OAKVILLE, Ont. — Mike Weir is so familiar with the storyline that he answered the question before it was even asked.
It’s simply impossible for the lefty from Bright’s Grove, Ont., to arrive at the RBC Canadian Open and avoid talking about what it would be like to become the first Canadian-born player to win this event in 95 years.
Karl Keffer is the only man to accomplish that feat with victories in 1909 and 1914. English immigrants Pat Fletcher (1954) and Charles Murray (1906, 1911) each lived in Canada when they won the event.
There’s no need to remind the country’s most prominent player of that history.
“It’s our national championship, and all us Canadians, we want to put to rest that it’s been so long since one of us has won one,” Weir said Wednesday.
Fifteen of them will tee it up at Glen Abbey today.
That list includes Weir, Calgary’s Stephen Ames, Canadian Tour standout Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., and the two top-ranked amateurs in the world — Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and Matt Hill of Bright’s Grove, Ont.
“The odds are pretty much stacked against us,” said Ames. “There are (15) of us playing this week against a field of 156. . . .
“And it makes things difficult to some extent, but at the same time we have what we call the 15th club in our bag with the crowd all there behind us.”
The list of challengers includes defending champion Chez Reavie and just eight of the top 30 players in the current FedExCup standings. Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald and Sean O’Hair are the most prominent among that group.
Weir is also in that category and should view this week as a major opportunity. Not only has he been in contention the last two times the Canadian Open was played at Glen Abbey, he also shot a lights-out 9-under 28 on the back nine during his pro-am charity event here on Monday.
“Just one of those things that I got on a nice roll,” said Weir. “I wish I could do that in a tournament. I haven’t done that in a tournament in a long time, but it was fun to do it Monday.”
There have been a few changes to the course since last year’s event.
The front nine has been re-routed in an effort to increase the flow of play and starts with what was formerly the fourth hole.
The 16th will be played off the back tees and has been changed to a par-5, making Glen Abbey a par 72 for the first time since 2000.
Players also noticed a few other unfamiliar things during their practice rounds this week.
“The difference from last year to this year, the rough is unbelievable,” said Kim. “There was a couple times I hit it probably four or five yards off the fairway, and it was impossible to advance it more than 120 yards.
“The rough is very penal, so driving the ball is going to be important.”
A major wildcard will be the weather.
More than 200 millimetres of rain fell during the Canadian Open week last July and left the softened course almost defenceless. Reavie ended up winning with a score of 17-under 267 — a number Ames believes could be matched again if the forecast is correct and more rain falls again.
“If it stays this soft, yes, easily,” he said. “The greens become a dartboard.”