Bursey bursts out to early lead after an opening-round 63
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Written by PGA TOUR Canada Staff @PGATOURCanada
CALEDON, Ontario -- Blair Bursey continued the streak of strong play from Canadian golfers on Thursday when he used a barrage of birdies in the middle of his round to surge into the first-round lead at the Osprey Valley Open presented by Votorantim Cimentos CBM Aggregates.
Bursey, of Gander, Newfoundland, posted eight birdies over a nine-hole stretch – including six in a row – to shoot an opening round 63 at TPC Toronto’s Heathland course, enjoying a one-shot lead in the sixth event of PGA TOUR Canada’s schedule.
Bursey finished one stroke better than the American’s Blake Maum and John Pak, who already has one victory this season. Canadian Brendan MacDougall joins American’s Ryann Ree, Matt Liringis, George Kneiser, Brian Carslon and Josh Radcliff at a tie for fourth at 6-under 65.
“I did my job today. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow," Bursey said. "If I can stack those days together, then things will happen quicker as opposed to slower, but it was a good day and hopefully I’ll repeat it again tomorrow."
The left-hander started on the back nine. He birdied No. 13 and 14, parred No. 15 and then knocked in six straight birdies from holes 16 through 3. His lone bogey came at No. 5 and he finished with a birdie on the final hole.
Bursey is a playing ambassador for host site TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley, and wore one of the club’s blue-logoed shirts on Thursday. He got into the field on a sponsor exemption and is trying to follow in the steps of Stuart Macdonald, who won last week on an exemption.
Bursey played PGA TOUR Canada in 2022 and did not qualify for the weekend in nine starts. He missed the cut eight times and withdrew in the other. After working through a few mechanical swing issues, things began to turn around for him on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica circuit this spring. He had two top-25s in 11 starts and made four cuts. The progress continued on Thursday.
"It's just one round, but you know I've put in a lot of work, especially in the last 18 months, and haven't seen many results," Bursey said. "I had started to see some good signs the last half of the Latinoamérica season. It's been a struggle for a little bit, but I’ll just continue to do the right things and hopefully the results will come."
Also starting on the back nine, Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, had seven birdies – six on his first nine holes where he shot 29 – and enjoyed a relatively stress-free round until his final hole, No. 9, the 553-yard par-5. His drive landed in the thick fescue rough, requiring him to punch out into the fairway, where he got up-and-down from 90 yards for par.
“I hit some really good shots and made a lot of putts and just didn’t really do anything particularly bad,” said Pak, who is currently ranked No. 2 on the Fortinet Cup points list. “I just kept the ball in play, hit a couple close and capitalized on it.”
Maum, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, shot his lowest round of the season. Maum has made the cut in three of five PGA TOUR Canada starts this season, but his best finish came last week at the Commissionaires Ottawa Open, where he tied for 35th.
He had eight birdies – including four-straight after making the turn – and only one bogey. Maum was especially proud of his birdie at No. 4, where his drive landed within 40 yards of the green. He followed that with a less-than-auspicious wedge, but still made the 30-foot to retain his momentum.
“I hit it good all day, like I hit it good last week, and kind of have pretty much all year, but today was the first day I was able to convert some of those birdie looks that I hadn’t in the previous weeks,” Maum said.
Tied for 10th at 5-under 66 are the USA’s Kyle Karazissis, Ryan Linton, Andrew Paisley, Hayden Springer and Canadian Joey Savoie.
John Pak has shot 29 twice in his last four rounds. He did it on the back nine of his second round last week at the Commissionaires Ottawa Open and repeated the feat on his first nine at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley on Thursday. There have been nine 29s posted on PGA TOUR Canada this summer – Pak owning two of them.
Blair Bursey’s streak of six-straight birdies ties him for the second-longest such streak this season. Chris R. Wilson and Connor Howe both did it at the ATB Classic in Edmonton. Sam Choi has a season-best seven straight birdies during the fourth round of the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open.
Fortinet Cup points leader Davis Lamb opened with a 3-under 68 and is tied for 27th.
Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira made his professional debut and shot 3-under 68. The University of Arkansas graduate is eligible for PGA TOUR Canada through his status on PGA TOUR University. He won the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship and earned exemptions to play in the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and Mexico Open and chose to remain an amateur long enough to play in each.
Calgary native Brendan MacDougall is trying to make the cut for the second-straight week. He opened the season by missing the cut in the first three events. He tied for 24th last week at the Commissionaires Ottawa Open.
Ryann Ree, who opened with a 65, is trying to make the cut for the second-straight week. He has two top-15 finishes. Ree's opening round included six birdies and no bogeys.
Matt Liringis shot 65 in the first round, his lowest score of the season. His best finish was a tie for 47th at the Quebec Open powered by Videotron Business.
The highlight of George Kneiser's round was his eagle on the par-5 ninth hole. Kneiser had three eagles during the ATB Classic. He began the season by tying for second at the Royal Beach Victoria Open, but has missed the cut the past two weeks. He is No. 10 in the Fortinet Cup points list.
Brian Carlson had nine birdies and three bogeys in his first-round 65. Carlson is trying to end a streak of missing the cut in four-consecutive events.
Canadian Stuart Macdonald, winner at last week’s Commissionaires Ottawa Open, opened with a 68 and is tied for 27th.
Etienne Papineau of Quebec, who won the season-opening Royal Beach Victoria Open, got off to a good start with a 67 and is tied for 15th. Papineau is No. 3 on Fortinet Cup points list.
“The wind today, with the new changes, is really challenging. It played very different than it would have in years past. I like them. It definitely makes them a lot more difficult, but a good change for sure.” – Blair Bursey, on the changes at TPC Toronto.
"I've worked pretty hard for this, so I'm just glad to see it's finally paying off." -- John Pak
"It just frees up my golf swing a little bit because you don't feel like you have to try to be as aggressive to make birdies. You can just play away from pins a little bit and let the putter do the work." – Blake Maum
“Overall, it was a really solid round and I’m just happy to be up here in Canada for the first time and playing this tour. I’m happy with my first round here.” – Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira
First-Round Weather: Partly cloudy and warm with light rain in the morning. High of 30. Wind NNW with gusts up to 30 kph.