McLean plays home turf to prep for Open

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

MARKHAM -- While much of the Canadian Open field is working out the kinks on the Angus Glen range and putting green, Alan McLean has taken a more competitive approach.

The 36-year-old Londoner selected to stay much closer to home by playing the first round of the $24,000 Great Lakes Tour Platinum Series stop at FireRock Golf Club in Komoka yesterday.

The series' reigning tour champion and holder of the Moe Norman Cup carded a 74 in the first of the two-round event and made no bones about relishing the chance to stay on familiar turf and sleep in his own bed as much as possible before the national championship begins tomorrow in Markham.

"I played Angus Glen on Sunday but we wouldn't have been able to get out (today) because of the pro-ams there, so I thought I'd come back here and play," the big-hitting six-foot, 210-pounder said. "I imagine the greens will be a little firmer than I saw them but that's expected. I don't feel a commitment to playing (Great Lakes events) but the course is eight minutes from my house. When it's that close, it doesn't even feel like a tournament."

Although it's unusual for a player to play another event during the same week of the biggest tournament on the Canadian golf schedule, it's certainly not unprecedented.

Mississauga's Brian McCann, who qualified for the Open on Monday and is the Great Lakes Tour's money leader, joined McLean in the field yesterday and will travel back to Angus Glen today after his round to prepare for tomorrow's opening tee-off.

Oshawa's Derek Gillespie, who was in a practice round group along with Mike Weir and London's Andrew Parr yesterday, has also pulled off the double.

To qualify for the Great Lakes tour championship, players must take part in at least eight Ben Hogan events or Platinum Series stops. McLean, a member of the Canadian Tour who earned a Royal Canadian Golf Association exemption to the Open, felt the Great Lakes competition helps keep his mind off what's about to come at him. There's still pressure and the course is open to spectators but it won't be anything like the crowds that gather on the weekend at Angus Glen if he makes the cut.

"It"s a nice distraction, really," he said. "I'll play here and then go to Angus Glen. I've already had some offers of accommodation, which is nice. I imagine as we get closer to the hour (of tee-off), I'll start to get a few more butterflies. You're always excited to play in an event like (the Open)."

McLean will play the Open's first two rounds in a threesome with Aussie Jarrod Lyle and Bryce Molder of Conway, Ariz., tees off at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. Londoner Andrew Parr plays at 1:30 p.m. with Aussie Andrew Buckle and Bubba Dickerson of Fernandina Beach, Fla. Mike Weir, who starts swinging at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, plays in a superb group with Vijay Singh and Tom Pernice, Jr.

Looking at his post-Open plans, it's little wonder McLean wanted to hang back in London rather than rub elbows with the PGA Tour pros for two days. Next week, he's off to Russia to play in the European PGA's Moscow Open at the Le Meridian Moscow Country Club.

"I've played in Russia at the Open before. It's a nice course (with similar look and feel to many Canadian links)."


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