RBC Canadian Open | Five players to watch

Graeme McDowell
USA Today Sports Images
Graeme McDowell is a favorite to win the RBC Canadian Open a week after his fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship.
By John Holmes
PGA.com

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 6:31 p.m.
Let's be honest and say that the RBC Canadian Open has a tough spot on the PGA Tour schedule – immediately after the Open Championship and immediately before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. But let's also say this: The players in the field this week really want to be there as time is rapidly running out to nail down spots in the FedExCup playoffs.
 
The Canadian Open returns this year to Montreal, where the very first Canadian Open was staged in 1904. Royal Montreal is hosting for the first time since 2001, and the venue is best known as the host of the 2007 Presidents Cup. The Blue Course is regularly included among the game's best, but at about 7,150 yards, it is about as short as they come in the modern professional game.
 
 
So who do we like? Here are five players to keep an eye on.
 
5. Graham DeLaet
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Tied for second in the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: It's been 60 years since a Canadian last won the Canadian Open, and there are 19 Canadians in the field this week. The best bet for a breakthrough has to be 2013 Presidents Cup player Graham DeLaet, even though he's cooled off since a strong start to the season. He is second on the PGA Tour in hitting greens in regulation (71%) and can prevail if his putter heats up just a bit. The big question: If he wins, does he shave off that beard?
 
4. Aaron Baddeley
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Fourth in the Travelers Championship
Reason to watch: Baddeley is Australian, but was born in New Hampshire, which shares a border with Quebec. Is that a good reason to pick him? Well, no – but he excels on shorter courses like this one and has been putting great this year. He tied for fourth at the Travelers and tied for 23rd at the U.S. Open in two of his three most recent starts.
 
3. Brandt Snedeker
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Tied for eighth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: Snedeker is the defending champion (though his victory last year came in Ontario), but the main reason to keep an eye on him is his recent switch to instructor Butch Harmon. It'd be unfair to expect too much just yet, but it'll be interesting to see if there is any noteworthy difference in his swing as he attempts to flight the ball lower and regain his accuracy into the greens.
 
2. Jim Furyk
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Second in both the Players Championship and Wells Fargo Championship
Reason to watch: The two-time Canadian Open champ – though neither time at Royal Montreal – Furyk is quietly but consistently putting together quite an impressive season. He hasn't won yet, but he's earned a pair of seconds and has yet to miss a cut this season. Plus, he's fresh – his fourth-place result at Royal Liverpool was his first start since the U.S. Open, and he's poised to surge while so many around him are sagging.
 
1. Graeme McDowell
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Third in the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Like Baddeley, McDowell is one of the PGA Tour's short-knockers, but G-Mac is also first in Strokes Gained-Putting and seventh in Scoring Average so his weaknesses are minimized and his strengths amplified this week. He, like Furyk, is fresh and coming off a good week at Royal Liverpool, where he tied for ninth. One last thing: McDowell is an RBC ambassador, and already has won the RBC Heritage. A victory this week would give him the "RBC Sweep."