Rough start doesn\'t deter scrappy Canuck or his fans

MIKE RUTSEY -- TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

ANCASTER -- Mike Weir didn\'t win the Canadian Open yesterday morning but you\'d never know it by the reaction of the faithful he received at every turn. Weir, the conquering hero, finally set foot on the Canadian side of the border in a PGA Tour event for the first time since his fabulous threesome of the spring and his adoring public was out in droves -- not only to thank him for his past exploits but to cheer him, will him on to victory this week.

The 8 a.m. tee time kept the crowd on the opening hole to about 500 but by the time he made the turn at 10:15, the fairways were lined and the crowd around the greens was five-to-six people thick.

Many came out wearing \"Go Mike\" T-shirts and just about every step he took someone from the sidelines would yell \"Way to go Mike\" as he strolled the beautifully manicured turf at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

Unfortunate for Weir and his fans was the fact that too often his strolls took him into the rough as the little lefty hit just seven of 14 fairways and only nine of 18 greens.

But thanks to his tenacity, his ability to get it up and down, Weir posted a scrappy, street-fighting 69 to sit one-under par and be a scant three shots back of surprise leader Hidemichi Tanaka.

As is his nature, Weir preferred to see his round as being a glass half full. Given what could have happened, he seemed satisfied with the results.

\"I drove it for the most part pretty good,\" he said. \"I hit a lot of solid iron shots, some that turned out good, some that didn\'t.

\"On a day when the wind is swirling around, not everything pans out the way you want it. The wind switches around a little bit and you can be through the green and into the rough.

But overall I\'m pretty pleased.\"

Weir got about all he could expect out of his round. He hit both of the par-5s in two -- he was on the fringe on the first and had a tricky downhill 35-footer on the second -- and birdied them both.

His vaunted iron game also allowed him to dial in on two holes -- to within 11 feet on the par-3 eighth and to four feet on the 10th -- for another two birdies.

But on the plus side that was about it.

Wayward shots into the rough clawed two of those strokes back while a ratty chip from the fringe on the sixth claimed another bogey.

But to the adoring throng, it mattered not a whit. He was here and to them that was all that mattered.

\"It was tremendous,\" Weir said of the gallery that wasn\'t there to watch his playing partners, Chris Riley and Loren Roberts. \"It was a lot of fun out there.

\"It was almost like the final round of a major championship. I mean, to have as many cameras and as many people out there on a Thursday morning.

\"So that\'s something I have to handle and the other guys don\'t have to handle. I\'m taking it as a challenge.\"

Which is just as well as today\'s second round should be more problematic if, as it did yesterday, the wind picks up to help balloon the scores skyward.

\"The wind, as I said, is blowing around quite a bit and the golf course is playing difficult,\" Weir said. \"It\'s tough to pull a club.

\"We\'ll see what (today) brings.\"

One thing it will bring is a ton of his fans. His tee time is 1 p.m. and the crowd will be there, waiting to cheer.


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