American Scott Piercy birdied his final hole for a course record and a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Canadian Open on Thursday while Ernie Els struggled in his first outing since winning the British Open.
Piercy mixed two eagles and five birdies with a lone bogey at a rain-softened Hamilton Golf & Country Club for an eight-under-par 62 that set the course record and gave him a one-shot lead over compatriot William McGirt and Britain’s Greg Owen.
American Robert Garrigus (64) was a further shot back while last year’s Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and former world number one Vijay Singh were among a pack of seven golfers sitting three shots back of the leader.
Owen, who started on the back nine, opened with a disastrous double-bogey at the par-four 10th and a bogey at the par-four 11th, but was red-hot the rest of the way for his seven-under 63.
“I am putting well and when I putt well I feel confident,” Owen said. “I don’t always putt well, it’s a poor part of my game, so when I start feeling it a little bit it just gives me more confidence to go out and hit better shots.”
Els, fresh off his British Open triumph on Sunday last week, had a steady start, but finished with a two-over-par 72 after failing to recover fully from a triple-bogey at the par-four 11th hole.
World number nine Matt Kuchar, the highest ranked player in the US$5.2 million event, fired a three-under 67 while defending champion Sean O’Hair stumbled to a five-over-par 75.
Jim Furyk, who won his first of two consecutive Canadian Open titles when it was last held at the tree-lined course in Hamilton, Ontario in 2006, was five shots off the pace after offsetting four birdies with four bogeys for an even-par 70.
Adam Hadwin kept alive hopes for the tournament’s first Canadian winner since 1954 when he turned in a four-under 66 that left him four shots off the lead.