On his brief visit to Glen Abbey on Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus had time to review the just-concluded Open Championship with its runner-up Matt Kuchar.
“I was with Matt this morning and talked to him a little bit. We talked about how I thought he played an awfully good tournament, did awfully well, and just, he ran into a buzzsaw (named Jordan Spieth) on the last few holes,” said the Golden Bear.
“That’s what it amounted to. If you look at it, what did he lose by? Three shots as it turned out and Jordan holed putts at 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. If he misses three of them, it’s a tie. If he misses four of them, Matt wins,” said Nicklaus, who won a record 18 majors of his own.
Whether that disappointment at Royal Birkdale is enough to send Kuchar on a rampage this week at Glen Abbey remains to be seen, starting Thursday when the RBC Canadian Open gets underway.
As nice and friendly as a stereotypical Canadian is said to be, Kuchar would be a popular champion, even though he would be would be one of those wretched invaders from other lands who have been crashing our borders and winning the national championship for each of the past 62 years, should he prevail this week.
Somebody with just a passing interest in the Canadian Open knows by now that Pat Fletcher is the last Canadian to win it in 1954, a different era in tournament history. Still, the decades without a Canadian win is brought up time after time in the days leading up to the tournament when there really is no need for national pride to be bruised.
Think of how many Canadians there are on the PGA Tour. Sure it’s growing, but it’s still a relatively small percentage compared to the rest of the countries around the globe combined, including Venezuela, home of last year’s champion Jhonattan Vegas.
It certainly isn’t that Canadians aren’t capable of winning their national championship. Mike Weir, for example, won eight times on the PGA Tour, but luck of the draw was that victory didn’t come at home, a fact that surprised Nicklaus.
When Weir corrected him on Monday, Nicklaus said that he would keep send Weir back until he got it right, just as Nicklaus said his wife threatened to do because he couldn’t win in Canada either, although he was runner-up seven times.
Weir came as close as you’re going to get in 2004, when he took part in an epic three-hole playoff before losing to Vijay Singh. After his win at the Masters the year before, it wasn’t a shocker that Weir was in contention, but the same can’t be said for what transpired last year.
Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., was a developing amateur player on the national team, while also playing collegiate golf at Arizona State, when he received his exemption to play in the 2016 Canadian Open.
Fans at the Abbey got to know him quickly once he put up a first round 67 and was tied for second when he went into the final round in the final group with former champ Brandt Snedeker, a fine experience for a young guy who has since turned pro, even if he did tie for ninth.
You can hear more from du Toit, who’s back this year, in this chat I had with him on Monday.
The performance from du Toit was the second in as many years by a Canadian. David Hearn was the focus of the partisan fans at Glen Abbey in 2015, when he went into the final round at the top of the leaderboard by two shots, but wound up finishing third as Jason Day made a late charge to win.
Often overshadowed by Hearn’s finish is the fact that Adam Hadwin tied for seventh in 2015, four years after he pulled a du Toit (or du Toit pulled a Hadwin, your choice) as a relatively obscure player outside of this country on what was the Canadian Tour.
Hadwin went into the final round of the 2011 Open just one shot off the lead at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver and despite the wave of support, wound up tied for fourth in his home province.
While we’re on the topic of developing players being in contention, let’s not forget Austin Connelly’s performance at last week’s Open Championship. He isn’t at Glen Abbey this week as he strives to keep his European Tour card, but you can bet he’ll be teeing it up at the Canadian Open sometime soon, adding more potential to the mix.
Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes have each recorded their first PGA Tour wins this season at the Valspar Championship and RSM Classic, respectively, and Nick Taylor won the Sanderson Farms Championship nearly three years ago, so who’s to say they can’t put it over the top on home soil?
Graham DeLaet and Hearn have knocked on the door for their first tour wins and who’s to say when it opens for them? Or another longshot Canadian can make a name for himself.
There’s a lot of momentum rolling for Canadians, which only means the potential of a Canadian winning the national championship increases, but the odds against that happening are still against it, if only because of the number of players from other countries in the field.
It would take an extraordinary effort for a homie to win the Canadian Open and they’ve certainly been providing it. One could be rewarded with the national championship, if not this year then soon, but expectations don’t get you guarantees.
Would you want it any other way?