Course Insight: RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey
Canada’s national championship returns to Glen Abbey Golf Club this week for the RBC Canadian Open. This event is the third longest running tournament in history behind only the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and the 1976 Jack Nicklaus designed track hosts the event for the 29th time. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Open Championship runner-up Matt Kuchar, two-time major champion Bubba Watson, and defending champion Jhonattan Vegas headline the field of 156 players who will battle it out on this historic par-72, 7,273-yard course.
Glen Abbey features 97 bunkers, 12 water hazards, and greens slightly smaller than a typical PGA Tour course. Since 2009 the average winning score has been 17-under and you can expect more of the same this week. Big bombers have an advantage attacking four par-5’s on the course, but accuracy off the tee is equally important with the rough being very penal. Valley holes on Nos. 11 through 15 along with a creek running through these holes force angled shots that can be tricky and reward players with precise iron play.
Pictured: Hole No. 11 at Glen Abbey Golf Club
Playing downhill and into a valley, the par-4, 452-yard 11th hole demands players find the fairway from the tee box. Getting lost in the towering trees on the left or the large bunker on the right will make an already terrorizing approach shot even more diabolical. The approach requires a mid-to-short iron over a creek and into the smallest green on the course with bunkers guarding it left, right, and front. Last year No. 11 played as the 7th most difficult hole giving up 73 birdies and recording 96 bogies or worse.
The par-5, 558-yard 13th is a tremendous second-shot risk-reward hole. On approach players will have to decide if they want to give the green a go in two, or lay-up to avoid the wide creek that protects the front of the green and has swallowed up many balls during this championship. Chipping areas to the left and behind the putting surface will also wreak havoc on mishit approach shots. Significant undulation in the green means finding the right spot is necessary for the best scoring opportunity. Last year No. 15 was the seventh most difficult hole on the course surrendering only 63 birdies and doling out 98 bogies or worse.
The par-4, 457-yard 14th hole offers a risk-reward tee shot that brings a creek into play and has historically been the toughest on the course. Players will have to decide how much of the winding creek they want to cut off with their tee shot to make the approach easier. Long hitters will be rewarded with a short iron approach into a severely undulating and elevated green. Last year this hole played as the most difficult giving up only 27 birdies while handing out 168 bogies or worse.
The par-3, 141-yard 15th hole is the final par-3 on the course, and despite its relatively short length, it can also be the most disastrous. Last year No. 15 gave up 63 birdies but also handed out 98 bogies or worse. Only the most accurate iron shot will hold the green that slopes severely from front to back. A huge false front protects the front putting a premium on controlling spin. Keeping the ball below the hole is the only way to score here.
Aerial View of Hole No.18 from the 18Birdies App
The 524-yard, par-5 18th at Glen Abbey is its most famous hole and might be one of the greatest risk-reward closing par-5s in all of golf. In the 2000 Open Tiger Woods hit a 218-yard, 6-iron from the fairway bunker, over water, to the back fringe of the green in what might have been one of the best shots Tiger has ever hit. The second shot requires a forced carry of the water into a very shallow putting surface that’s protected by deep bunkers in the back. Many events have been won or lost here and the potential for closing drama is enormous.
Players To Watch
Deadly accurate iron play and a deft touch around the green will be rewarded at Glen Abbey and Matt Kuchar displayed that at its finest last week at Royal Birkdale. The only thing keeping me from picking Kuchar to win this week is my belief that coming so close to defeating Jordan Spieth for his first career major championship had to take its toll emotionally. Kuchar’s a favorite to win this week, but I don’t see him even finishing in the top-25.
Adam Hadwin’s also a player whose strengths are made for Glen Abbey. Hadwin became just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a sub-60 round and his breakout season, including his maiden victory at the Valspar Championship can be attributed to the excellent ball striking. Hadwin’s playing in front of home fans and would like nothing more than to be crowned homegrown champion. Expect Hadwin to finish in the top-10.
Ollie Schniederjans can overpower a course as evidenced by his 300-yard average driving distance. He can also pick apart a course with his irons, and is ranked second on Tour on approaches from inside 200-yards. Ollie’s come close to winning his first career Tour victory a few times this year, but his putting has been less than stellar down the stretch. Schniederjans is a streaky putter, but if he gets the flat-stick going this week as I expect, Glen Abbey is a course he can utterly dominate on. Look for Ollie to pick up his first win in Canada this week.