PGA Tour dreams could finally come true for Tommy Fleetwood in Canada

Rory McIlroy the hot favourite as he goes for third title in Toronto

Dubai-resident Fleetwood’s closing 67 saw him finish at 19 under, one ahead of McIlroy (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Tommy Fleetwood started 2024 with victory over Rory McIlroy in Dubai and he could repeat the trick in the RBC Canadian Open (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

RORY McIlroy is well used to taking centre-stage and he is very much the headline act at this week’s RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.

The world number three has enjoyed himself at this event in recent times, romping to a seven-shot victory at this venue in 2019, leaving close friend and Zurich Classic partner Shane Lowry a long way behind in second.

McIlroy had to wait three years to defend his crown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but he did so in style, winning again at St George’s in 2022, before finishing ninth at Oakdale last term as Nick Taylor ended a 69-year wait for a home winner of one of the oldest golfing events in the world.

The Canadian Open tends not to stand still in terms of venue, but the last seven renewals have been played in the greater Toronto area, and the host courses tend to have loads of the same traits, with precision and plotting far more important than power.

McIlroy took Hamilton to the cleaners five years ago (below), closing with a nine-under 61, and goes in this week at no bigger than 4/1 to repeat the feat on a course that has undergone significant alterations since then.

It has been changed to revert back towards the original Harry Colt design and will wind between hundreds of trees, with tight enough fairways and small greens.

Many observers have called it a smaller version of Wentworth, also designed by Colt, and with McIlroy and Lowry both former champions at the BMW PGA Championship at European Tour headquarters, there is a clear crossover.

It is also no surprise to see both Irishmen towards the head of the betting, and this one has tended to be kind to non-Americans in recent times.

Lowry comes in after a fine sixth at the US PGA, a result based on a very hot putter, while we saw at Quail Hollow recently that McIlroy can reap serious damage on a course that suits his eye.

He also played quite well at Valhalla in the PGA, but mistakes at the wrong time stopped him really landing a blow.

McIlroy is very much the man to beat here, but at 4/1 I’m happy to give him a miss and try to find the player to pip him to a third Canadian Open success.

Lowry has a great record in this and has to be considered, but the man who splits them in the betting, Tommy Fleetwood, is my idea of the best bet at 16/1 with Paddy Power.

The Englishman lost out in a play-off at Oakdale last year, Taylor holing a monster putt at the fourth extra hole to deny him a PGA Tour breakthrough, a wait that still goes on.

Much has been made of Fleetwood’s failure to win on US soil, and it could be that he finally gets across the line north of the border.

Hamilton should be a great fit for Fleetwood, who has played well on a number of occasions at Wentworth without winning, and has been posting strong results all season dating back to seeing off McIlroy in a duel in Dubai in January.

Third at The Masters, seventh at the Valero Texas Open and 13th at Quail Hollow, Fleetwood also finished strongly with a 65 at Valhalla after a slow few days, and his short game has been brilliant of late.

His irons have been hit and miss, but at his best he can have the ball on a string, as he did at Augusta, and he could easily go one better than last year to end his PGA Tour drought.

Time to strike while the Noren irons are hot

Alex Noren is another frequent winner in Europe who hasn’t yet got across the line on the PGA Tour, but he won’t have many better chances than this week, and he is very close to the peak of his powers so should be backed at 22/1.

The Swede won at Wentworth in 2017, which is a big tick in terms of this event, while he has been the model of consistency all season, finishing in the top 25 in each of his last eight outings.

Noren was third at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson at the start of this month and then a very decent 12th at Valhalla on a course that was perhaps a bit long for him.

On a tighter, shorter lay-out, his accuracy will come to the fore, and he lies eighth on tour from tee-to-green and fifth around the putting surfaces, so he could easily go close to that breakthrough.

Alex Noren leads the way in the Nedbank Challenge after a second round of 67 at Sun City yesterday. Picture by PA
Alex Noren has been one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour in 2024

I’ll also put up two more Europeans in Aaron Rai (40/1 generally) and Seamus Power (90/1, William Hill).

Rai finished in the pack when fancied at the Charles Schwab over the weekend, but he again excelled from tee-to-green and gave up ground with the putter.

He has been in the top-10 all season for approach play and should enjoy returning to small poa annua greens at Hamilton.

Second at Wentworth last term, he was also third in this event, while he was 13th in Canada in 2022 and could go very well.

Power, meanwhile, is showing clear signs of getting back to his best after hip problems, with a 12th in the RBC Heritage and 16th at Quail Hollow to his name in the last six weeks.

Those efforts both came in Signature Events, and were based on brilliant approach play, and with the field not quite as strong this week, he could take another step forward.

Power just needs to put four rounds together, and while he hasn’t been a frequent visitor to this event over the years, he was 10th at Glen Abbey in 2017.

On a week when another Irishman in McIlroy is the headline act, he could go under the radar and land a blow at 90/1.


Tommy Fleetwood, e/w, 16/1 (Paddy Power);

Alex Noren, e/w, 22/1 (Sky Bet);

Aaron Rai, e/w, 40/1 (General);

Seamus Power, e/w, 90/1(William Hill); top 20 finish, 100/30 (Bet365)