Wow. What a weekend of golf at Royal Troon for The Open Championship. Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson played about as well as two players could, both putting up incredible 63s in separate days during the tournament.
This week the PGA Tour comes back to North America to Oakville, Ontario, for the RBC Canadian Open. It is the third-oldest running PGA Tournament behind last week’s Open Championship and the U.S. Open. While the tournament rotates sites, it is played most often at Glen Abbey Golf Course, which is the location this week. It was also at Glen Abbey last year, where Jason Day beat Bubba Watson by a single stroke to win at 17 under par.
Despite it being right after The Open and right before the PGA Championship — the fourth major, which is moved up from August this year due to the Olympics — the Canadian Open has a strong field headlined by World Nos. 1 and 2 Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. These guys typically play in this tournament and it does have some prestige, but they will also have one eye toward next week’s Major.
Stats for the Canadian Open
The last several weeks, I haven’t been able to post my usual statistical table because we just haven’t had sufficient course data. And while this tournament isn’t at Glen Abbey every year, it has been there enough for us to have enough data to analyze.
In surveying Glen Abbey data, we’ll look at how golfers in three salary tiers have performed historically and how DFS production has been impacted by above-average Tour marks in four statistics: Adjusted Round Score (Adj Rd Score), Driving Distance (DD), Greens in Regulation, (GIR), and Driving Accuracy (DA). Here are the Plus/Minus baselines (per our Trends tool):
$9,000 and higher: +16.45
$7,000 to $8,900: -0.81
$7,000 and lower: +7.71
Right away we see the huge disparities, as the studs in this tournament — notably the top-two finishers in Day and Bubba last year — have historically performed very well coming out of The Open. Likewise, the lower-salaried golfers have historically performed well here, suggesting that a stars-and-scrubs approach may be optimal.
Here’s how each tier has performed with above-average marks in the statistical categories mentioned above. The first table is conditionally formatted together. The second is formatted by salary tier.
Which Stats Are Important This Week?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A distance golfer and ball striker walk into a course . . .
As we’ve seen many weeks in a row at this point, Glen Abbey sets up really well for ball strikers. Last week we saw the benefits of relying on course fit and taking ball strikers: Henrik Stenson was far and away the top-rated golfer in our Player Models for GIR. Glen Abbey definitely isn’t Royal Troon, but it does seem to emphasize similar play.
However, guys with distance don’t seem to be penalized as much as they have been in previous weeks. Especially for the top- and lower-end salaries, golfers with above-average DD marks were still very positive and saw a jump from baseline. Bubba is the ultimate example here, and if his success last year at Glen Abbey was any indication perhaps golfers (and DFS players) can get it done here in a variety of ways.
While the lower-end golfers saw a jump from baseline when boasting above-average GIR marks, by far the biggest jump was with Long-Term Adj Rd Score. This is very important. After last week, it can seem like course fit is the only thing that matters, along with not getting an awful draw with the weather. And while course fit did prove to be very important, it only relatively matters: A golfer with good course fit but a low Adj Rd Score doesn’t perform as well as a golfer with an above-average mark, as Adj Rd Score is our best all-in-one statistical proxy for golfer talent.
This isn’t incredibly groundbreaking or anything, but it does bring up a key point that we often miss: We shouldn’t roster bad golfers, even if they are in good situations.
Don’t Roster Bad Golfers
Even if bad golfers are perfect fits for the course or even if they have perfect narratives going into the week, Adj Rd Score should largely dictate our decisions and be the starting point of all research: Is this guy a good golfer, as measured by Adj Rd Score? Yes? — great, now move on to course fit. No? — move on to a different golfer.
Perhaps this is the easiest way to size up each week in PGA DFS: How many golfers under $7,000 have above-average Adj Rd Scores? Last week we had a lot — a whopping 19 players in that range with above-average marks in both LT and Recent Adj Rd Score — and so we could afford to pay up for the Stensons or even the Dustin Johnsons and Jason Days. If there are very few inexpensive golfers with above-average Adj Rd Scores, you should perhaps have a more balanced lineup approach in cash games.
Salaries are not yet out for this week’s RBC Canadian Open, but jump into the models and check them out when they’re released this afternoon. And remember: Talent first, then course fit.