You know you’re in for an interesting afternoon when you start out in the afternoon wave at the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey outside of Toronto at Even par and you’re already down to T66. Whew! These guys are good!
And by the time the day was done, Even par was only good for T69. The good thing is that everybody has a round under their belt, a vivid sense of what it’s going to take to make the cut, and if they’re really believing, the talent.
There’s also a marked difference between the morning and afternoon tee times. All the low scores were shot in the morning; with the leader at 7-under, 14 guys were at 4-under or better. Only one guy from the morning got to 5-under (Hunter Mahan) and one to 4-under. Of the 13 guys who shot 3-under, 8 were from the morning and 5 in the afternoon. Mahan explains how this would play out and why:
Yeah, I think the first two days of the afternoon wave is going to be tougher for sure. In the morning, the greens are pure, cooler temperatures, and the wind is not blowing quite as hard, so it will be a good start.
The leader is Brendan Steele trying to backup his first win at the 2011 Valero Texas Open. He had 8 birdies and just one birdie:
Yeah, really just an overall good day. Hit a lot of good shots and was able to hole some putts. When you have a good round like that and you play that well, you kind of have everything going. But today was probably the most complete round that I’ve had all year, so that was kind of nice. Didn’t miss many greens, didn’t hit many shots off line, and I was able to roll a few putts in.
Steele has a bit of an edge, he did two years of his professional apprenticeship on the PGA Tour Canada:
Yeah, I love being up here. I played in ’06 and ’07 on PGA TOUR Canada now. And really, got me ready to play the Nationwide Tour which I played in ’08, ’09 and ’10. It was a great progression in my life. I had a great time up here. Made a lot of friends and spent two summers traveling the country and really enjoyed my time.
Everybody thinks that becoming a PGA Tour player is so easy. This guy spent five years on the mini-tours, but it prepared him well; he won Texas in his first year on Tour.
With 16 and 18 being reachable par-5s and 17 being a scorable par-4, the finish on Sunday could be very dramatic:
I think it makes it really exciting for the fans. A lot of change on the way in because you can really score on the last three holes, which I think is great. Sometimes we play courses that you’re just trying to hang on and the last few holes play really hard. And this gives you a chance to make some ground up even if you haven’t played well the [first 15] holes to start out. So I think that will be really fun to watch.
And finally, Steele explained the big variable this week, the rough. He says it’s not its length, it’s how the ball settles in:
It’s not really the length of the rough that’s posing a problem. But you can’t control the ball the way it sits down, even just on like the little chip that I had on the last hole. I thought it was going to fluff out of there and I caught a little bit of the ball and it ran on 17 by, and I made bogey.
It’s a little tough to judge. Each lies a little different. Had a couple of good lies in the rough today, had a couple lies that weren’t so good. You just have to be creative and figure out where your miss is from there and try to play it safe.
In the “Obvious and Interesting Threats” category, we have Matt Kuchar one stroke back at 6-under. He’s thrilled to be back from the British Open where the players have more control of the outcome of their shots:
It was fun to be out here. It was perfect conditions. I feel like last week, conditions were so challenging and so difficult at the British Open to come here and to play golf that is more friendly and more what we’re used to the PGA Tour was great.
The conditions are spectacular. The course is in great shape, we had very little wind, good temperature, so it was a great opportunity to shoot a low number. The par‑5s are all attainable and birdieable.
We have Mahan at 5-under along with Swede, David Lingmerth who has drawn attention to himself by finishing P2 at the Humana in Palm Springs and T2 at the Players Championship. Plus he hasn’t played since the Greenbrier at the beginning of the month, so he’s rested.
And we have ex-Monday-qualifier superstar, Patrick Reed, at 4-under along with Bubba Watson who hit 17 of 18 greens and the one he missed was by inches. But he needs to make more putts. This round could have been really good. But here he points out that just because he didn’t make a lot of putts doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong:”
It’s golf. Tomorrow maybe they’ll work a little bit better. Maybe the way the sun shines differently, I’ll read them better or stroke them better, whatever. Just come out here and do the same thing.
If I can shoot 4‑under over the next three days, I’ll be pretty happy. I’m happy with it, but I want to make a few more putts.
So this tournament is still in the “very interesting” stages: a lot of talent around the lead with the ability to shoot 7-under just as Steele did Thursday. That’s wrecking-ball good.