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RBC Canadian Open: Golf Digest Tournament Predictions

July 25, 2017
146th Open Championship - First Round

Warren Little/R&A

Welcome to the Golf Digest Tournament Predictor. Dr. Lucius Riccio, a statistical contributor to Golf Digest for 30 years and one of the inventors of the USGA Slope System, has developed a model for predicting tournament outcomes. Each week we'll run Riccio's forecast against Golf Digest writer Joel Beall's "expert" picks, offering analysis and advice in the process. Play and customize the prediction widget to make your own selections, and see how you stack up against the pros!

Last Week: Both the professor and expert had Open winner Jordan Spieth in their Royal Birkdale selections. Riccio logged top 10s with Rory McIlroy (T-4) and Brooks Koepka (T-6), while Beall's next best picks were Rafael Cabrera Bello (T-4) and Hideki Matsuyama (T-14).

This Week: The PGA Tour returns to Glen Abbey for the RBC Canadian Open. Though the national event has been played at other venues, Glen Abbey is the tournament's de facto home, serving as host for four of the past five years and 25 times overall. The course is a bit of a divisive figure, with airflow issues and spectator mounding rubbing some the wrong way. Moreover, it's landlocked property has made the course vulnerable to distance increases.

Jack Nicklaus infamously never won the Canadian Open, finishing runner-up seven times. The event was also the site of one of Tiger Woods' greatest shots, hitting his approach from 220 yards out of a bunker to 18 feet. The winning score usually hovers around 15-under par.

146th Open Championship - Final Round

Stuart Franklin

Professor's Picks

Dustin Johnson

Bubba Watson

Trey Mullinax

J.J. Spaun

Chris Kirk

Sung Kang

Luke List

Vaughn Taylor

Kevin Tway

Jim Furyk

Professor's Explanation: Those are the 10, but I do want to point out that the runner up at the Open Championship, Matt Kuchar, comes out 11th.

So, why this bunch? Well, Dustin and Bubba are top players. No surprise there. Both had some bright moments at Royal Birkdale to indicate they might be returning to top form. After them, I have quite a range of talents. This could be a breakout event for quite a number of them.

For example the Model is high on Trey Mullinax. His probability of winning is just below Bubba’s. His skills seem to match the holes at this course better than at most courses. His best showing this year was a T-9 at the US Open. His tee game may just be enough to carry him if he can have a great putting week.

Travelers Championship - Final Round

Michael Cohen

The “unknown” in the bunch I like the best is Luke List, who has come close at least three times this year and often comes up high on the Model’s predictions. Next “best” is Sung Kang, who’s good at all parts of the game other than around the green. So if he hits a lot of greens in regulation, he will likely be in the hunt.

Of course Jim Furyk needs no introduction. He seems to be a factor in most PGA events. I would not be surprised if he does well.

Expert's Analysis: Furyk may be a household name, but that hasn't translated to success this season: the Ryder Cup captain has just two top 25s in 16 events. His lack of distance (202nd on tour) won't be an issue this week; nevertheless, ranking 92nd in strokes gained, Furyk -- in my estimation -- does not merit a spot in your fantasy or gambling lineup.

Also a curious choice: Vaughn Taylor. Since winning at Pebble Beach in 2016, the journeyman has failed to submit a top-10 finish in 43 events, and the analytics don't forecast a turnaround in the upcoming future. Though he's consistently made the cut, believing Taylor can contend for the Canadian Open is foolish.

I agree with the professor on Kang and Tway, two players that have been quietly solid this campaign. When Kang gets his flat stick rolling, few are better on the dance floors, while Tway -- with six top-20s since the Texas Open -- has shown he's on the precipice of a breakthrough.

The one to watch is Kirk. Although the former President Cup player showed signs of returning to form in the fall, he's been a mess since spring (one top-20 in his past 16 outings). He does have a nice track record at this event, but his best finish -- a T-4 in 2013 -- came at another venue. As a wild-card pick, I don't mind it, but the ceiling seems pretty low for Kirk.


Expert's Picks

Dustin Johnson

Patrick Cantlay

Ian Poulter

Adam Hadwin

Charley Hoffman

Mackenzie Hughes

Matt Kuchar

Grayson Murray

Tony Finau

Sung Kang

Expert's Explanation: Not that you necessarily need justification for the World No. 1 in your lineup, but DJ has two runner-up finishes at Glen Abbey. Better yet, Johnson -- who's been relatively quiet since his Augusta National injury -- showed signs of life at Birkdale before a Sunday 77 submarined his final standing. He comes with a hefty price tag, but he's worth the investment.

Also warranting your attention: Cantlay. He's played in just seven events this year, his last appearance coming at the Memorial. Yet the former amateur star has made the cut in every start, highlighted by two top-three finishes. With a relatively weak field, this could be Cantlay's platform to shine.

The gamble in this group is Hadwin, who took the tour by storm in the early parts of 2017 with a win, four top-10s and a 59, yet has been a non-entity as of late (missing three of his past five cuts). However, he does have two top-10s at this event, including a T-7 at Glen Abbey in 2015. He's far from a sure thing, but at his salary on weekly fantasy formats, he's worth the risk.