I spent part of the day walking with David Hearn’s father, Geoff, while watching the Brantford golfer play the back nine at Hamilton. Hearn played nicely when the course was at its toughest with the wind swirling. Interestingly it would settle down during the afternoon, when most of the low scores were shot.
David Hearn spent the night at his home in Brantford and said he “woke right up” when a thunderstorm blew threw the area. The downpour softened the course at Hamilton Golf and Country Club considerably, but the venerable track is holding its own and its many turns and sloped greens have held back an expected onslaught of birdies.
Hearn shot a 68 in his opening round, good for 2 under par and leaving him three shots back of five players with the clubhouse lead and about half the field still on the course.
“The greens were receptive, but if you look at the scoring, not too receptive,” Hearn said behind the 18th green. He said gusting winds and some thick rough combined to make sure that Hamilton, designed in 1914 by Harry Colt, wasn’t left defenceless.
I don’t think Hearn will win this week — that’s asking a lot — but I do think he’ll be in contention heading into the weekend.
His father, for what it is worth, is a really knowledgeable guy when it comes to golf in Canada and is long on opinions. The Reverend, as he jokingly asked to be called, is a fun golf companion to walk some holes with.
Adam Hadwin, last year’s Canadian success story, also made a strong run, derailed when he made bogey on the 17th hole. For whatever reason, Hadwin seems to be able to elevate his game in front of the Canadian crowds, as the Toronto Sun reports:
Adam Hadwin took a big first step toward becoming low Canadian for the third consecutive year by shooting a 66. Whatever it is that he does in Canada, he wants to duplicate it elsewhere. “I’m certainly going to be looking at the way I approach this week and my thought process and trying to bring that back out to the Web.com (Tour). I felt like I was playing with a little bit of a swagger that I haven’t had in a couple of months,” said Hadwin.
Overall there were plenty of low scores. Matt Kuchar was five under through five holes, and there were a couple of 63s and a 62 tossed into the mix. With plenty of rain at the end of the day, I’d suspect scoring will remain low.
I walked most of the round with Mike Weir, switching to the group of Ernie Els, Kuchar and Vijay Singh for other holes. The crowds were very large — thousands followed the two groups. Weir? He still seems unable to hit the driver better than a weekend golfer. He was under par for much of the front round, but pulled a driver on the 9th hole, even though his playing partners — Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair — hit 3-woods. The hole played straight downwind, but Weir hit a pull to the right and into the trees no more than 220 off the tee. It wasn’t a hook — it was a dead pull. He’d do it again a few holes later on the back nine, leading to a double bogey, and there he was 2-over par.
The Toronto Star takes apart Weir’s round — a bit strange considering how badly he’s played of late. Perhaps the goal was to show how far Weir has slipped? Certainly his ability to drive the ball remains a problem. It is actually unlike anything I’ve seen on the PGA Tour. On the other hand he’s basically fine off the tee with other clubs. Strange.
As for the leader, I don’t expect Scott Piercy to hang around. But in case you’re interested, here’s what CP’s Chris Johnson had to say, with some explanation of the low scores:
It was certainly the kind of day to make it happen as Hamilton was left almost defenceless by rain that fell overnight and throughout the round. Piercy’s 62 matched the competitive course record at Hamilton — Warren Sye shot that number in the third round of the 1991 Ontario Amateur — and included eagles on both of the par-5s.
The 33-year-old American finished third in his last start at the John Deere Classic and gave himself plenty of looks at birdie on Thursday.
“I hit it solid out there,” he said. “I think I only missed a couple greens, and ball-striking around here with the rough being so penal is a must to shoot well.”
Piercy held a one-shot lead over Greg Owen and William McGirt (63) and was two shots clear of Robert Garrigus (64). A group of seven players opened with 65, including 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2004 Canadian Open winner Vijay Singh.
The course was a soggy mess by the end of the first round. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls on the fairway and 94 men were at par or better when the day ended.
“I woke up this morning and thought the British Open was a week too early looking out the window,” said Schwartzel. “It wasn’t very pleasant weather.”