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2017 RBC Canadian Open: 10 players to watch, picks to win

By
Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange

1. Dustin Johnson, United States

Dustin Johnson reacts on the 5th tee on Day two at the 146th Open Championship. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
DJ finally played like the No. 1 player in the world he is when he shot 6-under-par 64 in round three of the Open Championship last week to climb into contention at Royal Birkdale. Then he closed with an ugly 77 that included only one birdie and plummeted 47 spots on the leaderboard to a tie for 57th. Johnson, who won three straight tournaments earlier this season, has not come all the way back from a back injury that knocked him out of the Masters. He lost his lead in the FedExCup point standings to Open winner Jordan Spieth, but will try to get it back when he makes his fifth appearance in the RBC Canadian Open this week. Johnson came close to winning the tournament twice at Glen Abbey, including last year, when he finished one stroke back in a tie for second when Jhonattan Vegas birdied the last three holes. In 2013, he shot 9-under 63 in the third round but also tied for second, three shots behind Brandt Snedeker.

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2. Matt Kuchar, United States

Matt Kuchar hits out of the rough on the 4th hole on the final day of the 146th Open Championship. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
"Kooch" will try to shake off his disappointment from finishing second to Jordan Spieth in the Open Championship last week when he plays in the RBC Canadian Open for the 11th time. He held the lead by one stroke after 13 holes in the final round at Royal Birkdale, but Spieth simply ran him over with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie run. Kuchar has finished in the top 10 each of the last four years and five times in all in Canada, including a tie for second three strokes behind Brandt Snedeker in 2013 at Glen Abbey, and ties for fourth in 2014 at Royal Montreal and in 2010 at St. George's in Toronto. He also tied for seventh in 2015 and tied for ninth last year, both at Glen Abbey. After the best result of his career in the majors at Royal Birkdale, he has five top-10 finishes this season and has had at least that many for 10 consecutive seasons. Kuchar leads the PGA Tour with a total of 80 top 10s since 2008.
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3. Charley Hoffman, United States

Charley Hoffman lines up his putt on the 8th hole during round 3 of the 117th U.S. Open. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
After starting the 2016-17 season with three straight missed cuts, Hoffman has turned things around with five results in the top 10, including a tie for second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open last month at Erin Hills. Last week, he recorded a strong tie for 20th in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, another high finish in the majors. He also tied for 22nd in the Masters in April despite a closing 78 that dropped him from contention. Hoffman is making his seventh start in the RBC Canadian Open, with his best finish being a tie for fourth in 2010 at St. George's in Toronto, where he opened and close with 5-under-par 65s. He also tied for seventh in 2015 at Glen Abbey, playing the middle rounds in 66-69. Hoffman seemed headed for another top-10 result in 2013 at Glen Abbey, but he stumbled home with a 74 and slipped 11 spots to a tie for 16th.

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4. Brandt Snedeker, United States

Brandt Snedeker tees off on the 10th hole during round 3 of the 117th U.S. Open. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
The guy they call "Sneds" made the trip to Royal Birkdale for the 146th Open Championship, but was forced to withdraw before the start because of the latest in a series of rib injuries that has plagued him in recent seasons. After a week of rest and treatment at home in Nashville, he is back for the RBC Canadian Open, in which he claimed the sixth of his eight PGA Tour victories in 2013 at Glen Abbey, where the tournament is being played again this week. Snedeker, who is making his eighth start in the event, shot 9-under-par 63 in round three that year and finished three strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, William McGirt and Jason Bohn. He also tied for fifth both last year and in 2009 at Glen Abbey, and tied for seventh in 2007 at Angus Glen. Snedeker has four top-10 results this season, the best a solo fourth at Pebble Beach, and he also tied for ninth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

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5. Danny Lee, New Zealand

Danny Lee of New Zealand watches his drive off of the 17th tee box during the 2016 U.S. Open. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Playing this week for the first time since withdrawing after one round of the John Deere Classic last month because of shoulder and wrist injuries, Lee will have one advantage over some players in the field in the RBC Canadian Open. He didn't endure a grueling week in the Open Championship or have to make the long trip back from Royal Birkdale, so he figures to be fresh. Lee's injury came at an inopportune time, as in addition to missing a chance to tee it up in the Open, he had been playing well recently with a tie for third in the Travelers Championship, a tie for ninth in the Greenbrier Classic, and a tie for 22nd in the Quicken Loans National to give him nine finishes in the top 25 this season. He is making his fifth start in the Canadian Open, and after missing the cut the first two times, he tied for 34th and then tied for 32nd the last two years at Glen Abbey, closing with a 66 last year.

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6. Ian Poulter, England

Ian Poulter at the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
After staying in the conversation most of the way in the 146th Open Championship last week before settling for a tie for 14th, Poulter did not stick around in his home country and instead flew back to North America. This week he will be making his first career start in the RBC Canadian Open. The Englishman, whose only PGA Tour victories came in the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona and the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, has been in something of a slump over the last few years, except when he plays for Europe against the United States in the Ryder Cup, of course. Poulter has shown some signs that his game is coming back in recent months, especially when he tied for second in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, three strokes behind Si-Woo Kim of South Korea, and again when he opened with a 3-under-par 67 at Royal Birkdale. He will try to keep it going at Glen Abbey.

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7. Bubba Watson, United States

Bubba Watson chats with his caddy on the seventh green on Day two at the 146th Open Championship. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
Having lost weight and his game somewhere along the way this season, Watson hopes to find the latter this week at Glen Abbey, where he finished second the last time he played there in the 2015 RBC Canadian Open. He posted four scores in the 60s that year and finished one stroke behind Jason Day of Australia, who stole away with the victory by making birdies on the last three holes. Watson has won nine times on the PGA Tour, but not since he captured the Northern Trust Open for the second time early last year at Riviera, but despite missing the cut six times this year, including the Masters and U.S. Open, he has had his moments. He tied for fifth in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, tied for sixth in the Memorial Tournament and tied for ninth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The two-time Masters champion is simply too good to continue struggling, so perhaps this is the week he snaps out of it.

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8. Tony Finau, United States

Tony Finau chips out of the rough on the 1st hole at the 145th Open Golf Championship. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
A former contestant on "The Big Break" on the Golf Channel, Finau is coming off a tie for 27th in his second appearance in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale after tying for 18th in his debut last year at Royal Troon. He is making his third appearance in the RBC Canadian Open and tied for 22nd in his first appearance at Glen Abbey two years ago by closing with a 7-under-par 65, before struggling to a tie for 70th on the same course a year ago. The long-hitting Finau, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, is enjoying another strong season with five results in the top 10 and nine in the top 25. His best finishes were a tie for third in the Valero Texas Open, a tie for fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open, solo fifth in the Valspar Championship and a tie for seventh in the Greenbrier Classic earlier this month.

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9. Jim Furyk, United States

Jim Furyk prepares to hit a tee shot on the 2nd hole in the first round at the 2017 Masters. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Even though he didn't qualify for the Open Championship for the first time since 1995, the 47-year-old Furyk decided it was not beneath him to play in the opposite-field Barbasol Championship last week. Despite posting four scores in the 60s, he simply didn't go low enough and wound up in a tie for 35th. This week, he is playing in the RBC Canadian Open, in which he has claimed two of his 17 PGA Tour victories. In 2006, he closed with a 65 to beat Bart Bryant by one stroke at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and successfully defended his title by finishing with a 64 to best Vijay Singh of Fiji by one shot at Angus Glen. Furyk is playing in the tournament for the 13th time and also finished second in 2014 at Royal Montreal, fourth in 2015 at Glen Abbey and tied for ninth in 2013, also at Glen Abbey. His best result on the PGA Tour this season was a tie for sixth in the RSM Classic.

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10. Adam Hadwin, Canada (Dark Horse)

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Although Hadwin has struggled since winning the Valspar Championship for his first PGA Tour victory in March and tying for sixth the following week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he might be Canada's best hope to end the country's drought in the RBC Candadian Open this week. A Canadian has not won the tournament since Pat Fletcher prevailed in 1954 at Point Grey Golf Club in Vancouver. Hadwin is making his eighth start in his national open and was in the chase all the way to the finish before tying for fourth in 2011 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, two strokes out of the playoff in which Sean O'Hair defeated Kris Blanks. In 2015 at Glen Abbey, he opened with a 2-over-par 74 before reeling off scores of 67-67-68 to tie for seventh. Hadwin played very well early this season, also finishing solo second in the CareerBuilder Challenge and in a tie for 10th in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

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