ANCASTER, ONT. - While all eyes were on Ernie Els Thursday, waiting to see how he would respond in his first tournament after winning the British Open, Scott Piercy was quietly using his putter to post a course record 62 in the opening round of the Canadian Open.
Piercy closed with a 30 on the 6,966-yard Hamilton Golf and Country Club to overtake Englishman Greg Owen and grab the early lead.
The Las Vegas native made five birdies, two eagles and only one bogey, despite hitting just 12 greens in regulation, so he needed to get up and down a lot. In all, he used just 24 putts to complete his round.
“Obviously you have to make a couple of putts to shoot a 62,” Piercy said.
Piercy said he really didn’t have any feeling going in to the round he was going to go out and fire such a low score.
“You know, in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I had a very good feel for the course teeing up on the first hole today,” Piercy said. “I flew in late on Tuesday, played the pro-am, so I’m kind of jet-lagged playing, and kind of scraped through.”
Owen and William McGirt both shot 63s, while Robert Garrigus was alone in fourth place at six-under 64. A group of seven other players, including V.J.
Singh, Stuart Appleby and Charl Schwartzel, were tied at five-under par.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., was the low Canadian, recording a four-under and finishing up just before torrential rains pounded the course early in the evening, stopping play for about 40 minutes with several groups still on the course.
Things didn’t look like they were going to go well for Owen when he started his round on the back nine double-bogey, bogey. But after the inauspicious start, he made eight birdies and an eagle, closing in 29 to briefly take the lead. But his lead lasted less than an hour.
“You know, you just gotta keep it in play, hit the fairways,” Owen said.
“It’s not a long golf course. Hit the fairways and then you give yourself as many chances as you can, and that’s what I did today. I got off to a rough start, but I played pretty solid from then on.” It wasn’t surprising the players were posting low scores on the muggy first day of the tournament. The greens on the hilly course were very receptive after plenty of rain fell Wednesday night, softening up playing conditions.
Several players, including defending champion Sean O’Hair and two-time winner Jim Furyk, expressed concern after Wednesday’s pro-am that the course could get really tough if things continued to dry up. But that didn’t happen, and the fact that the players were allowed to clean and place their balls didn’t hurt scores. And any wind out there earlier in the day had died down by the time Pierce and company posted their low scores.
The soft conditions did make the course play a bit longer, since the players weren’t getting any roll off their drives, and the freshly watered rough gobbled up any errant shots.
“The ball striking around here, with the rough being so penal, is a must to shoot well,” Piercy said. “I hit the rough on one hole and was only able to advance the ball 20 yards.”
It must have been tough for Els to keep his mind on this tournament after winning one of the most prestigious trophies in all of sport last week. But he seemed to be doing well enough in the early going, wrapping up his first nine with a birdie and a bogey to go along with seven pars. But he started to come unglued on the back nine, picking up a triple-bogey on the par-4 11th en route to a 72.
Els couldn’t have asked for a more perfect grouping to start his post-British Open season, though.
If Els is the Big Easy then Matt Kuchar should be called Mr. Relaxation. Or maybe that name has already been taken by Singh. At any rate, all three of them barely broke a sweat ¬ or raised a heartbeat ¬ despite the thick humidity.
Kuchar, who looked like he could do no wrong as he racked up his five birdies on his first five holes, finished at three-under. Els will have to do a little better on Friday if he wants to be around on the weekend.