RBC Canadian Open preview and free betting tips from Ben Coley

Last Updated July 24 2018, 20:38Golf
Check out all of Ben Coley's tips for the RBC Canadian Open
Check out all of Ben Coley's tips for the RBC Canadian Open

After two of his three selections finished tied for second in last week's PGA Tour event, don't miss Ben Coley's preview of the RBC Canadian Open.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Jamie Lovemark at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Tom Lovelady at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Keegan Bradley at 66/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

2pts e.w. Charley Hoffman at 33/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Brandt Snedeker at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

  • For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, click here

If you remain in any doubt as to what formula works best at Glen Abbey, which hosts the RBC Canadian Open for the final time, last year's leaderboard should do the trick.

In first place was Jhonattan Vegas, winning here for the second year in succession, this time getting the better of Charley Hoffman in a play-off. Back in fourth was Gary Woodland despite a poor putting week, a comment which also applies to Tony Finau in a share of fifth. Alongside him were Robert Garrigus and Brandon Hagy, the latter ending the year third in driving distance, a position Finau fills 12 months down the line.

I'm not sure there's been a more power-packed top five since the PGA Tour gladly waved goodbye to Doral and while Glen Abbey is considerably shorter than that Florida monstrosity, its predilection for brute force makes sense. The fairways at Glen Abbey are difficult to hit yet the rough is not penal, a rare combination which, when we throw in small greens, means those attacking from closest and with the most loft are at a huge advantage.

Some wind in the forecast threatens to change things a little but it could well be counterbalanced with rain and while the winning score could be affected, I'm not sure it'll change the nature of the course sufficiently to remove that bias towards the big-hitters. Vegas has won here in 12-under and 21-under, the changing conditions doing little to alter the fact that his power gave him an advantage, and before him came Jason Day's 17-under success over Bubba Watson. Any one of the three scores may do it; it's easier to conclude that whatever the number, the man who gets to it will probably hit the ball a long way.

There are always exceptions, of course - Ian Poulter crashed the party a year ago and Brandt Snedeker won here in 2013 - but my attack on this event leans heavily towards length, with Jamie Lovemark the standout bet at 80/1 generally and 100/1 in a place.

Currently on a run of 12 cuts made in 13, the Californian continues to appear ready to finally land his first PGA Tour title, having been one of the most highly-touted amateurs before turning professional and so nearly winning the 2009 Frys.com Open soon after, when without full playing rights.

Injuries have clearly held him back since then but Lovemark is in peak condition now and looks the sort of player for whom one win could trigger a surge up the world rankings. Despite a seriously interrupted career he's played well in all three of the majors he's featured in and has a creative touch around the greens to complement the natural athletic talents of a very modern golfer.

As mentioned, his length off the tee should be a serious weapon here and it was at Glen Abbey in 2009 that Lovemark made his professional debut, finishing an excellent 46th despite having struggled with a rib problem in the build-up and got off to a nightmare start which saw him needing to climb upwards of 50 places just to make the cut on Friday.

His only subsequent start in the Canadian Open came in 2014, when he sat fourth through 54 holes only to fall down to 12th, and his sole visit to Canada since that effort saw him lead into the final round of the Nova Scotia Open only for a disappointing 71 to see him again fall out of the places.


Sky Bet specials

9/1 - any of our selections to win the tournament

12/1 - any two players in the top-five (inc ties)

18/1 - any three players in the top-10 (inc ties)

125/1 - any three players in the top-five (inc ties)

Click here for more


Glen Abbey is a Jack Nicklaus design, so Lovemark's victory on a similar layout on the Web.com Tour catches the eye, while he's also been 10th at Muirfield Village, seventh at PGA National and sixth in the CareerBuilder Challenge, where he shot 65 on the Nicklaus layout.

Last time out he ranked 10th for strokes-gained tee-to-green and much will depend on the putter, which has largely been cool for some time. However, big-hitters Finau and Woodland defied poor putting to contend here last year and just last week, Troy Merritt demonstrated once more that you can lose ground on the greens and still win a tournament at this level.

Lovemark, whose short-game is otherwise excellent, is exactly the type who could produce something similar if he's playing a course where his waywardness off the tee isn't too harshly punished, and that's certainly the case here at Glen Abbey where the emphasis is on the second shot.

"It was my first event as a pro back in '09, so it's special to me, and I'd love to win here," he said four years ago, and perhaps it's finally time for his breakthrough to arrive.

Keeping with the theme, Tom Lovelady is worth sticking with having tied for second in the Barbasol Championship where he played with the winner in round four.

That experience will do this monster hitter the world of good, as will hanging around with his close friend Justin Thomas, and there's plenty more to come as he learns to harness his explosive power and gets comfortable in contention.

Lovelady really served it up to Merritt on Monday, blasting his way through the par-fives on the back-nine, and was understandably thrilled with his performance.

"I gave it everything I had," he said. "One shot short, but got a lot of momentum moving forward.

"This is the best I've ever driven the ball off the tee. I put a new shaft in play last week, and that really helped and this really helped a bunch.

"Just keep doing what I'm doing."

Significantly, when he sprang to life on the Web.com Tour last season, Lovelady kept it going with a sequence of 11-13-7-5-MC-6-53-3 to earn his PGA Tour playing rights, and among the pick of those performances was fifth place at The Nicklaus Golf Club.

This year, 17th at the Honda Classic, another event played on a Nicklaus layout, was among his best efforts towards the start of the campaign and after excelling with everything bar the putter last week, he's worth backing to keep up the good work.

Last year, I put up Woodland at 80/1 on account of not only his power, but an excellent record at Torrey Pines, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. It's fair to say Torrey Pines is more difficult than Glen Abbey, but both favour big-hitters because it's so hard to hit fairways. At Glen Abbey, that means birdie opportunities are often set up with wedges from the rough; at Torrey Pines, those who are closest to the greens are best equipped to avoid disaster.

Of the last three winners here, two are bona fide specialists down at the Farmers – in fact, Day and Snedeker are the best players of Torrey Pines on the circuit. Then there's Jon Rahm, who broke through to win the Farmers last season, but could so easily have done so in this event two years ago.

All three are world-class players, of course, but we might not say that of dual Canadian Open winner Vegas, who was third at Torrey in his first season on the PGA Tour and more recently has finished 11th, 18th and 28th there.

We certainly wouldn’t say it of Nathan Green, the journeyman Aussie whose career highlights came across these two events. First, he lost a play-off to Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, then three years later he won a play-off for this title. They are by some distance the best two performances of his career.

Players like DJ, Watson, Martin Laird, Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan, Finau and now Woodland help underline the correlation and are considered as a result, but my preference is for Keegan Bradley, who putted poorly on his way to 14th place here last year.

That was Bradley's debut at Glen Abbey, but shouldn't have come as a surprise given that he boasts two top-10 finishes at Muirfield, has been fourth and 12th at PGA National and, perhaps crucially, has placed in each of the last two renewals of the Farmers Insurance Open, where he'd previously managed a trio of top-25s.

Putting continues to be a problem for Bradley but he's actually produced three positive tournaments in the last five measured and as an outstanding driver, who hits the ball high and leads this field in strokes-gained approach by a considerable margin, anything average on the greens could be more than enough.

"I've played a lot better than kind of than my results have shown," he said at the Greenbrier three weeks ago. "My game is there. I say that every week, my game is there, and now it's a matter of going out and executing it.

"It seems like the whole year I've put together three good rounds and then one bad one or two."

That was the case last year as Bradley's third-round 72 cost him a shot at the title, but slightly tougher conditions will give him more room for manoeuvre and last week's down-the-field effort in the Open Championship doesn't really concern me.

Bradley, born due east of this week's venue in Woodstock, Vermont, has plenty in his favour and can at the very least sneak a place if keeping up the encouraging work with the putter.

Finau looks to hold outstanding claims on the back of yet another excellent major championship, but 16/1 feels short enough in a field which includes the world number one, especially given that he remains stuck on one low-grade PGA Tour win.

At twice the price, I much prefer the claims of Charley Hoffman, who has struck form in time for a late Ryder Cup push and can climb further up the rankings at a course we know suits his game.

Hoffman was a little unfortunate not to win this last year, making birdies at 16 and 18 to force a play-off before Vegas got the better of him, but course form figures of 28-16-7-2 suggest it could now be his turn.

Charley Hoffman
Charley Hoffman can continue his excellent run

We saw something similar in the Texas Open, where he'd knocked on the door so many times before winning the 2016 edition, and a run of four top-20 finishes since the US Open suggests the 41-year-old is ready to challenge for the title once more.

Hoffman is a pure ball-striker with plenty of ammunition from the tee and of those towards the front of the market, he looks by far the standout value in an event which isn't all that deep, and whose favourite arrives on the back of his worst performance in over a year.

Keith Mitchell and Kevin Tway are two massive hitters who have shown glimpses of what they can do this season and are respected along with the in-form Harold Varner, while Jason Kokrak is another who gives the ball an almighty smash and he was born in Canada before moving to the US.

Cameron Champ is among the biggest young talents in the sport and can drive the ball out of sight so he too is respected after an impressive breakthrough success on the Web.com Tour and all of these aggressive youngsters - Patrick Rodgers, Ollie Schniederjans, Joaquin Niemann - have to be considered at this golf course.

Robert Streb crops up when you look through Nicklaus courses and led the field in greens hit as he took another step back in the right direction at the Barbasol, but for all there are outsiders who tempt me I just can't get away from Brandt Snedeker at 50/1.

Here we have an eight-time PGA Tour winner, who has twice won at Torrey Pines and coasted to a three-shot victory here in 2013. In three visits to Glen Abbey, his worst finish is fifth and a scoring average of 68.75 demonstrates that he is absolutely comfortable here, despite not being a big-hitter.

Were he at his absolute best, Snedeker would be vying for second-favouritism with Brooks Koepka and while I'm not about to argue that he is, third place two starts ago and sixth place five starts ago at least offers some encouragement.

By contrast, Snedeker was very poor at Carnoustie, never a factor at the US Open and missed the weekend at the Travelers, but all of this is factored into the price and I can forgive any player a disappointing Open Championship.

Vegas missed the cut at Royal Birkdale before rediscovering his best to win his second title here and so far Glen Abbey has very much proven to be a horses-for-courses layout, which means that Snedeker absolutely has to be on the radar.

Finally, I must mention Billy Horschel after his runner-up finish when fancied last week. He tends to win when he's hot and the best run of his career, those FedEx Cup fireworks in 2014, came on the back of second place in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Horschel's Nicklaus form is very strong, too, and this confidence player is a threat to all if able to get the putts to drop.

Posted at 1145 BST on 24/07/18.

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