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5 Players To Watch At 2013 RBC Canadian Open

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Top Five: 2013 RBC Canadian Open

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Paul Cunningham - USA TODAY Sports

A week after the Open Championship, the PGA Tour is back in focus, but it hasn’t returned to the United States just yet. This week, the RBC Canadian Open takes center stage.

The Canadian Open is unique for several reasons. First, it’s one of a very few official PGA Tour events to take place outside of the United States, so it already earns a big distinction there. On the 2013 schedule, the only event other than the Open to take place is the Puerto Rico Open. Yes, technically that’s a U.S. territory, but we’re making a point here.

The other unique fact is the tournament’s history. With the exception of the U.S. Open and the Open Championship, the Canadian Open is the world’s oldest golf tournament. That type of heritage goes a long way into securing one of the few foreign PGA tournaments on a packed schedule. Dating back to 1904 and founded by the Royal Montreal Golf Club, the Canadian Open has attracted several of the game’s top stars north of the border.

Many of the legends of the game have taken home the Canadian title, including Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods. Trevino and Woods also hold the distinction of being the only two players to sweep the three Opens in a season; Trevino accomplished the feat in 1979, and Woods in 2000. Interestingly, Jack Nicklaus never won the tournament, and finished second seven times. Here’s hoping Phil Mickelson doesn’t reach that record in the U.S. Open.

Speaking of Nicklaus, Glen Abbey Golf Club is a classic Nicklaus design, and the first solo Nicklaus course. The Golden Bear designed the course in 1976, with the intention of becoming the permanent host of the Canadian Open. Although the Royal Canadian Golf Association has moved the event around the country a bit as of late, Glen Abbey will be hosting its 26th Canadian Open this year, and the first since 2013.

With this week’s field boasting seven of the top 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking and 12 of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup Rankings, there’s going to be a battle for the 500 points the winner will take home. Will we get another first-time champion this week, or will a strong veteran stake their claim? Let’s take a look at who I think will top the field.

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5) Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson
Paul Cunningham - USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Johnson always seems to find his way into these rankings, and although his recent performances don't necessarily inspire a ton of confidence--55th at the U.S. Open and tied for 32nd at the Ope--he also was solidly in contention at Muirfield through 36 holes before changing conditions threw him off his game a bit. Despite only two top 10s this season--opening victory in Hawaii--Johnson is having a decent season, ranking 28th in strokes gained, putting and 15th on Tour in par breakers.

Johnson's poor finishes have all been the result of one or two "blow up" rounds that undo all his good scores. Consistency is the name of the game this weekend.

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4) Graham DeLaet

Paul Cunningham - USA TODAY Sports

Graham DeLaet is only the best Canadian in a tournament that hasn't had a native champion since Pat Fletcher in 1954. Not quite on the level of what Andy Murray did at Wimbledon this year, but still--no pressure, right?

The good news? The hopes of the nation that are on DeLaet's shoulders this week aren't misplaced. The Weyburn, Saskatchewan native is in the middle of his best year of golf as a pro, but is still looking for his first PGA Tour championship. What better place for that to happen than in the Great White North?

DeLaet had a very difficult week at The Open Championship, but returning home should provide a level of comfort for him. He's still first on tour in greens in regulation and second in total driving. What's let him down, on occasion, is his putting. DeLaet ranks 76th in total putting and 152nd in par-3 performance, so getting the flat blade in line will be a huge key to his potential success.

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3) Brandt Snedeker

Paul Cunningham - USA TODAY Sports

Brandt Snedeker appears to be back in top form, notching three straight top-20s dating to the U.S. Open. A second-round 79 almost completely derailed his shot at the Claret Jug at Muirfield, but he rebounded nicely to finish T11. Glen Abbey does have some good memories for Snedeker, as he finished tied for fifth the last time he was here in 2009. One of the better short-game players on Tour, Snedeker will use this tournament to really fine-tune for the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs, where he’ll be defending his 2012 title.

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2) Hunter Mahan

Leo Mason - USA TODAY Sports

Hunter Mahan has been thisclose to getting one in the win column this season, with a second consecutive top 10 at a major last week at Muirfield. After a tough Sunday at Merion last month, Mahan followed it up with a top 25 at the Travelers, so I expect he’ll be ready to play this week as well. He finished T-4 in 2004 at Glen Abbey, ranks eighth in total driving and 53rd in total putting. This week could be the 2013 breakthrough.

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1) Matt Kuchar

Leo Mason - USA TODAY Sports

There’s not much to say about Matt Kuchar that hasn’t already been said. The guy is as consistent as anybody on Tour. Yet to miss a cut this season, Kuchar tied for 15th at last week’s Open Championship. Kuchar ranks 12th in strokes gained-putting, sixth in adjusted scoring and perhaps most importantly, third in the season’s FedEx Cup ranks. Kuchar would jump to first with a win this week, and I think that's exactly what happens on Sunday.