The phrase "horses for courses" dates back to the early 1890s in English parlance, referring to somebody or something that is particularly well-suited for a certain activity. Becoming an idiom of sorts, you typically hear the phrase used in horse racing circles, fittingly. As it relates to golf, there are modern applications of "horses for courses" that are true to that origin, too: Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, Firestone, Bay Hill and many others; Bubba Watson at Riviera and TPC River Highlands; and as it appears, and particular to this week, Dustin Johnson on any course in the RBC Canadian Open rota.
It seems like DJ is comfortable in the Great White North, winning last year's event at Glen Abbey, and owning three other top-10s in his past five starts. If he wins this week at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, we can officially say Dustin Johnson is a horse for any Canadian course. That's what we said last week about Patrick Cantlay at Muirfield Village, which turned into fruition—our sixth correct prediction by our expert panel this season. Our friends at The Action Network, a leader in premium handicapping data for sports bettors, which is becoming a must-follow in golf, continue to ride a heater, picking 100 percent on their matchup bets and hitting three of five top-10 picks in the past month or so.
Just like each week, our panel also includes the invaluable advice from a PGA Tour caddie who is on the range and putting green at this week's RBC Canadian Open, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; two of the most respected fantasy golf experts, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
2019 RBC Canadian Open Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Scott Piercy (28-1) — This might sound crazy, but I really like Piercy this week. It’s a ball striker’s golf course—a place not a lot of guys are familiar with since the tour hasn’t been here since 2012. That's also the year he won it. I don’t like Scott just because he’s the last to win here, but also because he’s really trending lately. He finished T-3 at Hilton Head, T-2 at Byron Nelson and T-19 at Colonial. It would be easy to say Dustin or Rory, but with the way this place sets up, it could produce a quirky winner, an obscure dude. You can hit a really good shot here and get screwed. If I’m going with a ball-striker, give me Piercy to get it done again at Hamilton. I feel like there are also probably a lot of guys near the top of the odds board who already have their sights set on next week.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Henrik Stenson (33-1) — The Swede's irons remain tops on tour over the past three months. The rest of his game: Not great. At a shorter, accuracy course, Stenson just needs to keep on doing what he's been doing, gaining over five strokes against the field in strokes gained/approach since The Players, and fall into a hot putting week.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Rory McIlroy (9-1) — Rory certainly has been just as good as Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka in 2019 but has the longest win odds of the three. While still a heavy favorite, McIlroy has value in such a wonky field, one that boasts a few studs before a big drop off. Hamilton requires accuracy but also rewards distance when it’s paired with fairways hit. Rory grades out third in the field in strokes gained/off the tee and is 11th in strokes gained/approach over the past 100 rounds on the PGA Tour, via FantasyNational.com. He also scores well on par 4s from 400 to 450 yards (16th), of which there are eight this week.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Sergio Garcia (33-1) — My predictive model makes Dustin Johnson the favorite this week, but not by as heavy of a margin as the odds suggest. My implied odds are 9-1, almost double his 5-1 number, which lead me down the list for some better value. Sergio Garcia is fifth in this field in strokes gained/approach and seventh in strokes gained/off the tee in his past 50 rounds, according to FantasyNational.com. Hamilton Golf and Country Club sets up to be a ball-striker's paradise. And Sergio Garcia is still one of the best ball-strikers in the world. His stats suggest a win is in the cards, and my implied odds for Sergio are around 12-1. You're getting serious value on the oddsmakers at his 33-1 number.
Joshua Perry, Action Network golf handicapper: Dustin Johnson (5-1) — I know it's not an exciting pick, but I think this will be a pretty easy week for DJ. I wanted more value with the number, but this course could play like a pitch and putt. He won the week before the U.S. Open last year and he also won in Canada last year. On this course, he'll have a wedge into nine holes and could have eagle putts on three others. If the tee ball stays in play, there is no trouble anywhere else for him here.
Golf Digest editors: Dustin Johnson (5-1) — There are no sure things, especially in golf. Dustin Johnson could very well be the exception to that rule based on his 2018-'19 season, which has somehow become underrated. Since the calendar turned to 2019, DJ has finished T-9 or better seven times, and he's only been outside the top 30 once (not including the WGC-Match Play). His worst finish in his last six stroke-play events is a T-28 at RBC Heritage, an event he was leading through 54 holes before blowing up on Sunday. Nobody is a lock to win, but DJ is a lock to give himself a chance on Sunday in every tournament he plays in, which is all you can ask for when you're betting on outright winners. We wouldn't be surprised if he rips off the next two events, one of them being a pretty important one next week.
(Results on the season: We’ve correctly predicted six of the season’s 26 events. Pat Mayo has correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners); Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) and Phil Mickelson (25-1 at Pebble Beach). Golf Digest’s editors correctly picked Patrick Cantlay (15-1) last week and Kevin Tway (55-1) earlier in the season. Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler's win (16-1) in Phoenix and had a runner-up (Dustin Johnson) at the PGA. And Brandon Gdula has four picks of his who have finished runner-up.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Sepp Straka (300-1) — You want a true dark horse? Look out for Sepp Straka. He was a co-medalist in the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier on Monday at RattleSnake Point Golf Club here in Ontario at 5 under after the 36 holes – which should tell you how hard the course was playing. I think his game is really starting to come around and I think he should be on your radar this week. Qualifying for next week’s U.S. Open had to be a big confidence booster. I could certainly see him in a position to win come Sunday.
Mayo: Brian Harman (100-1) — With accuracy more of a factor than distance, the light hitting Harman isn’t at as huge of a disadvantage as usual against the elite talent at the top. Per Fantasy National, he has gained over +6.0 strokes on approach in his last two events and finished top 15 in each start in fairways gained against the field en route to a T-27 and T-31, with the T-31 coming at the comparable Colonial Country Club. Those aren’t great finishes, but when you miss five of the previous six cuts, it’s an upward trend. Normally stout with the flat stick, the mini-man has been losing an average of a half stroke per event with his putter over his last five tournaments, now he returns to Poa greens, where he’s averaging +0.5 strokes per round.
Gdula: Corey Conners (110-1) — Conners has the Canadian narrative going for him. While he’s probably better known for his distance, he’s also an accurate driver and grades out sixth in strokes gained/off the tee among the field over the past 100 rounds. Conners also grades out ninth in strokes gained/approach in that sample, giving him elite ball-striking stats. He also has a knack for hitting tough fairways, via FantasyNational.com, and offers good value at this price.
Riccio: Joaquin Niemann (125-1) — Niemann was a trendy pick all of last season, and for good reason. The young Chilean was finishing in the top 10 seemingly every other week, and it felt like he might pick off his first victory before even turning 20 during his run. But toward the end of last summer and into this year he's struggled, going through a sophomore slump of sorts. He has just one top 10 on the year, though he's beginning to trend in the right direction (T-38, T-31, T-27 in three of his last four starts). My model actually gives him the eighth best chance to win here, just ahead of Rory McIlroy. When he does eventually win, you'll never be able to get him at this price again. Why not try to hit it big on him while you still can?
Perry, Action Network: Shane Lowry (45-1) — Lowry's game has started to turn around completely in the last month. He's been inside the top 10 in back to back events and at the PGA Championship, he gained strokes with his approach for the first time since last year's Canadian Open. If the irons are dialed in again, he'll contend here. (Click here to view the Action Network's full RBC Canadian Open breakdown.)
Golf Digest editors: Daniel Berger (66-1) — We saw Berger's stellar ball-striking return at the PGA Championship as he played in one of the final groups off on Saturday. Following a year marred by injuries, his performance at ultra-demanding Bethpage showed us Berger's ready to find the winner's circle again. And at these odds in not as strong of a field, we'll take that all day.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Bubba Watson (35-1) — This course does not suit his game. There’s nowhere for him to hit it. The fairways are generous, but it’s not a place where being a bomber is a big advantage. I’d bet against Bubba this week. In fact, I’m shocked he’s even playing here to be honest.
Mayo: Scott Piercy (28-1) — I get that Piercy won the last time the Canadian Open was held at this venue in 2012 and comes in playing solid golf, but this number is silly. In what world are you betting Piercy over Stenson, Bubba or Sergio, and have to eat a worse number on it? You’re not. I have him rated around 55-1 in this field, almost double his current odds.
Gdula: Brooks Koepka (7-1) — Koepka can win this thing for sure. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, but he has another major looming, and this is a course that requires accuracy. Distance helps, but if backing one of the three heavy favorites, Koepka is last on my list, primarily because of his driving accuracy numbers. Betting the favorites isn’t a sustainable strategy, and it’s Koepka who would be off my card among Rory and Dustin Johnson.
Riccio: Bubba Watson (35-1) — Bubba finished strong at the PGA, with a one-under 69, but that came on Friday and wasn't enough to get him to the weekend. He checks in well outside the top 50 in my model, so he's an easy fade this week.
Perry, Action Network: Justin Thomas (14-1) — I just don't know where his health is right now. He didn't look good at the Memorial after sitting out about six weeks. Maybe it was just rust, but given his price, I'd want some more assurance as to where his wrist is before I bet that number.
Golf Digest editors: Rory McIlroy (9-1) — Rory's history the week prior to a major is actually quite good, but we have a feeling this is merely a tune-up event for McIlroy. He'll likely still finish top 10, but we're not banking on him to seriously contend.
2019 RBC Canadian Open: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Matt Kuchar (-105) over Justin Thomas (Sportsbook) — Kuch is listed as the underdog in this match up. I’ll take Kuch as the underdog all day long. Somebody like Kuch could definitely be a top-10, which he’s been doing pretty much all season. Justin is coming back from an injury. He’ll be spraying it all over the place.
Mayo: Henrik Stenson (-120) over Scott Piercy (Sportsbook) — I picked Stenson to win and have Piercy as my fade. No need to second-guess this one.
Gdula: Bubba Watson (-116) over Brandt Snedeker (FanDuel) — Watson holds an edge in ball-striking by a huge margin here. The one problem is that Snedeker is much more accurate a driver than is Watson, but in terms of win odds, Watson is about twice as likely to win, per my simulations, and it’s because he’s been the better golfer in 2019.
Riccio: Alex Noren (-125) over Jimmy Walker (Sportbook)
Perry, Action Network: Henrik Stenson (-120) over Scott Piercy (Sportsbook) — I'm going with Stenson as a small underdog here. Piercy is getting a lot of respect this week because he won here seven years ago. But Stenson is a better player and has been far more consistent with the irons this year. Piercy had two great weeks with his approach and finished top three both times, but outside of those two events, he's lost strokes with the irons in ever other event over the last four months. I think we know more what we're getting with Stenson and his game is far less volatile.
Golf Digest editors: Scott Piercy (+100) over Henrik Stenson (Sportsbook) — There's no denying Henrik Stenson's ball-striking stats, but something's up with his putter. Stenson ranks 141st in this field in strokes gained/putting in the past 50 rounds, per Fantasy National. That's nearing "beyond abysmal" territory. We'll go with Scott Piercy and his great results of late and at Hamilton over Stenson.
(Matchup results last week: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (C.T. Pan (-135) over Kevin Tway); Golf Digest Editors: 1 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay (-125) over Justin Thomas); Reid Fowler/DraftKings: 1 for 1; Action Network: 1 for 1 (Peter Uihlein (+115) over Sung Kang); Gdula: 0 for 1; Riccio: 0 for 1.)
(Matchup results for the year: Action Network guest picker: 5 for 5; GD Editors: 13 wins, 6 losses, two pushes; Riccio: 11-7; PGA Tour Caddie: 11-10; Mayo: 8-9-2; Gdula: 8-11-1; Fowler: 1 for 1.)
Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Brandt Snedeker (+275) — Check out his stats. They’re pathetic… until you get to his short game. He can kinda get it around, but he has an unbelievable short game. The guy has already made over $1.7 million this season! His nickname should be “Smoke and Mirrors.” I’m calling him “Smoke.” He’s won a FedExCup title and he’s done everything thanks to that short game. Great around the greens and even better once he’s on them. Hamilton isn’t an overly long course, so he has the short game to manage it around. I feel like his short game is in shape to do something.
Mayo: Keegan Bradley (+500) — Staying on a theme of accuracy, approach and ball striking, Keegan pops off the page. Short term and long term, he rates out one of the best in the field in the key stats. As always, it comes down to the flat stick. And if Scott Piercy can win at this course, and have Robert Garrigus show up inside the Top 3, why can't Keegan?
Gdula: Russell Henley (+800) — Henley grades out 15th in strokes gained/approach over the past 100 rounds and ranks 35th in fairways gained on tough-to-hit fairways, per Fantasy National. Henley scores well on par 4s from 400 to 450 yards and has had slightly positive putting splits on bentgrass in his career. Those are good reasons to back him.
Riccio: Corey Conners (+800) — The pressure for a Canadian to win his country's national tournament is hard to quantify. To finish in the top 10, though, is quite doable. Conners is striking the ball on an elite level—ranking fifth in strokes gained/off the tee and 11th in strokes gained/approach in his past 50 rounds, per Fantasy National. It's just his short game that has held him back. While other players might have one eye toward Pebble this week, we're sure Conners will be all-in on a good finish in front of his home crowd.
Perry, Action Network: Joaquin Niemann (+750) — We're all waiting for the Niemann breakthrough. We know it's going to come at some point. I just like the way he sets up here. The ball striking has been fine most of the year, so it will just come down to the short game. At the Memorial, he gained strokes around the green and with the putter for the first time in nearly three months, so that aspect might be turning around for him.
Golf Digest editors: Jim Furyk (+350) — Hamilton isn't a necessarily long course, but it rewards accuracy off the tee and into the greens. That has always been Jim Furyk's strengths, and he is playing some great golf lately. We like Furyk to finish strong again on an old-school course. Furyk is a two-time Canadian Open winner, including a 2006 victory at Hamilton. Again, like we said at the jump: horses for courses.
(Top-10 results last week: Golf Digest editors: 1 for 1 (Adam Scott, +320); Action Network: 1 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay, +196); Everyone else: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Action Network: 3 for 5 (+196, +800, +1000 hits); Mayo: 7 for 20; Gdula: 5 for 20; GD Editors: 5 for 20; PGA Tour Caddie: 5 for 21; Riccio: 4 for 20.)
Mayo: Outside of Stenson, Sergio rates out the best in the key stats for Hamilton Golf & Country Club than any other player in the field. While his recent form isn’t spectacular, a lot of that has been from his major performances where he’s really struggled. If you remove the majors, Sergio has actually posted three Top 10 finishes in his past five starts. And, in case you forgot, he finished Top 25 in the field at the PGA Championship in SG: T2G, in just two rounds; he just happened to not a make a single three-foot putt all week. If he retains that level of ball striking, he’s favorite in Canada. Like Harman, Armour just hits a bunch of fairways and can score with his short irons. It’s never a guarantee he can maintain his ball striking for an entire tournament, but he’ll hit enough fairways to squeeze through the cut, and at his price, that’s good enough.
Sergio Garcia ($9,500); Henrik Stenson ($9,100); Keegan Bradley ($8,500); Brian Harman ($7,600); Ryan Armour ($7,200)
Dustin Johnson ($11,900); Henrik Stenson ($9,100); Sergio Garcia ($9,500); Bronson Burgoon ($6,500); Nate Lashley ($6,700); Carlos Ortiz ($6,300)
Golf Digest Editors: Obviously we love DJ this week, and then we got a couple of cut-making machines in both Brandt Snedeker and Nate Lashley. Then we've got Hadwin and Nesbitt, both playing in their home country this week (which could mean absolutely nothing), and EVR, who has impressed in his handful of PGA Tour starts, specifically last year's British Open (T-17) and this year's PGA (T-8), his only two career major starts.
Dustin Johnson ($11,900); Brandt Snedeker ($9,000); Adam Hadwin ($8,300); Erik van Rooyen ($7,800); Nate Lashley ($6,700); Drew Nesbitt ($6,300)
Gdula: With this particular field, this week, to me, is one to plug in as many studs as possible, and I’m ranking them — price considered — Dustin Johnson ($12,600), Rory McIlroy ($12,000), Matt Kuchar ($11,300), Brooks Koepka ($12,500), and Justin Thomas ($11,500). To fit one or two of them into most lineups, we’ll need value plays, and some that stand out are Adam Hadwin ($9,300), Erik Van Rooyen ($9,100), Russell Henley ($8,900), Corey Conners ($8,900), Talor Gooch ($8,600), and Ryan Armour ($8,500).
Dustin Johnson ($12,600); Henrik Stenson ($10,600); Sergio Garcia ($10,700); Justin Thomas ($11,500); Bronson Burgoon ($7,500); Carlos Ortiz ($7,000)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the Valspar Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.