Ian Baker-Finch On RBC Canadian Open: ‘Have To Drive Ball And Get It In Play’

By Dan Reardon

The RBC Canadian Open is one of golf’s oldest championships, tracing its origins back to 1919, when Bobby Jones tied for second in the inaugural event. Canada’s national championship has been a mainstay on the PGA TOUR. Glen Abbey Golf Club outside Toronto plays host to the event for the 29th time, with current champion Jhonattan Vegas in the field. Even with RBC’s solid lineup of players on Tour, the field is surprisingly strong coming on the heels of golf’s oldest championship, the Open, this year at Royal Birkdale.

Matt Kuchar, this year’s runner-up in Southport, headlines a field that includes world number one Dustin Johnson.

CBS Sports golf analyst Ian Baker-Finch is in familiar surroundings at Glen Abbey. The former Open champion tied for second in 1990 and backed that up with a top-10 finish the following year. He looks at this year’s RBC Canadian Open.

>>WATCH: RBC Canadian Open Live Stream

Before we talk about this week, take a look back at the Sunday finish at the Open. Jordan Spieth was your pick to win it at the start of the week. Based on how that final round unfolded, what did we learn about Spieth that we didn’t already know?

We all learned that he’s a lot more mentally prepared and tougher than we have even given him credit for. We already knew he was tough, because he had won two majors and was ranked number one in the world by age 23. But the way he fought off gremlins in the middle of that round on Sunday and fought back to go 5-under in four holes and win easily was just phenomenal. It’s hard to explain.

Since this is the week after a major, how emotionally or mentally difficult is it for players to play, especially somebody like Matt Kuchar, who was so disappointed in finishing second?

It’s extremely difficult to play in a tournament the next week after winning a major, and most players withdraw and do whatever they can to recover from all the demands that are placed on them after a winning a major these days.

But for other players, it’s usually a wonderful, relaxed, easy feeling, because it is so much more pleasant than the grind of a major. If you have prepared well and played well, you’re in good form because of all that preparation. Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Kuchar win this week.

>>MORE: Golf Expert Interviews

Do players look at the event as Canada’s national championship, or do they think of it as another Tour stop?

The majority of the players who are there see it as a national championship. The players who are there and hope to add the Canadian Open to their resume value it highly. I know the Australian guys do. They see our Australian Open or the Canadian Open or European Open or Japan Open or New Zealand Open as a wonderful addition to an end-of-career resume.

Talk about Glen Abbey. What do you have to do well there to be successful, and what are the dangers in the course?

The course plays so differently now than when I played it, because of the distance the ball goes now. I always found Glen Abbey to be quite a long course. Now, with the ball going as far as it does, a lot of the difficulty has been taken away as far as length. But you still have to drive the ball and get it in play. You also really need to take advantage of the par 5s.

Dangers are the wind, especially when you go down into the valley. The wind swirls around, and [on] a couple of holes, you’re firing over water. Eleven and 12 down in the valley can be an easy double bogey if you don’t pick the wind correctly. You have to drive the ball in play, or you can easily pick up a couple of shots to par down in the valley.

So many of the winners this year on Tour are 25 and under, and a lot of them are Tour winners for the first time. We now know they are good, but why are players 30 and over not winning as much these days?

That’s a tough question. But the simple answer would be even really good players in their 30s — like Adam Scott and Justin Rose and Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson — have to play really, really well just to beat those young guys coming through. And there’s a whole bunch of 20, 21-year-olds coming right behind those 23, 24, 25-year-olds. There is a stream of great young talent coming through right now, and the more the young guys in college see players coming out and winning and making millions of dollars, the more they believe they can do it too.

The guys in their late 30s better go get it soon, because you know their opportunities are going to dry up soon because of this great young talent coming through. There is an amazing flow of young talent coming through who don’t think they need to wait five years anymore. It was unheard of when I was playing for 23, 24 and 25-year-olds to win. And now we have 15 this year alone.

Give a few names of players you think might do well this week, and who are some dark horses we should look for?

Matt Kuchar will play well coming off the Open last week. People will say he has to be exhausted, … [given] the tension or the pressure from last week. But he has to be feeling really, really good about himself and his chances and the way he is playing. Poulter played well last week, so he’s coming over in good form. And Dustin Johnson, of course. He had a bad start last week on Sunday and kind of shot himself in the foot and didn’t finish off that strongly. But he is coming back into good form, so you can never count him out.

I also look for the guys who played well at Barbasol last week, like Grayson Murray who won. Cameron Tringale played well; Scott Stallings played well.

Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.

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