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British Open champion Ernie Els says he feels fresh heading into Canadian Open

07/25/2012 03:01 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT
HAMILTON - Ernie Els arrived at the RBC Canadian Open with one trophy already in tow. He's hoping to leave with another.

Despite a whirlwind couple days that followed his victory at the British Open, Els expressed confidence that he's still got enough left in the tank to be competitive at the third oldest championship in golf.

"I feel very fresh," he said Wednesday afternoon.

Els only managed to get in five practice holes at Hamilton Golf and Country Club this week, but thinks his stellar play from Royal Lytham & St. Annes should carry over.

The celebration following his fourth major championship was decidedly more low-key than the ones that came before it. After pulling out a one-shot victory over Adam Scott on Sunday, he returned home to London for a small party with family and friends, and followed that up with a lazy Monday.

He travelled to Hamilton on Tuesday morning, getting in a quick practice session before a helicopter arrived to whisk him to downtown Toronto for a "Right To Play" dinner. On Wednesday, Els played a round with RBC CEO Gord Nixon at his home course.

The itinerary left virtually no time for preparation at the charming, tree-lined Hamilton layout that is hosting the Canadian Open for a fifth time.

"I don't know if it's such a big disadvantage because a lot of times when you don't play a course, you don't know where the trouble is," Els said with a chuckle. "So maybe that's a good thing. You get your yardage, you hit it to your spots."

As an added bonus, the South African brought the Claret Jug along for the ride and proudly displayed it during his interview session with reporters Wednesday. His presence added some buzz to an event that remains in a tough spot on the PGA Tour's calendar and was only able to lure six of the top-30 players in the world golf rankings.

Besides Els, the biggest names in the field are Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk — and it's no coincidence that all four men have sponsorship agreements with RBC.

However, Furyk was also drawn back by the traditional H.S. Colt-designed course where he won the first of his two Canadian Open titles in 2006. The 6,966-yard, par-70 layout suits his eye and reminds him of the traditional courses he grew up playing in Northeast Pennsylvania.

"If I like the golf course, I'm going to play," said Furyk. "I don't care who is showing up or what the purse is."

Narrow fairways guarded by thick rough require players to find the fairway from the tee. However, there are only a handful of holes that demand they pull out a driver because the course has been lengthened by less than 500 yards since first contesting the Canadian Open in 1919.

However, it still poses a unique test that seems to be appreciated by virtually everyone in the field. Along with Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf and Country — where Sean O'Hair won last year — Hamilton is the most popular of the Canadian stops.

"It's just a good, solid, old-school golf course and we don't get to play places like this I don't think very much," said O'Hair. "It's fun to come to venues like this."

Furyk won here in 2006 with a score of 14-under 266. He believes some rain earlier in the week has left the course more vulnerable to lower scores than it was six years ago, but that won't change his gameplan.

"Even a guy like me who's not all that long, I'm not going to hit a lot of drivers," said Furyk. "It's about working the golf ball and putting it in certain spots on the fairway. The greens are very severe, usually from back to front.

"(You've) got to keep the ball under the pin to be able to score."

The field features a heavy dose of Canadian content with 23 homegrown players and highlights the changing nature of the sport in this country. Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., and Calgary's Stephen Ames will attract their usual amount of attention, but with both veterans struggling the focus will also be on Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., and Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., among others.

Els will also be in the spotlight as he looks to become just the sixth man in history to capture a U.S. Open, British Open and Canadian Open title during his career.

He caused a bit of a stir after his victory in England last weekend when he said he wanted to "blow off" a commitment in Canada. After arriving in Hamilton, the 42-year-old clarified that he was only referring to a sponsor's event that had been scheduled for Monday.

"I should choose my words more carefully next time," said Els. "I was always coming. ... It's good to be back in Canada."

Notes: The event's purse is US$5.2 million, with $936,000 going to the winner ... The other men to win a Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club are J. Douglas Edgar (1919), Tommy Armour (1930) and Bob Tway (2003) ... Anthony Guagliano made a hole-in-one at No. 13 during Wednesday's pro-am. Any pro who accomplishes that during the tournament will win a BMW.

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