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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Dustin Johnson can bounce back from Carnoustie carnage

Tony Finau can make his mark

Dustin Johnson is a class act
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Sky Sports Golf, 8pm Thursday

Tommy Fleetwood was Open Championship favourite at the halfway stage of the tournament, but ended up in a share of 12th place, so the Englishman has some disappointment to eliminate from his system before the Canadian Open.

Sergio Garcia, who missed the Open cut, has also trekked across the Atlantic for a spin at the famous Glen Abbey Club, while Kevin Kisner and Matt Kuchar tee up after finishing in the top ten at Carnoustie. US Open victor Brooks Koepka, 39th last week, is another big name in Canada, while Jhonattan Vegas, champion the last two years, is seeking to complete the hat-trick.

Palmer's top tip
Dustin Johnson 7-1
World-number-one status came under threat for Dustin Johnson after he missed the cut in the Open Championship last week, but his challengers did not do enough to overhaul him at Carnoustie and the top dog can cement his position with a first victory in the Canadian Open.

Johnson obviously failed to find top gear in Scotland, but he did not do a lot wrong, his missed cut due to making a mess of the 18th hole. A triple-bogey in round one and a double on the Friday meant five shots went on that hole. From the wrong side of an Open draw-bias over the first two days, Johnson fell short.

Had DJ found a way to sneak through to the weekend, it could easily have been him, as well as Justin Rose – who moved from the cut-line to second place – providing weekend fireworks, and it may pay to treat Johnson's missed cut with a pinch of salt. The layout was far from ideal for him and he had never competed there before.

Johnson is not a character who frets for long over failure and he tackles a Glen Abbey track this week which is much more suitable. His last three starts there have yielded finishes of second, second and eighth, and the generous fairways and challenging approaches fit his eye perfectly.

This is a tournament high on the list of priorities for Johnson, who will soon marry into a Canadian family, and his backers can expect a thoroughly professional approach to the event. This is even more the case when you consider that he signed as an ambassador for RBC, the title sponsors, in February.

Prior to the Open, Johnson was in fine fettle, having gone back to the putter which gave him most success last year and abandoning a period of experimentation with the AimPoint green-reading technique. A spectacular six-shot St Jude Classic triumph was followed by third place in the US Open, before he took a month off between Majors.

Johnson was a tight 12-1 to beat all of the elite last week on previously uncharted terrain, while he is a juicy 7-1 to beat hardly any of the elite this week on a course where he is proven.

Next best
Tony Finau 16-1
The biggest threat to Johnson-backers this week may come from another American who has lots of affection for Canada and this tournament – the increasingly confident Tony Finau.

A share of ninth place in the Open on Sunday moved Finau up to a career-high of 28 in the world rankings and he is the only player to have posted a top-ten finish in all three of the 2018 Majors. Fifth spot in the US Open was followed by 21st in the Greenbrier Classic before his jaunt to Carnoustie, where he carded four rounds of par or better.

Finau competed on the Canadian Tour in 2013 as a building block to US Tour stardom, and Glenn Abbey sets up wonderfully for him. He fired the best Sunday round (65) of the 2015 Canadian Open there and last year four rounds in the 60s meant a share of fifth place.

Other selection
Cameron Champ 66-1
Meaty wagers on Johnson and Finau are recommended, with a smaller tickle on fast-improving Californian bomber Cameron Champ. The 23-year-old has been producing awesome performances on the Tour over the last two months, compiling form figures of 11-4-7-5-8-1 with a jaw-dropping brand of power golf.

Champ won the Utah Championship last time out, averaging 391 yards off the tee, and he has already earned enough dollar to be guaranteed a place on the US Tour for next season. There is plenty of room for manoeuvre off the tee at Glen Abbey, so Champ, a total of 114 under par for his last seven tournaments, could continue his birdie barrage.

Others to note
Joaquin Niemann
The Chilean teenager has taken to the US Tour with ease, rising from 1,527th in the world to 167th in nine starts as a pro. Expect further birdies at Glen Abbey.

Keith Mitchell
The 26-year-old powerhouse has contended three times as a rookie in the last four months, and he finished seventh in the John Deere Classic last time out. Dangerman at a big price.

Bubba Watson
The mercurial left-hander was runner-up at Glen Abbey in 2015. He missed the cut in the Open, but has won three times this year and lies fourth in the FedEx Cup standings.

Chesson Hadley
The attacking Carolinian has posted 12 top-20 finishes on the US Tour this season and this is another good set-up for him.

Staking plan
D Johnson
5pts 7-1 Coral, Lads, 188bet
T Finau
2.5pts each-way 16-1 Paddy Power
C Champ
1pt each-way 66-1 BoyleSports

The lowdown

Course Glen Abbey Golf Club, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Prize money $6.2m ($1.080m to the winner)

Length 7,253 yards Par 72 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 266 Tiger Woods (2000) 18 holes 62 Leonard Thompson (1981), Andy Bean (1983), Greg Norman (1986), John Merrick (2013), Robert Garrigus (2017)

Course winners taking part Chez Reavie, Brandt Snedeker, Jhonattan Vegas (twice).

When to bet By noon Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 8pm Thursday

Time difference Canada is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Barbasol Championship 1 T Merritt (55-1), T2 B Horschel (14-1), R Werenski (40-1), T Lovelady (80-1), 5 JT Poston (45-1), 6 B Gay (28-1).

Course overview Glen Abbey was the regular port of call for the Canadian Open for the best part of two decades from 1977, but the tournament has moved around a lot more in the new millennium.

Since Tiger Woods won the 2000 edition at Glen Abbey with a record-breaking 22-under-par total, only seven further tournaments have been staged there (2004, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017). Jack Nicklaus designed the course in 1976 and his typical blueprint (generous fairways, more challenging approaches and greens) is on show.

Mark Calcavecchia set a new US Tour record for consecutive birdies in the 2009 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, making nine in a row from the 12th to the second (started his round on the tenth) on the Friday.

A creek runs through 'the valley holes' of 11-15, demanding sound strategy, but the course as a whole lends itself to a winning score in the high teens under par. The par-fives (fifth, 13th, 16th and 18th) are obvious pick-up holes.

Story of last year Jhonattan Vegas beat Charley Hoffman in a playoff, the Venezuelan successfully defending his title.

Weather forecast Clear and calm for the most part, with some sporadic and short weekend showers.

Type of player suited to challenge The last eight Glen Abbey champions have been an eclectic mix of playing styles. There is no obvious type, although the wide fairways allow big-hitters to set themselves up well on the fours and fives.

Key attribute Power

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Johnson obviously failed to find top gear in Scotland, but he did not do a lot wrong, his missed cut due to making a mess of the 18th hole
E.W. Terms
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