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Congratulations are in order for Jason Day, who won his first national open—The RBC Canadian Open—defeating Bubba Watson and company in dramatic fashion. Day birdied the 16 th and 17th holes, and then canned a 22 ft. birdie putt on the par 5 18th hole to stop a surging Bubba. Day and Watson both played the tournament like champions do, not by blowing the field away, but by hanging around until the back nine on Sunday and then taking advantage of others player's mistakes. Watson played some loose shots early in the round, carding several bogeys that turned out to be his undoing. The fact remains though, when Bubba is in the field, the chances are very high he will have a chance to win come Sunday afternoon. He will not be heartbroken over the loss, but one player who will be is David Hearn. After leading for most of the final two rounds, Hearn had a chance to become the first Canadian born winner of the Canadian Open in 50+ years, but he struggled on the very-gettable back nine and will have to wait at least a week (most likely much, much more) for his first PGA Tour win.
The tour moves to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia this week, for the Quicken Loans National. While the Quicken Loans National has been a staple on tour for the last 10 years or so, this will be the first time the RTJ Golf Club will host a PGA Tour event. That is not to say that players have not seen the course though, as the club hosted the Presidents Cup in 1994, 96', 2000 and 2005. The difference in the course this week, will be that it is playing as a par 71, as opposed to when it hosted the Presidents Cup as a par 72. The par 5 12 th hole has been shortened by around 50 yards, and will be played as a long par 4 this week. In total, the course will be stretched to 7,385 yards, with the length coming into play on several strong Par 4's.
With little to no course knowledge and previous history to go on, it will be easy to look for one of the players in the top ranked trio of Justin Rose, Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker, to come out on top. That might be a mistake though, as there is a flurry of young talent looking to make their name this week and capture their first PGA tour victory.
One of those rising stars, and my favorite of the bunch, is Will Wilcox. After a 2 nd place finish at the Barbasol Championship two weeks ago, Wilcox opted to rest last week after tweaking his wrist. Wilcox has done some damage this year in a limited amount of starts, and his stats are as good as anyone on tour. I will take a closer look into some of those stats in tomorrow's edition of “Playing The RTJ Golf Club", but for now, all you need to know is that Wilcox leads the tour in the “All-Around" category, which is the aggregate total of all major stats. His strengths match up well with what will be needed to win this week, most important of those being his ball-striking. He will be a staple in my lineups this week.
Another youngster making a name for himself this year is Tony Finau. Finau is an absolute mauler of the golf ball off the tee, but what has impressed me most is his short game. He can flat out play, and one of my favorite things about him is that he was a golf hustler in his teens. If you know anything about young players winning on tour, it is usually their fear of the big moment that keeps them from winning. As Lee Trevino once famously said “Pressure is playing for $10 when you only have $5 in your pocket, something Finau knows about intimately. He and his brother supported their burgeoning golf careers by taking money off unsuspecting country club stiffs, and later on they both appeared on Golf Channels “The Big Break". Finau has made eight top 25's in his last nine starts, which supports the theory that he is ready to break out and capture his first tour victory.
From across the pond comes a third future superstar, Andy Sullivan. Sullivan has cut his teeth on the European Tour, where he notched his first professional victory. While most Americans haven't heard much about him, Sullivan made sure to take advantage of his television time, leading the Memorial Tournament for several rounds earlier this year, before finishing in 13 th place. He has four top 20's in his last seven starts, and should thrive off the tee with the generous landing areas of the RTJ Golf Club's fairways. While he isn't a household name just yet, Sullivan is a tremendous talent and will break through on the PGA Tour sooner rather than later.
Among the not-so-young players this week, Bill Haas is a guy that I have my eye on. Haas started off strong this year, winning at the Humana, and finishing T7 at the WGC Cadillac and 12 th at The Masters. His fast start has given way to uninspiring play as of late though, with Haas missing 3 of his last 7 cuts, including two missed cuts at the US and British Opens. After winning the Fed Ex Cup in 2011, Haas was expected to be on the forefront of American Golf. He has managed at least one win in every year since, aside from 2012, but he has not taken advantage of his immense talent. That is not surprising though, as there are 10 million reasons why a Fed Ex champ can get a little comfortable with his spot on tour. This week is a perfect spot for Haas to pick his game back up and make a charge for another Fed Ex championship. He will be able to take advantage of his ball-striking skills, and with a relatively weak field, there won't be many guys who can beat Haas on talent alone. This is a big week for him.
Tune in tomorrow for “Playing the RTJ Golf Club", as I take a look at some of the more interesting holes on the golf course, and who's game matches up well with the skills needed to win the Quicken Loans National.