OAKVILLE, Ontario -- Brendan Steele topped the RBC Canadian Open leaderboard Thursday with a 7-under 65, starting with birdies on five of his first seven holes at Glen Abbey.
"I love being up here," Steele said. "I played in `06 and `07 on PGA TOUR Canada. And really, got me ready to play the (Web.com) Tour, which I played in `08, `09 and `10. It was a great progression in my life. I had a great time up here. Made a lot of friends and spent two summers traveling the country."
The 30-year-old American had eight birdies and a bogey, dropping a shot on his final hole -- the par-4 ninth. He won the 2011 Valero Texas Open for his only PGA TOUR title.
Steele ranks 97th in FedExCup points, so a big week would go a long way in securing a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs.
"Really, just an overall good day," Steele said. "Hit a lot of good shots and was able to hole some putts. When you have a good round like that and you play that well, you kind of have everything going. But today was probably the most complete round that I've had all year, so that was kind of nice. Didn't miss many greens, didn't hit many shots off line, and I was able to roll a few putts in."
Matt Kuchar, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year, was a stroke back along with Scott Gardiner and Scott Brown. Kuchar eagled the par-5 18th hole, his ninth hole of the day.
"It was fun to be out here. It was perfect conditions," Kuchar said. "I feel like last week, conditions were so challenging and so difficult at the British Open, to come here and to play golf that is more friendly and more what we're used to the PGA TOUR was great.
"The conditions are spectacular. The course is in great shape. We had very little wind, good temperature, so it was a great opportunity. The par 5s are all attainable and birdieable."
Hunter Mahan and David Lingmerth shot 67, and Chez Reavie, the 2008 winner at Glen Abbey, was another stroke back in a group that included Bubba Watson and Trevor Immelman.
"Gave myself a lot of good looks and the greens were rolling true," Mahan said. "It's in great shape right now. In the morning, we'll have perfect conditions."
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 70, and Ernie Els and defending champion Scott Piercy carded a 71. Piercy won last year at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel and Canadian Mike Weir shot 73, Dustin Johnson struggled to a 75, and Graeme McDowell had a 76.
Brad Fritsch was the top Canadian at 69. David Hearn, a playoff loser this month in the John Deere Classic, followed at 70.
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner, taking the 1954 event at Point Grey in Vancouver. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.
Fritsch birdied his final three holes.
"I think I hit less than 50 percent of the fairways, but I think that's just the nature of this golf course," Fritsch said. "I looked like I got some horrendous bounces. When I was expecting one way, it went the other, and that led to a little bit of frustration. But I stayed patient."
|Glen Abbey GC: Round 1|