10 Players to Watch: RBC Canadian Open

1. Jason Day, Australia — Coming off another near miss in a major championship, a tie for fourth in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, the Aussie will try to build on that if he can shake off any effects of jetlag. Day posted his sixth top-10 finish in a Grand Slam event over the past three years, and he will be one of the favorites in the PGA Championship in three weeks at Whistling Straits. Day is making his third start in the RBC Canadian Open, his first since 2009. He has not performed well in the tournament, tying for 48th in 2008 and finishing 52nd the next year, both at Glen Abbey, where he shot 7-under-par 65 in his first round on the course.

2. Jim Furyk, United States — The man with the funky swing is making his 11th appearance in the RBC Canadian Open, and he claimed two of his 17 PGA Tour victories in the tournament. In 2006, Furyk opened with a 9-under-par 63 and closed with a 63 to win by one stroke over Bart Bryant at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The next year, he finished with a 64 to win by a shot over Vijay Singh at Angus Glen. Last year, Furyk almost made it three titles in Canada, taking the lead into the final round before Tim Clark of South Africa beat him by one with five birdies down the stretch. Furyk is trying to compete the one-season RBC double, having won the RBC Heritage in a playoff in April.

3. Bubba Watson, United States — Bubba will try to bounce back from a missed cut in the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews, only the second time he missed the last two rounds this season, the other coming in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. His victories in the WBC-HSBC Champions and the Travelers, giving him eight in his PGA Tour career, have him sitting third in the FedEx Cup standings with the playoffs starting late next month. Watson is making his sixth start in the RBC Canadian Open, but he has played well only twice north of the border, tying for 14th in his first trip in 2006 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and tying for 21st two years ago at Glen Abbey.

4. Matt Kuchar, United States — Kuchar does not have his normal quota of top-10 finishes this season, only three to give him more than 60 since 2008, but the RBC Canadian Open might be a place to increase that total. He tied for second two years ago at Glen Abbey, where the tournament will be played this week, finishing one stroke behind Brandt Snedeker, when he followed a third-round 64 with a 71. Last year at Royal Montreal, Kuchar closed with a 64 to tie for fourth. Kuchar’s best results this season were not bad, a tie for second in the Humana Challenge, a tie for third in the Sony Open in Hawaii and solo fifth in the RBC Heritage, but he is due for a big effort.

5. J.B. Holmes, United States — Well-rested after he missed the cut in the Open Championship, Holmes should be ready to get back on track in the RBC Canadian Open, which he is playing for the third time overall and the first time since 2012. He tied for 15th in 2012 at Hamilton Country Club, sliding out of the top 10 with a closing 71, after tying for 16th the year before at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver. Holmes is enjoying a productive year, with his fourth PGA Tour victory in the Shell Houston Open and runner-up finishes in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the Farmers Insurance Open. He is 10th in the FedEx Cup rankings with the playoffs approaching.

6. Scott Piercy, United States — Trying to back up his third PGA Tour victory last week in the Barbasol Championship, Piercy will tee it up for the third time in the RBC Canadian Open, a tournament he won three years ago at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. In 2012, he took the lead with four birdies early in the final round and then two-putted from 50 feet on the final hole to finish with a 3-under-par 67, beating William McGirt and Robert Garrigus by one stroke. Last week in the inaugural Barbasol, he posted four rounds in the 60s to win by three shots over Will Wilcox after coming close early in the season when he finished second in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

7. Luke Donald, England — The former No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings seems to be getting back to his old form with a tie for seventh in the Travelers Championship last month and a tie for 12th last week in the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews, where a 73 in the third round kept him from a top-10 finish. Donald was the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year in 2011, but he hasn’t won since the 2012 Transitions Championship. He is too good for this to go on for much longer. Donald is making his seventh start in the RBC Canadian Open, and his best result was a tie for 17th in 2011 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, but he has missed the cut as he slumped the last two years.

8. Tim Clark, South Africa — After missing the 144th Open Championship last week because he couldn’t get a visa, Clark will defend his title this week in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey. He claimed the second victory on the PGA Tour last year at Royal Montreal, when he made five birdies on the last eight holes to beat two-time tournament champion Jim Furyk by one stroke. The 39-year-old South African is playing in the tournament for the fourth time, having missed the cut in 2002 at Angus Glen and tied for 15th in 2012 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, where he shot 62 in round two. Clark has been limited to eight events this season because of a nagging left elbow injury.

9. Graham DeLaet, Canada — With Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, taking a leave of absence from the PGA Tour, DeLaet and David Hearn will lead the Canadians carrying the Maple Leaf flag in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey. DeLaet is playing in his national championship for the sixth time, and he posted his best result last year, a tie for seventh at Royal Montreal. He shot 63 in the second round but closed with a 70 to fall out of the top 10. He posted his best finish of the season a few weeks ago when he finished solo fourth in the Travelers Championship, shooting 64 in round three, and he hopes to have more of the same for the home folks.

10. Carl Pettersson, Sweden — The burly Swede claimed the fourth of his five PGA Tour victories in the 2010 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto, and he completed the RBC double two years later when he captured the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town. He holed a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole on Friday at St. George’s to make the cut on the number and came back with a tournament-record 60 the next day, when his birdie putt on the 18th hole for 59 lipped out. Pettersson closed with a 67 to hold off Dean Wilson by one stroke. His solo fifth in the Travelers Championship last month got him into the 144th Open Championship, but he missed the cut on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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