Canadian Open field storms out of gate

Like many golfers at the Canadian Open, Canada's David Hearn, who shot a first-round 68, was...

Like many golfers at the Canadian Open, Canada's David Hearn, who shot a first-round 68, was awakened by loud thunder and lightning early Wednesday morning. (CHRISTOPHER SMITH/QMI AGENCY)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

TORONTO - The first fireworks of the morning came well before anybody teed it up in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open on Thursday.

There were plenty to follow when the players started lighting it up themselves at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

The morning draw produced four 65s, but that grew to seven by the afternoon, all outstanding scores, but not good enough as the afternoon groups started going even lower. By the end of the day, Scott Piercy had the official competitive course record with a first-round 62.

About an hour earlier, Englishman Greg Owen came in with a 63, which was matched by William McGirt, leaving them one better than the 64 carded by Robert Garrigus.

The constantly-changing numbers at the top of the leaderboard came after meteorological mayhem the night before. After a hot, dry summer to date, severe storms hit the area Wednesday evening.

“About two in the morning or 1 a.m., something like that, I remember waking up and hearing the thunder, so I wasn’t really sure how much rain came down,” said Troy Matteson after his morning 65.

“I woke up right away,” said David Hearn, who was staying at home in nearby Brantford and went on to post a 68. “It was pretty loud. I felt like it was hitting some of the trees in our backyard.”

Last year’s Masters champ Charl Schwartzel slept through it before his 65, but “I woke up (Thursday) morning and thought the British Open (had been played) a week early, looking out the window,” said Schwartzel, who shot a 65 of his own.

There’s still a 40% chance of rain with possible thunderstorms Friday and Saturday to soften up a golf course that has been continuously praised since hosting the national Open for the first time in the modern era back in 2003.

“The fairways are a little soft. The greens were soft today. You could fire at the flags. It got a little windy at times, kept coming up and down,” said Owen. “The wind seemed to die really the last three or four holes.”

That would explain how Piercy, Owen, McGirt and Garrigus provided ever-changing numbers at the top of the leaderboard late in the day, but the soft conditions aren’t changing anybody’s mind about Hamilton.

“You’re in the Great Lakes region in the summertime. I mean, you’re going to get rain and when you get rain, you’re going to get a lot of rain,” said Matteson.

“Guys love this course because you’ve got to make shots. You’ve got to turn it right to left. You’ve got to turn it left to right. You’ve really got to think about what you’re doing,” he explained.

Two years ago, eventual champion Carl Pettersson was putting for 59, but wound up with a third-round 60 to set the record for lowest single round score in Open history and dent the image of St. George’s Golf and Country Club, also one of the true gems in Canada.

Overnight rain and humidity had also softened St. George’s, which made any knock against it a bum rap. The same thing happened with Congressional when Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open there last year.

“This golf course obviously has the contour to drain well, so guys enjoy it here,” said Matteson.

“If we get 10 to 20 mile an hour winds and we get no rain the rest of the week, it’s only going to improve. They’ve done a fantastic job getting this golf course in shape and I know it’s been tough because there has been a lack of rain, but the course is in wonderful shape,” he said.

We’ll see what happens. As play wound down on Thursday evening, more torrential downpours came to assure the soaked players and fans who remained that this promises to be an unpredictable weekend.

ADAM AT IT AGAIN

Adam Hadwin took a big first step toward becoming low Canadian for the third consecutive year by shooting a 66. Whatever it is that he does in Canada, he wants to duplicate it elsewhere. “I’m certainly going to be looking at the way I approach this week and my thought process and trying to bring that back out to the Web.com (Tour). I felt like I was playing with a little bit of a swagger that I haven’t had in a couple of months,” said Hadwin ... Piercy either holds or is tied for the competitive course record. Ontario amateur standout Warren Sye and Jim Nelford have also shot 62s here, but the record was officially thought to be the 63s shot by Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Brett Quigley and Kevin Sutherland in 2006, which the club recognizes as the official record due to different yardages ... Owen shot his 63 with a tender hand that he injured at last week’s British Open. “Once it loosens up, it’s not too bad. I’ve just got to be careful of how deep of divots I take and how hard I go after it in the rough,” said Owen, who believes it’s ligament damage ... The beginning of the Olympics in London today coincides with the birthday of George S. Lyon, a Canadian who is the last person to win the gold medal in golf, at the 1904 Games in St. Louis. Lyon was born July 27, 1858, in Richmond, Ont., near Ottawa.


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