

Last Year:
Scott Piercy shot a final-round 67 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Robert Garrigus and William McGirt.

Players to Consider:

1. Brandt Snedeker

If not for a bizarre second-round 79 at the Open Championship, Snedeker might have contended again at yet another major. Snedeker appears to be near top form entering this week, and if that's the case, he'll be tough to beat.

2. Hunter Mahan

After a rough stretch earlier this year, Mahan appears to have found his game the last couple months. He enters this week off a top-10 at the Open Championship and his track record at this event is flawless. His last run on this course resulted in a T4 at the 2004 Canadian Open.

3. Graham DeLaet

DeLaet had a rough finish to his Open Championship last weekend, but prior to that he had a run of seven consecutive starts in which he finished no worse than T30. The pressure likely will be on the Canadian this week as hopes for a home-grown champion rest on his shoulders and a couple others, but DeLaet should be able to handle it.

4. David Hearn

The other Canadian with a legitimate chance to win this week. Hearn should have won the John Deere a couple weeks back, but he missed a fairly short putt on the fourth playoff hole. The disappointment of that miss is likely the biggest obstacle to overcome this week as his game has looked pretty solid the last couple months.

5. Luke Donald

Generally it's not wise to take a player who posted a round of 80 the previous week, but to Donald's credit, he came back with a decent round of 72 the following day, and let's be honest, the Canadian Open isn't exactly the challenge that the British Open is. Donald has fallen off the radar this season, but it's not because of poor play, it's because he hasn't played that much this year. When he has played, he's fared pretty well. Expect the same this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Bob Estes

After a fairly strong start to the 2013 season, Estes' roll has slowed a bit lately. He's not missing the cut every week like Aaron Baddeley, but he hasn't cracked the top 25 since early April. He's not a lock to miss the cut this week, but I'd be surprised if he were to crack the top 25.

2. Jim Furyk

Here's a name I didn't hear at all last week. In fact, I'm still searching for video footage that he did in fact tee it up at the Open Championship. Seriously, Furyk has struggled the last month, missing the cut at both Open's. He'll go for the trifecta this week at the Canadian Open.

3. Robert Garrigus

Garrigus hasn't struggled just recently, he's struggled the entire season. Garrigus' only highlight of the season came last week when he sank a putt from an estimated 3,000 feet. Even with that putt and the resulting eagle, he still missed the cut. He finished second at this event last year, which might give him some hope this week, but it appears as though he still has a lot of work to get his game back where it needs to be.

4. Charley Hoffman

Hoffman is a good player, but as I mentioned earlier this year, only the great players can consistently play at a high level. Hoffman played at a high level for several weeks earlier this season, but that run appears over. He missed the cut in his most recent start at the John Deere and while I don't expect a run of missed cuts now, I'd be surprised to see another run of top-10s also.

5. Dustin Johnson

Call it my hunch play of the week. Outside his early season win at the Hyundai, D.J.'s season has been largely disappointing. He fared well early last week at the Open Championship before fading on the weekend, but that was somewhat expected as he had played well at that event the last few years. This week it's back to reality, and dare I say the mundane, and it's just another PGA Tour stop on the schedule. The point being, don't expect D.J. to get up for this one.


Group A

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Graeme McDowell

Snedeker is an obvious choice from Group A this week, but the second pick wasn't easy to make, at least in my mind. I've seen McDowell bandied about this week as a good pick, and while I'm not gung-ho about the pick, I can see a scenario where I get burned by excluding him. So, yes, I am taking McDowell out of fear this week.

Group B

1. Hunter Mahan
2. Graham DeLaet
3. Luke Donald
4. David Hearn

Plenty of good options to choose from in Group B this week. So much so, that you may notice I left a few big names off my squad. That is what happens when you put a couple sleepers in your top-5, though. Although DeLaet might not technically be a sleeper this week, when up against the likes of Kuchar, D.J. and Els, he sure looks like one. That said, I've got Donald and Mahan to hold down the fort if my sleepers don't come through.

Group C

1. Billy Horschel
2. Charl Schwartzel

A ton of players to choose from in Group C this week, but not many appealing options. When that is the case, I'll often go with the chalk, and this week is no exception. At the top of the list this week we have Charl Schwartzel and Billy Horschel. Neither player looked appealing enough to put in my top-5, but between the two, I foresee a couple good rounds. Now, if I can just figure out which player is going to play well and when ...

Starters Round One

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Hunter Mahan
3. Luke Donald
4. Charl Schwartzel

I'm going with the chalk to start the week, but as is often the case in these type of events, some of the middle-to-lower-tier players will rise to the top as the week rolls on. Snedeker is one of the top-tier players I expect to be there on Sunday, which means a good start Thursday. Donald has a history of bouncing back after poor rounds. I hope he bounces back after a rough performance last week. Mahan is playing well, and as long as he's here mentally this week, he should be good to go out of the gate. Schwartzel gets the nod in Group C. He's played better than Horschel lately.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As mentioned, these events tend to have players come out of nowhere to contend, and there's no reason that shouldn't be the case this week. While I have plenty of chalk on my roster, I do have a couple sleepers, so hopefully those sleepers will come through if the top-end guys do not. Speaking of the top-end golfers, Snedeker should be good to go all four rounds if needed this week. McDowell will have to play really well early to get a start. Donald and Mahan start in Group B, and if they play well, they can hold their spots, but I won't hesitate to insert Hearn or DeLaet if they show promise early. Group C is the only toss-up this week. I'm starting with Schwartzel, but starting Friday I'll go with the hot hand.