OAKVILLE, Ontario (AP) — Mike Weir is well aware that a Canadian hasn’t won the Canadian Open in 55 years, and that it has been 95 years since the tournament crowned a Canadian-born champion.
“It’s our national championship, and all us Canadians, we want to put to rest that it’s been so long since one of us has won one,” Weir said Wednesday, a day before the start of the 100th edition of the tournament.
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner, taking the 1954 event in Vancouver, British Columbia. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.
“The odds are pretty much staked against us,” said Stephen Ames, a naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad & Tobago. “Fifteen playing this week in a field of 156. … It makes things difficult to some extent, but at the same time, we have what we call the 15th club in our bag with the crowd.”
Weir is making his 19th appearance in the national championship, back at Jack Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey for the second straight year and 25th time overall.
The 2003 Masters champion, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, came close to breaking through in 2004 at Glen Abbey, losing to Vijay Singh in a playoff. Last year, Weir tied for fifth, five strokes behind winner Chez Reavie.
Weir missed the cut in his first nine starts in the tournament – eight at Glen Abbey and one at Royal Montreal – and also dropped out early in 2005 and 2006.
“Just the experience of playing the course, I think helped me adjust. And I think my game’s just evolved over the years,” the 39-year-old Ontario native said. “I think a number of the rounds and cuts I missed here I was playing on the Canadian Tour, and I wasn’t a PGA Tour-caliber player then.”
He was never better at Glen Abbey than he was Monday in his charity pro-am event, playing the back nine in 9-under 28. He was 8 under on the final six holes, making two eagles and four birdies. “I wish I could do that in a tournament,” Weir said.
Nick Taylor and Matt Hill, the Canadians who hold the top two spots in the world amateur rankings, are paired together for the first two rounds. The top-ranked Taylor, the University of Washington player from Manitoba, was the low amateur at the U.S. Open and reached the U.S. Amateur Public Links final last week. Hill, from Weir’s hometown of Bright’s Grove, won the NCAA individual title for North Carolina State in May.
“It’s cool to be in a PGA Tour event, but being back home in Canada with a bunch of people working and pulling for you, that’s going to be fun,” Taylor said.
Anthony Kim is back at Glen Abbey after tying for eighth last year. He closed with a 75 in a final-round pairing with Reavie after opening with rounds of 65, 69 and 64.
“I like the golf course,” Kim said. “It sets up well for me and it really is a driver’s golf course, and I feel like that is a strong suit in my game. If I can manage to keep the ball in play, it should be a good week.”
In his pro-am round Wednesday, Kim holed a 4-iron shot from 200 yards on the par-4 eighth – previously the first hole on the rearranged front nine.
“That’s eight? I thought it was one,” Kim said. “I knew it was covering the flag, but even after it went in, I wasn’t sure it went in until my buddy said it went in.”
Kim’s agent, Chris Armstrong, is Canadian, and the 24-year-old American has tournament title sponsor Royal Bank of Canada’s logo on his bag.
“Carrying the RBC bag, I’ll have a couple more fans following me,” Kim said.
RBC is in its second year at the Royal Canadian Golf Association-run tournament, which didn’t have a title sponsor in 2006 and 2007.
“I don’t recall a time in my tenure where we’ve had a better overall working relationship between ourselves, the title sponsor, RBC and the RCGA,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It really is working very, very well.”
Last year, Reavie won his first PGA Tour title, beating Billy Mayfair by three strokes on the water-logged course south of Toronto.
“You never know when it’s your time,” Reavie said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play as hard as you can every day. When you add them up, hopefully you’re the lowest guy out here.”
DIVOTS: Fred Couples withdrew Wednesday because of a back injury. … Former Southern California star Jamie Lovemark is making his pro debut. “I’m coming off of a rib injury,” the 2007 NCAA champion said. “It’s been a lot better than I thought it was going to be.” … In addition to the front-nine order, the course par has been changed back from 71 to 72, with the 16th playing as a 516-yard par 5.