Published July 25, 2012
ANCASTER, Ontario – Ernie Els arrived at the Canadian Open with one trophy already in tow. He's hoping to leave with another.
Despite a whirlwind couple of days that following his British Open victory, Els expressed confidence that he's still got enough left in the tank to be competitive.
"I feel very fresh," he said Wednesday.
Els only managed to get in five practice holes at Hamilton Golf and Country Club this week, but thinks his stellar play from Royal Lytham & St. Annes should carry over.
After pulling out a one-shot victory over Adam Scott on Sunday, he returned home to London for a small party with family and friends, and followed that up with a lazy Monday.
He traveled to Hamilton on Tuesday morning, getting in a quick practice session before a helicopter arrived to whisk him to downtown Toronto for a "Right To Play" dinner. On Wednesday, Els played a round at another course with Gord Nixon, title sponsor RBC's CEO.
The itinerary left virtually no time for preparation at the tree-lined Hamilton layout that is hosting the Canadian Open for a fifth time.
"I don't know if it's such a big disadvantage because a lot of times when you don't play a course, you don't know where the trouble is," Els said. "So maybe that's a good thing. You get your yardage, you hit it to your spots."
As an added bonus, the 42-year-old South African brought the Claret Jug along for the ride and proudly displayed it during his interview session Wednesday. His presence added some buzz to an event that remains in a tough spot on the PGA Tour schedule and was only able to lure six of the top 30 players in the world.
Besides Els, the biggest names in the field are Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk — and it's no coincidence that all four men have sponsorship agreements with RBC.
However, Furyk also was drawn back by the traditional Harry S. Colt-designed course where he won the first of his two Canadian Open titles in 2006. The 6,966-yard, par-70 layout suits his eye and reminds him of the traditional courses he grew up playing in Pennsylvania.
"If I like the golf course, I'm going to play," Furyk said. "I don't care who is showing up or what the purse is."
Narrow fairways guarded by thick rough require players to find the fairway from the tee. However, there are only a handful of holes that demand they pull out a driver because the course has been lengthened by less than 500 yards since first contesting the Canadian Open in 1919.
However, it still poses a unique test that seems to be appreciated by virtually everyone in the field. Along with Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf and Country — where Sean O'Hair won last year — Hamilton is the most popular of the Canadian stops.
"It's just a good, solid, old-school golf course and we don't get to play places like this I don't think very much," O'Hair said. "It's fun to come to venues like this."
Furyk won at Hamilton in 2006 with a score of 14-under 266. He believes some rain earlier in the week has left the course more vulnerable to lower scores than it was six years ago, but that won't change his game plan.
"Even a guy like me who's not all that long, I'm not going to hit a lot of drivers," Furyk said. "It's about working the golf ball and putting it in certain spots on the fairway. The greens are very severe, usually from back to front. (You've) got to keep the ball under the pin to be able to score."