July 11, 2013, Fort McMurray, AB (ISN) – Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, British Columbia continued his recent streak of hot play Thursday, firing a 7-under 65 to take the first round lead before play was suspended at the Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.
Coming off a T-2 finish last week in Saskatoon, Taylor made seven birdies and no bogeys to lead by one over Comox, British Columbia’s Riley Wheeldon, who shot a 6-under par 66, and Carrickmore, Northern Ireland’s Fergal Rafferty, who was at 6-under par through 15 holes when play was suspended.
First Round Leaderboard – Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON
(Bold denotes Canadian)
1. Nick Taylor – 65 (-7/F)
T-2. Riley Wheeldon – 66 (-6/F)
T-2. Fergal Rafferty – (-6/15)
T-4. Yohann Benson – 67 (-5/F)
T-4. Joel Dahmen – 67 (-5/F)
T-4. Three others tied at 67 (-5/F)
“I’m very happy with this start,” said Taylor, who currently sits in fourth position on the of Order of Merit. “There were a lot of 3-irons off the tee and I was just trying to give myself an 8- or 9-iron in from the fairway, but I hit it close on a couple of the par-3s and gave myself lots of chances.”
Taylor has been on a tear of late, posting two top-five finishes on PGA TOUR Canada to start the season and five straight wins on the Vancouver Golf Tour to start the season. The 25-year old former World Amateur No. 1 tied for second at last week’s Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel, one shot behind winner Wil Collins.
“I’ve shot a lot of good rounds in the last couple of months on different golf courses, so I know when I tee it up I’m looking to shoot a good score,” said Taylor. “My putting’s been solid. If I’m hitting it solid I know I can score, and if not I can salvage a round.”
The first round was suspended due to inclement weather at 6:28 PM local time, with rain in the Fort McMurray area making the course unplayable for the rest of the evening. Play will resume with players in position at 7:30 AM local time Friday morning, with round two beginning at 8:30 AM and all tee times delayed by an hour.
Wheeldon finds a rhythm
Riley Wheeldon found a short hot streak of his own last June, finishing third at the season-opening Times Colonist Island Savings Open and losing in a playoff on the Vancouver Golf Tour’s Vancouver Open the following week to fellow PGA TOUR Canada member Chris Epperson.
But following a couple of weeks off due to cancellation of the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS, the 22-year old said he was struggling to find a rhythm on the course – that was until four straight birdies on the front nine led to a 6-under 66 in round one.
“I wasn’t hitting it well in the practice round and didn’t have too many expectations,” said Wheeldon, who hit 17 greens on the day. “I just went out there and tried to play within myself and stay patient, and I started to get it going in the round and got my confidence back. It was nice.”
Wheeldon added that it was tough to put the clubs away while he knew he was playing well, but that the time off could do him good for the rest of the season.
“I was in a nice rhythm there. At the same time, when you’re on the road all the time a couple of weeks off isn’t a bad thing. I tried to look at it as a positive and get some rest and maybe relax for a bit.”
Players opt for safe strategy on Fort McMurray’s tree-lined fairways
Montreal, Quebec’s Yohann Benson opened his Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON with a 5-under par 67 Thursday, and did so without hitting a single driver off the tee. In fact, Benson’s 5-wood is the longest club in his bag this week, all part of a conservative strategy that was popular among the leaders in round one in Fort McMurray.
“Last year in the first round I lost four golf balls, and I lost eight balls in four rounds,” said Benson of the tight, 6,912-yard track. “I just tried to hit it where I can find it and play from there. If I don’t lose any golf balls I feel like I have a great chance.”
Taylor also said he employed a conservative strategy, and that there was a stark contrast between this week’s course and last week’s long and relatively wide-open Dakota Dunes Golf Links.
“There were a lot of 3-irons off the tee and I was just trying to give myself an 8- or 9-iron in from the fairway,” said Taylor. “Last week I hit a ton of drivers but this week you’re just looking to get it in play.”
– Joel Dahmen had the third hole-in-one of the 2013 PGA TOUR Canada season, carding an ace on the par-3 fifth hole from 156 yards with a nine iron.
– Local favourite and Fort McMurray native Stuart Anderson got off to a solid start, going 4-under par for his first 12 holes before play was suspended. Defending champion Cory Renfrew was 2-under par through nine holes.
– Thursday’s suspension of play marked the third straight event to be hampered by rain, following a four-hour delay last week in Saskatoon and the cancellation of the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS, which has been re-scheduled for August 6-9.
– Fergal Rafferty was bogey-free in his first 15 holes, sitting in a tie for second when play was suspended.