For a while, the leaderboard at the Workday Charity Open looked a lot like the Ledgeview Golf Club men’s club championship. Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor, who both grew up playing at the course in Abbotsford, B.C., found themselves second and tied for third respectively after the early wave of the first round.
It was a continuation of some fine play from Canadian golfers since the restart of the PGA Tour five weeks ago. In each of the first four events, a Canadian has been in contention with Corey Conners the first two weeks, Mackenzie Hughes the next week and Hadwin last Sunday.
The Canadian contingent this week extended beyond Hadwin and Taylor. Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., ended the day tied for seventh after a round of 4-under 68, and Hughes, David Hearn and Conners all ended the day under par and inside the top 50.
Hadwin bogeyed his first hole of the day, the 10th, after his opening tee shot found a fairway bunker. But over the remaining 17 holes he rolled in seven birdies, including one on his final hole, to post a score of 66.
“Just hitting good shots, quality shots to the right side of the hole, giving myself looks,” said Hadwin of the key to his day. “I hit some really good iron shots there starting on 18, kind of through four and five and then made a couple good putts there on seven and nine to finish the round.”
Hadwin, who finished tied for fourth last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, has now posted scores of 67 or lower in six of his last 13 rounds.
Part of his success on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course on Thursday was staying patient and choosing his spots to be aggressive, despite the course being relatively soft. That’s been a consistent style of play for the 32-year-old this season, who has missed just a single cut in 11 starts.
“You know, it's been building for a while,” he said of his recent run of good play. “Obviously had a good week last week and kind of took that momentum into the round.”
Taylor’s round came as somewhat of a surprise since this is his first start since the pause for the COVID-19 pandemic. He was bogey-free on the day, dropping three birdies and an eagle to finish at five under. The eagle came after he hit his second shot on the par-5 11th from 271 yards to just three feet.
“I didn't have a lot of expectations,” Taylor admitted in his post-round presser of his day. “I've played a lot of golf the last month, month and a half, so I felt ready in the sense of playing, in that playing mode.”
That golf came on the Vancouver Golf Tour, a mini-tour where he cut his teeth as a young professional. The courses weren’t as long or as well groomed and the competition wasn’t as deep, but it was still a tournament and it still allowed him to compete. He also played numerous rounds at Ledgeview where he and Hadwin often battled as juniors. Taylor, who lives most of the year in Phoenix, Ariz., also keeps a residence across the street from the course.
“I know competitive rust is definitely a thing I've had to struggle with in the past,” he stated, “but I've felt that I've played enough, so I felt good there, and I had no expectations, which is a good thing. So everything is going well.”
Taylor spent most of the downtime back in Abbotsford with his wife and eight-month old son, choosing to take some extra time at home instead of rushing to return. He did so in part knowing that it will be a while before he sees his family again with the border restrictions.
One person Taylor did see for the first time in a while was his coach, Mark McCann. They reunited this week at Muirfield Village and worked early in the week to fine-tune his swing, the one he used to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this season.
Sloan, the lone Canadian to play in the afternoon, had to battle to keep his round together. He only hit 10 of 18 greens but a hot putter allowed him to remain under par. He made just a single bogey on his round.
“I got myself in a little trouble down the stretch,” said Sloan, who missed the green on his last four holes but made par on all of them. “But I was pleased with the way I battled.”
This has been a strong period for Canadian men’s golf. Last week was the first time in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking that three Canadians were inside the top 100, those being Hadwin, Conners and Hughes. Taylor was just outside that group at 101st.