By Tom LaMarre
Once again, Dustin Johnson has something to prove.
And even if DJ can successfully defend his title this week in the 52nd RBC Canadian Open http://www.hgcc.ca at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, that won’t get it done.
For much of this decade, DJ was considered the most talented player on the PGA Tour and in recent years, after being looked at as something of an underachiever because of his failure in majors, he rose to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and held that spot for a total of 91 weeks.
Now, however, his good friend Brooks Koepka holds the top spot after winning four of the last six major championships heading toward his title defense next week at Pebble Beach.
Even before anyone else considered Koepka for the No. 1 spot, he had his eyes on it.
In a conversation with Johnson two years ago, Koepka reportedly asked is friend: “Yo, bro, do you want to come to my party?”
Johnson responded: “What party?”
Koepka: “The party I’m going to throw when I become No. 1 in the world.”
Johnson, with a laugh: “Not as long as I’m alive, you’re not.”
DJ probably isn’t laughing now.
With majors being the measuring stick for many in the golf world, the thinking seems to be that Koepka currently is the best in the game since he holds a 4-1 edge over Johnson when it comes to Grand Slam titles.
In Johnson’s favor, he has 20 PGA Tour victories, including at least one in every season since 2008, while Koepka has six.
Koepka also will be in the field this week at Canada, along with Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Danny Willett, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Canadians Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes.
Hamilton Golf and Country Club has hosted the Canadian Opens five times previously, the first in 1919, when Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet were in the field as J. Douglas Edgar coasted to a 16-stroke victory, a PGA Tour record that still stands as the largest in history.
Other winners of the Canadian Open at Hamilton include Tommy Armour (1930), Bob Tway (2003), Jim Furyk (2006) and Scott Piercy (2012).
Even if Johnson repeats this week and regains the No. 1 ranking, it won’t convince everyone that he is the best. He’ll have a better chance if he does it next week at Pebble Beach.
- Dustin Johnson, United States – DJ has been very good north of the border, finishing in the top 10 four times, including ties for second in 2013 and 2016, before claiming the Canadian Open title by three strokes last year. Johnson has seven top-10 finishes this year, including a victory in the WGC-Mexico and seconds in the Masters and the PGA.
- Brooks Koepka, United States – The top-ranked player in the world is playing for the first time since repeating as champion in the PGA Championship, warming is up for his title defense in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next week. Koepka is making his third start in the Canadian Open, having tied for 18th in 2015 before missing the cut last year.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Continuing to live up to his claim that he will play more on the PGA Tour this season, Rory is making his tournament debut in the RBC Canadian Open. McIlroy has recorded nine top-10s, including a victory in the Players and a second in the WGC-Mexico this season, but missed the cut last week in the Memorial.
- Sergio Garcia, Spain – The Spaniard missed the cut in the Masters and the PGA, but in other recent events he tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo, was second in the Zurich with Tommy Fleetwood and tied for fifth in the WGC-Dell Match Play. Garcia was third in Canada in 2000, tied for fifth in 2001, but didn’t return until last year and missed the cut.
- Matt Kuchar, United States – The FedEx Cup points leader has two victories on the PGA Tour this season in addition to finishing second in the RBC Heritage and the WGC-Dell Match Play, plus a tie for eighth in the Masters and a tie for 12th in the PGA. Kooch has posted five top-10 finishes in the Canadian Open, including a tie for second in 2013.
- Jason Dufner, United States – Duf has played his best golf of the season lately, tying for seventh in the Memorial Tournament last week and after he tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo. He is making his fourth start in the RBC Canadian Open, but the first since 2009, when he took the lead with a second-round 63 before finishing in a tie for third.
- Sung Kang, South Korea – Might have run out of gas last week when he missed the cut in the Memorial, but in his two previous events Kang claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the AT&T Byron Nelson and tied for seventh in the PGA Championship. The two-time winner in Korea has missed the cut four straight times in the Canadian Open.
- Webb Simpson, United States – The 2012 PGA champion is playing some of his best golf this season, with eight results in the top 25 this season, including a tie for fifth in the Masters and solo third in the RSM Classic. Simpson tied for 16th in the 2009 Canadian Open, his best finish in three starts, but has not played north of the border since 2010.
- Scott Piercy, United States – The 2012 Canadian Open champion has recorded six finishes in the top 10 this season, including a tie for second in the AT&T Byron Nelson and a tie for third in the RBC Heritage. Piercy opened with a 62 in his victory in Canada seven years ago before holding off Robert Garrigus and William McGirt by one shot.
- Corey Conners, Canada – Having the best season among the Canadians on the PGA Tour, Conners finished second in the Sanderson Farms Championship, tied for third in the Sony Open and then claimed his first victory in the Valero Texas Open in April. Has not played well at home, missing the cut four times in his five Canadian Open starts.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Justin Thomas, United States; Ryan Palmer, United States; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Bud Cauley, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland.
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand – A 10-time winner in Asia and Europe, Aphibarnrat had T-3 in WGC-Mexico, T-5 in Byron Nelson and T-17 in Memorial.
- Kyoung-Hoon Lee, South Korea – Was among leaders before closing 79 left him in T-39 in Memorial. Three-time winner in Asia has two top-10s on PGA Tour this year.
- Jake Knapp, United States – In the last two months, Knapp won Mackenzie Tour Canada School-West and Canada Life Open to earn his spot in the RBC Canadian Open.
- Paul Barjon, France – By claiming his second victory on the Mackenzie Tour Canada last week, the circuit’s leading money winner earned a spot in the RBC Canadian Open.
- Michael Thomson, United States – Hasn’t been heard from much since winning 2014 Honda Classic, but T-14 in the Memorial came after four top-10 results earlier this year.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html