Why hasn't a Canadian won the RBC Canadian Open? It's complicated.
July 25, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
2018 RBC Canadian Open preview
Venezuela has been big at the RBC Canadian Open lately, what with Jhonattan Vegas winning the last two years. South Africa had a nice run with Nick Price (1991, '94), David Frost ('93), and Tim Clark ('14). Australia had champions Jason Day ('15) and Greg Norman ('92).
Heck, even Sweden (Carl Pettersson, '10) and Fiji (Vijay Singh, '04) have caught the can-do spirit in Canada.
As for Canada, though, it's complicated.
Patrick Oswald Fletcher was the last Canadian to win the Canadian Open in 1954, making him the first from the Great White North to win the tournament since 1914 and, ahem, not exactly opening the floodgates. Yes, Oswald acted alone. (Sorry.) Mike Weir nearly won in '04, but Canada wept as Singh drained an eight-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, then beat Weir in a playoff.
"It's going to end at some point," Weir said of the streak when it reached its 60-year anniversary in 2014. "… It would be nice to get the streak over so we don't have to talk about it."
On the plus side, there are 21 Canadians in the field this week. They are led by favorite son Weir and Adam Hadwin, who won the Valspar Championship last year and comes to Glen Abbey at a respectable 61st in the FedExCup. All four Monday qualifiers this week were Canadian.
On the minus side, a few of the Canadians are amateurs, which would suggest an uphill climb to the trophy ceremony, and others are still trying to crack the all-important FedExCup top 125.
"A good week locks up my card," said Ben Silverman, 30, who is 135th. "Allows me to plan my schedule ahead of time next year, so I don't have to travel like a crazy man."
Like Weir and others, Silverman said he wants to be the one to break the streak, but it can be hard to make history with so much math on the brain. While a win at Glen Abbey would deliver 500 FedExCup points, any sort of top-10 finish would undoubtedly be a win of a different kind, nudging players off the bubble and into the FedExCup Playoffs. Careers hang in the balance.
Corey Conners, the rookie who led the Valspar Championship before a final-round 77 dropped him into a tie for 16th place in March, is No. 126. Nick Taylor, who won the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship, is No. 127. Silverman is No. 135. David Hearn is No. 148.
Corey Conners looks to 2019 before RBC Canadian
Their precarious positions notwithstanding, the dry spell of Canadians in Canada owes not to some tragic inability to win on the PGA TOUR. Most have proven plenty capable.
Hearn opened with 66-64 before fading to a T16 finish at the recent John Deere Classic, while Mackenzie Hughes, who won the 2017 RSM Classic but is 174th in the FedExCup, closed with 68-65 to also finish T16 at TPC Deere Run. They made nice bookends, for what it’s worth.
Then there was Conners at the Valspar. Feeling he had nothing to lose after making it into the field as an alternate, and “good Canadian vibes around that place” after countryman Hadwin’s victory the year before, Conners made headlines for three days at Innisbrook. But on day four, playing behind one of his idols, Tiger Woods, it all caught up to him. After getting texts from Justin Thomas, a friend from Jupiter, Fla., and countrymen Weir and Hughes, the Cinderella Story Conners crashed on a day in which he briefly couldn’t feel his arms.
“First time in the final group,” Conners said. “A huge event. I was a little tentative on the greens, made a few mistakes, didn’t get those breaks, and couldn’t get the round going.”
The example of Conners, who was two shots back through three rounds at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship two weeks later, only to close with a 76 to finish T13, may speak to the Canadians’ real problem at the RBC Canadian Open: They want it too much.
Weir, who had delivered for Canada with his historic Masters victory in 2003, admitted the moment got to him when trying to win at home in ’04. He found the water on the third playoff hole. “I feel for Mike,” Singh said. “He wanted to win this tournament really badly.”
“I wasn’t able to gather my emotions like I normally do,” Weir said.
Who is this year’s great Canadian hope? It could be Hadwin, who in eight starts at the RBC Canadian Open has two top-10 finishes, a T7 in ’15 and a T4 in ’11. He was T35 at The Open Championship, and contended at the CareerBuilder Challenge (3rd) and Genesis Open (T6).
Conners will play for the sixth week in a row at Glen Abbey.
“I like to play,” he said. “I’ve kind of learned over the past couple of years to manage my energy and rest a bit. It’s weird to think the season’s going to be over.”
He says he hasn’t gotten much out of his game lately, but isn’t far off from the player who contended at the Valspar. He likes Glen Abbey, and his friends, family and his fiancé, Malory, will come from his hometown of Listowel to support him on the Jack Nicklaus design.
“I have a good feeling around the golf course and feel like my game has gotten a lot better,” said Conners, who played collegiately for Kent State. “I’m hitting the ball great and hitting some good putts, just haven’t gotten them to fall. I’ve maximized my score.”
I’ve maximized my score. For Canadians at the RBC Canadian Open, it’s a familiar refrain.
Mackenzie Hughes looks to 2019 before RBC Canadian