Taylor leads Canadian contingent
Of the 26 Canadians in the field to start the week, 15 finished at even par or better on Thursday
June 06, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Nick Taylor trails by one shot after a 6-under 64 at the RBC Canadian Open. (Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
HAMILTON, Ontario – It’s been 65 years since a Canadian last won the RBC Canadian Open, but the ghost of Pat Fletcher isn’t haunting Hamilton Golf and Country Club – at least through one round.
Nick Taylor, of Abbotsford, British Columbia, shot a 6-under-par 64 to lead the Canadian contingent, followed by Adam Hadwin (also of Abbotsford) at 5 under. David Hearn of nearby Brantford, Ontario, Drew Nesbitt of Shanty Bay, Ontario (a winner on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica this year), and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ontario, shot matching 4-under-par 66’s.
Taylor is just a shot back of the lead after the first round of the RBC Canadian Open – held by Keegan Bradley. He’s looking for his best finish on the PGA TOUR since his win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2014.
The 31-year-old admitted Thursday his less-than-stellar record at the RBC Canadian Open is likely because he’s put too much pressure on himself in the past.
“I tried to come in this week, I knew I was playing pretty well, and just kind of see the shots and try and hit them. That's what I been doing,” he said.
Taylor is 111th on the FedExCup standings and knows a good week could do wonders for his season. Taylor shot a Sunday 63 at the Wyndham Championship last year to finish T-8 and 123rd on the FedExCup. Avoiding a repeat of having to contend in the final event of the season before the FedExCup Playoffs to regain full TOUR status is high on his priority list this year.
Taylor was paired with countrymen Hearn and Mike Weir (playing in his 28th Canadian Open) in a fan-favorite group, and said some “little things” had been costing him so far in 2019, like being misaligned off the tee. But he had some momentum Thursday – he made four birdies in a row after making the turn – and that helped his confidence.
He’s missed his last two cuts on the PGA TOUR, but did qualify for the U.S. Open, so he said he knew he was playing well.
“I wouldn't say I knew I was going to shoot 6 under today, but I knew my game was there,” said Taylor, “and if I got things going it was going to be a good day.”
Hughes, meanwhile, had it to 6 under at one point as well before making a double bogey on the par-4 18th. He had fired up the already sizeable crowd at the par-3 13th hole – rebranded as ‘The Rink’ for this week, featuring hockey boards and volunteers dressed like referees – by throwing on a Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors jersey. The Raptors, who won in convincing fashion Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, have a huge following in Hamilton – just an hour west of Toronto.
The crowd broke out into a ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ chant when Hughes put the jersey on.
“Life is short, so whatever. I'm just going to have some fun. The crowd enjoys that stuff, so it's fun for me to do. Fun for me to support Toronto sports teams in general,” said Hughes. “It was cool. I heard that going and I was hoping they would keep going and get loud.”
He thought it was loud on 13, until he nearly made an ace on the par-3 16th.
“I couldn't get a feel for the crowd because they kind of cheered like it might have been a hole-in-one. I couldn't quite tell,” said Hughes. “I'm like, ‘is that in? Is that in?’ It was just short.”
Hughes sits 101st on the FedExCup this year but after a tough season in 2018 – he had just become a new father – he seems to have found his groove adjusting to his new normal. Hughes was T-2 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March, and T-8 two weeks ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
His hometown of Dundas is a mere 10 minutes from Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and he’s played the course – constantly ranked as one of the best in Canada – more than anyone in the field – upwards of 50 times, he said.
That experience paid dividends on Thursday, save for one bad hole, and he said the golf course now – although it went through a recent tree-removal project that took more than 1,000 trees off the course – doesn’t play much different than when he was growing up.
“When you're driving it well, which I did for most of the day, you give yourself a fair number of scoring opportunities,” he said.
There were 26 Canadians in the field to start the week, the most in the modern era. Fifteen finished at even par or better on Thursday.