Canada hasn’t had one of its own claim its National Open since 1954, does the drought end this week at the 2023 RBC Canadian Open?
While the sports world is still reeling from the shocking news of this week’s merger between the PGA, DP World Tour, and PIF off the course, there is a potentially incredible storyline unfolding on the course at this year’s RBC Canadian Open.
Canada’s National Open, first established back in 1904, hasn’t seen a Canadian crowned champion since Pat Fletcher won the event back in 1954 and while it’s still early in the week there are positive signs that the nation’s long wait for one of its own to lift the trophy could be about to end.
Among those who could end the lengthy drought for a Canadian champion is 31-year-old Corey Conners, who not only shares the lead after Thursday’s opening round at this year’s host venue, Oakdale Golf & Country Club, but also has the experience of winning at this level of competitive golf.
Conners, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, is fresh off his second career victory after he won the Valero Texas Open for a second time back in April. In addition to his win at TPC San Antonio, Corey has three top-12 finishes on tour since the Sony Open in Hawaii at the beginning of the year.
He began his endeavor to become the first Canadian winner of the Canadian Open since Fletcher with an opening bogey-free round of 67 on Thursday, a result that leaves him in a four-way tie for the lead heading into Friday alongside Aaron Rai, Justin Lower, and Chesson Hadley.
Multiple Canadians in contention at this year’s RBC Canadian Open.
Corey Conners (6th) was the lone Canadian to finish inside of the top 20 at last year’s RBC Canadian Open and while a host of his fellow countrymen had respectable finishes at St. George’s in 2022, they will all be hoping to pose more of a threat in 2023 as the week progresses.
So far, so good. In addition to Conners, all of Roger Sloan, Taylor Pendrith, and Mackenzie Hughes, who is also a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, all got off to fast starts at this year’s playing of their national championship.
All three players find themselves inside of the top 20 on the leaderboard after Thursday’s opening round, and all three opened the week with rounds of 69 on Oakdale’s Par 72 layout.
36-year-old Roger Sloan has spent the majority of this year playing his golf on the Korn Ferry Tour and while he has won two times previously on the KFT he is still searching for his first PGA Tour win.
Like Conners before him, Mackenzie Hughes has experience winning on this stage as recently as last October when Mac ended a nearly seven-year wait for a title at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
But of the group of Canadians looking up at their fellow countryman after day one, it’s perhaps Taylor Pendriths’ name that is the most intriguing.
Pendrith has demonstrated the kind of talent he has on several occasions previously, most notably at last year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic when the 33-year-old from nearby Richmond Hill, Ontario, held a share of the first-round lead alongside eventual winner Tony Finau.
Taylor was fresh off a recent return to action following a lengthy absence due to a rib injury when he got off to a flying start in Detroit last summer before eventually finishing in a share of second place behind runaway winner Finau. Since then, Pendrith has shown up on different occasions but has yet to match the high of his week in Detroit last July.
He has made fourteen starts in 2023 coming into this week with his best result being a T7 finish at this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Taylor has certainly struggled with consistency since his unfortunate injury setback, but the Canadian has demonstrated that when he is at his best he is more than capable of contending at the highest level.
Whether or not one of Conners, Sloan, Hughes, Pendrith, or any of their other fellow countrymen can at long last end the nation’s long wait for a Canadian winner at the Canadian Open remains to be seen. But they have certainly put themselves in a good position after day one; anyway.
Catch the second round of this year’s RBC Canadian Open on Friday beginning at 7 a.m. EST on ESPN+.