Tee’d Off Tee Times proud to be Canadian. A prominent blue logo on the white hat worn by Ernie Els seemed humorously appropriate for his first official media appearance at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club Wednesday. That’s what Canadian golf fans must have thought Els was thinking. During his victory speech at the Open Championship in England Sunday. “I’m supposed to go to Canada, but I think I’m going to blow that thing off,” Els said at the time. Ouch. Els, however, is part of the 156-man field for the 2012 RBC Canadian Open. He says he was always committed to play in Canada’s 103rd national championship, which begins Thursday and concludes Sunday. Organizers and spectators are thrilled to have him. “No, no, no. I was just trying to blow off the Monday,” Els said with a smile. “I should choose my words more carefully next time. It was nice to have a day off with the family. Then I flew here Tuesday. “I signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with RBC. Obviously that entitles me to play the Canadian Open. It just so happened that I won the (British) Open Championship. That made it difficult to get here on Monday, from my point of view.” Sunday’s Open Championship was his second in Els’ illustrious career. As he spoke to the media Wednesday, the claret jug was within arm’s length. “I haven’t prepared on this golf course the way I wanted (limited practice rounds),” he said, “but I feel fresh mentally and physically. I’ll be competing at 100 per cent.” A native of South Africa, with career earnings of more than $44 million, Els competed in the Canadian Open last year in Vancouver and twice before that (1996 and ’98). He’ll have Canadian Dan Quinn on the bag as his caddy.
RBC Canadian Open
Pennsylvania native Jim Furyk, the only player to ever win back-to-back Canadian Open titles, makes a return visit to Hamilton G&CC where he won the PGA Tour stop in 2006. He also has Argentina and United States Open wins under his belt. “If I could only get a British Open … the oldest one, ” Furyk said. “But this tournament also has a special place for me. It means a lot. It’s a national open. It has a rich history and tradition.” It will be Furyk’s ninth Canadian Open appearance. “Not much has changed here from ’06,” he said. “The course is very similar. The rain on Sunday left the course very soft for Monday’s round when I played early in the Pro Am. It’s firmed up a little since, but it’s still somewhat receptive. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the weather the rest of the week (showers in the forecast). I think it will have a direct effect on the scoring.”
Last year’s Canadian Open champion, Sean O’Hair, says he wasn’t very sharp coming into the 2011 event in Vancouver — missing a lot of cuts — but won. “The stars aligned for me,” O’Hair said. “This year it feels kind of opposite. I’m making cuts and playing solid.” In six previous Canadian Open tournaments, O’Hair’s best finish was a tie for third in 2006. “It’s fun to come to a solid, old-school venue like this. It’s one of our favourites. It puts a premium on hitting fairways and greens.” According to O’Hair, the HG&CC rough is a little patchy, but the course is playing fair.
Back for his 22nd Canadian Open is Sarnia native Mike Weir. He’s been struggling to return to form after suffering a torn wrist tendon two years ago. In 2004, he tied for top spot at the Canadian Open, but lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh. Weir is one of 23 Canadians in the field. Weir, who hasn’t made a cut in 10 PGA Tour events this season, said: “The state of my game is not very good at all. It’s no fun to play poorly, but I’m a worker. I’m trying to get some athleticism back in my swing. I’m still motivated and positive. I’ll get this thing figured out.”
One player who has it figured out is Hunter Mahan. “I feel great about my game. I don’t have any doubts about what I’m doing,” said Mahan, who has never missed a cut in seven previous Canadian Open appearances. His swing coach is local product Sean Foley, and Mahan has already captured two events on tour this year
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