Weir leads home charge in bid to end long drought

 

AFTER BATTLING punishing conditions at the British Open, the Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames face another daunting challenge in trying to end a 54-year drought for home players at the Canadian Open.

No Canadian has claimed the national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954, leaving Weir, Ames and 17 other compatriots trying to wrest the title from the back-to-back winner Jim Furyk when action starts at the Glen Abbey golf course today.

Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, came tantalisingly close in 2004 to ending the dry spell the last time the Canadian Open was staged on the par-71, 7,273-yard Jack Nicklaus layout; they came up just short when losing to Fiji's Vijay Singh in a playoff.

"I remember (in 2004) that everybody was very excited," said Weir. "I was in contention, and Canada was playing for the gold in the world (hockey) championships. So there was a different atmosphere from a normal golf tournament. But it was a special feeling.

"I was really disappointed. What can I say? I've had plenty of those in my career. That was right up there with a number of them.

"You live and learn and go on. That's four years ago. I don't think about it much anymore, and I'm going to try to win this week."

Furyk, the highest-ranked player in the field, at number 10, is bidding to become the first man to win three consecutive Canadian Opens and his first title of the season. But he has found little success at the Abbey, finishing no better than in a tie for 22nd in four previous starts.

The 38-year-old American, however, has been in superb form. He followed up a third place at the AT &T National with a fifth place at the British Open.

Another American, Anthony Kim, can join Kenny Perry as the PGA Tour's only other three-time winner this season with a win in Canada. Twice US Open champion Retief Goosen will make a rare visit to Canada as he looks to end a three-year PGA Tour drought.

THE LOWDOWN

Prize money:€3.2 million (€570,000 to the winner)

The Course:Glen Abbey GC, Oakville, Ontario

Length:7,273yds. Par: 71

The layout:The first course Jack Nicklaus designed on his own in 1976. Small, undulating Bent grass greens require accurate approach shots, while wind is often a factor.

Defending champion:Jim Furyk.

Noted others:also in a strong field are Anthony Kim, Retief Goosen and Mike Weir

On Television:Setanta Golf, 8pm-11pm.

Weather:After extremely heavy rain early in the week, more showers are expected today. High around 800F.