OAKVILLE, Ont. — The first day at the RBC Canadian Open was so long that Kevin Na was willing to jeopardize a record-setting run just to get it over with.
Na raced through his final stretch of holes in fading light and still managed to birdie the final five coming in. He finished with a 9-under 63 and held a two-stroke lead over Scott Verplank, Retief Goosen and Joe Durant when play was halted by darkness on Thursday.
After sitting through a rain delay that lasted more than seven hours, the only thing Na wanted to do was complete his first round before dark to avoid having to return early Friday morning.
The fact he played so well at the end was simply a bonus.
“I would have taken par (on) the last hole if we weren’t able to finish,” said Na. “I was just trying to get to the tee real quick and hit. …
“You never know when they’re going to call it.”
He signed for a 28 on his second nine — the front nine at Glen Abbey — to match Vijay Singh for the lowest nine-hole score in Canadian Open history. Singh managed that feat during the second round in 2004 and went on to win the tournament.
The turning point in Na’s round came just after play resumed from the rain delay.
After pulling his tee shot into the trees on No. 11, he wanted to try hitting a risky approach to a green protected by water. That’s when his caddie stepped in and the two briefly argued before Na elected to play safe.
“He rarely says you can’t do something,” said Na.
“He made me pitch out, and I ended up making a 15-footer for par that kind of kept the round going. And after that I started to back down and started catching fire.”
Na will have to wait awhile to see if the lead holds up — 98 players were unable to complete the first round, and 39 of them didn’t even start.
Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., posted the lowest score among Canadian finishers with a 1-under 71. He was 4-under in the middle of his round, but started hitting some sloppy shots down the stretch and made three bogeys coming in.
“I had a tough time finding my rhythm today for some reason,” said Weir. “Maybe all the waiting around and getting warmed up and then getting pushed back another hour (caused trouble).”
The guys at the top of the leaderboard took different approaches to handling the delay.
Na watched TV shows on his laptop and napped for a little while in his car. Goosen found a comfortable chair in the clubhouse and relaxed. Verplank, the 2001 Canadian Open champion, went out to the putting green and corrected some issues with his stroke.
“I felt a little shaky with the putter on the first three holes where I had pretty decent looks at birdie,” said Verplank. “And I got two or thee hours of putting on the putting green (during the delay) and kind of got it worked out.
“When I came back, I started making them.”
The rain delay had barely even been lifted before The Goose took flight.
Goosen eagled his first hole after getting back on the course and ended up posting a bogey-free 65. Playing one group ahead, Verplank made six birdies on his second nine to get in with the same score.
“We got lucky this afternoon,” said Goosen. “You know, when the storm moved through the conditions were perfect — perfect playing conditions.”