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A Misconception of History, Defending The Golf Course, and The Return of a National Championship

By now, I suspect most Canadian golf fans are aware that the RBC Canadian Open finally returns to the PGA TOUR schedule. The return couldn’t come at a better golf course: St. George’s, a Stanley Thompson masterpiece, ranked as the best golf course in the province of Ontario, and 2nd in Canada according to our Top 100 list. One of the main worries, however, is the score relative to par. After all, the Canadian Open in recent years has not exactly held up well, with Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Jhonattan Vegas combining for a whopping -66 under in the last three events split between Hamilton (2019) and Glen Abbey (2017/2018).

The same worries arrive at St. George’s, which, by no standards, is an easy golf course. It’s longer than Hamilton (7014 yards against Hamilton’s 6915), although shorter than Glen Abbey (7232). On the card, it should be considered harder than the previous two hosts: St. George’s (74.6/142 rating) is a strong golf course against Hamilton’s 74.1/136 and Abbey’s 74.7/132, mainly driven by the combination of high rating and an even higher slope rating. Granted, this has never mattered on TOUR… Justin Thomas shredded Medinah’s No. 3 course at the 2019 BMW Championship with -25, and No. 3 cards a 78.3/152 rating.

The closing stretch of St. George’s is a bruising four hole finish

History is perhaps the driving factor of the concerns for “par” holding up at St. George’s. Carl Pettersson shell-shocked the GTA with an astounding -10 round of 60 on Saturday during the 2010 playing at St. George’s, the last time the west-end private club hosted the event. Notwithstanding, people fail to realize Mr. Pettersson’s three other rounds were more than respectable at 71 (+1), 68 (-2), and 67 (-3). In fact, the golf course held up quite well. The first round low was 62 (-8), although Brent Dalahoussaye stumbled to a final score of 279 (-1) after 69, 76, 72. In fact, Brent Dalahoussaye’s 62 was only one of three sub-65 rounds day 1… not bad. Similarly, day 2 only yielded three sub-65 rounds, with a 62, 63, and a 64. Saturday is the day everyone remembers for Carl Petterrson’s 60, but there was only two other sub-65 rounds that day as well, and even more difficult, the low round on Sunday was 65. The cut was -1.

If it’s me reading the signs, St. George’s put up an excellent fight in the most-recent showing at the perennial world top 100, with nobody shooting lower than 65 twice. -14 is a respectable fight, and even more-so considering the circumstances of a soaked golf course in late July—a historically very wet part of the year for the Greater Toronto Area with high humidity.

The new date of early June is poised to be less wet, more firm, and sandwiched between The Memorial and the US Open, the RBC Canadian Open is perfectly situated in the schedule to keep the strong test of golf going for the players. Granted, the field will be much stronger than 2010. As Mary DePaoli announced at the RBC Canadian Open Media Day on Monday, Rory McIlroy, Cam Smith, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, and more are already committed. But if St. George’s is able to hold -14, I would suspect Canada would take that. That puts it in the realm of the Houston Open (-10), Farmers Insurance Open (-15), Phoenix Open (-16), Honda Classic (-10), The PLAYERS (-13), The Masters Tournament (-10), RBC Heritage (-13) this year, and if we think St. George’s is harder than Torrey Pines, Augusta National, or TPC Sawgrass, we might need to assess our expectations.

All we can ask for is proper weather and a good week and St. George’s will hold up just fine. The collection of par 4’s will surely be strong: 473, 474, 454, 449, 475, 486, 465, and with just three sub-400 yard par 4’s (one of which is the 2nd hardest hole on the golf course, per the 2010 Canadian Open), dry conditions will not yield an overall total in the low 260’s. Perhaps we wait and see, but over at Beyond The Contour, we have a good feeling about the 2022 RBC Canadian Open.

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