RBC Canadian Open: Oh, Canada

Posted by: mike July 31st, 2017

By Jeff Shain

Golf Insiders contributor

 

And so now Venezuela appears twice as frequently among the past century of winners at Canada’s national Open as anyone from the motherland.

Roll that one around for a bit.

Granted, both RBC Canadian Open wins belong to Jhonattan Vegas, whose playoff victory Sunday over Charley Hoffman made him just the third man to capture back-to-back Open titles since the end of World War II.

A Sunday 65 at Glen Abbey was good enough to pull even with Hoffman. A birdie on the second pass through No.18 sealed the repeat – even as he clipped the lip of a fairway bunker on his approach.

Good for Vegas, who snapped a run of five straight missed cuts with a triumph that jumped him into the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time in his career.

But the thought still lingers – couldn’t one Canadian win one national Open in modern times before the same Venezuelan won twice?

Hey, they might have been saying the same thing 20 years ago when Zimbabwe’s Nick Price won twice in a four-year span. Then again, Price had three major championships to his name by then, so perhaps this diversion is simply apples and hockey pucks.

But the Canadian Open certainly seems to have some hex following it.RBC Canadian Open

It has the worst date on the PGA Tour calendar, the only one flanked on both sides by a major and/or World Golf Championships event. Though RBC’s involvement has helped the event’s star power, just four of the top 40 in last week’s world rankings teed it up.

And even with that, it’s now been 63 years since Pat Fletcher last put Canada on the winner’s podium.

(The following year, Arnold Palmer made the Open his first professional victory. Or to put it another way, Mr. Palmer has won a Canadian Open more recently than a Canadian.)

No other national Open of any prominence has encountered a drought even approaching Canada dry.

The U.S. Open and Open Championship speak for themselves. Brooks Koepka is the U.S. Open’s third straight homegrown champion; both Rory McIlroy (2014) and Darren Clarke (2011) have sent British pride soaring this decade.

But that’s only where the list begins. Check these other national Opens and their most recent homegrown winners. 

  • Australian Open: Matt Jones, 2015.

  • South African Open: Brandon Stone, 2016.

  • Irish Open: McIlroy, 2014.

  • Scottish Open: Colin Montgomerie, 1999.

  • Spanish Open: Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2014.

  • French Open: Thomas Levet, 2011.

  • Italian Open: Francesco Molinari, 2016.

  • Japan Open: Hideki Matsuyama, 2016.

  • Argentine Open: Emiliano Grillo, 2014.

The German Open was discontinued more than a decade ago, but Bernhard Langer won it in 1993. The closest parallel might be the Portugal Open, a regular European Tour stop that’s never had a homegrown winner.

Then again, when was the last time a Portuguese golfer won any European Tour event?

OK, my research shows three European Tour victories by Portuguese pros, most recently in 2012. By comparison, three Canadians have won on the PGA Tour in the past 22 months.

Sure, there have been a few Canadian close calls, most cruelly in 2004. Mike Weir, less than two years removed from his Masters title, held a three-shot lead with eight holes left in the Open's centenary edition, only to fall to Vijay Singh in a playoff.

Weir had three chances to end the drought: A 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation, a 25-footer for eagle on the first extra hole and a 5-footer at the second playoff hole. He missed them all, then found the water on the third extra hole.

David Hearn led with four holes to play two years ago, but got dusted by Jason Day’s birdie/birdie/birdie finish. Amateur Jared du Toit played in last year’s final group before running out of steam.

This year, Canada’s cadre was widely thought to offer its best chance in years. Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes already were PGA Tour winners this season. Nick Taylor won in late 2015 and had three top-10s in his previous eight starts. Hearn and du Toit (now a pro) were back, as was Graeme DeLaet.

Just two made the cut at Glen Abbey. Hughes wound up as low Canadian, 11 shots behind Vegas in a share of 32nd.

Ohhhh, Canada.

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Jeff Shain is a former Orlando Sentinel golf writer, part of nearly two decades covering the sport that includes other stops at The Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina. He's also a digital contributor to PGATour.com and Pro Golf Weekly, and co-hosts the Prime Sports Golf podcast at PrimeSportsNetwork.com.