Hamilton course holds its ground for Canadian Open

Albin Choi waves to the gallery at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club yesterday after coming in as...

Albin Choi waves to the gallery at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club yesterday after coming in as the low amateur at the Canadian Open. Choi's four-round total was a one-over-par 281.

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

ANCASTER, ONT. - It might have been somewhere in the trees or buried in the thick rough at Hamilton Golf and Country Club that somebody found the plutonium Saturday night to fire up the flux capacitor and take the host course of the 2012 RBC Canadian Open back in time.

It was a golden era in 2006 when champion Jim Furyk praised Hamilton, not unlike three years earlier when it both surprised and charmed PGA Tour players not familiar with the Harry Colt design after it had been out of the Canadian Open rotation for decades.

It seemed natural that Hamilton would live up to the endorsement of champions, but in a warped bit of timing, a hot, dry summer was interrupted by torrential rain Sunday, after being drenched Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.

Add in the humid conditions and Hamilton softened to the point of possibly obliterating its reputation of excellence. On Saturday evening, Scott Piercy pushed it to 14-under, the total that won it for Furyk in ’06, and the damage looked to be 20 under or better come Sunday.

Yet, Piercy, who shot a controversial course-record 62 on Thursday with lift, clean and place the order of the day, managed a respectable 67, hardly one for the ages, but enough to win the national championship at 17 under.

The host venue proved to be a winner itself, toughening up enough to prevent scores from going off the charts. The difference wasn’t huge, but enough to matter, according to the guys at the top of the leaderboard.

“It was a lot firmer than, say, Thursday. The ball was rolling out a little bit. The ball was bouncing into the greens,” said Piercy. “The greens speed was maybe a little bit quicker, just because they were a little drier, but not too bad.”

As a result, the numbers at the top of the leaderboard were no longer rolling like pinball numbers as they were earlier in the week.

“The greens firmed up a lot, especially the back nine,” added William McGirt, who tied for second with Robert Garrigus at 16 under. “I hit a couple of wedges that I thought were going to be really close, but bounced 25-30 feet by the hole. It dried up a bunch today.”

Garrigus echoed those thoughts.

“It was a little firmer. There were some shots skipping,” said Garrigus, who put up a couple of 64s earlier in the week and said the Sunday pin placements helped defend Hamilton’s honour.

“They were awesome,” he said. “It’s the way it should be on Sunday. It should be hard. They didn’t want it to get too crazy. I’m sure they didn’t want to see 20-under win.”

Never a truer word was spoken. Seeking validation from PGA Tour players is often roulette. Thumbs-up is special, especially if you pay attention to goofy rankings, but summer conditions can be disastrous, at least if you’re devoid of perspective.

In the end, Piercy won this year’s Open with a score that was only three shots better than Furyk’s in 2006 when it could have pushed so much higher and Garrigus believes Hamilton’s membership should be happy with the way it went.

“I’d embrace it. I’d say that these guys are the best in the world,” he said. “If the weather wasn’t the way it was, it would have been probably 12 to 13 under, maybe less, because the rough was thick and if the fairways were running, you’d have been running through into the rough a lot, so I’d say great tournament.”

“I think it’s a great track,” said McGirt. “I love it.”

MOM ON HIS MIND

Toronto’s Albin Choi, 20, was surrounded by friends and family during his rounds, but he also had someone special on his mind before finishing one over for the tournament.

“It was just a hard time for us,” said Choi, whose mom Ericka died earlier this year. “She meant everything to me. She would have loved to be here, but she’ll be here in spirit. It would always be me and her going out to the golf course.

“She’d always be by my side wherever I went and not having her around these past months have been very hard on me. I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing. She’ll always be in the back of my mind, but I’m going to try and use this as fuel to make a good career for myself.”

ALASKA bound

After winning the Rivermead Trophy for low Canadian, Graham DeLaet got out of Dodge quickly to catch a plane. He was off to Alaska for a fishing trip with buddies before returning to play the Wyndham Championship in mid-August and trying to push as far into the FedEx Cup playoffs as possible ... In the previous two Opens played at Hamilton, there were only four rounds of 63 or better. This year, there were 10 ... Last year at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, nobody had four rounds in the 60s, but this year, nine players did, including Piercy ... While the rest of the world was watching Ernie Els win the British Open, Scott Stalling was winning the True South Classic. Stallings shot a final round 68 to tie for seventh at Hamilton, the first time in his career that he has had back-to-back top-10 finishes.


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