Planet Golf — 10 June 2023 by GW staff and news services
Taylor goes extra to win Canadian Open

TORONTO — Former University of Washington standout Nick Taylor became the first Canadian in 69 years to win his national open, holing a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to beat Tommy Fleetwood in the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday.

Taylor tossed his putter into the air and jumped into the arms of his caddie after the longest made put of his PGA Tour career, and fellow Canadian players Mike Weir, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin were among those who ran onto the green to congratulate him. Hadwin, Taylor’s close friend, was tackled by a security guard while spraying champagne from a bottle.

“I’m speechless. This is for all the guys that are here. This is for my family at home,” Taylor said with tears in his eyes. “This is the most incredible feeling.”

The last player from Canada to win the Canadian Open was Pat Fletcher in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver. Fletcher was born in England; Carl Keffer had been the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Weir lost a playoff to Vijay Singh in 2004.

With galleries cheering his every move and even serenading him with “O Canada” on one tee box, Taylor curled in an 11-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish at 17-under 271 at Oakdale, walking backwards with his fist raised as the ball dropped into the cup. He shot a 6-under 66 on Sunday.

Fleetwood needed a birdie on the reachable par 5 to win in regulation, but he missed his tee shot right, laid up into an awkward lie in the right rough and two-putted for par to force the playoff in rainy conditions.

The players traded birdies on their first time playing No. 18 in the playoff. They both parred 18 and the par-3 ninth before heading back to 18.

Taylor’s tee shot found a divot in the fairway, but he hit his second shot 221 yards to the front of the green, while Fleetwood laid up after his drive found a fairway bunker. Fleetwood hit his third shot to 12 feet, but didn’t need to putt after Taylor’s uphill eagle putt hit the flagstick and dropped.

Fans swarmed toward the green, and Hadwin — who like Taylor grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia — got leveled amid the chaos. He said had so much adrenaline that the tackle didn’t faze him.

“It’s incredible. I mean, what do you say to one of the greatest moments of Canadian golf history?” Hadwin said. “I think we all predicted that this was going to happen.

“I’m not sure that any one of us predicted a 72-foot (eagle) putt … to get it done, but what a way to go.”

The 35-year-old Taylor, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for the third time on the PGA Tour. He shot 75 in Thursday’s opening round but rallied with a 67 on Friday to make the cut, then shot 63 on Saturday to begin the final round three shots behind leader C.T. Pan.

Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy, two shots back of Pan entering the final round, closed with a 72 and finished in a tie for ninth, five shots back.

Fleetwood, a two-time Ryder Cup player from England and a six-time winner on the European tour, remains winless on the PGA Tour.

“I played great today, even though I missed some chances, if you like, on those playoff holes,” Fleetwood said. “Yeah, it was close. I just have to take the positives from it and start practicing tomorrow. I got a major next week. So can’t dwell on it too much.”

Tyrrell Hatton (64), Aaron Rai (69) and Pan (70) finished one shot out of the playoff.


TORONTO — Days after being blindsided by the PGA Tour’s partnership with Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund, Rory McIlroy put himself in position for a run at a third straight Canadian Open title.

McIlroy, the strongest voice against Saudi-funded LIV Golf who said Wednesday he feels like a “sacrificial lamb,” shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday at tree-lined Oakdale, leaving him two strokes behind leader C.T. Pan.

The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland won in 2019 in at Hamilton, then — after the event was canceled for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic — won last year in Toronto at St. George’s amid a flurry of LIV Golf controversy. He was asked if it meant a bit more again — with the news Tuesday.

“Look, I would love to win the Canadian Open for the third time. I’ve never won a tournament three times in a row,” McIlroy said. “I felt like last year the win wasn’t just for me it was for a few other things. But this one, this year, if I were able to get over the line, will be solely for me.”

Pan, from Taiwan, birdied the final two holes for a 66 to get to 14-under 202. The 31-year-old former University of Washington player won the 2019 RBC Heritage for his lone PGA Tour title.

“It’s always cool to see my name on the top of the leaderboard,” Pan said. “Not just leaderboards, just to be in contention. That’s all I want to do before the tournament started. Finished birdie-birdie. That put me in a good spot. But I still got a lot of work to do.”

Ranked third, McIlroy is chasing his 32nd worldwide victory a week before the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.

“For whatever reason I seem to play better when there’s a little bit of noise going in the world of golf,” McIlroy said. “It’s really nice to get inside the ropes and just concentrate on my job at the end of the day, which is trying to get the ball around the golf course.”

McIlroy birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 13, then parred the last five.

“The putter went a little cold on me over those last five holes,” McIlroy said. “But overall, it’s great to put myself in with a shot tomorrow. There’s a lot of people up there around the lead, so it’s going to be a fun day.”

Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood (64) and Justin Rose (66) — McIlroy’s European Ryder Cup teammates — also were two strokes back at 12 under along with Mark Hubbard (66), Harry Higgs (67) and Andrew Novak (67).

Nick Taylor was the top Canadian, shooting a course-record 63 on the composite layout at the historic 27-hole facility to get to 11 under. He’s trying to become the first Canadian winner since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Aaron Rai also was 11 under after a 69. Canadian Corey Conners was another stroke back after a 70.

Second-round leader Carl Yuan of China had a 74 to drop into a tie for 16th at 7 under.

Former top-ranked amateur Ludvig Aberg, the Swede who starred at Texas Tech, was tied for 33rd at 4 under after a 71 in his pro debut.


TORONTO — Carl Yuan moved into position to turn around a forgettable rookie year on the PGA TOUR, shooting a 5-under 67 in cool, rainy conditions on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the midway point of the RBC Canadian Open.

Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy gave himself a chance heading into the weekend at Oakdale. He shot 67 and was three shots back of Yuan’s two-day total of 9-under 135.

Corey Conners, seeking to become the first Canadian to win his national open since 1954, shot 69 and was one shot back alongside Tyrrell Hatton (64), C.T. Pan (66) and Aaron Rai (69).

“Really happy with the start,” Conners said. “Fun playing in front of the Canadian fans. Just enjoying the walk out there.”

Conners is coming off a tie for 12th in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

“I would say this week I’ve been a lot more relaxed than even I was there and I felt like I was quite relaxed at the PGA Championship,” he said. “So I’m feeling good about my game and able to play with freedom and confidence. I’m just having a lot of fun.”

Yuan, a 26-year-old from China who played college golf at Washington, has made 7 of 20 cuts this season, with his best finish a tie for 21st at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. With his playing status very much in jeopardy, Yuan is trying to block out the stress and have fun on the course.

“That’s my goal coming into the week. That’s my No. 1 goal,” Yuan said. “Not a result goal, just like being in the present, hitting shot by shot and, yeah, being out here trying to have the most fun. All of it.”

Yuan said the weather reminded him of his college days in the Pacific Northwest.

“I think this is right up my alley,” said Yuan, who was born in Dalian, China. “I went to school in Seattle. … That’s exactly what we deal with in the wintertime.”

Brendon Todd and first-round co-leader Justin Lower were among six players two shots back on a bunched leaderboard. Justin Rose, paired with McIlroy the first two days, shot consecutive 69s to match him at 6 under.

Former top-ranked amateur Ludvig Aberg made the cut in his pro debut. The former Texas Tech player from Sweden was 3 under after an opening 69 and a second-round 72.

TORONTO – It’s been 20 years since Mike Weir won the Masters, and now Canada is seeing the influence that victory had – with more Canadians playing at a high level on the PGA TOUR than ever before.

But one thing that continues to elude the best from Canada – including Weir himself – is a victory at the RBC Canadian Open. The last Canadian to win the country’s national open was Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Through 18 holes, however, Corey Conners is trending towards breaking the long-standing drought.

Conners shot a 5-under 67 to open things at Oakdale Golf and Country Club, and through the first round he sits in a four-way tie for the lead with Aaron Rai, Justin Lower and Chesson Hadley.

The last Canadian to lead the RBC Canadian Open after the first round was Weir in 2008, and the last Canadian to lead the championship after any round was David Hearn, who had the 54-hole lead in 2015.

Conners, who finished sixth at last year’s RBC Canadian Open, was not able to speak to media after his round because he had to deal with an urgent personal matter.

His caddie, Danny Sahl, said that Conners’ success came from being strong all around and especially disciplined off the tee. Conners hasn’t made a bogey at the RBC Canadian Open in 51 holes, dating back to last year.

Conners was first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and fourth in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee after the first round. Sahl said there’s an easy comparison between Oakdale and Oak Hill Country Club, the host of this year’s PGA Championship where Conners played in Sunday’s penultimate pairing.

“It’s the same mentality that he brought over from (Oak Hill), and he knows that’s what it’s going to take to play well,” Sahl said. “Just get it in the fairway and we were aggressive on a couple of holes. He’s seeing his spots and keeping it really simple.”

Weir also had the first-round lead at the RBC Canadian Open in 2004 and came agonizingly close to winning the event – eventually losing in a playoff to Vijay Singh. He knows as much as anyone what it’s going to take to keep the pedal down over the next three days.

“I think (Conners is) experienced enough to know that we’re so early and that it doesn’t really mean much yet,” Weir said. “I know he just wants to, I’m sure, keep doing what he’s doing. I was watching a little on TV this morning and he looked like he was just playing Corey Conners golf. I saw solid play and nice ball striking, and that’s a good recipe around here.

“It’s pretty demanding off the tee. If you miss the fairways you’re in trouble, so if you can keep driving it good, he’ll be in good shape.”

Conners is one of three Canadians to have won on the PGA TOUR this season, with Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Svensson being the others.

Hughes made four birdies on his back nine Thursday to finish at 3 under. Taylor Pendrith and Roger Sloan also got it to 3 under after the first round.

Weir, in his 30th RBC Canadian Open start, shot an even-par 72.

Hughes, who went to Kent State University with both Pendrith and Conners, said with golf in Canada continuing to increase its momentum, having a Canadian with a chance to win on Sunday would be huge.

“We’ve got a few guys up there, kind of close, and hopefully one of us can keep it going all the way to Sunday,” Hughes said

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