Wet conditions give golfers a big lift at Canadian Open

Scott Piercy of the U.S. waves to the gallery on the 18th hole during the second round at the...

Scott Piercy of the U.S. waves to the gallery on the 18th hole during the second round at the Canadian Open golf tournament at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario, July 27, 2012. (REUTERS)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

ANCASTER, ONT. - When the skies opened up last weekend and again Thursday, throwing tons of water on the Canadian Open party, it was an invitation for club-wielding pirates to pillage and plunder Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

Under such benign conditions, PGA Tour players do not need to be encouraged to go for a golf course's soft underbelly.

In Thursday's opening round when Scott Piercy set a course record of 62, the field scoring average was right on par, at 70.109. Friday when Tim Clark matched Piercy's record score, the field went even lower, averaging 69.387. Compounding the soft conditions is the PGA Tour's insistence that the tournament be played under "lift-clean-and-place" circumstances.

When you allow players of this calibre to put their hands on the golf ball, (the unofficial terminology for this practice is "lift-clean-and-cheat") low scores always result.

"I'm not really happy about the ball in hand, but that's the way they like to play it," said HGCC superintendent Rhod Trainor, who has seen his firm, fast golf course turn into a shooting gallery.

"With the greens soft and receptive, there are not a lot of long putts out there. I think the guys can fire close to the pin."

And that they did. Piercy followed his 62 with a 67, tied for the lead at 11-under par with South Carolinian William McGirt, who followed his opening 63 with a 66.

Tour veteran Bo Van Pelt holed his final shot of the day from the fairway on the ninth hole to jump to nine-under from seven-under to move into a tie with Robert Garrigus. Vijay Singh and Clark were another shot back at eight-under.

Clark had a very good chance to erase Piercy's record. After shooting even-par 70 Thursday, he was eight-under through 14 holes Friday but finished with four consecutive pars.

"When you've got lift, clean and place and the greens are receptive, it is easy, but these greens can get bumpy later in the day, so it's tough to make putts," said Clark, who missed 14 months of play with a torn elbow tendon, just returning to action this past spring.

While Hamilton is playing soft and scoring is low, the deep rough and tricky greens demand that players play a disciplined brand of golf. For Piercy, 33, that equates to a game that borders on tedium. He might be from Las Vegas, but he's no gambler.

"You know, this golf is boring golf for me," he said. "I'm not going for it. I'm not trying to put my foot on the accelerator. Hopefully the next two days go well. It's fun at the end of the week when you put it together.

"But while you're in the process of doing it, I call it boring golf. If that makes sense."

For the most part, Piercy avoided the dreaded difficulty of following a record-setting round with another good one.

"A lot of times you end up being unhappy with pars after you shoot a 62 because you're so used to making birdies or eagles, that's what you expect," he said. "And pars are still good."

This is 33-year-old McGirt's second year on the PGA Tour after six years of trying to get out of the mini-tours. In 52 events, he has only one top-10 finish and that came last week when he finished tied for fifth and won just over $100,000. But he has made 39 cuts and is gaining valuable experience.

"I've never been in this position out here," McGirt said. "I was in the next-to-last group in Tampa earlier this year. It was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it.

"It took me a while just to make my first cut out here. Once you get over that hump, it makes it a lot easier. You know what to expect and how your body is going to react.

"I'm still playing the same game: Fairways and greens and take advantage of the opportunities. I'm not going to change anything. I just have to stick to my guns."

Piercy and McGirt will have their mettle tested, with players such as Singh, Clark and Camilo Villegas, who is at seven-under, right on their tails.

Villegas hasn't made the top 10 in a tournament since June 2011. His best finish in 2012 is a tie for 18th.

Friday he rattled off a front side of 30, leaving an 18-foot putt 10 inches short for 29 on the ninth green.

"It has been tough the last year," Villegas said, "but it's the nature of the sport. We keep battling, trust me. We wake up every morning trying to get better. Sometimes it's a lot of fun, sometimes it's a little more struggling, but overall it's a great job. I love what we do and I'm looking forward to the weekend."


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