While the RBC Canadian Open didn’t offer the star power of the Open Championship of the previous week, the suspense level was kicked up a notch, as the tournament went to overtime for the first time since 2011. Jhonattan Vegas did the unthinkable – he made it back-to-back wins at Glen Abbey by firing a final round 65 and defeating Charley Hoffman on the first playoff hole. Coming in with five straight MC and having posted two top-10 finished in 27 events since last year’s victory, the win last Sunday was unbelievable.
Ian Poulter continued his hot streak by finishing one shot back, and Gary Woodland was two behind the leaders. The leaderboard was bunched together tightly as it usually is; the last time the Canadian Open was won by more than three shots was 1977.
Enough about real golf… how did my computer team do?
2017 RBC Canadian Open recap
Yahoo! Tournament Points – 180; Yahoo! Segment Points/Ranking – 891/17,160th; Yahoo! Season Points/Ranking – 4,391/499th Overall
That isn’t a typo – I didn’t move up one single spot in the overall ranking. For the segment, I gained about 4,000, and I had my overall number up to 400 after Friday’s round, but a subpar Saturday and not having the winner on my team hurt the cause.
Fairway – Burning one of my three remaining starts on Dustin Johnson wasn’t a bust, as he gave me 32 points in the three days I started him and finished T8. Woodland missed a five-footer on the 72nd hole to finish T3, but he was the right No. 2 ‘A’ pick, because there was no way I could trust Vegas… only six percent of Yahoo! players did. I was all-in on Tony Finau and he looked great on the way to a T5.
Rough – DJ didn’t win, so in the next few weeks, I might regret using him in Canada. I had four players on my team who finished T8 or better and didn’t move up at all. Ollie Schneiderjans looked like he would contend after an opening 65, but 71-70-75 to follow didn’t work.
Rubber City, here we come!
Arriving back stateside, the Tour lands at Firestone Country Club for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the third of the WGC events this year. Big money, elite field, tough course… sounds like a fantasy golfer’s dream! Stars win this tournament every year, so don’t be afraid of the obvious chalk.
Looking for neat trends this week? The second hole is a short par five that will play in the range of 520-530 yards. Par here is a bad score. The only other par five is the 16th hole, which plays approximately 26 miles and won’t be reachable in two shots. As such, I’m not terribly concerned with Par Five Scoring when analyzing stats.
Here’s another… since the tournament became a WGC event in 1999, the only winners without a Major Championship on his resume are Shane Lowry, Hunter Mahan, and Craig Parry. Of course, Tiger Woods won the tournament eight times, so that dramatically reduces the number of winners.
The average winning score over the past 10 years is 12-under, and the par-70 has yielded a low score of 259 to Tiger in 2000, and a high score of 274 to Tiger in 2005, along with Dustin Johnson last year. There hasn’t been a playoff here since 2006 when Tiger beat 2004 winner Stewart Cink.
2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Yahoo fantasy golf picks
- Jason Day  -- He just hasn't been Jason Day this season, and for a guy who won eight tournaments in the two years before this one, that's saying something. Day has shown some signs of life lately, finishing runner-up at the Byron Nelson and T15 at the Memorial, but a second round 76 at the Open Championship sunk his chances and he hasn't played since. Two top-10s in seven tries here isn't enough to call him a horse. Firestone is just an hour from where his wife, Ellie, grew up, so I'm sure he'd love to win this one, but I'll pass this week.
- Rickie Fowler  -- Here rests our first dilemma over starts this week. Rickie is a course horse – 33-2-60-21-8-10-10 in seven starts at Firestone is elite. He arrives in top form, having posted 2-MC-5-3-9-22 in his last six starts. Second on Tour in Scoring Average, third in SGPutting, ninth in SGApproach... numbers look good everywhere. This will be a complete toss-up, but if Rickie doesn't stay in the hunt this weekend, I'd be shocked.
- Branden Grace  -- The South African could be a sexy pick this week. Form is excellent, with top-15s in five of his last seven starts, including T6 at the Open Championship with a record-breaking 62 on Saturday. He's trending well here, with posts of 36-65-23-17-10 in five trips. Statistically, he doesn't seem to agree with the course, but they don't agree with most places and he's the 32nd-ranked player in the world. He won't be on my team, but another top-20 could be in the cards.
- Bill Haas  -- His form has fallen off since his surprising T5 at the U.S. Open, and Haas has just two top-20 finishes in seven trips to Akron. Solid approach game, but he just doesn't look the part this season. Fade.
- Dustin Johnson  -- Start dilemma No. 2 – only two runs left with DJ, and I'll try to talk myself out of using one this week. Here we go... he had never sniffed the top-10 at Firestone before winning last year. He hasn't been the same since his fall in April. He's playing three straight weeks in a different country, and the travel might bother him. Convinced to bench him? Neither am I. His WGC record is amazing, with five wins, including both WGC events this season. He still leads the Tour in Driving Distance and SGTee, and he sits third in SGApproach, primarily because he hasn't hit anything more than a sand wedge from a fairway in the last five years. T8 at the Canadian Open last week with four rounds in the 60s was solid. Is he all the way back? Not sure... but with the PGA Championship next week and the FedEx Cup playoffs around the corner, I might just save the start here and cross my fingers.
- Marc Leishman  -- Nothing worse than T34 in his last seven starts, and he jumped to 28th in the OWGR after his T6 at the Open Championship, where he beat everyone in the field on the weekend with 66-65. The stats are all there – he hits the ball long, plays par fours well, and ranks in the top-50 on Tour in Shots Gained from the Tee, on the Approach, and on the Green. He finished T3 here in 2014, but has carded all eight rounds since at par or worse. If you are chasing and want to take a player who will have less than six percent ownership, Leish is your guy.
- Rory McIlroy  -- He came Roring [see what I did there?] back to life with a T4 at the Open Championship following a few rollercoaster months. That's nice, but his course history is downright flithy. In his last five trips to this event, Rors has gone home with 9-6-5-27-WIN. He didn't play here the last two seasons, but who cares? We all know what his game looks like when he's on, and I don't think the firing of his longtime caddy and the addition of his best friend on the bag will make much difference. How long until Bones joins Team Rors? Anyway... I'm not going to run out of starts here, and he is simply too talented and too good on this course to bench. Rory has at least one win every season since 2009... this could be the week to extend his streak. No. golfrhymes
- Louis Oosthuizen  -- He does have two top-10s here [2010 and 2012] but Oosty hasn't had recent success at Firestone and looked out of sorts at the Open Championship after a long layoff. He's classy, but so is everyone else here. I'll stay away.
- Patrick Reed  -- He found some form a few months back and doesn't want to lose it... this will be Reed's eighth straight week on the course. Unreal. That said, five of the seven have been top-20s and the other two were MC. His T3 here in 2014 included a 65 on Sunday, but he hasn't found success since. My gut says no this week... and statistically, my gut is right. However, you never know when Reed will pop to the top. He has become wildly unpredictable and that's no good for Yahoo!
- Adam Scott  -- Speaking of unpredictable, how's this? In 14 attempts at Firestone, Scott has never finished between 15th-35th. Every year, he's either on the first page or near the last. The 2011 Champion has four other top-10s here, but he completely flakes out sometimes and doesn't contend at all. Recent form? 31-10-MC-35-22 in his last five starts. Meh. Stats? 16th in SGApproach and 21st in Driving Distance, but he isn't a great par four scorer and he's a disaster around and on the green. This seems to line up as the year where he finally finishes T24.
- Jhonattan Vegas  -- He won last week. Excellent. He missed five straight weekends before that. Telling. No course history? Fade.
- Gary Woodland  -- I want to believe his T4 last week was the start of his grand comeback and that he'll win the PGA Championship for his wife and newborn, but I can't gamble on that. T19 in 2014 was his best finish in three tries here. Some numbers look great - 13th in SGApproach, 15th in Driving Distance. So why is he only 59th in Par Four Scoring? Putting. SGPutting? 164th on Tour. Horrid. Notorious non-elite putters like Justin Rose and Adam Scott have done well here, but I just don't think Woodland rises to the head of the class yet. Yet.
- Paul Casey  -- I feel like this enters the preview every week, but Casey has won twice since 2011. In fact, he has finished in the top-10 a measly 10 times in his last 142 tournaments. His resume is peppered with good WGC finishes, but he hasn't hit the top-10 here since 2008. Flip the coin and he's fifth on Tour in Par Four Scoring and eighth in SGApproach this season. That's fantastic, but he just can't win. If you want Kucharian consistency, Casey is probably your guy. If you want to win, look elsewhere.
- Kevin Chappell  -- His last five work weeks have been topsy-turvy, with results of 4-23-MC-MC before a final round 71 sunk him to T8 last week. Like most weeks, he just has to make a few putts to contend. A guy who ranks 29th in Driving Distance and 31st in SGApproach should be better than 104th in Scoring Average. That little flatstick sinks Chaps more often than not, as he sits 187th in SGPutting. Mercy. He finished T3 last year in his first trip and posted 69-67 on a tough scoring weekend. Top-30? Probably. Win? Nope.
- Charley Hoffman  -- At age 40, he's playing the best golf of his life. P2 last week gives him three top-10s in his last five starts, and he now ranks 10th on Tour in SGTee. In four tries at Firestone, he has finished between 22nd-37th in all of them. He crushes par fours, and the only thing keeping me from deeming him an automatic play is his complete lack of success at WGC events. Again, he's throwing fastballs now, and so I'll overlook course history just this once to endorse the Hoff.
- Kevin Kisner  -- Kis has nothing better than T44 in his last four starts after running roughshod through the first part of the schedule. His movement of 37-16 at Firestone is good, but I need a top-10 to actually call it a trend. He doesn't hit the ball far, but absolutely everything else is lovely. 20th in SGApproach, 34th in Par Four Scoring, 41st in SGTee and SGPutting. I only have two starts left, but I'm strongly considering burning one because he doesn't have much history of success in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and I like him as a low-owned option.
- Matt Kuchar  -- Seven trips to Firestone with T27 as his worst showing. Kooch was on absolute fire until his T32 last week after the letdown from the Open Championship. How will he respond this week on a track that he loves? No clue. He's not a long hitter, but pretty solid everywhere else. 19th in Par Four Scoring is impressive, but I don't think playing four straight weeks with a Major disappointment in there is going to help him. But he loves this course... Fantasy golf is hard.
- Hideki Matsuyama  -- I'm not sure why Matsuyama hasn't had more success here. He won the HSBC Champions last October, but he doesn't have another top-10 in 16 WGC events. Since his historic run during the 2016-17 wraparound, he has only cracked the top-10 in one of his last 10 starts. Still elite and now the No. 3 player in the world, his statistics line up gloriously at Firestone, where he has posted 21-12-37-42, but like some others, it comes down to the putter. He ranks second in Par Four Scoring, 26th in Driving Distance and 180th in SGPutting. Hideki has been a FedEx Cup Playoffs stud the last few years, so if I don't use him this week, I'll have plenty of chances.
- Phil Mickelson  -- Phil finished in the top-10 in each of the tournament's first four editions [1999-2002] but has posted just two top-20s in his 14 tries since. That's all I need to know. Fade.
- Francesco Molinari  -- Form has faded, no top-10s in six attempts at Firestone. Out.
- Justin Rose  -- Rose has played only five times since the Masters, with just 65-12-MC-4-54 to show for it. Of course, all five were huge events, but he still has only four top-three finishes in his last 36 events. His prime might be fading away. However, he loves this tournament – five top-five finishes and many other solid years is a healthy history. His T46 after an opening 69 last year was his worst showing ever at Firestone. His game off the tee has been excellent, but his below average approach and putting statistics are worrisome. Course history might push me to roster Rose, but I'm not thrilled about it.
- Jordan Spieth  -- Here's the choice that could cost me a ton of points down the stretch if I'm wrong. One dance left with Jordan this season... where to use it? He doesn't have much history at Quail Hollow, so I'm not counting on him at the PGA. He doesn't have rocket fire history in the Deutsche Bank/Dell Technologies event, and the other two FedEx Cup tournaments rotate courses. In short, I'd either use him here or at the Tour Championship, where he's been a straight stud. Nobody hits fairways at Firestone, so his poor driving accuracy isn't a concern. Leads the Tour in SGApproach, Par Four Scoring, and Scoring Average, and he's second in GIR and seventh in SGT2G. Not many can win three starts in a row, but Spieth is quickly becoming an all-time great, and he just turned 24. I'll make the final call Wednesday night on Twitter, but I'm leaning toward taking the last dance this week.
- Justin Thomas  -- He finished T33 a year ago in his only start here and he MC the last three tournaments he pegged it at. The numbers are incredible, but I don't trust him. I'm probably making a huge mistake, but I'll fade without much analysis.
- Bubba Watson  -- Seven trips to Firestone [seems to be a common number] have resulted in 21-22-19-27-37-2-14. Not great, not bad. He's 13th on Tour in Driving Distance, but everything else has been ugly. This will be five straight weeks playing golf for Bubba, primarily because he needs FedEx Cup points. Too many good options to think he'll find it all of a sudden and win.
- Daniel Berger  -- I think Berger could become a big star on Tour. His last five starts have gone for WIN-MC-2-5-27, and I don't care what the field looks like, that's extraordinary. This tournament, however, requires history and good vibes, neither of which Berger has. Remember, he hit one shot here last year and WD with an alleged shoulder injury. Why? Everyone who teed it up at all received a minimum 50k in prize money. Berger took a lot of heat for that, but is that reason enough to fade him? No... I just like other golfers better.
- Rafa Cabrera Bello  -- When half of your last eight starts are top-four finishes, I'm interested. When three of them are the Players Championship [T4], the Open Championship [T4] and the Irish Open [WIN], I'm downright tickled. He's always been known as a ball-striker, but this year he leads the Tour in SGPutting. His only trip here was in 2012 when he finished T29, and that keeps him off my team this week. Otherwise, I'd be all-in.
- Jason Dufner  -- His see-saw season continues... last six starts have resulted in 13-MC-WIN-MC-MC-14. He does have two top-10 finishes in four tries here, but those were 2012-13. Fifth on Tour in Par Four Scoring, 19th in SGApproach, but is that enough for a guy who sits 103rd in Driving Distance? Probably not... I'm betting on a top-25 finish, but nothing more.
- Ross Fisher  -- Fisher has played well of late, but he hasn't teed it up at Firestone since 2010 and never finished higher than T43 in three tries. Nope.
- Tommy Fleetwood  -- He's so hot that his T27 at the Open Championship was a severe letdown, but his opening 76 was probably nerves and he played brilliantly the other three rounds. His tee-to-green game is fantastic, and that works at Firestone. Why am I fading him from Yahoo! this week? No course history, and rookies don't win here.
- Sergio Garcia  -- His form has been good, not great, since the Masters. History has been good, not great, since 1999; just two top-10 finishes in 15 tries. Sergio is second on Tour in SGTee and 11th in Par Four Scoring, but again, like most, he needs to make a few putts. 174th in SGPutting won't cut it. He's definitely in my top-4 'C' players... could go either way.
- Brian Harman  -- He's tied for 11th on Tour with Sergio in Par Four Scoring, but he'll be playing them from farther back, as he ranks 125th in Driving Distance. T65 in his only trip here. I don't see this being his week.
- Russell Henley  -- In three tries, he's gone 27-41-17, which about matches his recent form. You'll see a lot about him being a Par Four Specialist, and he does rank 19th in the category, but this is an event for the big boys and I don't think he's there yet.
- Zach Johnson  -- ZJ is proof that the bunters can hang here, too. He's 141st in Driving Distance, which is normal. His other stats don't look great. But... he has played this event 13 times and has only finished outside the top-25 four times. His T5-T14 run at the John Deere/Open Championship shows he plays well at places he plays well [get it?] no matter his form. He plays well here. I'll let you decide if you trust that.
- Si Woo Kim  -- He's been a mess since winning The Players Championship, going MC-WD-13-MC-MC-MC. First-timer at Firestone. He's going to be a fantastic player. He isn't going to be on my team this week.
- Brooks Koepka  -- We all know of his Major Championship form, but he has also been a solid WGC performer. His T6 here two years ago featured four rounds in the 60s in his first attempt. Koepka WD last year with an ankle injury, but that means nothing this week. He has stepped up in class and so I don't care about the stats. Run him out there with confidence.
- Alex Noren  -- The No. 9 player in the world is a mixed bag over his last 10 starts; 5-MC-31-10-WIN-15-MC-10-MC-6. He's another Swedish star who hasn't played here before, and he doesn't hit the ball long enough to have short irons into the long par fours. I'll fade this week.
- Thomas Pieters  -- Here's another budding star who isn't in great form, but he hits the ball a mile. No experience here, but I could see a Koepka-like top-10 as a rookie. Top-30 finishes in all five WGC events he has played is impressive. He won't be on my Yahoo! team, but he's a DFS darling this week at a cheap price.
- Jon Rahm  -- Nothing fazes him. T3 at the WGC event in Mexico this year, followed by a runner-up brilliant performace in the Match Play means he's WGC-ready. His numbers are off the charts; third in SGTee, fourth in SGApproach and 59th in SGPutting. I don't care that he's a rookie here because he's a star already. This will be another last-minute call.
- Charl Schwartzel  -- His form has been a toss-up, but he does have two top-10s here in the last three years. If I didn't have a few I liked in front of him, I'd take a long look at Charl. He's seventh on Tour in SGPutting, but that might not matter much this weekend. In the last few months, he's been horrid off the tee. I love course history, and he has it, but I'll pass.
- Kyle Stanley  -- Form has faded, and has only played here once, posting T16 in 2012. Fifth in SGTee, Sixth in SGApproach and 11th in Par Four Scoring is excellent, though. Same as Schwartzel, if I could pick five 'C' players, he would be on the team. I can't.
- Henrik Stenson  -- This will be an incredibly difficult call. Stenson has the history here; 2-19-6 in his last three trips to Akron. He seems to have found his form again after going dead broke a few months back. When he sees the weekend, he contends, and there is no cut here. Class is class, and Stenson is still the No. 8 player in the world. I'll wrestle with this until I go to bed Wednesday. It's Rahm, Stenson and Koepka for two spots.
2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Yahoo! roster
*denotes First Round Starter
- A – Rickie Fowler* and Rory McIlroy
- B – Jordan Spieth*, Justin Rose*, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Kisner
- C – Henrik Stenson* and Brooks Koepka
Rain might screw this whole tournament up, but I’ll look at the weather late Wednesday and make a final decision. I’m still up in the air on a few players, but the roster above is my gut feeling.
There is no cut this weekend, so short of someone pulling a Berger, everyone plays four rounds. As I said above, stars win this tournament, and I’m expecting the winner to come from the eight names above. Who would I bet on? Rickie or Rory.
Good luck this week!
Hit me up at @commishjoe on Twitter with questions, comments or emotional outbursts. Follow along for last-minute changes. If you aren’t a GNN Plus member, sign up today! $10 for the year! It cost me $10 to see Despicable Me 3 with my kids last Sunday! Good luck!