Canadian Open serves as PGA Tour's closest stop to Western New York


Staff member

Nick Taylor, right, reacts along with his caddie after winning the RBC Canadian Open on the fourth playoff hole against Tommy Fleetwood in 2023 in Toronto. Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press via AP

HAMILTON, Ont. − The PGA Tour’s annual trip up north also doubles as the closest stop to Western New York.

This week’s RBC Canadian Open will be contested at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, some 70 miles and a little more than an hour up the QEW from downtown Buffalo.

Rory McIlory, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, headlines the 156-player field. He will be paired in the first two rounds with a pair of Canadians – defending champion Nick Taylor and former Porter Cup winner Taylor Pendrith.

That threesome tees off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday in the first round and 12:55 p.m. Friday in the second round. McIlroy is a two-time Canadian Open champion, winning 2022 and in 2019 – the last time Hamilton served as the host city.

“A lot of great memories from that time. The place was buzzing,” McIlory said Wednesday in his pre-tournament news conference. “It was my first Canadian Open and I was blown away by the enthusiasm that the fans have. It was such a great atmosphere to play in. … It’s good to be back at the place where I guess this love affair with Canada started.”

McIlory fired a final-round 61 in 2019 to win. He stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie to shoot 59, and had to remind himself to smile after he made bogey to shoot 61 – despite winning by seven shots. He doesn’t see a similar scorching round coming this week.

Shortly after his victory, the 1,200 members at the private course approved an $11.5 million renovation to the 27-hole facility that included reconstructed tees, bunkers and greens, as well as a new irrigation system, putting green and practice facility.

“I think some greens are a lot slopier,” McIlroy said. “A lot of green complexes have more runoffs. Even though the greens are quite big, they play maybe a bit smaller than they actually are. … You’ve got that longer rough around the bunkers. The rough is very, very thick this week.

“I think there’s a bit more precision needed with this redesign.”

McIlroy enters refreshed. He took last week off following the PGA Championship in Louisville, Ken., allowing him to attend a friend’s wedding in Italy. He finished tied for 12th in the season’s second major, but prior to that had back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour, teaming with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and following that with the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina.

“I needed that reset,” McIlory said. “I’m playing four weeks in a row here, so I’m ready to go, but it’s been a busy stretch and I’m sort of easing my way back into it. I probably hit a grand total of probably 150 balls last week.”

Last year’s Canadian Open featured perhaps the most thrilling finish on the PGA Tour can provide. Taylor made a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to become the first Canadian man to win his country’s national championship since 1964.

“I feel like the whole year’s been a buildup for this potentially,” Taylor said of defending his title. “I didn’t assume I was going to play with Rory, but I kind of had an inkling that they would probably put us together with another Canadian. Again, being able to play with ‘Pendy’ is going to be a lot of fun. There’s going to be a lot of energy out there, which will be great.”

Taylor won in February at the WM Phoenix Open, defeating Charley Hoffman on the second hole of a playoff.

“I think it was huge for my confidence,” he said of the win. “If you want to call it validation to myself or anything, but kind of the fashion that it was, being in a playoff, kind of do or die, getting into those situations, I felt more and more comfortable, and being able to perform has been great.”

Pendrith, who won the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club in 2013, has had four top-10 finishes in his last five starts, including a victory at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson.

A total of 25 Canadian players are in the field. Taylor, at No. 30 in the world, is the highest ranked, followed by Corey Connors (No. 49), Adam Hadwin (No. 55), Pendrith (No. 62), Mackenzie Hughes (No. 68) and Adam Svensson (No. 86) among those in the top 100.

“I think it’s a big deal for all the Canadians playing in this tournament,” Pendrith said. “It’s a major for us. It’s the one time we get to be here in our home country and play in front of the home fans, so it’s a big deal for the players and the spectators and the whole country. It’s a huge event, and to see Nick do it last year was unbelievable, it was super inspiring. I think all the Canadians on Tour right now are playing great, so the more flags that we can get up top of the leaderboard and try and chase it down on Sunday, the better.”