Pity the poor Canadian Open. No title sponsor, facing the first loss in its history, and precious few big names this year thanks to its Cinderella status on the PGA Tour, moved from its usual September slot to slap-bang after the Open Championship. There's an interesting tale of the costly lengths the Royal Canadian Golf Association has gone to ensure at least a few stars turned up.
But its their own fault for letting the PGA walk all over them. To use a phrase seemingly in vogue across the pond, they need to 'man up' and think outside the box. Why not even ditch the PGA Tour and its head honcho Tim Finchem - he'll never cut a decent deal if you're an inch outside US territory - and hitch themselves to the European bandwagon instead. Now there's an organisation seeking global domination if ever there was one. I'd just love to see the bunfight that would set off, given the dust the Asian Tour kicked up when the Europeans muscled in on their territory.
Anyway, this is passing frippery to a betting man. Despite the lack of headline names there's more to this competition than meets the eye.
You would think this is a FedEx Cup points gift for the two top-drawer contestants. Defending champion Jim Furyk should be a seasonal winner by now, but while he has buzzed, he's never fizzed. So although he hasn't been worse than 13th in the three majors (12th last week), and has five other top 10s, still no victory. Everyone blames his putter, but in this company at least he's top 20 for putting. My stats scream his name on a track said to play well to his biggest strength, accuracy off the tee. This must rank as one of the best chances he'll get all season.
Vijay Singh gets more difficult to read by the week. It would be dangerous to discount a former tournament winner with two victories under his belt already this season, but the stats suggest he's not finding enough fairways for this track.
The incentive for local hero Mike Weir is high, not just to break his duck in his home "major" (he did come second three years ago) but also to gain a slot in the President's Cup, also being played on Canadian soil this year. He comes off a strong 8th at Carnoustie (although he disappointed on the final day when birdies were there for the taking) and 8th at Tiger Wood's AT&T, another tough competition. Even so, his stats don't really back his case over-much.
Hunter Mahan is currently the hottest property in the mix, with victory at the Travelers eight weeks ago followed by 8th at the AT&T and a very impressive 6th at Carnoustie. Not surprisingly, his numbers are stellar. Only in driving distance (25th) does he rank outside the top 20 here. Man's got to run out of steam sometime though and I can see the exertions of the last week or so, including the travel, taking their toll.
I don't go for Stephen Ames, although his goals are similar to his fellow Canuck Weir. He has not impressed in his recent outings. And Sean O'Hair, 3rd in this event last year, is still struggling to release his true potential since that magnificent effort at the Players. His stats reflect his present parlous state - he's not even in the top 100 here for putting. There were signs of improvement for Chris DiMarco at Carnoustie but not enough to suggest he is anywhere near back on track.
John Rollins, who won this event the last time it was at Angus Glen (different course though) has been widely tipped on the net on the back of his four top 5s this year, but if he does succeed it'll be despite his current form. He's in the bottom half for everything except distance off the tee.
I'd have more faith in the mercurial Pat Perez, who also played well here in 2002 and was 20th at the Open Championship. He's had a few close shaves this year and if he is in the mood - always a big if with Pat - he definitely has the form, with a particularly hot putter.
Steve Flesch is another worth watching: 4th here in 2002 and 4th to Joe Ogilvie in Milwaukee last week. Possibly a bit too wayward off the tee though. As for Ogilvie, to achieve back-to-back victories after 229 duds would be a fairy tale too far.
Looking for an outsider to make an impression, I come across Bob Heintz, 5th in the US Bank last week and top 20 in this competition two years ago. He's top 30 for accuracy and greens in regulation and third with his putter. Also consider Kent Jones, a pretty accurate driver and particularly strong with his short game at the moment by all accounts.
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