Tanaka\'s on top

KEN FIDLIN -- TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

ANCASTER -- Reality seldom lives up to the hype so, in that regard, it comes as no shock that Mike Weir isn\'t among the leaders after the first round of the Bell Canadian Open. A small forest of trees was sacrificed to print all the lofty predictions for the Masters champion as he attempts to become the first homegrown winner of our national golf championship in 90-some years.

After 18 holes at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, though, Weir is situated rather comfortably in the weeds, close enough to make his presence felt this weekend.

Weir, not at his absolute best yesterday, used his grit and guile to carve out a decent round of one-under-par 69, just three shots behind the leader, Hidemichi Tanaka of Japan.

Tanaka\'s 66 puts him atop the leaderboard, one shot clear of a five-man group in second place -- Kelly Gibson, Brad Faxon, Glen Day, Tom Byrum and Charles Howell III.

Seven players shot 68 while seven others, including Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, joined Weir at 69.

Five Canadians were among a group at 71, including amateur Chris Baryla, Jon Mills, Glen Hnatiuk, Richard Zokol and David Morland IV.

Playing in front of by far the largest gallery of the day, Weir hit only seven of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens in regulation, flirting with danger by spending altogether too much time in the thick rough that lurks beside Hamilton\'s inviting fairways.

DIFFICULT

\"It\'s playing more difficult,\" Weir said. \"The golf course is playing like a Canadian Open should, like a national championship should.\"

Most of the leaders agreed.

\"I knew that good management was important on this course,\" said Tanaka, a 32-year-old who finished 92nd on the 2002 PGA Tour money list. \"So I just concentrated on how to put the ball in the fairway and to be patient.\"

A variable wind sprang up early in the morning and remained a major factor in club selection all day. In the end, the course played to a stroke average of nearly 73, not all that unlike a major championship.

\"We just played the PGA at Oak Hill (in Rochester), and it\'s a very similar penalty,\" Howell III said. \"I think you could make 18 pars and that\'s not a bad score at all. You have to have that mentality when the wind starts to blow like this.\"

With a little bit tidier play off the tee, Weir will remain very much in the thick of it this weekend, given his creativity around the greens.

\"I hit a lot of solid iron shots, some that turned out good and some that didn\'t. On a day when the wind is swirling around, not everything pans out the way you want it.\"

SCORES AREN\'T GOOD

It certainly didn\'t pan out for some of the big names, including defending champion John Rollins and Vijay Singh, who each shot 75. David Gossett, Notah Begay and Billy Andrade all shot 77.

\"The scores aren\'t all that good,\" said Ian Leggatt of Cambridge, who shot 73. \"That\'s a testament to the golf course. It just goes to show that old-style, traditional golf courses under conditions like (yesterday) are just as hard as any you can play.\"

Today, Weir is on the tee along with playing partners Loren Roberts and Chris Riley, at 1 p.m.


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