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Canada's Macdonald learning to play under pressure at RBC Canadian Open


HAMILTON — The RBC Canadian Open is an opportunity for Canadian fans to watch the best male golfers in the world play in person. But for young, up-and-coming Canadian players it's a chance to test their mettle at the highest level of pro golf.

Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald is one of those players.

He shot a 2-over-par 72 in the first round of the men's national championship on Thursday. The 29-year-old Macdonald is ranked third on the Fortinet Cup standings, the points list for PGA Tour Americas, the third-tier circuit that feeds the PGA Tour.

This year's Canadian Open is Macdonald's fourth appearance at a PGA Tour event. He said it's "super important" for him to see the best in the world.

"It just makes you more hungry," Macdonald said outside the scorers' room at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. "I'm ranked 300th in the world and you're around guys that are top 50 in the world.

"It's more fun, feels more electric, there's more energy around a big tournament like this."

Macdonald had a solid performance on the Latin America swing of the Americas Tour.

He tied for third at the Totalplay Championship on March 31, then followed that up with a victory at the Diners Club Peru Open on April 28 to rocket up the Fortinet Cup standings. He added some points to his total on May 5 after tying for 32nd at the KIA Open.

Macdonald said that although the quality of golf is similar on every stage of the PGA Tour's three-tiered system, the increased pressure at the highest level helps him improve his mental game.

"When you're in those situations again, you're more comfortable and you're just more familiar with how you're feeling," said Macdonald. "You're just more familiar with those kinds of pressures and I think that makes you better, ultimately."

Macdonald also tied for 24th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta on Feb. 25, a PGA Tour event that typically has a weaker field.

He will continue playing on the Americas Tour when it begins its North American swing on June 20 at The Beachlands Victoria Open in Victoria.

David Hearn of nearby Brantford, Ont., fired three straight birdies in his front nine to finish the day as the low Canadian at 3-under-par 67.

The 44-year-old, who was tied for 12th overall, is playing in his 20th Canadian Open. It's his first appearance in a PGA Tour tournament since November.

"I wasn't sure how it was going to be today," said Hearn. "I've been practising really hard, playing and preparing. I felt very confident coming into today."

Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., and Monday qualifier Cam Kellett of London, Ont., all shot 68 to sit in a group tied for 20th.

"I hit a lot of really good iron shots. That was the key to the day for me today," said Weir. "I didn't find as many fairways as I would have liked, that's been a strength of my game lately, so I'll try to sharpen that up for tomorrow."

Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont. — who all attended Kent State University together — were tied for 33rd at 1 under.

Edmonton's Wil Bateman shot an even-par 70, while Toronto's Richard T. Lee, Matthew Anderson of Mississauga, Ont., Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., and amateur Ashton McCulloch of Kingston, Ont., were 1 over to sit in a group tied for 77th.

Eight Canadians were tied with Macdonald for 95th.

Reigning Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., Hamilton's Michael Blair, Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, Etienne Papineau of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and amateur Justin Matthews of Little Britain, Ont., were at 2 over.

Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., and Kevin Stinson of Mission, B.C., were a shot behind that group. Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., and Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., were tied for 128th at 4 over.

Amateur Jakob Chicoyne of Calgary was 5 over, Vancouver's Jake Lane was 6 over, Max Sear of Stouffville, Ont., was 7 over and Marc-Olivier Plasse of Mercier, Que., was 9 over.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.