(Reuters) – The second-round leaderboard at the Canadian Open on Friday had an unusual look, littered with local names at a championship that has not been kind to the home contingent in recent decades.
No Canadian has won the country’s national open since Pat Fletcher in 1954, and there have not been too many close calls in recent years either, apart from Mike Weir’s playoff loss to Vijay Singh in 2004.
But the nation’s emerging depth of talent was on full display at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Ontario, with four locals in the top-12 at the halfway mark.
Nick Taylor headed the way with a five-under-par 65 that left him equal third, one stroke behind American leaders Matt Kuchar and Scott Brown.
Adam Hadwin (66) was three shots behind the leaders, while Ben Silverman (61) and Mackenzie Hughes (66) trailed by four.
Silverman is the only one of the quartet without a PGA Tour victory, with the other three having one win apiece.
They are used to playing in front of sparse galleries at tournaments south of the border, and are lapping up a chance to enjoy the limelight and the support of large crowds.
Taylor described the atmosphere as “buzzing” for a Friday and said the ovation he received on the 18th hole had given him chills.
World number 79 Hadwin also lapped up the energy.
“I certainly don’t have a marquee name like some of the guys out here who have crowds every week,” he said.
“That gets you up a little bit more I think and gets you a little bit more energized and you feed off it a little bit.”
Silverman spoke likewise after his 61.
“If I shot nine-under in Texas like this I wouldn’t get the same kind of reception,” he said.
Hughes is also embracing the attention.
“You know you’re playing with a bit of extra expectation and pressure, but if you kind of embrace that and use it as a positive then it can kind of work in your favour,” he said.
The pressure will no doubt ratchet up over the weekend, and Taylor hopes that if he can not hoist the trophy on Sunday then one of his compatriots will.
“If we keep staying up in contention, hopefully three, four of us have a chance come Sunday,” he said.
“All of us obviously want to win, but if we don’t win I think having a buddy and a Canadian would be pretty cool.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)