Will the 65-year drought come to an end this week at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open?
It’s been since Pat Fletcher took this event in 1954 at Point Grey Golf and Country Club that a native has hoisted the trophy after the final round, but that could change this year with a big group of contenders just behind leader Keegan Bradley after Round 1.
More on that crew below, but first let’s look at what Bradley did well before diving into a detailed look at the first 18 holes of this event.
First place — Keegan Bradley (-7): Bradley was even par through six holes. Then he went absolutely nuts over the last 12. The former major winner made seven birdies and five pars during the rest of his round and leads by one over a group of five at 6 under. The primary reason? He put on a ball-striking show.
“Today was one of the best of the year if not the best,” Bradley told Golf Channel of his iron play. “I knew if I could just put myself in the fairway — which I did today — I had short irons in. I’m pretty dialed in right now so I was able to really get that close. Holing those putts … it’s fun, a lot more fun doing that.”
Bradley comes in without a top 10 since the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, and this would be a massive victory for him against a terrific field. There’s a long way to go, but he was more or less flawless in Round 1.
Last place — Josh Whalen (+9): It was a tough day for the amateur Canadian who finished 155th in the field from tee to green.
Other contenders — Nick Taylor (-6), Shane Lowry (-6), Sungjae Im (-6), Erik Van Rooyen (-6), Roberto Castro (-6): This is quite a crew. The headliner is probably Taylor (Canadian), but the most intriguing one for me is the rookie Im. He’s a stud, but after posting four top 10s early in 2019, he’s slowed down of late with three missed cuts in his last six appearances. I don’t know if he has staying power in this field, but he’s the one out of this group I’ll be watching most closely.
O Canada: Like I mentioned off the top, a Canadian has famously not won this tournament since the mid-1950s, but there are a handful in contention after 18 holes. Here’s how they rank.
- Nick Taylor: -6
- Adam Hadwin: -5
- David Hearn: -4
- Drew Nesbitt: -4
- Mackenzie Hughes: -4
Incredibly — especially for a country that doesn’t have anyone in the top 50 in the world right now — there are five golfers at T15 or better after the first day of play at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. If one of them can close on Sunday and then Kyle Lowry closes Steph Curry on Monday, Canada as a country might cease to exist on Tuesday.
Who had a lousy day? Dustin Johnson carded a surprising 1-over 71 and was 3 over through 10 holes on the day. The craziest part? He led the field in driving. He just didn’t lead it in anything else.
Shot of the day: Mackenzie Hughes thought he aced the par-3 16th hole. He’s listed in the group of Canadians above, but Hughes shot a nice 66 that could have been a lot better. He was 6 under through 17 holes but doubled the last to finish at 4 under.
Quote of the day: “I actually thought I played really well. I struck it beautifully.” – Brooks Koepka
The four-time major champ said he hadn’t touched a club since winning the PGA Championship until this week. He also noted that he could not possibly care less about winning this week as long as he’s properly prepped for the U.S. Open next week where he’ll go for three national championships in a row.
He shot an even-par 70, which is not inside what would be the cutline after Day 1, so he’ll have work to do on Thursday. But he sounds pleased with his game, and he should be after hitting it well and finishing outside the top 150 (!) in putting (it’s only a 156-golfer field!). That won’t happen again, and I’d expect something low from him on Friday.
What to watch on Day 2: Can D.J. (+1), Justin Thomas (E) or Koepka (E) make a big move and slide into weekend contention? Or will Rory McIlroy (-3) shoot four straight 67s for the win? Those are your four biggest names in the field, and only McIlroy scored well on Thursday. So I’ll be watching what all four do on Friday — with the U.S. Open in the back of my mind — as well as how Bradley backs up perfection and whether the Canadian contingent can move forward toward the top of the board.