If Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin were the type of gentlemen who were prone to feeling pressure, they could have found any number of sources for such stimulus heading into the RBC Canadian Open this week.
To begin with, much of the media narrative heading into the PGA Tour event at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club centered on search for a successor to Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who has been the standard-bearer for Canadian golf for more than a decade.
It’s a heavy mantle, to be sure, and both Abbotsford golfers had their names bandied about in the discussion. And for good reason – Taylor is a former world No. 1-ranked amateur, while Hadwin was second on the Canadian Tour order of merit last season.
If the scrutiny of a nation wasn’t enough, the conditions at Shaughnessy – with its lengthy rough – had well-established pros howling about about the fairness of the course.
Never mind the host of luminaries in the field, including current world No. 1 Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk . . . and the list goes on.
But after the completion of their opening rounds on Thursday, both Taylor and Hadwin came away reasonably pleased with their performances. Taylor carded a one-over 71, while Hadwin was one back after shooting a 72, and both golfers were well-positioned to make the cut heading into Friday’s second round.
Taylor got off to an inauspicious start, double-bogeying the first hole, but it hardly rattled the notoriously unflappable Yale Secondary grad. He played the next 17 holes in one under par.
“I would’ve taken it (a 71) this morning,” he said. “I left a couple shots out there I’d like to take back, especially doubling the first hole. But to hang on and finish the rest of the day one-under is nice.”
Hadwin, who started his day on the 10th hole, was a par machine in the early going. He made par on his first eight holes and made it look easy, narrowly missing a couple of medium-range birdie putts.
An errant tee shot on the par-four 18th was Hadwin’s first hiccup, and he ended up lipping out on a four-foot putt to save par. He birdied No. 3 to get back to even, but went on to bogey No. 6 and 8.
Hadwin jokingly referred to his par-heavy round as “very boring golf,” but noted that on a course playing as tough as Shaughnessy, that’s not a bad thing.
“I’m not that far off,” he said. “There’s lots of golf to be played, and I’m swinging good. I’ve got a lot of good feelings going into tomorrow.”
Having a chance to play a PGA Tour event so close to home is a rare opportunity for Hadwin and Taylor, who both received exemptions into the event. Both Abbotsford players’ galleries featured plenty of family and friends.
Donna Wilson, Hadwin’s aunt, wore a white T-shirt with the word “Canada” on the front and “HADWIN” in block letters on the back. She explained that she and Adam’s grandma ordered a pair of the customized shirts, and wore them to cheer on Hadwin during the U.S. Open five weeks ago.
“It’s very hard to watch him, because it’s very nerve-wracking,” she said with a chuckle. “But you have to be so proud of him. He’s a great golfer, but he’s an even nicer young man.”
Josh Taylor, Nick’s older brother, said the local support was a positive influence on his sibling.
“It’s good to see so many familiar faces, and I think that helps him – gives him a little bit of comfort to see all the support he has around him,” said the elder Taylor, a Canadian Tour pro. “It’s pretty cool to be playing pretty much in our back yard. It’s a great course.”