OAKVILLE -- As Mike Weir prepared for a five-foot putt to finish the opening round at the RBC Canadian Open yesterday, one of his playing partners, the American Todd Hamilton, put his fingers in his ears.
A good idea, as the huge gallery roared its approval when Weir sunk the short putt to finish the first round of the Canadian Open at 6-under-par 65, for the tournament lead, along with Americans Eric Axley and Anthony Kim.
"When people are pulling for you, sometimes there is a feeling like you just can't miss," said Weir, of the round and the support he received at Glen Abbey yesterday.
The 65 was the perfect way for Weir to reintroduce himself to the Abbey, the site of his heartbreaking, overtime loss to Vijay Singh at the 2004 Open, and a course he has not played well on over the years.
It also matched his best score in 47 career rounds at the Canadian Open. It was also the first time he'd broken 70 in the opening round of a tournament this year.
"I did need to get over the struggles I had around here," said Weir. "Finally shooting some good rounds in 2004 helped me get over the mental hurdle that I can shoot better than 70 out there."
"I think my game is more suited to this place compared to 10-12 years ago when I first started coming here as an amateur," he said. "On the Canadian Tour, I really hit the ball low then. Maybe with new technology and equipment, I can get the ball higher now and that helps me around here."
The pride of Bright's Grove, Ont., considered himself fortunate that he was able to complete an entire round yesterday. About a half hour after walking off the course, organizers suspended play because of bad weather. Among those forced into the clubhouse for more than five hours were two-time defending champion Jim Furyk and Calgary's Stephen Ames. After an afternoon of rain, play resumed at 6:30 p.m. and suspended just before 9 p.m.
Furyk managed to get in only nine holes and left the course at 1-under. Ames finished his day 1-over after nine. A total of 78 golfers were unable to play a full round because of the rain delay.
"That makes a difference, it really does," said Weir, of being able to finish without having to wait for the skies to clear. "It's nice to be done and just wait (for the second round.) I wanted to keep the momentum going. It would have been tough to come back and try to get that energy level back to where it needs to be."
Weir, who is 49th this season in the FedExCup rankings, is attempting to become the first Canadian to win the national Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954, as is Ames, who is ranked 25th on the FedEx Cup points list.
Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, posted six birdies and zero bogeys and finished his day spectacularly. Playing the back nine first, he ran into a little trouble on the seventh, driving the ball into the bunker, 54 feet from the hole. But he chipped the ball to within six feet of the hole to save par.
Finishing up on the par-4 ninth, the lefty hammered a 313-foot shot off the tee before putting his approach over the water to about three feet from the hole for the birdie.
Kim, at 23, one of the real young stars of the PGA Tour, recorded seven birdies and one bogey while Axley had five birdies, a bogey and eagled the par-5 15th. A native of Los Angeles who know lives in Dallas, Kim is ranked fifth on the Tour this year, having won the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National this year. This is the Korean-American's first trip to Canada and he already is attracting a considerable gallery.
"Obviously, I don't have 3,000 people following my every shot and my every move like Mike. But the people that were following me out there been great," he said. "I feel very welcome."