David Hearn huddled with Mike Weir at the Canadian Open about learning from near-misses.
Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, is now 43 and settling in as a mentor to his younger countrymen. Hearn may be just coming into his own as a pro golfer at age 34.
Less than a month after losing in a playoff at the John Deere Classic for his best finish on the PGA Tour, Hearn shot a 4-under 66 on Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship. That was the second-best score of the morning session, a shot behind Jim Furyk.
The last time the PGA was played at Oak Hill 10 years ago, Weir was coming off his Masters title and was in contention heading into Sunday. The course is about 2 ½ hours east of Hearn's hometown of Brantford, Ontario — best known as the hometown of Wayne Gretzky, who has also imparted athletic advice to Hearn.
Hearn lost in a three-man playoff July 14 to 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in more than eight decades. Hearn was not that sort of prodigy. He played on the Web.com Tour from 2006-10.
Hearn describes himself as a patient golfer, a trait that has served him well in the bigger picture.
"My career has always had a certain progression, and I've always found a way to get competitive at the next level that I've been to," he said. "For me right now, it's just a matter of trying to continue that on, and as I've been on the PGA Tour for a few years now, I've gotten better at playing well in the bigger events."
Hearn bogeyed the first and last holes Thursday but otherwise successfully attacked the course with his driver, taking advantage of softer greens in the morning after overnight rain.
Hearn shot 69 in the final round of the John Deere to reach the playoff with Spieth and defending champion Zach Johnson. He missed a makeable putt on the fourth playoff hole that would've won it.
Spieth went on to clinch victory on the fifth playoff hole.
"Proud of the way I played," Hearn said. "Disappointed that it didn't quite go my way at the finish, but overall, played a really solid tournament. So it feels good for me to be in contention, and I feel like I've been playing some really good golf the last few months."
At the Canadian Open two weeks ago, Hearn shot 73 on Sunday to tie for 44th. But that earned him just enough money to move up one spot on the PGA Championship points list to first alternate, all but assuring him of a spot at Oak Hill.
Hearn also got in a good chat with Weir.
"Mike is at a point in his career now where he's definitely wanting to give back more, and he's definitely doing a good job of that," Hearn said. "He's definitely trying to take on that mentorship role a little bit more with some of the players."