Delicious duel ahead?

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

OAKVILLE -- The potential storybook ending to the first day of the RBC Canadian Open turned into a professional wrestling plot, with the Maniacal Meteorologist invading the party and stealing the show from the gladiators at the top of the leaderboard.

When the dark villain struck at 12:51 p.m., a perfect scenario was shaping up for the Royal Canadian Golf Association and everything seemed golden despite the stormy weather that turned Glen Abbey into a quagmire earlier in the week.

"The course maintenance crew did an amazing job," co-leader Anthony Kim said. "I didn't think we were going to tee off on time after the showers we got (Wednesday). So, for the bunkers not to have water in them and the greens to be holding, but not tugging back too far, I mean, they did a wonderful job."

Kim, tagged with goofy nicknames such as "The Next One" at age 23, teed off at 7:50 a.m., about 20 minutes after Eric Axley went and Mike Weir took his first shot in front of his adoring Canadian fans. All three finished with sparkling 65s.

"Because we're playing lift, clean and place, if you hit fairways, you're going to have great opportunities to go at the flags," said Kim, who has two wins this year.

Not many players got a chance to go at those flags yesterday. Only 31 completed their rounds and 63 had yet to tee off when weather threatened again. As stellar as Weir, Kim and Axley were, the majority of the field didn't have complete access to perfect scoring conditions.

Play resumed at 6:30 and the catch-up marathon continues today. As it is in every wrestling plotline, there is a chance for retribution and the storybook ending that was playing out yesterday may well continue when Kim, Weir and Axley get under way again today.

"It makes a difference, it really does, when you get called off the course with three holes to go and you wait around all day," Weir said. "Especially with my round going today, I wanted to keep the momentum going. That would have been tough to come back and try to get that energy level back to where it needs to be.

"It's nice to be done and just wait."

Ahead is a marquee showdown -- by Canadian standards -- with a native son dueling a rapidly rising star in Kim and a long shot in Axley, who tied for ninth at the U.S. Open.

It is Kim who captures the imagination as an opponent for Weir. Being tagged as the next Tiger Woods is pressure enough, but he has reacted well.

"It's tough to tag a guy (like) that, but if there is anybody that has a talent, Anthony does," Weir said.

"He is very talented. He's got his confidence going and he's going to be a great player for a long time. He's really got the game and all the shots."

That confidence will be sternly tested once Kim returns to a golf course where Weir is an overwhelming crowd favourite as he attempts to become the first Canadian since 1954 to win the Open.

"I don't really consider anybody my enemy," Kim said. "You know, Mike is a great guy. Obviously, the people love him here and rightfully so. What he has done for Canadian golf is wonderful and something to be very proud of.

"I know I have an uphill climb. He's a great player. He's obviously shown it with a Masters win and a Tour Championship and a number of other wins he has. I have nothing but respect for him and I'm looking forward to the challenge of playing against the field, not just Mike."

Kim added that the fans here have been warm to him and that he may return to Canada, no matter how successful he becomes.

He recalls Tiger's famous 6-iron shot from the bunker on the 18th hole at Glen Abbey to win the 2000 Canadian Open.

"There is a lot of history here. Chris Armstrong, who is my new agent, is from this area. He told me what a wonderful golf tournament it was and I saw that RBC was making a conscious effort to get people over here and to make this tournament as good as it can be.

"I felt like this was somewhere I wanted to be and it's definitely a good test for me."

That's good news for Canadians who have longed for marquee players at their national championship, even if they present a strong challenge to their native son.


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