Let’s start with me. My notes package on the first round for Sympatico and Reader’s Digest is here. My column featuring on Hunter Mahan’s relationship is here. Interestingly I spent an hour wandering around the golf course with Sean Foley yesterday as he watched Sean O’Hair. Made for some intriguing conversations about the golf swing and mental coaching.
Here’s a taste of the column:
Hunter Mahan looks unflappable and slightly intimidating with his expressions hidden behind his patented wide white-rimmed sunglasses.
But ask the golfer about his Canadian connection, and he become effusive, talking at length about his relationship with Sean Foley and how the swing coach changed his outlook on golf and life.
“He’s not for everyone,” Mahan says of Foley, the 36-year old instructor from Burlington, Ont.
“He’s a little different and can go on tangents about literature or religion. But I like that. He’s a great guy – solid as a rock. You can count on him from a man-to-man perspective. You can count on him.”
Mahan played like a man confident with his golf game, carding one of the hot rounds yesterday at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto, though he admitted the greens were soft and scoring conditions were ideal. Nonetheless, his score of 5-under 65 put him near the top of the leaderboard. Mahan has worked with Foley, the outspoken, well-dressed and generally effervescent swing doctor, since 2008. Foley’s rise happened started in 2006, soon after he moved to Toronto to pursue his dream of teaching golf full-time. He admits now that it was a long shot. He had no students in Orlando and everyone he met was a golf teacher.
As luck would have it, Foley had run into Calgary’s Stephen Ames the year previous. Ames, who was struggling with a recurring back injury, didn’t absolutely buy into Foley’s often technical swing theories when the pair first met. But he was interested in what the swing teacher had to say about avoiding further injuries to his tender back.
There was lots of talk about the Toronto Sun’s suggestion Mike Weir was washed up. Admittedly his poor driving and iron play yesterday, as well as his petulant behavior while being interviewed after his round adds credence to his theories. Dumping on Weir seems to be the new national sport at the country’s national open. Today The Globe gets into the act, sending baseball writer Jeff Blair to the tournament to add his opinion:
Like Mike Weir, John Daly isn’t what he used to be. But they’re both capable of attracting a first-day crowd at a Canadian Open.
It wasn’t hard to follow them Thursday. Weir was in the afternoon group after Daly, which made for some interesting pedestrian congestion at St. George’s Golf and Country Club.
Daly is now a circus sideshow: goofy pants, cigarette fired up on the fairway. Now stubbed out with the toe of his white shoe, smoke exhaled as he reaches for a club. Capable of feats of strength – some of them even good. Weir? Well … he did the Masters thing. And he’s Canadian.
Daly hasn’t won a Major in more than a decade and has received the perpetual second chance Tiger Woods will never get. True, Daly’s train-wreck seemed to leave fewer bodies than Woods’s – certainly, it was less salacious – but it’s hard not to think the cartoonish white guy will always get the benefit of the doubt in this sport regardless of the transgression.
But then, life is different when you’re at best a supporting act – as Weir has found out. He still gets the corporate types in this event – the number of hats worn backward in Daly’s gallery vastly outnumber those in Weir’s, as did the percentage of spectators with beer cans – but there is another measurable difference between galleries.
Weir’s gallery is reliving the dream. It’s all “remember when.” Like everybody else in Canadian golf, it is still dining off his Masters title. He is “Mikey,” or “Weirsy.”
Ironic that Blair’s article appears on the new “GolfCanada” site the Globe has created in connection with with, well, Golf Canada. More on that debacle on another day. Anyway, he concludes:
With the passing of each Canadian Open, Weir becomes more and more just another guy. The Toronto Sun ran a provocative front page story Thursday asking if Weir was “washed up.” Them’s usually fighting words in some of the more parochial elements of the media, so let’s see what the return fire is like.
For a bystander, it’s hard to get worked up about Weir one way or another. He’s just kind of there – usually some place back in the pack. But unlike a lot of individual sports, you can make a crap load of dough in golf being in the soft, malleable middle.
Weir did that last season, but now with his average score pushing a stroke to the worse, the inherent soundness that is his strength has disappeared. Coupled with his lack of driving, it leaves him susceptible to falling off the face of the earth.
Is Weir done? Somehow I doubt it. Is he having a poor year? Yes. He was cranky after his round yesterday, but what was there to say?
Strangely the Sun’s Ian Hutchinson argues (whatever happened to coherent editorial policy?) with his colleague Steve Buffery, who wrote the original Weir article and apparently has a problem with volunteers:
Stats and numbers very often fail to recognize the intangible qualities that make somebody such as Mike Weir the Canadian icon that he is today with proceedings underway at the 2010 RBC Canadian Open.
Three years ago, I made the same mistake as Beezer, the crusty curmudgeon of the sports department, where they dusted him off and sent him out to St. George’s Golf and Country Club on Wednesday. Beez thought he had a pearl when he revealed something yesterday that Weir has been discussing for months.
The “diminishing results and deteriorating statistics” that he wrote about are all part of a struggle this season, which Weir readily admits, but as Beez is known to do, he took it a hop, skip and jump beyond that by predicting that Weir is fading, apparently because he’s now 40 and feeling the effects of tendinitis.
There was no hint of the end of Weir’s storied career by Canadian standards when I suggested that he had not earned his way on to the International team for the 2007 Presidents Cup, even though captain Gary Player had made Weir a pick to play at Royal Montreal.
In theory, I was correct because the numbers clearly stated that Weir was struggling then just as he is now, but he had played a role in getting one of golf’s premier events to Canada and Player had recognized the importance of his presence to the home town crowd, so the naming of Weir had some politics to it.
Then, Weir showed that numbers can be deceiving as he became arguably the best player on either team in Montreal and capped off that performance with a great Canadian sporting moment, his memorable Sunday singles victory over the pre-scandal Tiger Woods.
Weir was brusque with reporters last night — and I doubt that will change unless he shoots 66 in the rain. Truthfully I suspect his injured arm has compounded his driving problems. After all, he’s getting stuck inside and flipping his drives, or blocking them left. At the same time he’s hurt and probably not practicing as much as he’d like. It is an ugly mix.
Jeremy Sandler in the National Post points out all the hype that St. George’s would play super tough seems overdone:
So much for St. George’s Golf and Country Club being a fire-breathing dragon, spitting out PGA Tour players like so many slain knights.
While some had predicted that a four-day total of 12-under par might win the 2010 Canadian Open, Brent Delahoussaye arrived two-thirds of the way there on the first day. The 28-year-old South Carolinian fired a course-record 62 on the classic Stanley Thompson, taking a two-stroke lead over Vance Veazey and Brock Mackenzie on a leaderboard jammed with low scores.
Twenty-three players shot 66 or better, and another 51 broke par.
“To be honest with you, I woke up [Thursday] morning and looked at the scores and was like ‘Wow, I did not see that many low scores in the practice round,’ ” said Delahoussaye.
“It played a little shorter … than in the practice rounds.”
The Spectator’s Garry McKay trys to explain what exactly a Brent Delahoussaye is. Interestingly, Delahoussaye was the second press conference of the day when someone in the media had to ask, “Can you tell us who you are?”
As Brent Delahoussaye’s name shot up the RBC Canadian Open leaderboard late yesterday afternoon, fans and media alike were asking: “Who’s he?”
For the record, it’s not who’s he. It’s actually pronounced dell-uh-WHO-say.
A PGA Tour rookie, who has only made three cuts in 12 starts this year, Delahoussaye, of Greenville, S.C., fired a course record eight-under-par 62 yesterday at St. George’s Golf and Country Club to grab the Open’s first round lead by two shots over Vance Veazey and Brock Mackenzie.
Until yesterday, Delahoussaye had never been invited into a PGA Tour media conference. In fact, he admitted sheepishly, he and his wife had attended a Bon Jovi concert Wednesday night and sat next to the PGA Tour official who conducts the post-round press conferences and didn’t know who he was.
“I haven’t played well this year, my first year out,” said Delahoussaye. “I’ve just been trying too hard, like everyone says not to do, and it just hasn’t clicked.
“I’ve been getting in my own way and so I just decided to go out and play. This course doesn’t set up good for me and so I just decided to go out there with a good attitude and not worry about it.”
The Star’s Dave Perkins, soon to be retired, compares and contrasts Canada’s golfers with those of South Africa:
Behind the front men loom Tim Clark at 66 and Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman at 67. So that would be, in order, the winner of this year’s Players Championship, a multiple U.S. Open winner and a Masters winner, albeit one who has been injury troubled for a while. A handful more South Africans arrive later in the arithmetic, but the point is this: Is this country hot, or what?
A successful World Cup is followed by Oosthuizen winning the world’s greatest golf event and whether or not one of them gets the job done at St. George’s this week, which would surprise no one, this country of 49 million now is represented by five players in the top 27 in this week’s world rankings. That’s pretty good and when you throw in all the Brits up there, no wonder the Americans are getting squeezed.
Canada, by comparison, has a couple of 40-ish pros in Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, both slipping down the world rankings this year, plus some promising young players, the likes of Matt Hill, Graham DeLaet and soon-to-be-professional Nick Taylor, who thumped in his first-hole wedge for a rousing eagle beginning to his Open Thursday. But we just don’t have the quantity or quality of golfers that a country not so much larger than our own has produced and keeps producing and this, building up the core of Canadian golfers so that Maple Leaf flags can climb up to challenge the usual suspects, is the long-range goal of Golf Canada.