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When the 2019 Canadian Open begins Thursday at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, it promises to be unlike anything in recent history for the tournament, which is among the oldest in the world.
The reason is the presence of the best player in the world: Brooks Koepka (Titleist Pro V1x).
He is the world’s top-ranked player, teeing it up for the first time since winning the PGA Championship and looking ahead to next week to try and win the U.S. Open for the third consecutive time. If he does it that would tie him with Willie Anderson, who recorded the threepeat from 1903-05.
Koepka missed the cut last year, but is a completely different player this year and you can expect the spotlight, both from the TV and radio coverage and the fans, will be shining significantly on him.
Koepka, who is one of several golfers sponsored by RBC, which is reaping the benefits of aligning itself to tour players, opted not to play last week at the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Tournament in Ohio. If he opted to play two weeks in a row against some salty competition it may have drained him for the U.S. Open.
I liked Koepka to win the PGA Championship, but I’m backing off of him for this tournament. I just can’t see him cranking it up with the same intensity.
According to OddsShark.com, Koepka is the second favorite in the field behind Dustin Johnson (TaylorMade TP5x), who is my pick to win. He is the defending champion and has also had second-place finishes in 2016 and 2013. Granted, the field wasn’t as strong this year. With the change in the PGA Tour schedule to move the Canadian Open in front of the U.S. Open instead of after the Open Championship, many of the elite players are here, unless they opted for the Memorial and decided not to play three tough tournaments three weeks in succession.
Johnson is the second-ranked player in the world and the difference between him and Koepka, with whom he works out in the off-season, is razor thin. These two are like heavyweight prize fighters and if it turns out that both are in a real battle on Sunday it will be a treat.
Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x), playing for the first time in the Canadian Open, has chosen to play in two consecutive tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open. His play has tailed off in recent weeks, including missing the cut in the Memorial, so this is a chance to regain his form. He is ranked third among the favorites.
Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x) also missed the Memorial cut and decided to opt into the Canadian Open. This is the value of having the Canadian Open positioned a week before the U.S. Open.
There are so many other top-caliber players, including a Canadian who has a legitimate shot to win. Corey Conners (Titleist Pro V1) has burst on to the PGA Tour scene in the last two years, and the native of Listowel, which is about a 90-minute drive to Hamilton, has to be rated to finish in the top-10.
CANTLAY CAN: Loved the victory by Patrick Cantlay (Pro V1x) last week in the Memorial. He came from behind to score a two-shot victory over Adam Scott (Titleist Pro V1) and four over Martin Kaymer (Titleist Pro V1x). Cantlay’s fourth-round score of eight-under par was a tournament record. He came into the round four strokes behind Kaymer. I felt bad for Kaymer, who had a two-shot lead after 56 holes but was scuffling on the back nine in the final round shooting three-over par and finished even par on the round. He was hoping to end a five-year drought on the PGA Tour.
Cantlay won the Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year in 2011 as voted on by the Golf Coaches Association of America. He’s had somewhat of a special relationship with Nicklaus, having sought his advice in 2017 ago playing in the Memorial the first time. He had two occasions to talk to him at this year’s Memorial and it certainly helped. Then again, Cantlay has been having a great year
It’s always cool to see the new generation of golfers show reverence and respect for Nicklaus. When Bryson DeChambeau (Bridgestone Tour B X) won the 2018 Memorial, he said it meant something special to him because of his admiration for Nicklaus.