June 19th, 2024

Taylor, Pendrith, McIlroy steal show at RBC Canadian Open even as Skinns leads

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on May 30, 2024.

Canadian Nick Taylor hits his approach on the ninth hole during the Canadian Open pro-am in Hamilton, Ont., on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Taylor begins the defence of his RBC Canadian Open title this morning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

HAMILTON – If golf was a game of who has the biggest gallery, Nick Taylor, Taylor Pendrith, and Rory McIlroy would be the runaway leaders at the RBC Canadian Open.

England’s David Skinns had a one-shot lead after the first round of the national men’s golf championship on Thursday thanks to an 8-under 62 round in the afternoon.

His final few holes were witnessed by a fraction of the number of fans who had shown up early in the day to follow the marquee grouping of Taylor, Pendrith, and McIlroy, even as they shot higher scores at Hamilton Golf and Country Club than Skinns or early leaders Sam Burns and Sean O’Hair, who were second after the first round at 7 under.

“Usually the morning round for me on a Thursday there’s not that many people there,” said Taylor, who is from Abbotsford, B.C. “The energy was high, which was great, gets the adrenalin going, which is fun that early in the morning, gets you focused on what you need to do.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way, but the crowds have been amazing.”

Skinns and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre climbed the leaderboard in the afternoon to reel in Burns and O’Hair, who had a three-stroke lead after the round’s first wave. MacIntyre shot a 6-under 64 to take sole possession of fourth after 18 holes.

Even as Skinns and MacIntyre fired bogey-free rounds, the gallery following them was relatively small as many fans had left following the morning start of Taylor, Pendrith and McIlroy.

Taylor and Pendrith, from Richmond Hill, Ont., are the top two Canadians on the PGA Tour, ranked 32 and 33 on the FedEx Cup standings respectively. Taylor is also very much the face of the event after he became the first Canadian to win the men’s national golf championship in nearly seven decades at last year’s tournament.

“There was definitely more people watching us than last time I played (in Hamilton) or last time I played the Canadian Open,” said Pendrith. “We had fun. Rory played, scored, really nicely. It was fun to play with Nick.

“It was a comfortable pairing and it was fun to have the support of the home crowd and should be good tomorrow.”

McIlroy, who won the Canadian Open in 2019 the last time it was in Hamilton and again in Toronto in 2022, did the best of the marquee trio. He finished the day tied for fourth at 4-under 66.

The Northern Irishman, fourth on the FedEx Cup rankings, said he was impressed with all the spectators who were at the 10th tee when his group teed off at 7:40 a.m.

“The Canadian fans came out to support them,” said McIlroy of Taylor and Pendrith. “One of the main reasons I love coming back here is because of that atmosphere that’s created when we’re out there to play, and playing with two Canadians today was, it was exactly what I expected.”

Pendrith had a 1-under 69 round to finish the day tied for 33rd.

Taylor finished his day at 2-over 72, good for 96th. He took heart from the fact that he opened last year’s Canadian Open at Toronto’s Oakdale Golf and Country Club with a 3-over 75 round, made the cut, and went on to win in a thrilling four-hole playoff.

“I guess I beat last year by three, so I got that going for me,” said Taylor. “Obviously not out of it. I know that but personally, I would have liked to have got off to a better start.

“Again, the score is out there, the greens are soft, they’re receptive, just need to be a little sharper.”

O’Hair played bogey-free golf with five birdies and an eagle and Burns had a bogey, four birdies, and two eagles as they built a three-shot lead in the morning.

“I think with all the rain we had early in the week the greens are still pretty receptive,” said Burns after coming off the course at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. “It makes a big difference on par-5s when you have a long iron or a wood coming in there to be able to stop the ball pretty quick.”

Despite drawing the big crowds, Taylor and Pendrith weren’t even the low Canadians.

Forty-four-year-old David Hearn from nearby Brantford, Ont., was the low Canadian. He was tied for 11th at 3-under 67. Fifty-four-year-old Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., was a shot behind Hearn to sit in a group tied for 20th.

“Hey, how about that? Maybe experience still has something,” said Hearn. “That’s great. I didn’t know that was the case. I saw Weirsy was off to a great start today, so that was good to see.

“Obviously Weirsy and I, that’s a great start. We’ve got three more rounds to follow it up with, so we’ll see what we can do.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.

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