By Stan Kosinski
The PGA Tour heads north of the border this week to Ancaster, Ontario, Canada for the 108th RBC Canadian Open held this year at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
The field of 156 players representing a total of 18 countries, which include 2011 Champion Sean O’Hair, 2012 Open Champion Ernie Els, 2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson, 2012 Players Champion Matt Kuchar, and two-time RBC Canadian Open Champion Jim Furyk. Joining these notables will be a total of 23 Canadian players.
Three Canadian amatuers, Rob Couture, Mackenzie Hughes and Albin Choi, will be joined by homegrown professionals Stephen Ames, Graham DaLeat, Greg Dougherty, Brad Fritsch, Michael Gligic, Adam Hadwin, David Hearn, Matt Hill, Brian McCann, Matt McQuillan, Andrew Parr, Cory Renfrew, Christopher Ross, Nick Taylor, Mike Weir, and Eugene Wong.
Four Canadians earned Monday Qualifier spots to join their countrymen. David Markle carded a 5-under 66 to become the low qualifier, and Jon Mills, Victor Ciesielski, and Ben Ferguson bested a 52-player field in the final qualifier at Heron Point Golf Links to be eligible to play for their national title. But the Canadians don’e have history on their side if they hope to win their country’s championship this year. A Canadian hasn’t won the event since Pat Fletcher hoisted his country’s trophy in 1954.
Hamilton Golf and Country Club is a par 70 that measures 6966 yards from the Championship tees. It carries a course rating of 74.1 and a slope of 136. The original West/South Course will host the championship, and was originally designed by H.S. (Harry) Colt and was established in 1894. The course has held four previous Canadian Opens in 1919,1930,2003 and 2006.
In 2003, the course received rave reviews from both players and fans as it returned to the course after a 70 year absence. Bob Tway recorded his eighth win in a three-hole playoff over fellow American Brad Faxon. The tournament again returned to Hamilton Golf and Country Club just three years later and saw Jim Furyk post a final round of 5-under to win by one stroke over Bart Bryant. Furyk began that day two strokes behind third round leader Justin Rose, but climbed into the lead on the back nine with the help of a hot putter.
Players this year should also have high praise for this course, which features rolling, tree-lined fairways and slight elevation changes to well guarded greens. Only three of the 12 par 4s measure under 400 yards. The 5th hole is a true risk/reward hole, measuring 317 yards. It is an uphill dogleg right with a plateaued green that is one of the course’s most difficult to putt. The other two short par 4s include the 392-yard 10th and 388-yard 12th, both of which feature elevation changes and tight fairways to well guarded greens. There are only two par fives on the course, the 542-yard 4th and the 550-yard 17th and should offer plenty of birdie, if not eagle, opportunities. There are four par 3 holes on the course, the shortest measuring 188 yards (No. 16) and the longest at 236 yards (No. 13).
The real challenge of the course will be to navigate the long par fours, the longest of which is No. 11 at 481 yards. It is a dogleg left hole from an elevated tee to a fairway 60 feet below, and will prevent all but the longest of hitters from taking the shortcut over trees. From there an uphill fairway shot awaits to a green that falls from back to front. A tough hole for sure, but it is only one out of many that await the players vying for the 2012 RBC Canadian Open.