Canadian strength at our Open

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE tpecoskie@thes­pec.com 905-526-3368 | @Te­ri­atTheSpec

The world’s top-ranked golfer highlights a field ripe with home­grown tal­ent at this year’s RBC Canadian Open in Oakville.

Dustin John­son will con­tend with more than a dozen Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing Dun­das’s Macken­zie Hughes, for the na­tional cham­pi­onship at Glen Abbey later this week.

The 33-year-old from South Carolina was a run­ner up at the tour­na­ment in Oakville last year and in 2013, while Hughes has won a Web.com Tour event, earned his PGA Tour card and won a PGA Tour event — all in the past 12 months.

The pair joins the likes of Adam Had­win, Gra­ham DeLaet, David Hearn, Brad Fritsch and Mike Weir at this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, which kicks off Tues­day with an open­ing cer­e­mony at­tended by golf leg­end Jack Nick­laus. The tour­na­ment it­self starts Thurs­day, with roughly 160 play­ers ex­pected to com­pete for the $6-mil­lion U.S. purse.

Other Canucks tee­ing off in­clude Jared du Toit, the 22-yearold from Cal­gary who played his way into the fi­nal pair­ing as an am­a­teur a year ago, and NHL ref­eree Gar­rett Rank. The Elmira na­tive earned his third con­sec­u­tive Canadian Open ex­emp­tion with a win at the Canadian Men’s MidA­ma­teur Cham­pi­onship.

Two more Cana­di­ans — Ri­ley Wheel­don and Drew Nes­bitt — were awarded ex­emp­tions at the Fi­nal Qual­i­fier in An­caster Mon­day. They both shot a 5-un­der 66 at Heron Point Golf Links to tie for first, while Burling­ton’s Blair Hamil­ton fin­ished a stroke be­hind in a six-way draw for third. The 23year-old, who qual­i­fied as an am­a­teur in 2015 and 2016 and turned pro­fes­sional last fall, failed to make it three in a row when he lost in a play­off.

The top four fin­ish­ers at the Fi­nal Qual­i­fier earn a spot.

Last year’s Canadian Open win­ner Jhonat­tan Ve­gas will be back to de­fend his ti­tle along­side twotime Mas­ter’s cham­pion Bubba Wat­son and 34-time PGA Tour win­ner Vi­jay Singh. The en­tire RBC team, in­clud­ing Had­win, DeLeat, Hearn, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and oth­ers, is also ex­pected.

One Canadian miss­ing from the field is Bri­tish Open stand­out

Austin Con­nelly. The 20-year-old from Nova Sco­tia de­clined his in­vi­ta­tion in favour of a tour­na­ment in Ger­many, where he’s look­ing to se­cure his Euro­pean Tour card.

It’s been more than six decades since a Canadian won the na­tional cham­pi­onship, which is re­turn­ing to Glen Abbey for a record 29th time. Pat Fletcher was the last to do it in 1954.

ALAS­TAIR GRANT, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

World No. 1 Dustin John­son will be tee­ing it up at Glen Abbey.

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