Spent yesterday running around trying to catch as many groups as possible. Covering Thursday/Friday at the RBC Canadian Open is a real challenge — there’s so much going on and I’m covering the event by myself, unlike the local papers that have a team of reporters. I managed to walk a bunch of holes with Geoff Ogilvy (who got pulled in for a drug test immediately after his round, but still answered some questions), who was playing alongside Hunter Mahan. I was fascinated by how they played the short par 4 14th, which listed at 315 yards. All four members of the group went for the green with drivers, but I still don’t think the hole is great. With the rough as long as it is, and the fairway pinched by by two large trees in the ideal landing area, there simply isn’t a good way to play it. Ogilvy said he figured he could make par hitting driver — he flared it off to the right rough, but got up and down — while the ideal shot is to hit it in the bunkers that front the hole and try to get up and down from there. Needless to say, Ogilvy was interesting to talk to as he’s a bit of a critic of the course while still playing well here. He said he isn’t a fan of this sort of design, but you get the sense the pro golfer in him recognizes he excels in these sorts of courses.
He used a par 4 — the 13th — as an example of his problem with the course. He hit his drive into the left rough near a tree. Even without the thick grass, it would have been a tough shot. As it played, he simply pitched to the fairway. He said it would have been much more interesting if he had to come up with a creative shot to try to make it to the green.
Former PGA Tour pro Richard Zokol, who is covering the tournament for a local radio station, chimed in with this perspective:
Yes, it can be argued that 6-inch rough is too punishing for those who cannot find the fairway and have no options other than to chip out to the fairway. But at the same time it, whatever happened to rewarding those who are skilled to put their tee-shots in the fairway? On the odd occasion it’s perfectly fine to put a huge demand on PGA Tour players to hit the fairway and punish those who don’t!
The tournament’s philosophy, as a national championship, is to make it difficult for every player in the field including the champion. The year’s RBC Canadian Open at Shaughnessy is more like a US Open than the playability they had at Congressional last month.
As for the stories here, the success of Canadians Adam Hadwin and David Hearn overshadowed the struggles of Mike Weir and Stephen Ames. I wrote a game story for Golfdigestcanada.ca on the subject (the full story can be found here):
Chad Campbell may have won four times on the PGA Tour and sits atop the leaderboard at the RBC Canadian Open after day two, but Adam Hadwin is convinced he has what it takes to be the first Canadian to win the country’s national open in more than 50 years.
Campbell fired a 3-under par 67 to take the lead on cut day at the RBC Canadian Open at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, but the PGA Tour veteran’s performance didn’t excite the crowd like the performance of Hadwin, 23. The Abbotsford, B.C. native, who came onto the radar at last year’s Canadian Open and again by making the cut at the U.S. Open last month, shot 2-under par 68 to finish tied for fifth, two shots behind Campbell and PGA Tour rookie Michael Thompson.
But Hadwin, who plays on the Canadian Tour, is confident in his chances heading into the weekend.
“Can I say yes without sounding arrogant?” Hadwin questioned laughing when asked about the possibility of winning this week.
Hadwin, who had swing instructor Brett Saunders on his bag and was followed by his father, said he learned a great deal from his previous Canadian Open appearance, as well as his gutsy showing at the U.S. Open.
“Every event is like a building block,” he said. “It’s a lot different from the Canadian Tour.”
While watching Weir on Thursday, I listened to the crowd’s reactions to his struggles. There surely is a need to eat our own in Canada, and Weir is proof of that. Here’s a taste of the column I wrote for Sympatico Sports:
On the 10th tee of Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club on Thursday, Canadian Mike Weir approached his tee shot without the confidence one would expect from a man who once won the Masters and seven other PGA Tour events. Playing in the RBC Canadian Open alongside No. 1 player in the world Luke Donald and American star Matt Kuchar, Weir watched in dismay as his drive flew left, perilously close to the river that runs alongside the hole.
“There goes our great Canadian,” said one spectator standing nearby. “He’s so done.”
Today Weir was officially done, withdrawing after reinjuring his elbow. A few hours later Calgary’s Stephen Ames followed, injuring his hand on a shot in the rough and shooting 5-over 75 to miss the cut.
Weir says he has what it takes to regain his form (“I know that I’m 41, but I still feel young,” he told reporters), but his nagging injuries and recent struggles seem to contradict his perspective.
With that, Canada’s two most successful players over the past decade departed from the Canadian Open.
However, it didn’t appear like many noticed. As Ames sulked off, and Weir went to deal with his injury, attention shifted to the emerging Canadians, namely Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn, 32, who shot a 2-under par to finish cut day in a tie for fifth. Right alongside him was last year’s Canadian Open domestic star, Abbotsford, B.C.’s Adam Hadwin. While the media shifted for position in the scrums around Hearn and Hadwin, one might have mistaken it for the attention usually placed on Weir. Yesterday the spotlight was shining on Kingston’s Matt McQuillan, who fired his way up the leaderboard. But the professional golf is fickle, and McQuillan fumbled through his back nine, making two double bogeys to finish at 1-over, tied with Manotick, Ont.’s Brad Fritsch. In all, five Canadians of the 17 in the field made the cut.
The Vancouver Sun’s Brad Zeimer also has a take on Hadwin, a local boy from Abbotsford, which is a couple hours away.
Canadiangolfer.ca contributor Wes Gilbertson has this take on Shaughnessy:
The latest instalment of the RBC Canadian Open has been all about length.
There has been chatter about the length of the golf course, the length of the rough, the length of the commute from last week’s British Open and, of course, the length of time that has passed since a Canuck claimed the trophy on home turf.
What we haven’t heard about — and might not over the next two days, either — is a lengthy stay atop the leaderboard at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.
There hasn’t been one.
Just ask Scott Piercy, who spent about an hour at the top of the mountain during Friday’s round but tumbled with two bogeys and a double on his back nine and will enter the weekend at even-par.
“It’s hard to maintain it, you know? The golf course doesn’t let up,” Piercy said. “There’s not one hole that lets up, so you’ve got be on your game every hole, every shot, every putt.
“It’s tough. You can make a few birdies, but there are just no easy holes. You almost feel like you’ve played 18 holes after 12. It’s just a tough, tough golf course.”
Postmedia columnist Cam Cole talks to Paul Goydos about his take on Shaughnessy this week. For what it is worth, Goydos is a funny and thoughtful interview — and he really likes the golf course this week:
“Define easier,” Goydos said, sounding a lot like the substitute school teacher he once was. “Does easier mean that the scores are lower? I think a lot of people would look at this setup and say: ‘This will make it easier for me to finish high.’ Therefore, I want to play it.”
Straight hitters, he means. “You can’t let players get too involved, even though we try to, and I’m as big a culprit as anybody. One, you’re not going to get everything right according to every player, and two, we’re all over the map.
“Worrying about what Paul Goydos thinks of the rough is just silliness. I can go tell the Tour what I think of the rough and they’re just going to laugh.” Trouble is, we think of the RBC Canadian Open as being … well, chronically fragile. When it was held in the fall, it was lifeor-death to draw even an average field because it was after all the majors were done, and a lot of big names were shutting their seasons down.