Why it's not a big deal that a Canadian hasn't won the Canadian Open in 63 years
Ending the drought would be nice, but Canadian golfers are thriving again
Two years ago, David Hearn was more than halfway through his Canadian Open press conference in the media centre just off Glen Abbey's 17th tee when he made a telling observation.
The veteran PGA Tour player from Brantford, Ont., expressed surprise that he hadn't been asked for his thoughts on the six-decades-plus drought since a Canadian golfer last won the country's national championship.
What was more surprising is that, even when Hearn offered his opinion, no one in the assembled media seemed much interested in pursuing the conversation and the topic quickly circled back to other matters.
Hearn had just lost in a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic and would, over the course of the 2015 Canadian Open, hold the lead for large stretches before finishing third.
Canadians who follow golf know that one of their own has not won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher did it in 1954. Perhaps it's because many people think it's a quirky stat and therefore conversation about the drought doesn't typically last more than the initial question,
Here's another take: Canadian male golfers have now won enough that no one really cares anymore.
Sure, it would be great for a Canuck to win his national title, but Mike Weir's exploits for almost a decade — which included a Masters green jacket — and more recent success by Hearn, Graham DeLaet and PGA Tour winners Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin have shifted the conversation.
Besides, Weir did win a PGA Tour event on home soil when he triumphed at the Air Canada Championship back in 1999. Heck, the field that week in Vancouver was probably every bit as strong as the one this week in Oakville, Ont.
Other factors — including Hadwin's 59 earlier this season and the belief that DeLaet and Hearn are two of the most likely players to next break into the winner's circle — also provide reason for a sunny outlook.
The next one?
It total, 17 Canadians will be in action when they start counting strokes on Thursday at Glen Abbey. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the favourite, but the brief list of golfers after him surely contains at least one or two of those Canadians listed above.
Austin Connolly, who contended until the back nine on Sunday at the Open Championship, is not one of them. Connolly, a dual citizen who grew up in Texas, elected to stay in Europe because he has yet to clinch his 2018 card on that circuit.
Whatever one may think of the now 63-year drought and how it should be interpreted, there can be little doubt that Canada has now replenished its stock of elite male players.
The next one coming down the pike is Jared du Toit. The 22-year-old from Kimberly, B.C., returns after playing in the final group on Sunday last year before tying for ninth. Last year, du Toit was an amateur. He has since turned professional.
There have been three close shaves at the Canadian Open by Canadians since 2004, the year Weir lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh, who was the top-ranked player in the world at the time. Since then, Hadwin was fourth in Vancouver in 2011 and Hearn's third was another close call. He led on the back nine on Sunday until being reeled in by Jason Day, who was the hottest player on the planet at the time and would soon assume the world No. 1 ranking.
One clear and positive aspect is the effect the Mackenzie Tour, Canada's home circuit, is having in producing players. The Canadian Open field is littered with graduates of that tour, and two of the country's most recent PGA Tour winners — Taylor and Hughes — won shortly after playing there.
With elite Americans keen to take advantage of the direct promotion to the PGA Tour available on the Mackenzie, there soon may be a concern that young Canadian players are getting pushed off their own circuit by U.S. golfers coming north.
But a rising tide lifts all boats, and it makes sense to assume that du Toit will be the next young Canuck to use the Mackenzie Tour to sharpen his game before moving on to bigger and better things up golf's pecking order.
The more immediate concern surrounding the Canadian Open is where it will be played beyond next year. Glen Abbey is slated to be developed into mixed-use commercial/residential real estate.
Jack Nicklaus was at the course he designed 40 years ago for this week's opening ceremonies, but the Golden Bear acknowledged that he also came north to look at alternative sites and gauge the possibility he'll be involved in picking/tweaking the tournament's future home.
Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, when that new site is determined, the Canadian drought will be broken.