Rose, Furyk off to record start

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

ANCASTER -- These guys aren't just good. They're clever, too, and they know how to crack the code of just about any golf course on earth.

Three years ago, when the Canadian Open came back to Hamilton Golf and Country Club after 73 years, the big muscle of the PGA Tour was armwrestled to the ground by fast and firm conditions that kept them honest.

Yesterday, in the first round of the 2006 Canadian Open ... not so much.

For 76 years, Tommy Armour's course record of 64 stood the test of time against all professional comers until Jim Furyk shot 63 yesterday morning. Furyk's record stood by itself for all of about five hours. That's how long it took for England's Justin Rose to match it on a day when this grand old classic golf course was turned into Birdies R Us.

It is a measure of the respect the players have for this golf course that both Furyk and Rose were almost apologetic for catching it on a bad day.

"It's as beautiful and as great a golf course as I had heard," said Rose.

"But, obviously, Mother Nature ... I mean you can't make a course firm and fast if the weather doesn't allow it. It's playing really well considering all the rain you've had here, I guess, over the last couple of weeks.

"This golf course still commands respect, even though it's playing soft right now. You still have to shoot at some flags and away from others."

Furyk, who did not play here in 2003, understands how difficult this course could be when the turf is hard and dry.

"With the doglegs out here, I'm trying to imagine the golf course playing fast and firm and it would be difficult to get the ball to stay in the fairway all the time," he said. "You'd have to carve the ball and work it and stuff.

"But we got some rain and you have to deal with what you have."

So, with the golf course lacking its primary defences -- fast fairways and faster greens -- 70 players in the field of 156 broke par. That won't make the Hamilton members very happy but, really, is it such a bad thing? Is it such a crime against golf and a national Open to make some red numbers?

"No, I don't believe that at all," Rose said. "Birdies are fun for people to watch and at the end of the day we're out here for people to have fun watching it.

"Obviously it's a national Open and you want to have it very competitive, as well, but I still see a lot of guys over par, so this course is no pushover."

Exhibits A and B are Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, this country's top two pros, neither of whom joined the throng of players having sport with Hamilton's greens and fairways. Both shot mediocre 71s.

Weir hit a bunch of fairways and most greens early, but couldn't get a birdie putt to fall and eventually settled for a round that included two bogeys and a birdie.

It turned out to a rather unsatisfying day, not only for Weir, but for the massive gallery that followed he, Jeff Maggert and Todd Hamilton around the course.

"Through the first four or five holes, I had some good opportunities but I always seemed to be on the wrong side of the hole.

Even though I was in there within 15 feet, I just couldn't get anything to drop.

"I felt like there was a score of four or five under out there but I'll go out and try to chip away at it (this morning)."

Ames opted not to discuss his round with reporters. He came into this tournament with high hopes and clearly was disappointed not to have taken advantage.

Fact is, the golf course is unlikely to play any tougher today, though it's a good bet that there will be some very precarious pin positions to try to stem the tide of birdies.

But, if it's there for the taking, these players will take, take and take some more.

"When you're playing well you're much more tuned into the moment," Rose said. "We get distracted out there but not routinely. We'd be selling hotdogs if we did."


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