When the title defense for some golfers rolls around, it seems like they just won the tournament. This phenomenon is usually due to the absence of other success since. However, for Jason Day at the RBC Canadian Open, you’re excused if it feels like it’s been longer than 12 months since he lifted the trophy at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario. And for good reason. His one-stroke victory during which he walked off with three consecutive birdies – he played holes 16-18 in bogey-free 10-under for the week – including a tournament-clinching beauty from just inside 22 feet on the 72nd hole, ignited a fairy tale. The Aussie went on to win his first major (2015 PGA Championship) and another five events since, all the while scaling to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking where he currently presides.
The long-term future of Glen Abbey, which is one of Jack Nicklaus’ earliest designs and first hosted Canada’s national championship in 1977, is for the land to be developed for commercial and residential purposes. When or even if it happens is still years away, but the tournament will be conducted here again in 2017. While it’s an unusual position for any site worthy of hosting the world’s best golfers, it hasn’t prevented upgrades to the property. In fact, what the field finds this week will be the conclusion of a weather-induced transition that began prior to last year’s edition when only eight of the greens featured bentgrass. The remaining 10 that were still lain with Poa were converted to bent after the tournament. All 97 bunkers were also improved and filled with new sand.
Perhaps most attractive is that, as this season’s only bridge between The Open Championship and PGA Championship, Glen Abbey is a scorable par 35-37=72, so grinding will be at a minimum this week. After it was renovated before the 2004 edition, it played as a par 71 in 2004 and 2008, but it’s been a par 72 since (2009, 2013, 2015). Last year’s field averaged 71.211 and converted 82 eagles, most on any course since 2008. That’s a fact aided by four par 5s (Nos. 2, 13, 16 and 18) and a field size of 156, but seven of those eagles didn’t occur on a par 5.
Day overpowered Glen Abbey and proved why hitting fairways isn’t necessary to succeed. He ranked T73 in driving accuracy for the week and second in distance of all drives. And although he finished T36 in greens in regulation, the Aussie connected on half of his 46 chances to break par with his world-class feel, ranking fourth in strokes gained: putting. A similar formula will contend again this week, but at just 7,253 yards with a plethora of scoring opportunities, Glen Abbey caters to all skill sets.
Unseasonably warm weather is in store until a mild cooling arrives on Sunday. Daytime highs will reach into the 90s during the first three rounds. As the mercury rises, so will the threat for rain and thunderstorms. Winds are forecast to be moderate as the energy moves through.
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's events. Look for the following features later this week:
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone (Glen Abbey GC)
THURSDAY: Most-picked players
* = Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.