No big names no big deal at Canadian Open

There will be no back-to-back victories for British Open champion and fan favourite Ernie Els of...

There will be no back-to-back victories for British Open champion and fan favourite Ernie Els of South Africa, who fired a second-round 70 yesterday to miss the cut at the Canadian Open. (Getty Images/AFP)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 AM ET

A wry smile came across the face of a scalawag as he scanned the top of the leaderboard Friday afternoon at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

“So, who do you think the tournament organizers are cheering to win?” he asked within earshot of a few RBC Canadian Open officials. They either didn’t hear him or chose to ignore the wise guy.

My immediate response was, “We’re not in England anymore, Toto,” pointing to the fact that the champion golfer of the year crowned last week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes missed the cut as Ernie Els was two over for the tournament.

So yes Toto, we are in Canada, but the Abbotsford, B.C., lad who shot a 66 Thursday finished with a 74 Friday to miss the cut.

Adam Hadwin, a rock star last year with his T4 finish, won’t be low Canadian for the third consecutive year.

Another crowd favourite, Mike Weir, won’t be around for the weekend, either.

The RBC Canadian Open has shifted into generic, with an astonishing lack of brand power near the top of the board.

There are some recognizable names, three-time major champ Vijay Singh, who won this event in 2004, among them. Bo Van Pelt, Tim Clark, Camilo Villegas and Stuart Appleby are other recognizable names that may be heard from by Sunday.

However, this no-frills leaderboard is typical for a tournament with an awkward date behind the British Open that has had lesser-knowns such as Sean O’Hair, Carl Pettersson, Nathan Green and Chez Reavie win in recent years.

If you don’t need to double check the backgrounds of Scott Piercy, William McGirt, Robert Garrigus, Troy Matteson, Josh Teater or Greg Owen, you will be classed as a true golf fan par excellence, a rare breed in this era of obsession with golf’s best-known brand.

The third and fourth rounds of the Open promise to be home for the hardcore, especially with inclement weather condensing tee times into threesomes, not the ones who whimper that Tiger Woods has blown off this tournament for the past 11 years.

The hardcore fans will be checking out Villegas, once a Colombian rising star who has struggled this year with eight missed cuts in 18 events in a season that saw him WD from the RBC Heritage with a back injury.

Villegas hasn’t won in over two years, but came in with a 64 Friday to move into a tie for eighth, four shots off the lead, so we may yet hear from him.

Bud Cauley, 22, isn’t as well-known as Villegas, but give him time. Cauley just turned pro before the U.S. Open after an outstanding college career at Alabama and registered a 63, a score that included an eagle, Friday to tie with Villegas.

Absence of brand power doesn’t mean absence of talent. The presence of two rising players so high on the leaderboard could mean fireworks, especially on a golf course that’s been softened by weather.

There are stories out there, but it depends on your motivation to look beyond the obvious in order to find them.

THE JUICES AREN’T FLOWING

Even if he is tied for the lead, the well-respected Hamilton Golf and Country Club isn’t what normally suits the attack style of Piercy.

“I will tell you this golf course takes the juices out of it for me because it’s not an exciting golf course where you generally go hit driver,” said Piercy. “It’s a lot of position off the tee and it’s a lot of position into the green.”

“For me, I like to be aggressive and shoot at things,” he added.

“You know, this golf is boring golf for me. I’m not going for it. I’m not trying to put my foot on the accelerator,” said Piercy, adding his outlook may change should he hang on and win.

“Then, you look back and it’s like fun, but while you’re in the process of doing it, I call it boring golf,” he said.

“If that makes sense.”

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

Van Pelt, who shot a 66 on Friday and is two shots off the lead, had the third round lead, one shot ahead of Hadwin at last year’s Canadian Open at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. Van Pelt points out that it was a different golf course, but one key at Shaughnessy was keeping it in the fairway, just as it is at Hamilton ... “This rough has really popped with the moisture. You can get some spurly lies in there,” said McGirt, adding that he’d like to see the greens firm up somewhat, which is unlikely to happen in this weather. “I’ve spun a couple of wedges off the green, but I don’t think it changes the game plan at all,” he said ... Part of extensive renovations at Hamilton was the installation of a 22-million gallon reservoir and superintendent Rhod Trainor estimates the club has used more than that much water to deal with the hot, dry summer so far. “We put together a very comprehensive plan to store water as much as we could. I think the project went off really well and it’s paying off now,” said Trainor, adding the supply is constantly being replenished.

 


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