The good news for Nick Taylor is that you won the RBC Canadian Open Sunday. By beating Tommy Fleetwood in a playoff, you became the first Canadian to win your national championship in nearly seven decades. You are an unofficial national hero.
The bad news is that having done so, you can be summarily dismissed as a contender in this week’s U.S. Open.
Not since 2000, when Tiger Woods did it, has any player won both the Canadian and U.S. national championships in the same season.
And nobody this century has come off a winning week to also win the U.S. Open.
In fact, history says the best prep credential for a championship showing this week at Los Angeles Country Club is “did not play.” Of the 23 national champions from Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000 to Matthew Fitzpatrick last year at The Country Club, 18 entered the championship following at least one week of rest.
And of the five Open champions who had elected to play in the Tour’s lead-in event, only Fitzpatrick and Dustin Johnson finished within the top 15 in those lead-ins. Johnson was fifth at the 2016 FedEx St. Jude; Fitzpatrick tied for 10th at last year’s Canadian Open.
By far the popular plan for winners was to play in the event held two weeks before the Open, then take a one-week tune-up break. That was the approach taken by 12 of this century’s 23 U.S. Open champions.
And even then, few had success in their tune-ups. The highest finish was Jordan Spieth’s tie for third at the Memorial two weeks before winning the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay. Rory McIlroy finished fifth at the 2011 Memorial two weeks before winning the 2011 Open.
No player has come off a victory in his most recent start – irrespective of when that start was – to also win the U.S. Open since Woods did so in 2000. Three weeks before routing the field at Pebble Beach, Tiger triumphed at the Memorial, which that year was played in late May.
If you believe history, then, the best way to identify serious contenders at LACC is to begin by eliminating anybody who played in the Canadian. PGA Tour stars seem to have gotten that message; only 30 members of the original 150-player Canadian Open field are also qualified to start the Open.
Almost all the biggest names – Rahm, Thomas, Morikawa, Scheffler, Spieth, Cantlay – did the historically logical thing and took this week off. That also goes for all the LIV Tour guys – DeChambeau, Koepka, Dustin Johnson, etc. – because LIV did not schedule an event this week.
A few big names did double-dare history by playing at the Canadian. They included such putative contenders as Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Corey Conners, Justin Rose, and the defending champion, Fitzpatrick.
Given that Taylor won the Canadian – nothing he can do about that now – what are his chances at Los Angeles? Since 2001, 17 players who had won the previous week were in the U.S. Open field. Far and away the most common finish for those 17 was – drumroll, please – missed cut. A half dozen players celebrated their titles with an Open pratfall, most recently Garrick Higgo, who won the 2021 Palmetto a week before the Open.
Three of the 11 champions who did survive four Open rounds finished among the tournament’s top five, those three being Sergio Garcia (t3) in 2005, Dustin Johnson (t3) in 2018, and Rory McIlroy (t5) last year.
But the average finish for those 11 was a sobering tie for 18th.
So don’t get your hopes up too high all you Nick Taylor fans. You had your fun this past weekend.