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Canadians Impress in Round 1

RBC Canadian Open

Greg Bowman

At a time where the entire nation is backing its basketball team, Canadian talent was also impressing on the links at the 2019 Canadian Open held at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. It is the sixth time that the tournament is being played at the course, which is located in Ancaster, Ontario. Four of the top six players in the world rankings were in the field, including Rory McIlroy (4th), who is playing the Canadian Open for the first time in his career.  

The leading Canadian after the first round of play was Nick Taylor, who was tied for second place at -6 just one shot back of the lead. Starting on the back nine, Taylor had just one birdie through his first six holes. He turned in around on the front nine though, hitting four straight birdies.

“Irons were solid. [There were] a few wedges I would have liked to hit a hair closer. I had a really nice, easy birdie on seventeen – I hit two quality shots and from there rolled some putts in, so it was really nice,” said Taylor, who is a native of Abbotsford, BC. Taylor was in a group full of Canadians, playing alongside legend Mike Weir, and David Hearn from nearby Brantford. Weir finished his opening round even while Hearn shot -3.

Adam Hadwin is playing in his ninth Canadian Open and is the top-ranked Canadian in the world, holding the 79th spot. The 2017 Valspar Open Champion had the second-best score among Canadians, shooting -5. The Abbotsford product birdied three of his first four holes in a bogey-free opening round.

“A great start to the week. Really solid golf. Just a couple greens got up and down when I needed to; a lot of good quality shots; made some putts. I’m coming away feeling pretty confident I may have left a couple out there,” said Hadwin, who teed off alongside Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald.

Corey Conners is playing in his first Canadian Open since bursting onto the scene with an impressive win at this past year’s Valero Texas Open. Although it’s his sixth time competing in his home tournament, it’s a little different with his new fame: “it feels awesome. I’m definitely getting a lot more attention. It’s a lot of fun, I’m definitely enjoying it. Great to see some new fans out here and I’m feeling a lot of love from them,” said Conners, who grew up in Listowel, Ontario. The second-ranked Canadian played at this year’s Masters where he placed in 46th with even par, and even led the tournament at one point. He expects many family and friends to make the trip from Listowel to watch him play over the course of the weekend.

The top Canadian story of the day came from a player who is golfing on the course he grew up playing on. Mackenzie Hughes is participating in his fifth Canadian Open, but his first at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, which is a stone’s throw away from his hometown of Dundas, Ontario. Hughes caught the hearts of the fans in attendance, coming out to a solid start, finding himself at -3 through the front nine.

On the 13th hole, Hughes donned a Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors jersey to pay homage to his, and the country’s favourite basketball team. The gallery gave him a standing ovation, and even started a “let’s go Raptors” chant. “I try to have some fun at that hole. Life’s short so I was like ‘let’s have some fun,’ The crowd enjoys that stuff,” he commented on his Raptors attire. Hughes hit a par on 13 and was in good shape to be tied for second at -6 until his final hole, where he double bogeyed, ending his round at -4, tied for 15th.

“I spoiled it there at the end. I was six under through 17 and it was pretty stress free for the most part. I know I didn’t putt that great. I made a couple 12 to 15 footers…all in all it was a great day scorewise, just not the way I wanted to finish,” said Hughes on his final hole.

Also involved in the four-way tie for second place after Round 1 was Shane Lowry. The Irish golfer played had a solid day, bogeying just once while collecting seven birdies to land at -6, tied with four other players.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect really. I had a couple weeks off and I got here late on Monday evening and obviously with the weather yesterday I didn’t get to do much. So, I just went in there with little expectation I just knew I had been playing okay recently. I was hitting the ball pretty much where I wanted today which is always pretty good,” said Lowry, who is looking for his second-career PGA tour victory.

The leader after Thursday’s opening round was Keegan Bradley, who finished last year’s tournament in fourth place. Bradley hit five straight birdies in his opening round, not bogeying once to finish atop the leaderboard at -7. “It’s just so great, it’s just so fun to go out there and feel like that. Today I was in complete control of my ball. Then, when you couple that with feeling good on the greens…it’s a pretty nice round,” said Bradley, who is currently ranked 37th in the Official World Golf Rankings, looking for his fifth PGA Tour win.

Rory McIlroy had a solid first round in his first Canadian Open, bogeying twice and birdying five times to be tied in 18th place at -3. Jim Furyk – who won the Canadian Open in 2006 and 2007, one of which was at Hamilton Golf and Country Club – shot a -1 on the day, playing in a group with Corey Conners and Dustin Johnson. The defending champion in Dustin Johnson +1 in the opening round in his attempt to repeat as champion, much like Jhonattan Vegas did in 2016 and 2017 before Johnson won the title in 2018.

World #1, Brooks Koepka, who has won four of the last nine major championships, ­­­was playing in his first tournament since a two-week break. “I struck it nicely. I thought I was hitting my putts on-line. Speed control was a little bit off. I had good chances I just couldn’t capitalize on them,” said Koepka, who shot an even par with two bogeys and two birdies.

The same groups will hit the links on Friday for the second round, with the top 70 scores moving on to the third round on Saturday.