Matt Kuchar is a man who you think would never let anyone down. He was scheduled to play in the Canadian Open this week but probably never thought he would have just taken part in one of the most amazing events in golf major championship history. Kuchar had one hand on the Claret Jug during the final round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last Saturday but then Jordan Spieth played four holes in five under par!
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When this article was being written on Tuesday Kuchar appeared in the betting for the Canadian Open as the second favourite behind Dustin Johnson. He had to travel from Southport in England to Ontario in Canada so surely Kuchar is not a man to back this week. He did everything but win the Open and Spieth in the context of the moment had to play arguably the best four holes in the history of the sport to beat him.
It is often said that a player who contends in a major will be so mentally frazzled the following week that you should not back him with somebody else’s money. Kuchar was on the cusp of greatness and immortality after 13 holes of the fourth round at Birkdale and then Spieth went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie. The Open champion is the second youngest player in the history of the sport after Jack Nicklaus to win three different majors. If he wins the USPGA Championship he becomes just the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam.
Kuchar did nothing wrong as the Open reached its climax. He kept his composure during the episode on the 13th hole which saw Spieth take 20 minutes to take a shot after a discussion about where he could play from after declaring an unplayable lie. Spieth got away with a bogey and there was then a momentum shift. Kuchar went from one in front to two behind without doing much wrong. Mental letdown must affect his chances in Canada this week and he has to be opposed.
Dustin Johnson is the favourite for the Canadian Open but he is also travelling from Merseyside to the Glen Abbey host course. He was on the periphery of the leader board all week at Birkdale but a double bogey on the first hole of his final round was one mistake too many. Johnson is not ideally suited to the host course which puts a premium on accuracy over distance. He can’t be backed with any confidence this week and at a much bigger price a chance should be taken on Tony Finau. He played all four rounds in the Open and is a top 10 player for greens in regulation.
Finau had a decent Open without feeling the heat of competition. He finished tied 27th at one over and any major played around level par is a good effort. Travelling will also be an issue but he didn’t have an intense Open and made the cut in the most prestigious tournament in the world. The Glen Abbey course should be right up his street, especially playing approach shots into the small greens. Finau can apply his iron play talents and contend in Canada this week.
The European Tour’s stop this week is Hamburg for the European Open. The host course called Green Eagle is a monster at 7,831 yards. The headline player is Patrick Reed who missed the cut at the Open but Charl Schwartzel is more suited to the course. The South African was at four under after the first round of the Open but four over following his second 18 holes. Schwartzel was one over for both rounds at the weekend so he eventually had a solid Open over the four days. Long driving is his forte so Schwartzel looks tailor made for this week’s test in Germany.
There is a lull in proceedings over the next two weeks but then it’s the USPGA Championship, the final major of the season. Spieth’s confidence must be sky high and if the celebrations don’t continue for too long he must have a great chance of joining the five players who have won each of the majors at least once.
Back next Thursday.