Appearance fees are strictly forbidden in PGA Tour events.
This can be a hot-button issue. The European Tour allows appearance fees, which is a smart way for tourneys with traditionally weaker fields to buy some attention. Then again, the practice also pits events against each other in a back-room bidding war, each one jostling to attract talent by waving guaranteed paychecks at them.
None of that exists on the PGA Tour, where players often choose to compete in events the old-fashioned way — by signing endorsement deals with companies that are also title sponsors and having a wink-wink deal to play those tournaments.
All of which not-so-coincidentally leads us to this week’s RBC Canadian Open.
There are 12 male professional golfers in RBC’s notable stable and — surprise, surprise! — 10 of them are competing in this week’s tournament. (Only Graeme DeLaet, who recently announced his back injury wasn’t improving, and Ernie Els are not playing.)
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Of these 10, many would be competing no matter what. Adam Hadwin, David Hearn, Nick Taylor and Jared du Toit are each Canadian and would be playing in their country’s national championship even without a sponsorship connection.
Then there are the other guys.
If you believe players such as Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker were simply eager to punctuate the Scotland experience with a weeklong detour through Canada, that might be a bit naïve.
Now, players competing with sponsor tie-ins can take two different mindsets. Some have enjoyed the partnership and want to repay the company by bringing their best stuff to the tourney. Others might just go through the motions, fulfilling that wink-wink agreement while also realizing that it would’ve been a nice time for a little vacation instead.
Keep that in mind when looking at a few of these names this week.
Let’s get to the picks, with all odds from Sportsbook.ag as of Wednesday morning.
Billy Horschel (+3500)
Last year, Horschel won the AT&T Byron Nelson on the heels of three missed cuts, which is significant in that it doesn’t follow his usual pattern. In his four other PGA Tour wins, he’s been red-hot and trending in the right direction before finally breaking through. There was the 2013 Zurich Classic, which was preceded by results of 2nd-3rd-9th; there was the 2014 FedEx Cup run, during which he finished runner-up before claiming victories at the last two; and this year’s Zurich (with Scott Piercy), when he was 5th and 11th in his two previous starts. Well, it just so happens that Horschel is fresh off a T-2 at last week’s Barbasol Championship. That should signal a green light to those who are banking on him repeating that trend.
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Tony Finau (+1200)
This is getting a little ridiculous. With three top-10s in the year’s first three majors, Finau is becoming a trendy pick to claim one soon, perhaps as soon as the PGA Championship in two weeks. And this week, he’s the third-lowest price on the board, behind only Johnson and Brooks Koepka; ahead of Bubba Watson and Tommy Fleetwood. This is the point where I remind you that Finau still owns one career win, which came at the 2015 Puerto Rico Open against a less-than-stellar field. This is also the point where I remind you that if everyone thinks a win is coming really soon, they all might be right. I like Finau this week, but if Horschel is a green light, I’m considering Finau strictly yellow.
Jamie Lovemark (+4500)
Maybe it’s a stretch to list Lovemark, still in search of a first career victory, amongst the “favorites,” but I’m looking at value this week. He’s overdue for that elusive win, and his consistency has been impressive. Lovemark owns finishes of 41st or better in 11 of his last 13 starts. Because of that, he’s an excellent DFS option and very good choice for a top-10 this week, but if you want to roll the dice and take him for a first win, it could pay off big dividends.
Adam Hadwin (+5500)
Like Lovemark, he’s been a model of consistency this season, making the cut in every event but the U.S. Open. Unlike Lovemark or any other American, he’s going to treat this one like a proverbial fifth major, trying to become the first countryman to win this event since Pat Fletcher in 1954. That’s a piece of trivia every Canadian pro knows, because they’re asked about it at this tourney every year. Hadwin has the best chance to break that slump this week.
Tom Lovelady (+7000)
The man with one of the best names in golf has largely gained notoriety as “Justin Thomas’ friend” just as Thomas was once known solely as “Jordan Spieth’s friend.” Well, just like Thomas, Lovelady is about to make a name for himself. He finished T-2 at the Barbasol last week and will carry that momentum into this one. A win here against a better field might be asking too much, but a top-five or top-10 is certainly well within reason.
J.J. Spaun (+10000)
Fresh off a T-13 at The Greenbrier in his last start, Spaun is a better ball-striker than most people realize. Playing his 100th career sanctioned event this week, he should be feeling more comfortable competing against the world’s best every week. And here’s the bet I like most: He ranks 33rd in first-round scoring average and has an early tee time this Thursday. At +9000, he could be worth a first-round leader bet, as he shared the opening-round Quicken Loans National lead just a few weeks ago.
Ben Silverman (+21000)
Warning: I’m going heavy on the Canadian contingent this week. Fresh off a T-12 that included a final-round 65, Silverman could be ripe for another solid result. At +600 for a top-20, there’s still a pretty good reward for little risk.
David Hearn (+24000)
No, it hasn’t come easily of late for the former anchorer, who’s been wrongly accused of still holding the end of his putter against his body during the stroke. But the Canadian has shown some signs of life recently. Before last week’s MC, he was 16th-30th-41st in his last three starts. Like Silverman, he owns some top-20 value at +675.
Sam Saunders (+25000)
Back in 1955, Arnold Palmer won his first PGA Tour title at the Canadian Open. It would be some nice symmetry if his grandson could claim his first at the same event, 63 years later. But don’t pick him purely for symmetrical purposes. Saunders has showed signs of solid form, including a T-5 at The Greenbrier two starts ago. He’s another player with value who should at least be considered for top-10 bets at +1900.