Learning curve for Canucks

IAN HUTCHINSON

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

MARKHAM, Ont. -- If everything went according to plan, any libations consumed by Oshawa's Derek Gillespie this weekend would be in celebration, a reward for a job well done at the Canadian Open.

"I was playing so well coming into the event," Gillespie, 29, said. "I told the guys back home I could actually win the thing because I felt pretty confident and I knew I was hitting it well. I said, 'Don't be surprised if I do really well.' "

For 10 holes yesterday, he was living up to his promise. After shooting an uninspiring 70 on a soft Angus Glen North Course on Thursday, Gillespie went four-under over the first 10 holes and five-under for the tournament.

That left Gillespie just four shots off the lead held by Hunter Mahan at the time, but if a round was only 10 holes, he could have been forgiven for uncorking some bubbly last night. Two bogeys and a pair of double bogeys over the last eight holes have a way of transforming a promise made to a promise not kept.

If he bothers at all, Gillespie will be like other Canadians this weekend, watching the Open from outside the ropes "with a couple of beers, probably -- actually a dozen beers," said Gillespie, who missed the cut with a one-over score. "When I go home and have a shower, I'm going to be more upset than I am now."

Mixed emotions and confusion are part of the deal one or two levels below the PGA Tour.

Baffling inconsistency is the mystery that needs to be solved by golfers before taking the next step in their careers.

After shooting a remarkable 65 in the first round on Thursday, Brantford's David Hearn talked about the frustration of inconsistency over the course of this season on the Nationwide Tour.

"I made a lot of top 25s and a couple of top 10s," Hearn said. "I just haven't put together four really good rounds where I've got in the top five for a couple of weeks. I'm just trying to be patient, but overall, I think my game's real solid.

"I'm looking forward to playing well this week and getting back out there to do what I need to do to get out (on the PGA Tour) full-time," said Hearn, who took a tumble down the leaderboard himself yesterday when he was two-over, good enough to qualify for weekend play.

"It's golf," said Canadian Chris Baryla, who also was wildly inconsistent over the first two rounds, but it worked in his favour yesterday when he followed up a 74 on Thursday with a 66 and made the cut.

"Anything can happen. On any given day, it can go north or south," Baryla said. "Sometimes, you hit good shots and they work out brutally and some times, you hit average shots and they work out well. It's just golf."

Baryla is correct to a certain extent. Anyone who has played this game -- from high handicapper to scratch golfer -- will attest to its fickle nature. One day, you look (or, at least, think you look) like Tiger Woods, then the next day, the game flips the bird your way.

That's particularly tough when you're trying to make a buck and we're not talking the kind of scratch that marquee PGA Tour players take home. Just to get to the tour level means ironing out the rough patches.

"That's why Tiger's so good in that situation," Gillespie said. "He would get out of there with minimal damage where I just kind of shot myself in the foot."

That's especially easy to do when playing in front of a home-town crowd.

"It's a crazy week," said Andrew Parr of London, who also experienced a wild swing with rounds of 79-66 over the first two rounds to miss the cut.

"You can feel the fans pulling for you and you can feel it too when you start to make bogeys."

It's back to work for Parr and Gillespie, who stands third on the Canadian Tour money list. A couple of outstanding finishes will put Gillespie into the top two who will receive direct tickets into the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school.

Meanwhile, Hearn and Baryla will attempt to improve their fortunes on the Nationwide Tour, so the Canadian Open will quickly become a distant memory.

One thing they will all remember is the roller-coaster ride they experienced at Angus Glen.

Fixing that inconsistency will lead to consistency in events played at golf's highest level.


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