Featured Groups: Els back to work with Singh, Kuchar

July 25, 2012

Here's a look at this week's Featured Groups at the RBC Canadian Open. For a complete list of all groups and tee times, [click here]. Which groups are you most interested in following this week? Let us know.

Tee times
Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar Rd. 1: 1:10 p.m. ET (1st tee) Rd. 2: 8:10 a.m. ET (10th tee)

On a relaxed Wednesday at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, Ernie Els sat back in the media center chair and joked that a few words caused a slight bit of panic.


Just more than 48 hours after his British Open win, Els reflected on his post-victory words, where he said he was "supposed to go to Canada, but I think I'm going to blow that thing off."

Turns out, Els was only talking about an outing with RBC that was scheduled for Monday. Els said Wednesday that he would do another outing for the sponsor.

"You know, I should choose my words more carefully next time," Els said.

Back to the actual tournament this week: Els certainly enters as one of the favorites at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, which is hosting golf's third-oldest national championship for just the fifth time. Els didn't tee it up at Hamilton when it was last held there in 2006. Els returned to the RBC Canadian Open after an absence of several years, finishing tied for 17th.

"I haven't prepared on the golf course the way maybe that I wanted to," Els said. "But I feel very fresh, you know. I'll be competing at 100 percent tomorrow."

Els might run into some problems, starting with his own group in Round 1. The RBC Canadian Open boasts its strongest field in years -- Els is among 10 players this week who've won on the PGA TOUR in 2012.

One of those players is THE PLAYERS champion Matt Kuchar, whose trip to Hamilton Golf and C.C. represents just how far he's come on TOUR since 2006, the last year the course hosted this event. Kuchar wasn't even on TOUR then; he was fighting his swing and his confidence. He spent that year on the Web.com Tour before hooking up with instructor Chris O'Connell, who gave Kuchar the flat swing that turned him into a ball-striking machine.

Like Els, Kuchar enters the week with a ton of momentum. The good vibes from his PLAYERS win have lingered; he's coming off two consecutive top-10s, including a tie for ninth at Royal Lytham.

Kuchar, who is sixth in the FedExCup standings, could move as high as second with a win this week. Els could move into third.

Rounding out their group is Vijay Singh, who won this event in 2004 at Glen Abbey. Singh is the only member of the group with experience at Hamilton -- he tied for 35th there in 2006.

Other Featured Group
Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis Rd. 1: 8:20 a.m. ET (10th tee) Rd. 2: 1:20 p.m. ET (1st tee)

Furyk is "defending" the title he won at Hamilton in 2006, when he shot 14 under to beat Bart Bryant by stroke. This time around, he is paired with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis.


Why does Furyk like the course so much? Easy. The layout isn't much different than the classic courses of the Northeastern United States, and the course's short length helps squelch any bombers' advantage.

"Even a guy like me who's not all that long, I'm not going to hit a lot of drivers, but it's about working the golf ball and putting it in certain spots on the fairway," Furyk said. "The greens are very severe, usually from back to front."

Furyk will be teeing it up with Schwartzel and Curtis, who have taken two very different routes to Canada.

Schwartzel has struggled since March, when he tied for fourth at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. It remains his last top 10 on TOUR, and he has missed three of his last seven PGA TOUR cuts.

Curtis enters the week with a couple of missed cuts in his last four starts, but he was one of the hottest players on the planet this spring. His stunning victory in the Valero Texas Open in April put him back on the PGA TOUR for least the two years, which is why he's teeing it up with a pair of fellow major winners in Canada.